How do you think 2018 has been treating you and your career so far?
2018 has been crazy. It’s the year I dropped my first song and got so many opportunities after that. I dropped three other songs, my first EP, my first sold-out show, shows in London, in Paris. It’s only been nine months. Madness. Music-wise, when I dropped ‘Grace’, I was very confident about being able to make it. But I never imagined that I would be doing all the things I’m doing now so quickly. Nine months ago I struggled with €2 in my bank account, not knowing where to get food and having to go back to my mum’s place because I couldn’t even afford a pizza. Nine months later it’s completely different. It’s been an interesting year.
Was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience? Can you see yourself ever doing anything else?
It’s always been a big part of my life. I don’t recall my childhood as much, but every time I speak to my family members they say it was meant to be, that I was always performing, auditioning, singing. My first musical experience was being in primary school, I think I was 10 or 9, and we had to sing ‘Joyful Joyful’ from Sister Act. They asked who wants to do the lead vocal of Lauryn Hill and I volunteered to do it. We had to perform in front of all the parents and it was so much fun. It was my first ever time singing in front of people. I think I could see myself doing things other than music, but I’ll always have music as my main thing. I would love to expand, make videos, short films, write a book. I would love to do a lot of things but I wouldn’t necessarily leave music, it’s always going to be on my mind.
How was it like growing up as a foreigner within Dutch culture ?
In the beginning it was alright because I didn’t know any better so I was just growing up as a kid. It’s when I became a teenager that I really noticed the differences. My household and the way people in Holland approach certain things are very different. My mum is like : ‘everybody can eat and sleep at our house, everyone’s welcome.’ It’s different in Holland, there’s more individuality instead of family and togetherness. The mentality was different as well, I grew up in a rich white area which was so different to where I was coming from. It made me realise a lot of things. It got hard when I was about 16 and a bit of a rebel, all I wanted was to move out and go away.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your home country ?
Not that much. I wouldn’t really listen to Eritrean music at all. Most of the songs have religious purposes. I didn’t really like them, I preferred listening to English songs which is where I got a lot of my inspiration from. Now I’m listening to a lot of Ethiopian jazz legends, I didn’t know anything about that when I was younger but now I’m discovering and exploring my roots. Not necessarily inspired by it though, not yet.
Your single « Realize ». Can you talk about what it was like making this song?
I came into the studio. Samuel (Kareem) was making this very catchy beat. He was with a friend of ours who’s a Dutch rapper. They said I should jump on this beat, but I thought : ‘nahh, I’m good’. The rythm and beat were just too much for what I used to make. But he kept looping the beat and all of a sudden a melody (to Realize) came to me, I started writing for fun and recorded it in one day. It became this crazy song but it took some time to convince me to actually release it. I was too stuck thinking that I need to stay in one lane because it would make sense to people, but at one point I was just like ‘fuck it – I like the song, it represents me in a way as well.’ And I put it out there.
What has been your song of the summer?
Wizkid – ‘Soco’.
What would you say is the most challenging part about being a musician?
Thinking too much. There’s a lot of things going on at the same time, it’s not just making music, it’s a lot more. I think trying to create a certain peace and rhythm in your life, and staying sane, not getting lost in all the craziness. You can lose yourself really quickly just because there’s too many impulses at the same time. A lot of new people, locations, destinations. At one point I wasn’t sleeping well, I had really bad dreams, and I figured that you need to take some time to chill, think, write, meditate. Just to keep peace in your life… And eating. Eating healthy is a challenge as well.
We are currently living through a very politically charged time so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period?
At the moment it’s not really reflecting it. I don’t have a TV so I don’t watch the news, but if something is going on it definitely affects me. For example, black people getting killed in America, those are things that really matter in my eyes and I would write something about it. I haven’t put anything out yet but it’s definitely on my mind and writing is my form of expression, letting certain thoughts out.
The EP is called bbygirl focu$. It’s something me and my best friend would live by as a motto, about three years ago. We would say : ‘fuck these boys, we’re just gonna focus on whatever we’ve got going on.’ It’s been like a life motto ever since. This EP expresses a phase in my life when I fell in love with someone, was in a relationship and then got betrayed. Dealing with that is something that I wrote about a lot. Then I got out of it after a year, looked back at the situation and thought : ‘oh shit, I learned so much and I’m so much stronger than I was when I was with him.’ The phrase bbygirl focu$ is something that combines really well with the message of the EP.