Saturday, 21 January 2012

#FindOutFriday with Julie Iwheta

Julie Iwheta

Of every interview I've been Blessed enough to do, this one by far, did me the most external damage. There were tears, there was smudged eye-liner...I actually endured physical pain.

The laughter Julie Iwheta's character inspires should come with a physical health warning - I still had a stitch 45 minutes after we parted ways. It was that addictive element of her stage presence that captured me, almost as much as her hypnotic vocals. Find out what else got me hooked...

1. I remember the very first time I met you. Uh-oh...Why, what did I do? Before you did anything, it was what I saw. The cutest little miniature top hat, the Dr. Martens and a delivery of one of the best renditions of Lauryn Hill's Zion that I think I've ever heard - in complete contrast to the wardrobe! And then you let rip a stream of constant comedy. How do you put that 'stage style' together?
I remember that hat, it's still alive to this day...To be honest with you, I just go on stage and 'I Do Me'! Sometimes when I look back at videos, I feel like it's a rehearsal that's been recorded! I forget that I'm actually supposed to come on, perform and just sing
I just kind of go on and be real...if I know something's going to go wrong, then you're going to hear about it the whole night. The other day, I actually did full-blown drama before I sang. I mean like, made up, freestyle drama...I don't know what happens? Sometimes I feel it's not me...another person goes on, they do what they do and I come off and go "Yeah...that person Sang". If I think about it too much, nerves will attack me and I'd start shaking and not thinking about it, if mistakes happen, then they happen, I just Keep it Moving!

2. You said you feel like it's not 'You' sometimes, but another person. If we go to the 'DIVA' territory; the land of the 'Big-voiced Ladies'; we have Mariah and 'Bianca', Beyonce and 'Sasha Fierce', Mary J (Blige) and 'Brook-Lynn'...They all have this 'dual personality' that they claim comes out on stage and takes over. Are you saying that's what you have? And if so, do you want to name her?
Do they? I did not know about any of these people! But I suppose I'm a bit of both because the way I am on stage is the way I am off as well, but I think it was when I did the Jazz Cafe last year, I realised - That. Wasn't. Me. I mean it obviously was in person, picture, body; but the rest of it? That was someone else. And I call her 'Fulu'. She's kind of like an African soldier woman, that's why you've got the boots with that Nubian Naturalness. She's my idea of a mixture of a lady. "Fulu" doesn't even mean anything, it's just a word I made up one day. I was recording with Aruba Red, we were doing backing vocals and I just told her "Me and Fulu miss you". And you can't just shake hands and go "Hi, my name is Fulu..." - no, it needs to be "Fu-LOO".

'Fulu' doesn't need a reason to 'Be', she just 'Is'.

3. According to your bio, you started singing at 15. Is that when you first realised you had chops, or when you first decided that you actually wanted to use them? Because those are two very different things that people often mix up:
Actually...I think more it was more 16. It was the mid-to-ending of my first year of college, so let's say about that time.

But how on Earth did it take you so long? You're not a wishy-washy voiced female, your tone would be hard to mistake even then I would imagine, so explain what happened...Did you not know it was there?!
(Laughs) When I was 15 I didn't sing! I mean I used to "sing" with my Cousin when I was younger, as in make sounds come out...but it wasn't what I consider singing? When I chose Music to do in Secondary School, it was only because I liked being a Producer. We got to the part where it was time to start writing my own songs - which I didn't think were that great - and it wasn't what I wanted to do. Then I went to College because I wanted to be a Secretary. No really, I did! but because the course was a bit "boo" (boring), my Sister told me to go and do Performing Arts, so I said "Ok". Then I went to Uni and started doing Music Technology. For me, singing was more of an addition, than the thing in the forefront because I want to be a Sound Engineer. It's just that I can sing as well.

At the moment my singing is getting more attention than my Sound Engineering, but when I'm in the studio, they're both on the same levels because I'm able to bring out the sound that I actually hear in my head. So I guess I sang, but I didn't believe. I just knew I had a sound but didn't know what I could do with it; and I still don't even know, because sometimes when I open my mouth I'm like "Shut up! Is that YOU?" That's what I say to Fulu and she says "Yeah, that is. That's US..."

4. That leads me to another instant question...Sound Engineering? At the risk of sounding very 'Lioness  - Good For A Girl'; that's different. How are we finding it as a Female outside of the booth?
Fulu and Microphone Child...
Honestly, if I had more practice in it...I would be crazy right about now; you wouldn't even be meeting me because I'd be in the studio looking like a hot mess, sitting in the same seat for 3 days, neck breaking...I love listening to a dry vocal and working out what you're going to do with it. What effects are you going to put on it, how is the vocal going to sound, how are you going to mix's delicious! I love recording. I just love knowing what you could do. It all started when I was younger and I was like, "I wonder how Usher can sing in two voices at the same time...hmmm!" I was clueless, I didn't know!

5. Ok, so I want to ask you about your influences, but in a non-typical light. Who do you look at and not want to be like, for whatever reason?
Lady GaGa
Definitely not GaGa. Not that I put myself in that category, but she's, bizarre. I can take elements, like some of her styling...Yeah there's quirkiness and stuff, but then some of her lyrical content and the way she delivers it just puts me off a little bit and makes me think that I don't want to be like that. Like you said, I'm a little bit comical on stage, I don't want to be classed so far into that category that I lose people's interest. 

