Tawiah is back. After a brief hiatus, she returns as a one-woman show, driven by her newly found independence after parting ways from her 13-year-old dreadlocks and wild songwriting adventures in LA. Over a glass of prosecco and beer, we BRIT School music graduates put our soul heads together and discussed her life as is it now; on the brink of releasing her new EP, Recreate, a title representing all that she is becoming and returning to as an artist.
Recreate is being released on her new label, Lima Limo. “It’s a long and winding road in Ethiopia. I like the name as it represents a journey that we have all been on. We all want to keep performing and hope that the right energy just gravitates towards us.”
“My mum played strictly gospel music at home. I’d go to my Uncle’s and he introduced me to Erykah Badu, Mary J and Fugees. I owe a lot of my early listening sessions to my Uncle.”
Her connection to music has been strong since childhood, where she recalls singing in a church group and her musical influences from home. “My mum played strictly gospel music at home. I’d go to my Uncle’s and he introduced me to Erykah Badu, Mary J and Fugees. I owe a lot of my early listening sessions to my Uncle. I also went to the Centre of Young Musicians where I played classical guitar, clarinet and sung in chamber choirs.”
When you listen to her forthcoming EP, you will understand the term “twisted soul” that she uses to describe her music as “It is fundamentally soul. I’m a soul singer and I love soulful sounds but I experiment with sounds, effects and rhythms so it gets twisted.” Despite this, it is evident that her voice has not strayed too far from its gospel origins. “I was singing at the label launch for Lima Limo and the next day my friend was at a party, she told me someone came up to her and said, ‘Who was that gospel singer?’ – meaning me. I’m not a gospel singer, but she got that from my set, she heard church and gospel in my voice. And that’s the beauty in music, that people are able to take different things from it. I do what I do, but essentially the listeners having their own experience is important to consider as well.”
There is no direct translation in music – people will receive it in different ways depending on which aspect of your personality is on display. Tawiah believes in the beauty of letting go, and, in the perfect act of symbolism, she decided to part from her hair for the Recreate visual. “For a while, I’ve been thinking about cutting my locks off. My friend, who directed the video, said you’ve got to film this – it was the longest haircut of my life! I couldn’t just cut from the root I had to take off little bits because we were doing takes. Whilst cutting it I was really focused, and quite emotional you can actually see my reaction in some of the shots. But it was a way for me to say goodbye to everything that I’ve been through, it was extremely liberating and I was ready at that point.”
“I toured for two and a half years with Mark Ronson, signed to Warner Brothers and had massive management, then it all went downhill. It is such a personal experience and it’s not everyone that you meet will you gravitate towards to feel comfortable enough to write a song with.”
When developing Recreate, Tawiah was able to have more artistic control over every aspect of it, compared to her first EP. “I’ve been through a lot since In Jodi’s Bedroom EP. I toured for two and a half years with Mark Ronson, signed to Warner Brothers and had massive management, then it all went downhill. It is such a personal experience and it’s not everyone that you meet will you gravitate towards to feel comfortable enough to write a song with. It just made me realise how I work as an artist and I had to bring it back to me and my guitar and my loop pedals, go back in my studio and write my songs.”
Being able to write at her own pace was a huge advantage for Tawiah, as she feels it is a truer expression of herself: “With music, all I want to be is honest, and with this record I was blessed to work with people who were on the same vibrations as me, particularly my friend Sam who produced the record alongside his band members. It represents our friendship and family. There is a lot of competition in the industry but it doesn’t feel like that with this crew, it’s just pure self-expression. It feels exciting to share again.”
Tawiah is particularly pleased with ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’, one of the tracks from her EP, written with Sam in her front room. “I was lucky enough to have Miguel Atwood-Ferguson who laid down some strings, that was the cherry on top. The song is about honesty in relationship, it basically says ‘don’t wait until I get over you to tell me how you feel.’” Another “from-scratch” collaboration was ‘Move with Me’, an improvised piece that stays true to its title, “Sam and I decided to just write anything; without over thinking or labouring over the lyrics and beats, just go with the flow and eventually it developed into the track that’s on the EP.”
Tawiah’s break from music served its purpose, to get back to her true self and recreate her image and music. “It is so important because we are always evolving, with creativity as an artist we can’t become stagnant, we have to carry on with the creative process. During that time [post-Warner Bros] I went through every emotion under the sun, it was such a process but I had to strip back and go through some healing. Ultimately, what I realised is I can’t stop singing, I can’t stop creating, it’s just something I will always do. There’s more music to come, and if you vibes with it, move with me.”
Recreate is set for release on Friday 30 June.