She’s a maths teacher turned singer, a career she’s now pouring her heart into. Niké Jemiyo, a young R&B artist out of London, will release her new EP 'Hearts Grow' in May funded entirely by her fans.
We chat with Niké about her early music training, leaving her maths teaching job to face the fear of failure, and how everyone from Mariah Carey to John Coltrane has helped form her art. Harry Upton writes.
Hi Niké, thanks for your time. I wanted to start by finding out what you have been up to today?
Hiya, thanks for having me! This morning I went a run (after much deliberation), then sat at my piano rehearsing for an acoustic video shoot and then updated my website with my latest gigs.
Yeah, I hear you have been quite busy touring, tell us about your new gigs? What can people expect at your live shows?
Yes I have! I'm performing at The Troubadour and at Proud later this month, but I'm most excited about my EP launch night - 'The Hearts Grow Show' being held on 5th May. For my most recent gigs it's been stripped back with just me singing and playing keys but I will also be performing with full band. I'll be showcasing all the songs from the new EP as well as others from my previous EP - Beautiful. I'm looking forward to bringing together everyone that has supported my journey as a singer-songwriter so far and to sharing music I love with those that made it possible for me to create it.
Sounds great! Are there any plans to visit us in Australia?
I don't have any plans to visit Australia as yet, but who knows what the future holds?
Tell us a bit about how you got started? I believe you went to London's Centre for Young Musicians in your early years, what was that like?
CYM was awesome. Definitely the highlight of my week as a kid. It was a space where I could get away from the trauma of being a teenager and find my own feet. I had piano lessons, theory classes and chamber choir rehearsals. It was my piano teacher who inspired me to write my first song and gently guided me through to my first performance in front of hundreds of people.
And then you took a break, going to Uni to become a Maths teacher? What made you decide to pursue a music career again?
While I was at uni I was doing occasional performances and when I became a maths teacher I was writing in the background. One day a friend at work heard me sing, listened to one of my songs and demanded to know why I wasn't pursuing a career in music. It was quite an emotional journey as I realised I needed to face my fear of failure and go for it. My friend suggested I start posting covers on YouTube. When I posted my first video I never imagined it would lead to the following I have today.
Reading through your bio, I noticed some pretty big names were getting spun during your childhood; Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson to name a few. Do you think these acts influenced you?
I would certainly say Mariah and Whitney are vocal influences. I was always trying to hit those Mariah notes as a kid (painfully). More recently I would say Emeli Sandé and Alicia keys have been artists I look to. I feel most at home when I'm singing and playing the piano and they are both female artists that do this with soul and skill.
Is that how you put together the new EP "Hearts Grow", at home with the piano? Do you have a particular way you like to write and record?
This past year I've focused on developing my story telling. For the majority of this EP I started with the lyrics, re-working them until the pictures created and emotions conveyed were vivid and true. I then sat at my piano to see what would unfold.
Do you have any particular producers you like working with?
I worked with a producer Sam Speakman on my lead single Dive after stumbling across him on Soundcloud and hearing his film music. The rest of the EP I produced myself. Hearts Grow introduces listeners to a world of delicate piano pieces, orchestral arrangements and big band production carried by soulful, haunting and evocative vocals that tell a vivid story.
Moving away from the music for a moment, you seem to have embraced the new era of artist and fan connection such as crowdfunding, tell us about that?
My crowdfunding experience last year was an exciting and humbling one. We had thirty days to raise 5K to fund my EP. The online campaign brought my supporters together in a way I've never seen before. We were united by this incredibly ambitious goal and seeing my fans put so much energy into the campaign on social media was an amazing thing to watch and be part of. Now that the EP is finished I feel like we created 'Hearts Grow' together.
You've just released a new video for "Dive," it looks great, tell us about that?
Thank you! We shot Dive on the coast of Winchelsea, Hastings. With the video I wanted to convey the raw emotion and expanse of the music. The rocks, the waves and the dirt all point towards the struggle depicted in the lyrics and the vast plane to the breath of the score. Upon hearing Dive a friend pointed me towards the artwork for John Coltrane’s album for Blue Train. As soon as I saw the deep blue ocean-like visuals I knew it would convey the haunting voice of Dive perfectly.
Finally, a question we ask every artist, what stimulates your soul?
There's nothing quite like singing your heart out on stage and taking the audience on a journey with you. When I hear of how one of my songs has connected with or moved someone I feel inspired to continue writing and sharing my story.