Interview: Fyiah

Ellie James talks to rising star Fyiah about her career and experience with online festival Generation Worldwide

Ellie James
11th September 2020
Credit: Pixabay
2020 has been tough. With the pandemic trying it's best to bring down the world as we know it and so many struggling young people seeking jobs, it has seemed like success is hard to grasp and a generation has been left floundering in the dark about their future. Yet in the midst of it all, the creatives across the globe have had their chance to grab our attention. I have had the opportunity to interview rising star Fyiah, 24, a young woman who was offered the chance to share her talent outside of her home in Detroit, Michigan, by taking part in the online festival Generation Worldwide. Here is a conversation between two creative young women, myself and Fyiah.
So Fyiah, tell me a bit about you first. Where you grew up, how you got into music?

I grew up in Jamaica, and came to the states when I was around six years old so I was pretty much raised in Detroit MI. I started music in high school and in church choir, but I was like an introvert. My parents kept me in the house a lot as a kid and I used to go to church a lot every Sunday and do Bible study and stand up on stage so that's where I started to perform.

I was always scared to perform, saying I didn't really want to be in front of the camera or anything like that. But after I did choir in church, I tried out for a few talent shows in high school and that's when I really had the full confidence to do music. I got good reactions from my classmates at the time. So that was the big thing. I performed the song 'Bubbly', and then the following year I did the Bob Marley song ‘Is This Love’ and after high school I went on to perform throughout Detroit.

Do you feel like you've had any struggles since you started your career in music?

I would say that starting off, I didn't really know what my sound would necessarily be, because I had the roots of Jamaica and then I grew up in American culture. So I would perform live and in reggae bands and do cover songs and then I would work on recording a few of my own demo songs but I still didn't know my sound. I worked on my first EP back in 2016 and I released that and I got a big reaction from that project. That’s when I kind of knew that I was going to take music seriously.

I still don't like talking on the mic though (laughs). Even being able to play my music around people, I really kept my music to myself. I still do to this day. As an artist, you want to hold onto your music then again want to release it too, because it's like, everything is going so fast.

I know what you mean, I write my own music but only a handful of people have heard it!

Yeah! It can get scary, especially not knowing how people are going to react – even though you shouldn’t really care – it’s being able to show it to the world and not knowing how people are gonna take it.

So what would you say your genre is?

I would say it’s reggae pop, but I dive into so many different genres that it's kinda a mixture of a lot like reggae, pop, dancehall, R&B... But when I talk to my family and my Jamaicans they’re always like ‘Well, yeah you know what? You’re more like reggae pop!’ (laughs)

Do you think it’s harder for women to gain success in your genre? Do you think there needs to be more diversity?

Yeah women are more sexualized in this genre, and especially dancehall being so raunchy as it is, it’s always more sexualized music, but you’re almost required to be that raunchy and sexual. I think women face having to make sure they have that sex appeal, and might not feel confident enough. I feel like they make it a competitive thing, instead of artists just being artists, they’re having to compete. Reggae always has a positive message, I think that especially within American culture, they’re not really used to that type of music, it’s more hip-hop, rap, you know? They don’t really listen to a lot of reggae, in some states they do, but it’s not really big over here as it is in other countries.

Is there any particular music artists within that genre that have inspired your work?

A lot of my inspiration is to do with my culture and background cos I never really listened to a lot of artists growing up. Bob Marley was always one of my favourite artists of all time. He was that inspirational artist I’d idolize as a kid. A lot of dance hall artists like Spice and Lady Saw. She was always raunchy but she always had that powerful image of being a strong woman. It was a lot of female artists who empowered me, because they trained you to be a strong woman. I listened Rihanna growing up in high school, and she was an artist who was always diverse, and she dived into different genres like I like to do.

Instagram @_fyiah
Tell me about your newest album Purity. Is there any messages that you’ve strived to create through it?

Purity was about me being innocent in the world. During that time that I was introverted, I never really experienced anything much, so it was just me going through the process of experiencing life. The message is about being yourself and going through stages, and then coming out of them and blossoming. It’s about the whole world but it’s also about everybody being themselves, just taking it one step at a time instead of rushing the process.

