We’re ecstatic to be bringing you the first instalment of our Wordsmith Weekly feature. A weekly (believe it or not) feature championing some of the best songwriting talents the industry has to offer.
Our first wordsmith is London’s SAM DOTIA, a soulful singer-songwriter whose lyricism is nothing short of heavenly. DOTIA is by no means confined by the boundaries of genre, dappling in R&B, Folk, Indie, Soul and beyond.
Drawing influence from the likes of Jeff Buckley, Bon Iver and HYUKOH, SAM DOTIA’s music oozes the same quality, authenticity and emotion. DOTIA’s tracks such as ‘Uriah’s Cry’ could effortlessly soundtrack a coming of age film, he is every music supervisor’s dream.
His most recent release ‘Beautiful Disaster’ is a work of art, a collaboration with the equally talented Rachel Chinouriri. The track is ethereal, infused with soul, feeling and emotion. Truly a beautiful track, and a musical match made in heaven.
In a sweet seaside Q&A video on the Girl on Fire star’s YouTube channel, the musicians discussed how their family life has been affected by the Covid-19 crisis over the past few months, and answered questions from fans
Beginning the segment, Alicia asked whether the two had ever spent as much time together as they had during their coronavirus pandemic, to which Swizz shook his head and said: “This is, like, married married married.”
The singer went on to admit that she’s “loving” having some downtime, and confessed: “For (the children) to wake up knowing that we’re always there, for us to wake up, always being there — it’s kinda cool.”
We can’t wait to see what this talented singer-songwriter may have cooked up for fans during lockdown.
Israel Nkeki has lived a life worthy of a 100 films. A life journey that has taken Israel from Nigeria to Lewisham, from the streets to a stint in prison and eventually to becoming the soulful Croydon residing singer-songwriting he is today.
After a conflict filled childhood in Benin City (Nigeria), a young Israel relocated to New Cross (London). Young, impressionable and cast a drift Israel Nkeki descended into a life on the streets and eventually found himself serving a sentence in prison. Prison was the wakeup call Israel needed, a turning point in his life that prompted him to put his pain into a creative medium and tell his story through music.
‘Moonlight’, Israel’s debut single coming on 20th June, uses hard hitting lyrics to tell the story of his painful journey and how split second decisions can have lifelong impact. Set on a backdrop of contemporary soul beats the track is emotive, poetic and modern.
Israel’s music is rich with harsh realities, real life experiences and hard-learned lessons presented with soul, feeling and emotion. A story that needs to be told and a voice that needs to be heard.
Hailing from the small village of Vittangi in the northernmost part of Sweden, is Yajna. A singer, sportsperson, and businesswoman, who has tried her hand at many careers, but always gone back to her ultimate passion – music.
Having grown up surrounded by music, her mother being a composer and organist in the local church, Yajna starting writing songs of her own from a young age, as well as becoming a star soloist for the local choir. However, in her teenage years, her talents saw her embark on a snowboarding career, going as far as to start her own company INACTION.
But in 2018, Yajna finally decided to follow her heart, to become a music artist. Her debut single, Natten Lång, was a storm of success across Swedish radio, but London was the place she found her true sound. It was there she recorded her recent trilogy, The Rising Phoenix, an epic and dreamy mix of soul and RnB.
The trilogy features singles ‘You Are Beatiful‘, ‘Femenomenal‘, and title-track ‘The Rising Phoenix‘. The songs take you on a journey through Yajna‘s life, from the ashes of her lowest moments, to her emergence from the fire. Ultimately, wishing to spread a message of hope, love and power.
Rising from a life that is nothing short of remarkable, Estelle California is a new soul singer who literally puts a piece of her soul into every song. Hailing from France, following the trauma of her fractured and abusive childhood, Estelle suppressed many memories to try and move on.
Estelle had found that she had lost her identity. The only thing she felt gave her freedom singing and creating music. Estelle felt herself drawn further and further away from Paris, the place that held so many dark memories for her. She travelled Africa and found herself fascinated, she was connected to the people and culture there.
The black community became something extremely important to Estelle, especially considering that she grew up in a family and a community that was profoundly racist – something that Estelle condemns and is now a passionate advocate for black rights, which is something that inspires a lot of her music!
Releasing her new single ‘Black Is The True Light’, the song is a tribute to the African American and African communities around the world who have constantly battled against division and hatred. Estelle;
“This song is the biggest love song I could have ever dreamed to have,” Estelle says. “It is my love, purpose and my duty to shine the black glory and the light of resilience that comes out of the darkness”.
