The Brighton-born soul singer wants you to feel strong and powerful with her new track “Seasons”.
2018’s been a pivotal year for Brighton-born neo-soul singer Sophie Bond, aka Iyamah. After releasing her debut single “Cryptic Love” in February, she’s supported Mahalia on tour, headlined her own shows, and performed at festivals from Boomtown to Detonate – in other words, pretty insane.
Today she released visuals for her latest single “Seasons” – a warm, autumnal palette featuring a rotation of sensational lewks – to accompany the mellow, uplifting track. Rich, expressive, and grounding, Iyamah’s voice makes you feel every word with urgency as she reflects on moving on from a relationship turned sour.
But “Seasons” feels like more than an assertive breakup track: Iyamah wants you to know she’s constantly evolving, and letting go of anything that compomises her growth in the process; a fitting message from a girl who’s gone from singing and playing piano in her bedroom, to attracting worldwide attention in under 12 months. We caught up with the singer about her soul heroes, dealing with anxiety, and dreams for 2019.
How did you get started making music? Did growing up somewhere as creative as Brighton influence you?
Definitely. It must have been a combination of the place and the people – Brighton is an inspiring place to grow up, and it draws creative people to it for that reason. It’s just the way I was, I was never good at maths and English at school but I could sing songs and remember melodies.
Who did you listen to growing up? Do they still inspire your sound today?
A lot of soul singers, usually female such as Beyoncé, Adele, Alicia Keys, even Etta James, Whitney Housten and Aretha. My mum had mostly reggae CDs, but also a mixture of stuff like ABBA, Queen, Kanye West, and stuff from all around the world.
When did you move to London, and what impact did it have on your music?
I moved to London when I was 19, and I mainly listened to hip-hop at this point. A lot of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, The Roots, Mos Def. This was when I started thinking about the kind of music I wanted to create, because I was also listening to the lyrical content and the message. I think I was drawn to neo-soul because it still uses live sounds like reggae, but has the vocals of soul and the rhythm of hip-hop.
This year’s been huge for you – how have you found it, what have you learnt, and what are you most proud of?
It’s been my favourite year yet. I’ve been on tour for the first time, had a headline show, released music. I know myself better as an artist, where I’m going and what I stand for. I’m still learning a lot and there’s still so much to do, but it’s good to have a team of people around me that is growing, the ideas are getting stronger, and I feel like my vision is clearer now. I’m just proud to be able to focus on music and nothing else.
How would you describe your sound?
I’d say it’s a combination soul, jazz and reggae elements.
You’ve drawn comparisons to the likes of Mahalia and Jorja Smith… who would you like to collaborate with?
I’d love to work with Masego; after the tour I’m still so mesmerised by his music. Also Sampa The Great, she’s so sick. I even mentioned to Mahalia I think we should do a song with her and Jorja – maybe then people would be able to hear our differences if we were all on a song together.
What inspired you to write “Seasons”?
It was just realising that things don’t last forever, and why hold onto something if it’s not right anymore? Seasons are a good way to see that things are supposed to adapt and evolve, so comparing love to that made a lot of sense to me. I thought it would help people if they thought of it in that way, something we all understand.
What’re its lyrics about, and do you write from personal experience?
I guess so, I’ve had relationships which I knew weren’t right and so I decided the best thing to do for myself would be to let go. When you learn to let go it makes space for a lot of other things. It’s never the easiest way, but in the long run, it works out the most beneficial.
What do you hope people will feel when they listen to it?
I hope they feel strength, clarity and a bit more powerful than before.
How important would you say visuals – the videos, stage sets, your style – are to your identity as an artist?
I think it’s probably quite important, I’ve always been someone that expresses myself in some way, whether it’s my hair or clothes or tattoos. I like showing where I’m from, my roots and who I am through what I wear and my style. A lot of people say they can tell I’m not from London, they say: “yeah I can tell you’re from Brighton by your style!”
What kind of clothes do you like to perform in? Do you like to create characters and costumes or wear everyday stuff?
It’s a bit of in between, because some things that I’d wear on stage I probably wouldn’t wear every day, but then I think it gives me an opportunity to be more adventurous with it. I do love clothes, so it’s exciting that I get to try out things I probably wouldn’t usually.
How do you find performing live? Do you have a standout performance to date?
I love it. It’s something that you learn from every time. Each time I get off stage sometimes I can be hard on myself, but it’s all part of making me want to do it again and improving. Now I miss performing, and want to do it all the time.
Where can we catch you playing in 2019?
A few festivals I hope, and a few tours too.
You’ve mentioned before that you’ve suffered with anxiety. What role did music have for you in coping with it?
Music definitely was some sort of therapy for me. I guess if you struggle to talk about things, or you feel like the people around won’t understand, music is a good way to get what’s in your head out on paper, and into something that has meaning and a purpose. I used to get quite down and depressed as a teen, and music was a way that helped me get up in the mornings. I didn’t realise I had anxiety until I was older, so it’s something I’m still learning about.
Do you think it’s important for artists and people with a platform to be open about mental health? Has it been challenging to be open about it?
Totally, I feel really strongly about and I think people should become a lot more open about. We’re all dealing or coping with something, and it’s difficult to make sense of it if it’s all in your own head.
What advice would you give, or what would you hope for anyone listening to your music that’s going through a difficult time right now?
Just get it out in anyway you can, draw it, write it, sing it, whatever way makes you feel good, and I bet you someone will relate and feel the same.
What are you working on at the moment?
My first EP, and just more music to put out for people to hear.
What can we look forward to from you in 2019?
My next headline show, more music and hopefully more touring. Oh and some merch!