The beautiful new soul diva to watch is 24 year-old Yetunde Johnson. I’ve listened to her debut album and I’m blown away. It’s soulful, edgy and fresh. Every track is soaked in swagger; Ms Johnson is an artist who pushes music to an exciting new plane. With the provocative titles of her debut single I’m What You Want and album Favourite Things, she’s clearly a girl who knows who she is. I talked to Yetunde to find out what it’s like for her as a new artist. She’s very passionate and animated when she talks about her work. And she laughs, a lot! A very husky, naughty laugh. She’s one of those people you see and you just want to know who she is. When we meet up to chat about her sound she makes a little confession “I was having a bit of a boogie to my album this morning…I love that! To be honest I love doing that having a little dance everyday, being thankful for my life.”
Well life is good, your album is amazing. Your single I’m What You Want is out now. How are you feeling? Everything’s about to go global!
[Laughs]Yeah its all massively exciting. I feel kinda calm, and then the total opposite. Apprehensive! Its been coming for about two years so to finally be here is exciting. I’m nervous, but happy that all of my hard work has come full circle.
And was it easy- the journey to this point? Getting signed, recording the album…
It’s funny because I never expected my life to be like this. I was meant to go to uni, get a degree a good job. Singing has always been my passion, I sang in church all the time in the choir but my family is academic and I thought I would go down that road….
What changed things?
My mum passed away and that made me realise how short life is and how important it is to be happy and reach for your passions in life.
I did enrol at university but while I was there I started doing a lot of studio work and performing more and more. I went to auditions. But when I hit 21, 22 I got a bit fed up because I would get offered deals and things but they would turn out to have all this conditions tied to them or they would be a bit dodgy. I was about to give up when I got a call just before my 23rd birthday. Real Music and Management had heard a demo of mine. We met up, they liked my sound, my look and they wanted to sign me- everything just took off from there!
Was it important to have representatives who got what you were about?
Definitely, we had a great rapport and we all just clicked. I wasn’t so hungry for a deal and money that I would sign with just anyone, it was important that I fit with the management and the label. I still wanted to have creative control over my music.
I understand you recorded here and in the States?
Yeah. There was a lot happening in the UK with new artists at the time. So we thought taking the sound to another time zone and working on it there might add a fresh perspective! I wanted to keep it different! I worked with some really amazing people including Anita Mcloud in Philadelphia. She’s worked with Usher, she’s amazing. And I listened to a lot of music while I was recording, I have a lot of influences and I wanted that to be reflected in my work. Then I came back to England worked on some more tracks, I also recorded with my brothers who produce music. And we put it all together and that became the album, Favourite Things!
How did you come up with the title? It’s a bit of a homage The Sound of Music!
[Laughs] You know what I love that movie! And there’s a track on the album called Favourite Things. It sounds like a man hating track but its not. It talks about me being a genuine woman, being a catch and not being attracted to a man because of gloss and bling!
A lot of the songs [on the album] show female power and strength. And it’s got a really strong jazz/ soul influence production wise- how would you describe your sound?
I guess it’s rooted in gospel because that’s my background,. But I love soul, jazz, classical and rock. So I’d like to think my sound is all about my emotion. That goes for my lyrical content to because I have written or co written every track on the album!
And who do you aspire to be like on the music scene?
I love Mary J Blige- she’s so powerful but vulnerable and real. She’s a talent. And N.E.R.D because they are just crazy and different! I love things that are unexpected
Yetunde Johnsons single I’m What You Want is out now, her album will be available later on this year.
For more on Yetunde visit http://myspace.com/yetundejohnsonmusic
Words by Mary Bello