Estelle’s forthcoming EP, My Name is Freedom, sees her backed by legendary producer and drummer Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston; Mariah Carey; Lionel Richie); ace guitarist Vernon “Ice” Black (Diana Ross, Anastacia; Babyface); James Henry and veteran vocalists Larry Batiste, Cornell Carter and Tony Lindsay.
Not many artists can say they’ve outsold legendary acts such as Earth, Wind & Fire, except for Canada’s own Crack of Dawn who are back with Spotlight, featuring a collection of classic tracks.
With other titles such as being the first black band to be signed to a major label (CBS) as well as being picked up by Otis Redding’s producer, Crack of Dawn were anticipated for bigger things, though word from them remained quiet… until now.
Returning with a selection of re-recorded classics from the band as well as some new tracks, Crack of Dawn’s Spotlight is an authentic return to the classic funk and soul sounds of their era.
The overarching theme of the album seems to be nostalgia and sentimentality, what Spotlight does exceedingly well is maintain an authentic sound throughout; it does not do anything out of the ordinary and the album is actually not that adventurous – and that’s fine.
For funk fans, there is something for everyone, from the strong Stevie Wonder vibes on one of the lead tracks ‘Booby Ruby’ to the falsetto vocals on ‘Keep the Faith’ that allude to a sound similar to what the Ohio Players had on their album Honey.
The album opens up strong with the classic and unmistakable funk sounds, ‘Crack of Dawn’ does a great job in laying out what the band is capable of, from the jazz inclined funk virtuosity to the soaring synth melodies and strong bass grooves. The first four tracks of the album maintain that uplifting funk quality as seen with their contemporaries, what Spotlight manages to capture in the earlier parts of the album are different flavors of funk from their era, ‘Somebody’s Watching’ features almost a 1970s “cop-drama” tonality to it with the wah-heavy guitars with a catchy descending riff during the chorus.
Halfway through the album with ‘It’s alright’ changes the pace with an authentic funk ballad that heavily enforces the theme of sentimentality and nostalgia throughout the album. The theme reaches its pinnacle with the track ‘Ol’ Skool’ which sounds like it could have come straight out of the late 70s, the track also pays homage to their contemporaries through the years within the lyrical content, ‘Ol’ Skool’ comes across as a a labor of love and defines the bands mission.
Whilst the album remains authentic to its sound and doesn’t deviate from its purpose, its biggest flaw is the length in which the album tends to latch on to the sentimental ballad sounds. Tracks five through to nine are all sentimental ballads with only slight variations on how they approach the stereotypical funk-ballad sounds, and whilst the dynamics of the album are thoroughly consistent, by track nine the ballads become exhausting, despite how well they are crafted. With only one track left of the album there is very little opportunity to pick up from where the album started.
‘Changes’, the final track finally picks up the pace and invokes a big finale to the album, bringing it back to the big, groovy funk tracks that started the album and brings a full circle to what the band can do.
Spotlight is a great album because it’s an authentic return to funk. In a time where experimentation is key to surviving in the music world, it’s nice to hear something new and modern that throws the listener back to the 1970’s and the dawn of funk. Spotlight is not adventurous and doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, and that’s okay – because it’s a nostalgic throwback to the times where they outsold Earth, Wind & Fire. It’s the bands opportunity to reminisce the good old days.
You can keep up to date with Crack of Dawn and purchase the latest album by following their social network links below;
What do you get when you combine the immaculate harmonies of the Ohio Players and the easy-listening soul of Lionel Richie? Lawrence Preston.
San Francisco Bassist and vocalist Lawrence Preston delves into a throwback of the funk and soul peaks with his single ‘Something For You.’
The track features a combination of influences and styles that will be sure to catch anybodies ear and peak interest, from smooth gospel-like harmonies, to jazz flavorings on the bass (in the same way contemporaries such as Thundercat) the song is a fresh and modern take on a cemented genre.
An artist can take a genre and reinvent it by putting their own mark on it, but where ‘Something For You’ shines is the authenticity to modern music, it deserves in place alongside the contemporaries – with influences from the original days of funk with the guitar licks, all the way to early 2000’s soulful RnB love croon, the track is a collective of Lawrence’s influence and proves that he has honed his craft.
However, whilst the track stands alongside contemporaries, it’s also a very familiar sound, for right and wrong reasons – it’s not going to alienate fans of the genre, the sound or Lawrence’s music anytime soon, yet I feel like I’ve heard it all before, it doesn’t achieve much in terms of shock and awe, bar a few tasty bass licks thrown in every now and then, which shows off some of Lawrence’s virtuoso tendencies.
‘Something For You’ is a track that not only shares passion that Lawrence has for his craft, but also shows the skill that Lawrence has as a musician; a man of influence.
‘Something For You’ is available now, you can grab the track on the links below as well as keep up to date with Lawrence Preston on his social network links;
Canada’s answer to Earth, Wind & Fire; Crack of Dawn are preparing to step back into the ‘Spotlight’ with the upcoming release of their new single.
The track ‘Spotlight’ is a reflective return to the band after a period of absence, with melodic, soulful vibes in a modern take.
The band hold the mantle of being one of the first black bands to be signed to a major label (CBS) and outsold their funky contemporaries; Earth, Wind & Fire.
The new track ‘Spotlight’ is a ballad through & through, it’s a safe comeback and yet a sentimental sound that ticks all the right boxes.
The aesthetic is laid as soon as the rolling drums hits the first beat, along with the chunky sounding guitar coupled with a faint “siren-like” synth playing a counter melody alongside the the repeated opening phrase.
The song then goes straight into the nostalgic sounding soul-ballad, held by a strong vocal performance and with stops to keep the listener on their toes, adding dynamic flair.
As with virtuoso soul/funk artists, the harmonies are impeccable, keeping that notorious smooth texture; with a belted main vocal being supported by harmonies that present no flaw.
‘Spotlight’ is Crack of Dawn’s attempt at standing on it’s own two feet, in a world of neo-soul and the evolution of classic genres, ‘Spotlight’ proves that Crack of Dawn’s modern evolution of their sound can stand up in the funk & soul scene of today, and this track is assurance to the fans that they’ve still got what it takes.
‘Spotlight’ is out on the 19th of November, you can keep up to date with the band on their social networks below;
It is with great pleasure that I get to write about Neethusha, a singer-songwriter from Kerala, South India, who’s new single ‘Why Did I Lose You’ tugs gently on the heartstrings right from the get go. No stranger to hardship, Neethusha fought against her conservative surroundings to pursue a career in music, her lifelong passion, pushed by an enduring voice in her head telling her not to back down.
This is not her first experience of the music industry however as Neethusa learnt her craft singing in the band Steroegum in her hometown on Kerala, and was featured on Kappa TV. Her achievements don’t stop there though as she also performed at the Facebook India Show and Femina Style Diva in 2015, garnering her a lot of solid experience and exposure.
With flavours of Coldplay and Savage Garden, ‘Why Did I Lose You’ is a heartfelt ballad about heartbreak and self reconciliation that offers a nuanced and poetic look into what it is to lose someone you love. Her vocal delivery is flawless, reminiscent of greats like Shania Twain and Celine Dion and sung with a rawness that is seldom heard these days in a world of overproduced, plastic pop music. Neethusa is definitely one to watch and her captivating, culturally diverse sound should most definitely stand the test of time!
Coined as a “Dark Soul” artist, J.J Leone prepares for an October release of his new single ‘Reload’.
Already selling out the legendary Ronnie Scott’s, J.J is also championing a unique style, ‘Reload’ is a sound that is both contemporary yet refreshing to the R&B and Soul genres.
‘Reload’ features melancholic vibes that are becoming more and more prominent in contemporary pop music today, following the likes of Lana Del Rey and The Weeknd. Featuring croon-styled vocals, and an electronic backing.
What differentiates J.J is the song being led by the guitar – allowing for the cross-genre compatibility between his soul driven sound and recent post noughties indie textures such as The XX.
Whilst the tune has its comparisons with other pop contemporaries and artists who have followed suit with electronics mixed with instrumentation, the track does indeed hold well on its own, and importantly suits the contemporary music climate.
The songs structure sets the dynamics and feel of the song incredibly well, a strong crescendo element to the composition; J.J spaces out his resources well and does not go in with all guns blazing – creating more of an impact, and even though the conclusive guitar solo does feel slightly out of place upon the first couple of listens, and a breakdown may have potentially been more favourable, I feel it’s an appropriate risk and concludes the song in a gripping manner.
What ‘Reload’ does splendidly is capture the growing melancholic atmosphere that some R&B and Pop artists are incorporating into their work and putting a familiar yet original spin on it, creating a more accessible & enjoyable form of the sound.
‘Reload’ is out on October the 6th and is available to pre-order now. To keep up to date with J.J Leone and his upcoming release check out his social media pages below.