Interview: Imani Shola

Jun 06 2024

Hailing from North London, Imani Shola has just released her lofi soul single, 'Still On You'. Louder Than The Music chatted with her about growing up with a music loving dad, the inspiration behind her music, and her plans for the future.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

Thanks for having me! Absolutely. So, I’m Imani Shola, I’m an RnB Gospel artist from London, specialising in Soul and Neo-Soul music! Think Cleo Sol, Sade, and Snoh Aalegra - but for Jesus! My goal is to help people live out their walk with God with good music by their side on a day to day. I first got into music as a kid, as my dad played the saxophone and was a massive fan of jazz and soul vinyls. He taught me music theory and basic production, as he was a hobbyist music producer, too. I grew up with a record player always blaring classics from names such as Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Soul ii Soul. If the record player wasn’t on, Dad was playing the saxophone. I’ve been writing songs since I was a child, and I play the piano, too. I released my first single in 2020, and the rest is history.

Tell us about your new single 'Still On You' and what the inspiration behind it was?

‘Still On You’ is the groovy, soulful sequel to my 2023 Latin-inspired release, ‘On You’. When I wrote ‘On You’, I had two musical directions I could take it in genre-wise: an uptempo Latin one to energise and motivate, or a chilled lofi soul one to soothe and unwind to. I went with the Latin one and I’m glad I did as it is really motivating. But the other option never left my head. So we’re releasing that one, now! The message is the same but it just gives listeners an option depending on their mood.

Do you have any plans to release more music in the near future?

Yes! And maybe even sooner than people think! This year is an exciting one. Really looking forward to it, and grateful for what’s to come. Stay tuned.

What message would you like people to take from your music?

That’s a great question. Each song has its own unique message but generally, it’s just to feel validated, seen, affirmed, encouraged and like they have company on their walk with God. I would like people to feel that anything they’re experiencing is likely something many other Christians have walked through or can relate to. When people choose to stream a song by me, they are giving me 3 to 4 minutes of their day to bring joy or comfort. That’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

My biggest influences are definitely the artists I grew up listening to. My gospel sound was influenced by the likes of Mary Mary, Darwin Hobbs, Kirk Franklin and CeCe Winans. My soul and jazz sounds were influenced by the big names of the 80s and 90s, names like Nina Simone, Aretha, right through to Patrice Rushen, Fugees, and Soul ii Soul. So my music has the sound of the jazz and soul artists, while having the message of the gospel artists!

If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?

It would have to be Cleo Sol and her producer Inflo. I love the soundscapes they produce together. Cleo is a Christian, too, I think, so it would be lovely to work with someone like her on a gospel track!

How would you define success in your career as an artist?

What a great question. For me, as long as my music helps and encourages one person who really needs it, it’s been successful.

What is your favourite album of all time?

That’s such a hard one! Mary Mary’s album ‘Incredible’ comes to mind. I think that was the first Gospel album I ever heard, and probably kicked off my entire journey into Christian music. Also, they were the ultimate reminder that being a Christian is ‘cool’!

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?

This is brilliant! I was going to say something upbeat but then I’d want to dance and I’d get too hot too quickly in that weather! So, it would need to be something cool, calm and refreshing. I’d go for ‘Purified’ by CeCe Winans. I think it literally talks about rushing water and a fresh breeze. Just what I need on a hot island!

What does the next year hold for you?

More music, for sure, in my RnB Soul niche, and hopefully getting closer to my listeners, over on my instagram. I’m a bit of an introvert, so I’ve hidden away a bit while sharing my music. Much rather be behind the scenes and let the music be the public bit! But, I’m now definitely at a place where I want to be in conversation with my listeners. I’m over on instagram now, cultivating a close-knit community. Really excited about that. My listeners and supporters are the best.

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