New sound for 2012: An interview with EJ
E.J., aka Edwina Johnson, is not your average urban music newcomer; having grown up between Sweden and Peckham in a musical family with roots in Barbados and Cuba, she has a background that is as eclectic as musically rich. Her debut single ‘Mama I’m Gonna Sing’ and its remix by Jamie Jones are already receiving radio airplay, meaning that she’s hotly tipped to be an artist from whom we’re sure to hear a lot more in 2012. This song showcases her emotive voice in a gospel-influenced debut that has immediately got industry tongues wagging. We spoke to her ahead of its release.
Your new record is beginning to receive attention and airplay. When can we expect it to be released?
It’s going to be released in early March. To be honest it’s the first thing I’ve ever put out, just a teaser track. It’s a single we’re putting out in hope people come to it.
How long have you been working towards putting out the record?
I’ve always done music, I’ve always been involved in music, I’ll always take 4 hours out of my day to do something, like my mum sent me to ballet class or jazz dance class or piano, whatever it was I’d be doing something to do with music: so all my life really.
The record has quite a gospel feel to it, a genre that often invokes family, with the name of the record being ‘Mama I’m Gonna Sing’ how much has family influenced you?
Oh, a lot! I grew up with a huge extended family around, so music was a way of establishing a hierarchy. The fact is that I was good at singing and dancing. My cousins were listening to TLC and they’d take me out with their friends even though I was a 7-year-old hanging around with 16-year –olds: they thought I was really cute!
You grew up in Sweden, and also London. How did that eclectic background affect your music?
I moved over here when I was 12, so I grew up in Sweden and London, and my parents are Bajan and Cuban. I’ve embraced all styles and how I grew up, I mean like in Sweden it’s very pop then I’ve mixed the very urban ethnic side of it as well and put it all together and that’s what excites me about the stuff I’m about to bring out (new songs such as ‘Bangers & Mash’ and ‘Supersize’) like sometimes the titles are very English but the music might not be, and sometimes the other way around, the music might be very suburban pop but the lyrics are very extreme, it doesn’t have any barriers, so am really excited.
I hear that you’re a fan of Etta James and Nina Simone, what about their music appeals to you?
What I really like about them is that they were really good live artists. It was really about the music and not the superficial things that people like around it, not all the things around it that subliminally or not subliminally be driven by when we choose our musical styles or how we consume music.
Your father was also a musician. Have you always known that music was something that you were going to do?
Music is a part of who I am. If you were really good at music in our family then people would really like you, and in a way it’s a natural instinct that I was attracted to music very early, growing up.
Would you have ever been anything other than a musician?
I love to write, even with my music I feel I tell stories; I have been really concentrating on writing a really good story behind all my music.
What kind of stories do you want to tell, and what would you like people to feel when listening to your music?
I tell stories that are real to me; and I hope people can reflect on the differences that I have, and not necessarily inherit them to be theirs, but embrace their individuality.
Who would you have liked to work with?
I don’t know about worked with, but there are people I’d like to have seen. I’d have really wanted to be there when Jimi Hendrix was playing three strings on his guitar. I’d also have loved to see Nina Simone do ‘See-Line Woman’. Of people here and now, I’d love to see Whitney [Houston].
Is there anyone who has particularly helped you, or had a major influence on the record?
There are so many that there wouldn’t be time to list them all! I’m very, very grateful though that they’ve put in all the effort and all the help. When in this industry the one thing I try and concentrate on is the music, because somehow if it’s really what you’re meant to do, in some way it just works out.
E.J’s debut single Mama I’m Gonna Sing is scheduled for release in early March, and more details can be found here.
Watch the video for Mama I’m Gonna Sing here: