Last year, we hosted a musical showcase on London’s iconic Carnaby Street, where some of the finest names on NME Emerging convened to show off their stuff. Each brought something different, but it was London-based R&B newcomer, Effie, whose performance on the night wowed the hundreds in attendance (and us).
Soon after, we sat down with the rising artist to chat about her recently released single ‘Worship’ – a slinking, “taboo” song that marries the “sex and religion”, which is also out now. Here Effie tells us about what it’s like fighting to make a living as a new artist and how embracing her roots empowered her and the music.
Do you think it’s more difficult to be an young artist now than in the past?
“I do feel like there’s a gap in the market for females right now. I think social media is great but also not great. I love it but at the same time there’s a race to have so many followers and that’s something I despise. It’s about the person, the artist, the honesty, the craft behind the work and what is the message not just likes.”
When did you move from Salisbury to London?
“I’d been introduced to London from a very young age, I was 14 when I first coming up to London for music from Salisbury. But when I moved it was a big shock to the system. It swallows you up if you’re not careful and it can be a very lonely city as well. It’s intense. So fast. I think by pushing myself it’s enabled me to almost get rid of it – almost self-healed myself. I used to be a really highly-strung person but over the past 3 years, I just chilled.”
Who were your influences when you were starting out?
“In the house we had a lot of Motown like Stevie Wonder, then some disco acts like Earth, Wind & Fire, then your heroes Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Donny Hathaway, Etta James and Aretha Franklin. The usual suspects. I’m a big jazz fan as well, so Miles Davis, John Coltrane, which I’ve probably got into on a deeper level more recently.”
Tell us about your debut EP. How do you feel about it now?
“I had an EP that came out and I’ll keep it real, I don’t feel like that is a true reflection of me as an artist or the sound I wanna create. I don’t think it’s the best of me. I know as an artist we’re always improving and getting better and evolving but for me, I want to take it away. It was one of those projects that felt pressured to release and maybe I shouldn’t have in hindsight.”
What’s your biggest issue with it?
“Musically and vocally I wasn’t in a strong enough place. There was some moments on it but it was put out just to put out rather than having a real fire burning to put it out. Which is the difference between the music I’m working on that I wanna put out. I’ve never been so excited to release music before. You learn from your past. I’m very critical of myself. The imagery attached to it, I was very confused about who I was. It makes me uncomfortable because I know I wasn’t fully myself yet.”
And does that now feel different?
“I don’t think you can plan it, it just happens. I’d been toying with the idea of braiding my hair for a while and the second I did that, I relaxed into me. Suddenly I found this identity in all different ways. From that point onwards it just felt like water. Everything started to flow. It’s been a journey I’ve really started to enjoy and feel at peace with. I think because I’m light-skin, people will think I’m white and not even realise. I’ve had that all my life.”
Was that because of where you lived?
“In Salisbury it’s very white and middle class so I didn’t want to embrace my roots. I’m Native-American, African-American and English, I didn’t want to explore that until about age 16 and then I was still toying with it. I think moving to London really helped that. Even when I got back now I have my braids people give me the side-eye. In London that would never happen. You can be on a scene but also in the background if you wanna be.”
What do you hope to achieve by the end of this year?
“I wanna get on the festival circuit. I don’t know whether it would be a year from now, but I’ve always wanted my own headline show at KOKO. I’ve seen so many great people there, there’s just a great feeling in the walls. I can’t explain it. It’s a special venue.”
Who would be your dream collaborator?
“I’m a huge Arctic Monkeys fan, if I could write with anyone it would be Alex Turner but then I’d wanna work with somebody like Anderson Paak. People that really appreciate that kind of music. It’s all one. It all comes down to message and feeling. Quincy Jones said “there’s only two types of music in this world: good and bad”. I think that’s true.”
Effie’s new single ‘Worship’ is out now