How did you come to be involved with Generation Worldwide?

I was scrolling through my emails and Generation W had popped up asking if I wanted to be a part of this dope festival, which I thought was amazing because I’m a big fan of the UK. It’s cool I get to be a part of it, as it’s something that’s empowering women, and I felt like it was good timing too.

So shout out to Jamaica and to everyone overseas and all the countries who took part in Generation W. Everyone who did their thing on the music videos and live performance, I really enjoyed them and all the different types of artists that were on the event, I thought that was really unique.

Why do you think this festival is important for women?

I think there’s women in the music industry that don’t get highlighted enough. Especially women working hard going after their dreams, that’s not something society really looks at you know? I think now in this generation we see more women being independent, empowering, owning businesses, being entrepreneurs, bosses. I think that was the cool thing they highlighted that now, women are taking the full force of changing their dreams and being providers for themselves and not depending on anyone else.

I think the festival is showing women all over the world doing these amazing things, and you really don’t see that much. The music industry is a male dominated industry, the guys are put on a higher pedestal, and women are put down, and I think now we are seeing women saying ‘I’m a boss’ or ‘I can do this I don’t need you’.

What have you loved the most about being part of the festival?

The cool thing about it was it being my first live performance at home. It was actually a super fun experience, and I think that’s the new way the music industry is going, people are going to be doing a lot more streaming of live performances and during this whole pandemic we got to see all these live performances and artists have had to adjust to this because we can’t do shows. I thought it was cool to be part of something like that because I was like ‘ooo I was wondering  how it would feel to be performing live’, and for me it was like recording a music video so I got the feel of it.
You’re bringing out the song ‘Can’t Stop’ on September 13th, what was it like recording the music video during the pandemic?

I actually went to California in August, and that was fun. I got to shoot some videos starting here in Detroit and worked my way to Cali. I was already recording my next project and I had all these songs and was like ‘woah, I want to release this whole project’ but due to Covid I was kinda scared to release it. So now I’m finally releasing content and everybody’s like ‘yeahh we’ve finally got content!’ (laughs).

This year has been huge for political change – there’s been the pandemic, Black Lives Matter – what would you say to other Black women entering the music industry or who are part of it?

I would tell them to always be themselves, don’t be afraid to wear your natural hair, and you don’t have to wear makeup all of the time. I even protest sometimes during my music videos about not wearing makeup because you don’t really need it all the time. I think a lot of black women struggle with their image.

Women are being more independent especially in the music industry, they're writing their own music, some are learning to record themselves, and I think teaching yourself is important as a woman. Learn everything you can and teaching yourself everything you can and don’t try to fit into the standard music industry look. I think trying to be yourself is going to be the best thing.

But I think it’s about having that self confidence to just be yourself and also support other women. I’ve noticed a lot of black women are starting to support each other in their communities, and even in the music industry locally in Detroit. There’s a lot more black artists looking to support each other. Like with the Black Lives Matter movement, everyone's tryna come together. I’ve seen a lot of people come out to protest in Detroit, I’ve been out there and I think a lot of people are now waking up to what's going on in the world.

Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self now?

(Laughs) Yes! It would be record more music. I think my younger self would be happy that I’ve been through the things I’ve experienced because now I can see things in a full circle. A lot of it would be learn more instruments, work on more music, take different classes on music theory and stuff like that which would help me in the music industry and also being more consistent, write down my goals and make sure I’m not being unproductive or procrastinating and take things more seriously.

What would you say to your future self?

I would tell myself ‘Never stop!’ (laughs) ‘Just keep going, stay motivated, you’re not as motivated as you can be, always stay consistent in the studio and be around creatives and people who are uplifting and motivate you.’ I think that’s how you can progress in this industry and life in general, surrounding yourself with positive people.

Special thanks to Fyiah for speaking to me about your career. The Courier wish you all the best!

Look out for Fyiah's newest release 'Can't Stop' on September 13th and more of her new music in the coming months. To watch Fyiah and other incredible women perform from home across the globe for the Generation Worldwide festival, click here.

Fyiah's social media and music:

Instagram: @_fyiah

Youtube: Fyiah

Facebook: FYIAH

Twitter: @FyiahT

Music links:

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