Hot off the back of her latest release ‘Euphoria’ we caught up with East London born DIY, alternative R&B artist M.I. to talk about living in Leeds, being a DIY artist and an excellent list of new music artists to shout out!
And what a pleasure it was…
Welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit yourself – who is M.I and how did it all get started?
Hello! Thank you for having me (or featuring me lol). Where it started…? I’ve always loved the music since I was a kid. Mum played Motown classics all the time. I also went to theatre schools on the weekends throughout secondary school and then I decided I wanted to do it all day, everyday. So I studied music in college then came to Leeds to continue. When I initially started gigging it was under the name ‘Miss Idele’. I enjoyed it but I realised that it wasn’t a true representation of me. I wasn’t a ‘sassy soulstress’ all the time and I got a bit tired of trying to be that at every performance/appearance. So I created M.I.
M.I I would say is kind of a culmination of all the different aspects of me. So she’s got the sass of Miss Idele, but she’s also vulnerable, scared and anxious. With M.I there are no expectations or limitations. She can be anything or everything she wants to be.
And you’re originally from East London (where GIHE HQ is!), what made you make the move to Leeds?
Yes, E17 all day everyday! Hahaha. I moved because of the choice I made to go to Leeds College Of Music (LCOM). It was a tie between there or Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). As soon as I got to Leeds it felt like a second home immediately, and it helped that three friends from college were coming to Leeds too!
Leeds has a great music scene, do you find it very different to London’s?
The Leeds music scene is great. Lots of talent all around. I have to give a whole heap of praise to DJ Lubi for giving a lot of us opportunities to gig around some of the best venues, line ups and promoters! I do think the London scene is a bit different – the music scene is huge with lots of different things happening. Unfortunately from what I know, I feel like the London music scene is kind of people saying the same thing over the same type of music. Something I really appreciate is coming to Leeds to find my sound and what I like and/or dislike, and what I have to say that can impact, that is honest. Having said that I do feel like the London scene would cater more to my sound than Leeds would. I think Leeds has a soft spot for Jazz, Afro Beats or singer-songwriters!
You are a DIY artist which we respect so much, was this a conscious decision to keep more control over your music? How do you find being a DIY artist?
I’m neither happy or sad to be a DIY artist. I don’t think I can see it any other way right now as I know what I want, I’m very involved in all aspects like the writing, arrangement and production. So, unless the perfect recording contract came along giving me that same amount of control, I’m happy to stick with being a D.I.Y artist! I must say though, it is sometimes easy to be a DIY artist because I don’t see music as a task or job. Sometimes I don’t even see it as a career. It’s my passion so it will always be a part of me whether I become a huge superstar or not. I think the only big struggle with being DIY is there isn’t a big company funding you so you kinda have to find ways to literally DIY, hahaha (sorry, bad joke).
We’re loving the new single ‘Euphoria’ at Get In Her Ears HQ and have played it on our radio show! Can you tell us a bit about the song and what inspired it?
Euphoria!!! The first song I ever wrote. It was surprisingly easy to write despite having never written before and not thinking I could. I just started improvising to an instrumental on youtube and boom! It appeared! I think what helped is that I needed to get something of my chest… I didn’t realise it at the time but writing was my outlet. My inspiration for that song was a guy I liked…! I wrote it as a kind of letter I suppose. We were both dealing with a huge change in our lives and I was kind of writing to myself as well. Telling myself (and him) to try something new, to escape reality (funnily enough most of my songs became about escaping). I really enjoyed writing it as if it was a breath of fresh air, instead of making it direct which gives it a freedom to mean the listeners interpret it to be.
Am I right in thinking you are part of a vocal group called Leeds Contemporary Singers? Who have performed with the likes of Kelis? That must have been amazing!
Yes! L.C.S!!! I absolutely adore them! Yes we have! We also performed with Will Young who was one of our mentors on the show! We also got to see Jermaine Jackson, Nick Jonas, Seal and my number one idol CHAKA KHAN!! Definitely the big highlight of 2017!!!
At Get In Her Ears we’re about promoting and supporting women in music, hoping for a day when people can talk about good music no matter what the artist’s gender is on an equal basis. Do you find as a woman that people label you as a ‘female’ artist rather than an ‘artist’? If so how do you feel about that?
Sadly I think my race is picked up on before my gender. So kind of a double whammy there. Most of the time, despite my change in image/sound, I’m labelled as a “Soulstress” or “Gospel Singer”. It’s something I really struggled with in University, people just assuming what I do and limiting me to that. Most of the time I got labelled as a backing vocalist. I think a lot of the time people think because I’m a female, all I do is sing and if I play an instrument too an even bigger achievement. But yes I sing, I can accompany myself on a piano but I also write, arrange and produce my songs. I may not be the best producer but I know what I want and it was really hard finding producers who let you do you. I found a lot of producers try and force what they want for you, upon you and ignore when you disagree or try to have an opinion on your own songs! When speaking to male artists, they never seem to have that issue. I think that enforces my being DIY as well as I do not have the time or the patience to deal with it.
What’s 2018 got in store for M.I.?
2018!! Reclaiming my time, reclaiming my time!! I plan to ‘snatch wigs’, be the best version of me musically and personally, put in the work and leave the rest to GOD! I want to release a couple more tracks throughout the year and get some gigs in. But other than that, I’m gonna live my BEST LIFE!
Finally as we’re a new music focused site, are there any other new/upcoming bands or artists you’d suggest we check out?
New music! I love supporting friends so here is a nice list! I’m mentioning producers, instrumentalists and writers because I think it’s important to shed light on people behind the spotlight – they’re all important too!! Becky Bowe, Loux, Park fires and Luna Pines recently released new singles. The compilation album by Sixteen Records compiled by Lotte Van Den Berg is full of loads of upcoming artists/bands in and around Leeds – Ofure Faith, Dija Bhlue, Mali Hayes and Jermaine Peterson – amazing artists! Chloe Rianna – best drummer I know! Kieran Williams – greatest songwriter I know, he’s written a couple of bops including BBC Radio 1’s Track Of The Week ‘I’m Not Ever Coming Back again’ (I’ve also got a couple of bops coming out with him). Akin Music – he co-produced ‘Euphoria’ and a couple of other tracks of mine, AND he’s opening for Lalah Hathaway in July in Leeds! Monkey Harper – he’s a producer, he’s got some bops coming out too! And he co-produced ‘Euphoria’ and a couple of other tracks. I could actually go on but I think that’s enough!!!