Multi-talented LA artist Ayoni was staggeringly quick on her feet establishing herself as a one to watch in music. As soon as the 21-year-old Barbados-born singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist dropped her self-composed and self-produced debut album, Iridescent, the critics (who got the memo) instantly took notice. Led by Ayoni’s remarkable, radiant voice, the boundary-breaking project melds rich, rousing electro-pop soundscapes packed with global beats and diverse vocal arrangements wrapped in sensitive, expressive lyricism. Other than Iridescent’s vibrant instrumentation and universally appealing melodies, what instantly hits is that Ayoni’s vocals are phenomenal. She has huge range and a rarely seen acrobatic ability to slip between high and low notes, a skill best exemplified in the exultant trills of her uplifting ‘Santa Monica’ and throughout soulful power-ballad, ‘September’. Since her glittering first project, Ayoni has gone on to release a spate of singles, including the poignant soul track ‘Unmoved (A Black Woman’s Truth)’ and her energetic, gloriously harmonised pop single, ‘All Out of Love’ (co-written by songwriter and producer, Stark). With the release of the ebullient Namy collab, ‘Disco Dancing’, last month, it really feels like Ayoni has industry-conquering potential, and we can’t wait to see where her creativity takes her next.
We caught up with Ayoni for this edition of our Artist Spotlight series, where we showcase up-and-coming artists and give them a chance to talk about their music.
What first made you want to pursue music?
My infatuation with divine experiences is what initially drew me into music. Growing up in the church, worship was always an integral and grounding part of my weeks. A church I used to attend in Oakland had an incredible worship program where I regularly heard layered harmonies and improvisation which I would consider two central aspects of my sound.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Life is the ultimate muse for me. I’m a lover of feelings and emotions and the metrics of human experiences. I try to draw upon places that I have lived or travelled to and lessons I’m currently exploring in my own life as a source of inspiration. At the core of it all, though, I’m trying to tell stories about those experiences that might save someone else from the same foolish mistakes.
Who are your influences, and what music are you loving right now?
I’ve recently been most influenced by Moses Sumney, Lianne La Havas, JAiRUS, and Dijon. They are so intentional with their soundscapes and melodies in a way that is sure of itself – like a running river. It’s a practice of tapping into the divine that can’t be manufactured, and it’s been inspiring me so much in my own work. I was raised by Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver, Adele, and Lorde. I love artists who are storytellers by nature and definitely aim to recreate that level of truth and bravery in my own music.
What are your thoughts on the music industry as it stands?
The music industry as it stands remains exploitative and unwilling to invest in new stories and innovators. Numbers and data take precedent over talent and intention which makes the path longer for artists looking to preserve their artistic integrity and protect their stories, while also needing to support their finances sustainably. That being said, I’m moving in alignment with my purpose and am supported by a growing community of lovely people. Despite my human moments of doubt, I really really believe in myself – so that will need to be enough.
You had a really great first outing with your debut album, Iridescent. What do you think was the secret to its success?
Thank you! I tried to be as honest as I was able at the time, and I think that is at the core of connections made from/with my music. I think people are really over-saturated with content made to be shallowly engaged with, but still be entertained by, and I think that there are many people who are just heavy and burdened with all the agreements life necessitates who want to feel something real. I think my art resonates with people because there’s a beautiful humanity to my creations. I want to honour what it means to be alive and to love and to hurt and to mourn and to grow and so I wanted my first proper project to cost me something – and also cost my listener too. To demand my listener to be present is my ultimate goal.
What’s the most important thing for you in your work?
My ultimate motive is to make revolution irresistible. To make dreaming the bare minimum and our elevation a requirement. Socially we’ve been stagnant for too long. This year has been just unbearably long for me. Unpacking fascism, and capitalism, and the desire of too many to dominate and control has been mentally draining. As a result, the urgency of the times have enabled me to realise my responsibility as an artist to open conversations – and I think that is my path forward. I don’t need to be your role model. I definitely don’t even need you to like me, but I do need the urgency of my messages to be honoured and I won’t allow my talent to be dismissed. I say all that to say that freedom is the most important thing to me and my work. Freedom to speak truth to power.
You recently released your groovy 80’s inspired single, ‘Disco Dancing’ – do you have any more music on the way?
I’m working on my debut album right now. It’s in its infancy which I love because I get to ask myself the most interesting questions about the stories I want to tell.