6. As a kid, everyone has at least one film that they identified with. They believed it was their story and convinced themselves that they were that character. Which film was that for you and which was your character?
I don't know if I would say that I believed I was her, but I wanted to be in the was on TV the other day, Return to Oz. That is my FILM! It doesn't even make sense! But it's such a twist to The Wizard of Oz, I love that! I have that on DVD! When it came on I was excited! I know everything about it, from Tip-Top to The Wheelers, the Headlessness, the Woman and the Guitars..The chicken was just excellent because there was no Chicken in the beginning and there was no reason for one then, that's what made it great!

7. Let me venture back to safety...Explain to me how you got connected with all the people you do backing vocals for? Aruba Red, Dionne Reid, Lioness to name but a did all the hook ups come about?
Joel Fender (In'sight) with Cousin Lioness
Musicalize, July 2011
There were two of us that used to do BV's for Aruba Red; the other girl is a friend and she told me about it. I think I've been with her for a good two years now, we tour all over the place. Lioness...well that happened because I'm really close friends with her Cousin Joel, who is one half of In'Sight and I've done BVs for them as well. She saw that and asked me to do some for her too. Anything to do with singing or music, I actually enjoy and I'm definitely down for. As long as you can respect me and I can respect your graft and what you're trying to do, it's all great. So she had a track that she wanted us all to feature on and it went from there really. I love harmonies. When they're right, they're RIGHT. They get the hairs standing up on the back of your neck, they have you dribbling because they're delicious - like water! I thoroughly enjoy it; I actually put myself out there as being a Singer / Songwriter / Backing Vocalist. 

8. What would you like to get into this year, what's coming from you?
By God's Grace, by God's GRACE...My EP! Obviously everyone has their up's and down's, trials and tribulations...Only joking, I'll put the Sugababes away...My original idea was to definitely have a mixture of everything that I can jump on because with me, in the beginning, I was like "I'm RnB and Soul. That's it. RnB and Soul. Don't touch me. Or address me in daylight. I'm RnB and Soul".
That's what I was like in the beginning! But with everything that I've been through, I guess it kind of worked out quite well that I haven't put anything out because I've dabbled in a lot of different things since; I mean, Soulful House? Never! I never would have thought that I would be dancing to one of my own songs in a club...Rock; I did the cover of Don't Speak because I liked the vocal arrangement more than the bigger picture; then when people heard it, the feedback was really positive. So the EP will be a mixture of all the styles I've tried in the 2 years I've been doing solo work. But there's still more that I want to try though; I want to fling in African, everything...I even want to try (whispers) rapping on there, but then I try and well, I...just ain't got the barscuz I'm sittin in my car; not goin far...that's all that ever comes out , just those obvious rhymes (laughs)! But no seriously, I do want to attempt it.

9. Going back to the Sound Engineering; if there was a song you wish you could have produced, which would it be and why?
I can't think of a specific song, but in terms of an actual Producer and all-round artist to be like, it would have to be Ryan Leslie. His studio is just...(breaks into 12-second song comprised entirely of the lyric "Damn")...There's something about him...When I watched some of his videos - I want his studio! The element of just watching him start with two notes and then two seconds later, he's got this bangin' track that just BLOWS. YOUR. MIND. And you just look at him think: "It was just two notes in the beginning y'know..." So yeah, I guess I would have to say that I want to be the female version of Ryan Leslie.

10. You have done quite a few acoustic covers. The YouTube sensation of recording yourself at home has taken off and launched quite a few careers. How important is self-promotion? Is it a good thing for Unsigned Artists to do your own A&R, or should you be letting the 'Pros' speak for you?
I definitely think it's a good thing, because at the end of the day you're learning and gaining that experience, rather than having someone else do it for you. At the end of the day, if someone is speaking for you, then I just see you as a mannequin...Widen your horizons, see what else you can do. I like doing my YouTube videos. I didn't know how much I would like doing them, or the opportunities it would bring me. I got booked to go and sing at someone's wedding in Italy last year; because they found my channel. 

So for me, it's definitely a thumbs up. I also like going onto other people's pages and seeing what they're doing. If you're so used to being in your own little circle where you're doing everything, it's nice if all the focus is on you, but sometimes it's nice to step out...I've met people on there who tell me that they really like my page, when all I'm doing is putting up songs that I really like! Also we're living in a world where it's all about Visuals; no matter what he/she says, it's all about VISUALS. That's what sells. Sometimes, if you make other people do things for you, they take Twelve Thousand Years - and yes I'm gonna say Twelve Thousand Years because it's TRUE! Me personally, I don't have the big money, I'm not a cash diamond princess, it's not about that; when I'm ready to record, I do it on my trusty iPhone4! If someone has a camera then BOOM, great, lovely; but if not? Trusted. iPhone. FOUR...and then I upload it straight to YouTube - DONE!

A MASSIVE THANK YOU to the HILARIOUS Julie Iwheta for her time! Check out her latest renditions, keep up to date with what she has coming up and get yourself her back catalogue from the links below. You WON'T regret it!

(where you can purchase Julie's single, 'Don't Cry' for 79p)