WHAT IS LOVE? is the exciting debut album from phenomenally talented Gospel and R&B singer Emem Archibong.
Steeped in the classic Soul of legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin and CeCe Winans and influenced by the modern R&B sounds of Alicia Keys, with ‘What is Love?’ Emem looks set to be 2011’s most hotly-tipped Gospel cross-over artist and her mini album heralds the arrival on the British black music scene of a special new talent. Born in Nigeria, Emem grew up in Bradford, England where her remarkably soulful and powerful singing voice was nurtured in her local church’s choir and Gospel music and her strong Christian faith underpin her unique sound. From rousing opener ‘Black and White’ and funky feel-good track ‘Trying to be myself’ to stand out debut single ‘what is Love?’ and deeply personal anthem ‘Not too Late’ the E.P showcases Emem’s truly outstanding vocal talent and ‘Angel,’ ‘Untold Story’ and ‘Trying to be Myself’ also announce Emem as a truly captivating new voice on the British music scene.
Fresh from being a finalist on ‘Britain’s next urban superstar,’ spot plays and interviews on Kiss FM and performances at London’s Hippodrome, the future looks bright for Emem Archibong and ‘What is Love’ is a powerful statement of intent from an artist whose remarkable voice you should be hearing everywhere in 2011.
AM: Thank you Emem for taking the time to chat with ADUNAGOW Magazine and its worldwide readers. For those who don’t know you yet, can you present yourself?
Emem: I was born in Nigeria and stayed there till I was 11 years old. My family then moved to Bradford, England where I reside now. I have lived in England for 15 years. I am a singer-songwriter and a registered
pharmacist. My soulful and powerful singing voice was nurtured in my local church’s choir and Gospel music and my strong Christian faith underpin my unique sound. I was a finalist on a talent show called ‘Britain’s next urban superstar and as a result was interviewed on kiss fm and able to eventually record my first album. I sing at various events in England and write and record songs. I have had my songs played on BCB radio, BBC radio leeds, UCB radio, Premier gospel radio and Choice FM. I have had the Bradford telegraph and argos write a feature piece about me and my music and mentions on cross rhythm, Urban music scene and an African newspaper have written a cover story about my music.
AM: “Emem”: What’s the meaning of your name?
Emem: Emem means peace. The full name Ememobong means Shalom the peace of God.
AM: How many languages do you speak?
Emem: I speak Four languages: English, Ibibio, French, and Igbo.
AM: Tell us something about you that people will never guess?
Emem: I have grown to become a very confident and self-assured woman now but growing up I was very insecure and self- conscious and buried myself in hard work.
AM: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?
Emem: I love watching movies, dancing, going to church and listening to music
Emem: I started singing at age 8 in choirs but sang my first solo at age 12.
AM: What captivated you to becoming a singer?
Emem: My earliest musical memories are when I was in school in music class and I was asked to sing and everyone was amazed at my voice at such a young age, 12. The music teacher later organized a showcase where I sang for the whole school. I also remember at age 8 in Nigeria as part of the children’s choir, I was chosen to sing treble (not many people were chosen to sing treble) and I remembered wanting to sing soprano because I could sing both. At 12, after the showcase I realized that I would always make music. Being from an academic background I knew leaving school to pursue a career in music was not an option so I made up my mind that I would finish school and go to university while actively developing as a singer. I started writing songs at about this time. I remember my dad advising me that my first few songs may not be perfect but if I kept writing I will end up writing some amazing songs.
AM: Can you tell us about your breakthrough to the music moment? When and where did it happen?
Emem: At age 8, in children’s choir in Nigeria. At age 11, in the choir at abundant life church Bradford at which time I started singing solo at events organized by the church. At age 12, had a keen interest in
music and started writing songs. Was a big Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston fan. At age 14, did GCSE music where I learnt about classical music and perfected my music composition skills. Also took up the keyboard.
