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A Better Version of Me: An Interview with Niké Jemiyo

Niké Jemiyo is a singer-songwriter, born and raised in London. She began writing music at the age of 15 and has performed at venues such as Ronnie Scotts, 93 Feet East, The Young Vic and The Broadway Theatre. 

Her music draws on her experience of growing up in South-East London and addresses issues of insecurity and identity. We caught up with her to find out a bit about her music and message:

How did you get interested in music and where did you train?

I was brought up singing in choirs from about the age of nine. I remember being surrounded by older people, singing lots of hymns and trying not to sleep during sermons…

My dad started me on piano lessons about the same time and then my piano teacher encouraged me to audition for CYM (Centre for Young Musicians) where I was classically trained on the piano by Chris Wilson, a producer and musician from the Royal College of Music, who inspired me to write my first song at 15. I’m fairly sure he wanted me to become to be a pop star at 16 but my Nigerian heritage wasn’t having any of that and I went off to uni to study Maths!

How would you describe your music and who are your influences?

I grew up listening to Gospel (Kirk Franklin, Cece Winans) and female power vocalists (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston). I am and have always been a huge fan on Michael Jackson. I would say I write Soul/R&B music.

What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

Receiving a MOBO nomination, performing in front of Kelly Rowland, my pop-up gig at Notting Hill Carnival, being tweeted by Gabrielle!

Your first EP, “Beautiful” came out in 2011. Tell us a bit about it. And how was it received?

Gosh that feels like ages ago! I spent a few months of my teaching career rushing home after work, putting on my headphones and writing and producing music into the night (and forgetting to eat – not good) and out came ”Beautiful”. The title track was inspired by my first boyfriend – I guess it was the first time in my life I actually felt beautiful. The comments I received on my Youtube channel were lovely!

Your lyrics seem to deal a lot with subjects like identity, insecurity and self-confidence. Do you feel you have a particular message to communicate on those themes?

I worked in a secondary school for five years and saw lots of girls with low self-confidence. I was a Youth Worker before that and saw the same issues arising there too. It breaks my heart every time. I know self-image is something I struggled with when I was younger and I feel that helping girls overcome this is something God has placed on my heart. My motto is ‘no-one can do YOU better than you’. I believe we’re all created special and unique with the potential to do amazing things. Some girls just aren’t told that enough.

Do you find it difficult writing about themes that are born out of personal experience?

No I have the opposite problem! I can give away waaay to many details!

Tell us a bit about the ‘Better Version’ app – what’s it about and how did it come to accompany the music?

I was an idea I had with a friend (or maybe it was my friend’s idea!) when thinking about how to market the single. The app works like instagram but allows users to upload two photos side by side and get their friends to vote. It aims to inspire girls to embrace their own unique style.

Better_Version

Do you feel that your faith influences you work, and if so, how?

Most definitely! I simply don’t do anything unless I feel God wants me to do it. The music industry is tough – I wouldn’t even try to navigate it without God on my side. I ask Him to help me creatively, to speak through me when I write, to influence how I interact with my ‘fans’ (weird word) and other people in the industry.

You’ve lived in London all your life. How does being a lifelong Londoner affect your music? And what do you love most about this city?

Mmm… interesting question. I guess it must affect the music I listen to and maybe the things I see and therefore write about. I love how multi-cultural London is – it’s great!

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work, and how are you learning to overcome them?

Not selling my soul. It’s easy to become a slave to success and do anything it takes to achieve it. Not getting trapped by what the ‘industry’ expects of you can be difficult. I’m learning to re-define success (not very good at this yet!) But for me it’s about the number of lives touched and changed by God through my music, even if I can’t see it happening.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Enjoy the journey

What advice would you give anyone who is considering a career in music?

Don’t do it!

I’m joking, well only half – it’s a rough road, though today has been a long day. If you asked me after I’ve just come off stage, I’d definitely say it’s the most amazing job in the world.

My advice would be to make sure God stays at the centre of all you do.

What are you listening to right now?

Katy B. A great vocalist and writer.

What’s next for you? Do you have any new projects on the horizon?

Finishing off my album and touring. I’m planning to start off with putting on my own gig in July.

What are your biggest hopes and dreams for the future?

To promote freedom in Christ; to inspire and equip young women to find their identity in Him and to be everything that God has called me to be.

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Find out more about Niké at her website nikejemiyo.co.uk and YouTube channel or follow @NikeJemiyoNiké will also be performing as part of our Love London Sunday on 23 March. 

Check out some of our other interviews, including ones with Opera Singer Samantha CrawfordNovelist Joanna Rossiter, Social Entrepreneur Kelvin Cheung, Actress Elizabeth Carter and Freelance Film Editor Jonny Elwyn 

 

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