In keeping with the the theme of current issue, Space, our editor in chief Beccy Hill chatted to singer and songwriter IMAN. The London based babe has penned tracks for Kanye West, Ed Sheeran and Rudimental, and started her own record label, despite having no formal music training under her belt.
Hi IMAN! Could you tell me how you first got into music?
I always saw myself on stage singing, and would go to talent shows and walk up to people and network. Eventually this paid off and I started making demos. The demos would get better in quality and throughout the process my craft improved, along with my understanding of the business. Building these foundations is what has brought me to this point.
I read your bio on your website, and it explains that your love of music wasn’t encouraged in your family home. Do you parents know what you’re up to now?
For sure they know what I’m up to, but they don’t really ask much about it. I think it’s all very alien to them (the music and the arts). They come from countries that didn’t invest much in entertainment the way we do here in the UK, certainly not when they were there anyway. Thing were more focused on academia as far as I know from them.
Congrats on your new track Wishing - it’s a banger! Is it about anything in particular?
Thank you! I wrote it about I guy I was really into. He had a girlfriend so I stayed well away. Initially it was a ballad to start with but I held back from uploading it. I felt it needed more, and Robert Rosiji produced it into what it is now. I love the official remix to it, it's a garage mix by Matt Jam Lamont & Scott Diaz and is on Spotify and all platforms to stream and download now.
How did you end up writing for Kanye West and Ed Sheeran?
I went out to L.A. to network and ended up meeting one of Kanye’s crew. We stayed in touch. He came to London and invited me down to their songwriting camp for four days. I met Ed before he got signed, we liked each other's music and arranged a writing session. We wrote two songs that day and recorded one. It’s a ballad and is on my Spotify the song is called ‘Only You’.
When did you start your record label SHOPFRONTRECORDS? That’s a huge achievement, and what are your plans for the label?
I’m just going to focus on releasing my music through it right now and learn from the mistakes I’ll surely make along the way! I started the label because I was done waiting for a deal to come to me and just felt like it was time to take matters into my own hands. I’m so glad I finally made the decision to go for it, I’ve learnt so much and feel truly empowered by it. I’m calling the shots and I like it.
What advice would you give to girls keen to get into the music industry, but perhaps don’t come from a supportive background like yourself?
It took a lot of inner strength to break out and just go for it, and I think that came from listening to my inner voice. I know that must sound cheesy but that’s what I always remember. Me just going with my gut. I would also advise being as self sufficient as you can from the start. Like getting into production, learning an instrument and understanding the business. I think the industry is changing so much and so fast that artists should no longer wait for deals to come through. I would advise them to always work on their craft and release their own music building a fanbase. Pretty soon a label or investor will want to get involved if you’re doing it right and terms are more likely to be in your favour.
Amy tells me you’re extremely vocal about life as a Muslim woman, and recent developments in terms of a rise in Islamaphobia since Brexit and the Trump presidency. Would you mind sharing some of your thoughts with me on this?
People from different walks of life around the world have stood as one like I haven’t seen before, calling out the insanity on many of Trump’s executive orders and all the scaremongering generated on a day to day basis. I was reminded that actually there are people that know Muslims are not the enemy, Muslims feel just as threatened by terrorists as the rest especially, when you consider most terrorist attacks have happened in Muslim countries - we are all feeling it. Exacerbating fear, tension, division and labelling Muslims as ‘our enemies’ when history has shown, this rhetoric only amounts to more loss on every level imaginable, I fail to understand what good could ever come from that. There is no them versus us, we are all in this together.
We are a feminist magazine, who firmly believe that women’s issues are everyone’s issues. Have you had any negative experience being a woman in the music industry?
Fortunately I can say I have always been fully respected in the industry. I have heard of instances though of some female singers being taken advantage of so I know there are cases out there.
What other female artists out there at the moment do you rate?
I love love love YEBBA, Ray BLK, Lylo Gold, Banks, Jessie Ware, Sinead Hartnett. So many talented female artists, spoilt for choice really
What inspires you to do what you do? It’s a question I like to ask everyone.
It’s such a testing industry to be in and I feel like it chooses you, you don’t necessarily choose it. For me I know I always felt compelled to do it, if that makes sense. For a long time music will require a whole lot of effort for hardly any pay and you have to want it. I guess what keep me in the game is the solid belief I have in my music and I love to connect with people through my live shows. It’s definitely what I’m meant to be doing.
What do you love about London? And what do you hate about it as well, if anything?
Well, it can be so expensive but there’s so many things I love about it. There is always opportunity and you’re encouraged to dream big and be the best you. I also love that we celebrate the arts, diversity and are accepting of different faiths and ways of life.
What’s been your favourite place to perform live?
I really enjoy intimate gigs, I feel I can connect with an audience on a deeper level. I love performing for Sofar Sounds and have done a few of their London shows. They are based around the world and have a huge following of music fans. There’s actually waiting lists to get into their secret gigs. It’s always such a good vibe.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
I'll be gigging and come autumn I'll be doing a uni tour around the UK too. I'll be updating it all on my socials, but you can find more details here where you can also get a free download to a never before released song.
Finally, as the theme of our new issue is space, where is your favourite space to be?
I always love to be near the water, I always feel a sense of calm by it.