2010-07-07T16:19:08+00:00 2010-07-07T22:17:09+00:00

Vanessa Laker's Pint Sized Quickie: An Interview With… Obenewa

This is your pint Size Quickie where we bring you a little interview with your favourite or up and coming artists. Today's Quickie is brought to you by west London's melodic songbird Obenewa.

She's made a name for herself on the London live music circuit and is now causing a buzz all over the UK. With a soulful soft voice that can give her rivals a run for their money, this west London beauty sets herself apart from her competition. Not only is she a singer/songwriter, she's also a classically trained pianist and plays the guitar as well.
Her mixtape Therapy is an acoustic set of inspirational love songs that convey many emotions – ranging from heartbreak to triumph. The ten song collection has proven to be a big hit for the singer, as it's shown that not only is she a great live performer, but (potentially) a great recording artist as well. I caught up with Obenawa in Hammersmith, London, to talk music, her influences and what the future holds for this talented musician:

      04 I Wish
Download: Obenewa – I Wish

EM: How do you take your milk?

Obenewa: Rice Milk

EM: You've made a name for yourself on the live circuit and gained critical acclaim from show cases such as I Luv Live and Shoreditch House. How important are live shows to you and to musicians in general?

Obenewa: Live shows are very important. These days so much can be done in the studio to alter a person's actual voice. But when you perform live there's no auto-tune, so it's there, on stage, that a musician can really prove themselves. Plus I really love interacting with the crowd, so for me it's a big part of what I do.

EM: Do you still get nervous when you're onstage?

Obenewa: When I was younger I used to get proper stage fright. I used to hate talking to the crowd. Back in the day I used to get on stage and never really interact with the audience much. I'd just get on and sing my set. But I managed to combat that fear and now my live shows are quite personal and I love talking with audiences and getting them to participate as much as possible. I still do get a little nervous just before a show.

EM: Really? I saw your live show at Shoreditch House and you seemed very comfortable. You really worked the crowd. I couldn't detect any nerves…

Obenewa: I always get a little bit nervous before a show – that's just natural – but no major stage fright or anything like that. I've been performing since I was really young, so I battled that fear a while ago. What I do now is about 20 minutes before a show, I don't speak at all. That way I'm fully prepared when I get on stage – mentally and vocally.

EM: So have you always known you wanted to be a singer then?

Obenewa: No. As a matter a fact when I was younger I really wanted to be a fashion designer. I love fashion and art, so I always wanted to work in the arts department. But as I got older I realised it was just one of those childhood things and discovered that singing was my chosen path. I've been playing the piano since I was four, so music was always a part of me. And when I was teenager I taught myself to play the guitar and that's when I started writing songs and taking music a lot more serious.

EM: Your mother is Jamaican and your father is Ghanaian. How has your parent's background influenced you music?

Obenewa: My family is a very influential part of my music. My mother took me to piano lessons when I was really young and she used to listen to reggae a lot, so that is reflected in my music. My father's heritage is also very reflective in my sound. My whole family is actually quite musical. When I was younger my sister and I formed a girl group. And my uncle is the one who inspired me to pick up the guitar. So my family has had a huge impact in my career.

EM: And which artists and type of music are you influenced by?

Obenewa: I'm into all genres of music. I think it's very important for an artist not to limit themselves and embrace a wide variety of sounds. Ooh they're so many artists that I'm inspired by. Bjork, Jeff Buckley and Bob Marley are very inspirational to me.

EM: UK Urban music has really blown up in the last year and half and is doing really well commercially. However, you're type of sound is still very different to what's in the mainstream charts. Do you ever feel under pressure to adapt to a certain type of music?

Obenewa: I think every artist will go through a stage where they're not too sure which route to take. I know I've felt like that many times, because my music is not straight R&B and is very different to what people are used to hearing. There are times where I've felt I don't know where I fit in. But you know what? I can't let those doubts affect me. These are my songs, they're very honest and from a personal place. My music is very pure and is a reflection of me. And that's all I can really be, myself. What people like about my songs is that they're very vulnerable, so they feel they can relate to it. The key is to always be yourself, regardless of what's popular.

EM: Your mixtape Therapy has gained you a whole new fan base. Mixtape's are generally associated with hip-hop, how has making one helped your career and would you recommend other singers to go down that route?

Obenewa: The mixtape has been very important and extremely helpful. I do a lot of live shows, so every time after a show, people would come up to me and ask where they can get my music and I had nothing. A good friend of mine suggested I make a mixtape and it was such a good move. More people can here your music that way. There's only so many times you can play live, but with the mixtape everyone can here your music all the time. And not just people from London or the UK, but around the world. It's also helped me book more live shows as well. I would definitely recommend for more singers to do mixtapes.

EM: Who would be your dream musical collaboration?

Obenewa: That's a really tough question. I'd love to work with Andre 3000. He's so talented and his style is so unique and his music doesn't sound like anything else. I admire his individually.

EM: So what are your plans for the rest of the year and the near future?

Obenewa: I'm going to be doing lots of live shows throughout the summer and the rest of the year. I'll be performing songs from Therapy – which is currently available for down load – and also showcasing some new songs from my upcoming EP. I'm currently in the studio working on the new EP, which is entitled Late Night Lullaby – I write most of my songs at night, so that's how I came up with the name. That project should be available by around September/October, so I'm really excited about that.

      09 Breakin' Up
Download: Obenewa ft ProGression – Breakin' Up

Download: Obenewa's Free Mixtape Therapy

Interview · R&B · Soul


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