Wonderland meets the bold visioned singer-songwriter.
Waistcoat and trousers NATASHA ZINKO, bralet VALENTINO
Iman has found her voice, to say the least. Growing up in a household where music wasn’t celebrated, taking a road primed for musical accomplishment and pop stardom – the one she’s currently treading – was actively discouraged.
Shunning the life her parents wished for her, Iman instead scored studio time, making a name for herself as a songwriter through sheer grit, determination and actually, talent. Eventually working for international artists such as Rudimental, Kanye West and man of the hour, Ed Sheeran, the choice that Iman made at age 16 to put her desires first is evidently paying off.
Teasing out singles since the beginning of the year, Iman now finds herself headed for the spotlight. From the songwriting to the mixing and mastery, she is involved in the whole production process from beginning to end, with her uncompromising creative vision informing every aspect. Most recent single, “Wishing” is an absolute banger of a house track with a distinctly UK vibe, further affirming that she’s a talent to keep an eye on.
We caught up with the ambitious singer-songwriter to talk live music, career goals and Drake.
Dress and shirt (worn underneath) PACO RABANNE
So how did you get started in the music industry?
I used to rock up to open mic nights and just watch and observe; I wouldn’t perform because I didn’t really have backing tracks or anything, but I just kind of [did] networking and would be like “hey, I’m a singer-songwriter”, it took a while before anyone gave me the time of day. It’s almost a bit of a catch-22, “we’re not going to give you studio time because we don’t know what you can do” but it’s like, “if you give me some time I could show you” but eventually, through persistence, I started to get opportunities.
When did you to put yourself centre stage, as opposed to writing for other artists?
As an artist, what happens is that you are constantly writing songs. Some of them you just connect to a bit more than others and some of them you feel, I feel, certainly that I’ve just outgrown, like it’s what I was doing then, so that’s why I’m never going to sing every single song that I’ve written; sometimes it’s like I’ve written it but it doesn’t belong to me.
So, there wasn’t a moment where you thought okay, this is my time now?
No, performing and singing has definitely always been what it’s about for me. It’s like the most natural thing for me and you know in music, it’s really difficult, especially when you’re an independent artist, and one of the things that reminds me and brings me back is when I’ve performed and it kind of feeds me, I’m like okay, now I remember why I’m hustling so hard – because I love connecting with people.
Would you say performing live is the best aspect of the job?
One of the best, one of the most rewarding. When you write a song and then you play it to other people and they’re like “oh my gosh, this is dope” that is a bit of a high.
Music wasn’t really encouraged in your house growing up, right? How has that shaped your career and the music you write and perform?
Well, it’s definitely made me strong and resilient; when you are starting out you don’t know what you’re doing, I certainly didn’t. I don’t come from a musical background and no one else in my family is musical, you kind of don’t really know what you are supposed to do, you just know you’re supposed to have some kind of demo. So, all the rejection that came with that and not being able to go to the people closest to me forced me to be my own support and I think it made me really strong, but still soft enough to be open to feedback; I think the beginning phase really shaped me to become someone that can just take it and get on with it.
Your sound, how would you pitch it?
It’s definitely very UK sounding, which is super important to me. I think it’s raw, it’s genuine, it’s got electronic, soul, r’n’b, pop influences. It’s definitely not polished, which is something I don’t like but it’s still got, I think, a theme running through it and I think that theme is positive and just honest.
Who inspires you, artistically?
Oh gosh, there’s so many. I love Gil Scott, Tracy Chapman, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Lauryn Hill, just anything with a great lyric and melody, yeah, that really inspires me.
Top J.W.Anderson, trousers APC
You’ve already worked with some pretty big names. Who would you like to collaborate next?
Drake, Drake. It’s a bait choice, I know, but he is actually such an incredible songwriter. It’s like every song, or the majority of his songs, are about the same thing. Yeah, okay, most artists write about love, but his are always… his love songs are always the same type of love songs, where it’s like I want you but I can’t have you. It’s always that same kind of theme, but he delivers each one differently and each one is fresh and I think he knows exactly what type of beats suit him. He’s definitely got style and his flow is just… his melodies are incredible.
What drives you careerwise, makes you get up in the morning and do what you do?
I don’t know. I’m joking, it’s days like today, shooting with Wonderland is definitely really cool. What drives me though? I really believe in my songs and I’m really driven to make sure I get to share them. I feel like I’ve gotten myself to the point and worked on my craft so much that where I can write songs like “Wishing”, “Naïve” and “Golden” – on my website – and all these other songs that I’m so proud of, I feel like if they were to just stay on my computer, like they weren’t meant for that, they were meant to be shared and I think that absolutely is what drives me.
You mentioned your single “Wishing”. Talk me through it.
When I first wrote it, it was actually a ballad and then I wasn’t really sure about the production so I took it to a producer that produced my other records, “Golden” and “Naïve’. We turned it into this house tune and I was like, you know what, let’s bring the whole UK vibe into this, let’s turn it into a house song. It’s one of my only house songs and it’s about when I was crazy feeling this guy, who had a girlfriend, I didn’t even entertain that and the lyrics “standing in the middle and you’re all that I want” it’s about admiring someone from afar and keeping that to yourself, basically.
So when can we expect an album? And goals beyond that?
I mean, yeah. Right now I’m just releasing single after single because I’m still introducing myself to people – I actually run my own label – and then hopefully at some point it will be a little EP and then a debut album. The goal is to literally share my music far and wide; I’d just love to tour all over the world. They could be low-key tours, high profile tours, but just to connect on a daily with people through my music, I think that’s something that’s really special, if I can do that.
Wanna check Iman’s sound out for yourself? Head here to listen or here to discover more.