At age 15, formed a girl group called Vision. I Was the lead singer and one of the songwriters for the group. We sang in events organised by the church and events in Bradford including a summer festival hosting over 1000 people. I was performing alongside studying at sixth form subjects, Math, Biology, Chemistry. At age 16, started university, studied pharmacy by which time the group had disassembled due to everyone needing to go to different universities.
I studied hard during university while also singing at various events in Bradford including singing for a large audience at the alhambra theatre several times. In 2005, I entered a competition in Birmingham where I represented university of bradford. Out of 100s of demo cds, mine stood out and I was shortlisted to sing live at the event and came 5th place.
AM: Tell us. When did you form your first Band?
Emem: In 2007, I formed a band consisting of 4 musicians, 3 backing singers and me as lead. I funded the project with my own money and we played at various Christian events including a Christian event held at the hippodrome in london as well as a live music venue in leeds called the wardrobe. About the same time, I entered a competition called ‘Britain’s next urban superstar’ and was a shortlisted finalist. My audition appeared on flava music channel on sky. I was also interviewed by kiss fm and sang for them.
AM: So, did you continue with your education?
Emem: Yes. In 2009, I finished my pharmacy degree and qualified as a pharmacist and planned to use my income as a pharmacist to fund the release of my first album. The album is completed and is doing well and
getting good reviews.
AM: By the way you have a tremendously great and attractive voice. What style of music do you prefer most and why?
Emem: I love classic soul and RnB in terms of the melody of this genre of music (i.e artists like Aretha Franklin, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Sade) but for musical lyrics I like gospel and worship music such as that from Hillsongs Australia, Kirk Franklin and Cece Winans.
AM: Can you tell us what artists have influenced you most in your career?
Emem: Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Brandy, Michael Jackson, Cece Winans, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, Jill Scott, Sade, Hillsongs.
AM: What can you tell us about “WHAT IS LOVE?”
Emem: This question is an age old and universal question. A lot of people have different ideas as to what they think love is and there are different types of love. What do you portray in this title? This title is really intended to make the listener want to hear what I think love is and I conclude the song by letting my audience know that God is love and the overall summary is that love is selfless.
AM: Is your family musical?
Emem: I was raised in an academic/musical family. My dad was a music competition favorite in his youth and was in choirs, my mum loved dancing and was in the choir while we were growing up, My brother plays several instruments and both my sisters are enthusiastic music lovers with amazing voices and we are all in the church choir. There was a lot of music in the house while growing up from Dolly Parton to Whitney Houston, Brandy, Bob Dylan through to music of African and Caribbean origin like Bob Marley and Fela Kuti.
AM: Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?
Emem: Yes always, being nervous shows that what you’re about to do is important to you.
AM: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Emem: Do your breathing exercises while waiting in the wings to get on stage because this will calm you down and prevent nerves from getting the better of you when on stage.
AM: What do you like most about your profession?
Emem: being creative with my voice, losing all inhibition and giving a great live performance, telling the story of how the songs were written, interacting with the audience.
AM: What do you like least?
Emem: sometimes not knowing who to trust as people may try to be my friend for the wrong reason.
AM: How has becoming a singer changed your life?
Emem: I am a lot more mature than my age and my confidence level has soured. It helps that people actually like my music and that definitely does put a spring in my step.
AM: How have you changed?
Emem: I find it easier to talk to people that are different from me. I used to be very shy.
AM: What’s the first song you ever remember hearing?
Emem: Twinkle, Twinkle little star (laughs)
AM: What are you listening to lately?
Emem: listening to Grenade by Bruno Mars, Someone like you by Adele, Lord of lords by Brooke Fraser, Lead me to the cross by Hillsongs, I gotta believe by Yolanda Adams.
AM: What’s your favorite album by another artist?
Emem: Kirk Franlin : God’s property.
AM: What song of yours are you most proud of?
Emem: Not too late.
AM: Why specifically?
