When the beautiful soul singer Ayo came to Deezer HQ recently, we sat down for a chat about her new album, her inspirations, and her roots in rap.
Soul has remained a popular genre over the decades. How do you explain this longevity?
I believe that everything that comes from the soul is timeless and this is true for all the music of this era, the 60s and 70s, from Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley. All that is “real” is timeless, and I think at that time artists were not afraid of their emotions and that’s why it still affects people today.
You were born to a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother and you have lived in Hamburg, London, New York, and Paris. Where is home to you?
Today I like to define myself as a citizen of the world. It’s important to not forget where you come from, but I don’t find it neccessary to say “I’m American, German and Nigerian”. We should all say that we’re cosmopolitan and not necessarily be proud to come from a country in particular. We should all be proud to be citizens of the world.
It’s a bit like your music, without borders?
That is a huge compliment, thank you!
You gave birth to your first child almost at the same time as you released your first album. How did you come through that as an artist?
It was like being in a dream. The most important thing for me at the time was the birth of my son. As for the album, I didn’t think it would even be released! So it was like a bonus. But today I am happy to be making music.
Your 4th album will be released in a few months, and we’ve already heard an extract of the first single “Fire.” After a soul/folk sound, the track hints at rap music. Will your new album take this direction?
For all my albums I’ve never taken just one direction and it’s not something that appeals to me. People assume this track indicates a new style, but it doesn’t! You should know that before singing, I was a rapper. The public has only seen me with my guitar and my voice. I didn’t think that I would one day be a singer, I just thought I’d rap! So “Fire” is a bit of a homecoming. I don’t want to say that my style is soul or reggae or hip-hop, instead it’s what I feel or allude to at certain times of my life.
What is the track or album you have on repeat right now?
I couldn’t stop listening to “Get free” by Major Lazer but now my son can’t stand it anymore! Otherwise I always listen to Citizen Cope.
Deezer addict or not?
I’m not addicted to anything except chocolate! But when I’m looking for music, I always go on Deezer!
Interview by Sophie Samama and Sandrine Cariven.
And here is “Sunny” by Ayo.