Emem: I’m especially proud of the lyrics of ‘not too late’ because I was 14 when I wrote that song and the lyrics are still relevant today it speaks of never giving up.
AM: Are there any songs you’ve done that you wish you hadn’t?
Emem: Yes there are quite a few but what I tend to do is discard them or work on them for a future album.
AM: Is this your first album?
Emem: Yes the first of many.
AM: Had any of you recorded with other groups before forming your band?
Emem: My team consists of Backing music by Leroy Johnson; Produced by Leroy Johnson, RJ productions recorded at hall place studios. Recording Engineer Julian Wellington, mixed and mastered with slickhanded productions. Lead vocals Emem Archibong. Backing vocals: Joel Brown, Catherine Adams, Ifiok Archibong.
Keys: Mark Walker. drums: Joshua Thompson. Guitars: Joel Hardy, Chris Dawkins. Bass: Leroy Johnson. Mixed at saville and chrome studios, Mark walker was one of the first producers I’ve ever worked with. He is also a favorite keyboard player for a few pop stars including blue and westlife. He played keyboard on the album.
Leroy Johnson was the main producer on the album and my main advisor and musical mentor. We were introduced after a gospel concert and he agreed to produce my album. He is a bit of a jack of all trades musically playing multiple instruments as well as being a DJ.
AM: What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
Emem: A full time pharmacist..
Emem: Utilizing Africa’s rich resources to combat poverty.
AM: What’s your take (solution) on it?
Emem: I believe the solution is education. Educating people so that they can acquire knowledge and skills to make their own wealth. Educating the government on coming up with initiatives to help the less fortunate.
AM: About Africa: what will you keep?
Emem: Keep the community spirit that makes Africa “Africa.”
AM: What will you change?
Emem: It’s amazing that in a continent of immense wealth, only a tiny proportion of people enjoy it, I would change this if I could.
AM: Do you often visit the motherland?
Emem: I lived there for 11 years and plan to visit in the near future.
AM: What’s your favorite summer vacation?
Emem: I visited some family in Austin Texas, it was amazing. Texas is extremely warm.
AM: Have you been following what happened in Nigeria with the election?
AM: What are your thoughts?
Emem: I am supporting Goodluck Jonathan because he is Christian and Christian values are so important in the running of anything in particular a nation. [THE MIC IS YOURS] AM: How hard do you push yourself?
Emem: I used to push myself to work very hard but now I have a more balanced view of hard work. I think hard work should always be accompanied by an equivalent amount of fun.
AM: When are you completely satisfied with your work?
Emem: When I have had good feedback from the most important people in my life.
AM: What was the most important day of your life?
Emem: The day my first album was completed. It had been a dream of mine for a long time and I was extremely grateful that God brought it to pass.
AM: Do you worry about whether people like you for the real you, or because you’re a celebrity?
Emem: I try my best to be nice to everyone but I have very few trusted friends. I don’t see myself as a celebrity but as someone who is just doing what God has placed in my heart to do and using all my talents and I hope I can encourage others to do the same.
AM: What’s the magic formula for success?
Emem: Involve God, work hard, play hard and appreciate everyone that helps in your quest to achieve your goals.
AM: Any words of wisdom for all our aspiring singers out there?
Emem: Be your best; forget about trying to be famous and work on being very good and recognition will follow. Make music because you love music not for fame or money.
Thank you Emem for taking the time to chat with us. We wish you plenty of success and wisdom in your career.
WANT MORE? Purchase the May/Jun 2011 Issue below:
ADUNAGOW Magazine Issue 21: MAY/JUN 2011 Issue
MAY/JUN 2011 Issue of ADUNAGOW Magazine. SPECIAL REPORT on Immigration and Race Relations. Exclusive Interviews with Meron Abebe (Model), Emem Archibong (Singer), and Olatide Adéniyi (Designer). Also on this issue: discussion about racism in Football (soccer), Surviving Infidelity, and Treating Arthritis.