Born in Africa, raised in Oxford and now based in London, Haula is an emerging singer/songwriter with an expressive and powerful sound while exposing an arresting honesty and deep-seated vulnerability. With her African roots, classical piano training and myriad of disparate musical influences, the classically trained pianist is not your average artist. With a BA degree in Psychology and going it alone on the music scene, Haula has decided to take the plunge and focus on making it as a singer full time.
Haula shares her plans for releasing her EP, sheds light on her inspiration and creating her unique sound and what’s next for the rising star.
iSing: Tell us about yourself?
Haula: I am twentysomething, I’m a singer and pianist and I am trying to get myself out there. I am London based but grew up in Oxford and was born in Uganda. My earliest memory of singing is when I got up on stage with a friend at a competition and sang Dreamlover by Mariah Carey. Up until that point I didn’t know I could sing, but after that day, there was no turning me away from music.
My family were not really interested in music and being from an African background, academia was the only path my family understood. So I went to Royal Holloway University and studied Psychology, partly because I found the subject easy and interesting, partly because I am a sociable person so I wanted to learn about human behaviour. After my degree, I decided to focus on developing my musicianship, so I started writing my own material.
Fast-forward to the last three years and I have been gigging and performing in and around London/ Oxford, developed a catalogue of songs and recorded my debut EP Darkest Hour which is due for release in early 2016.
iSing: What made you get into music?
H: Once I discovered I could sing, I knew that music was what I wanted to do. Music became my passion and only focus. I often feel and say music chose me, I didn’t choose it. I knew that is what I wanted a career in but didn’t know where to start. I would watch pop stars on stage and awards shows and dream of following in their footsteps. After university and working various jobs while doing music on the side for two years, I made a conscious decision to do music full time. So far, so good!
iSing: Does your family know about your singing career?
H: Yes they know and they are very supportive. It’s difficult for them to come to London for my gigs but whenever I play in Oxford, they are there.
iSing: You have quite a unique sound, where does your inspiration come from?
H: Well, like I mentioned before, I don’t come from a musical family at all. So it’s all been a trial and error experience and just listening to stuff and finding what I like. I love blues and soul music so I listened to a lot of Nina Simone, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald; their music really informs my music and the way I sing. I also really love Sade and Beyoncé!
With the piano, I just experimented and just found my sound. It’s what came naturally and felt comfortable for me. I would describe myself as mainly a vocalist, the piano allows me freedom and independence to create what I want to create and express myself truly.
iSing: How would you describe your sound?
H: I would say my music is ambient pop with blues, soul and African undertones. It’s an amalgamation of the music I love and my own roots but with a commercial and current sound.
iSing: What do you like about being a singer?
H: I love being able to express myself. That’s what music is about for me, it’s expressing whatever it is I am or other people are feeling. I am truly me when I sing. Being on stage and connecting with the audience, it’s just incredible. I hope that I create and sing music that resonates with people. It’s a fun and fulfilling job.
iSing: Do you like performing?
H: I love it. I get super nervous beforehand but once I am on stage I don’t want to ever stop. I like performing to large crowds, so the more people the better and the more confident I am. I get to connect and play with an audience. I feed off their energy so if it’s an engaged crowd, we have a great time.
iSing: You aren’t currently with a label or management, How do you get the gigs?
H: Well, I am a one-man army, so I do everything myself. I am the artist, the label, the manager, the PR person and everything needed to move a music career forward. Initially I played lots of the London open mics and gradually moved to music venues. Luckily I play the piano, so at the start, I would accompany myself. Now, I book my own gigs, it’s literally a case of emailing and calling music venues and asking if I can play there. So long as they like your music and you have some footage of a live performance, most venues are really cool and happy to promote new artists. My favourite for this is The Troubadour near Earl’s Court station in London.
iSing: Do you do covers or your own music?
H: I mainly do my own material. It’s much easier to sing a song written specifically for my voice. I would love to do some covers but I have this fear, that I wouldn’t sing someone else’s song well enough. That is the main reason I write my own material, so I can arrange it for my vocal ability and style.
iSing: So you have a debut EP coming out in 2016?
H: Yes, it’s titled Darkest Hour. The four track EP has been well received with both national and regional radio airplay. The EP is championed by BBC Introducing Oxford with all four tracks being played by Dave Gilyeat on BBC Introducing Oxford, as well as airplay on Amazing Radio, and featured as a FreshFave on Tom Robinson’s FreshOnTheNet. The lead single Darkest Hour received national airplay on BBC Radio 1 on Huw Stephen’s BBC Introducing segment. The second single from the EP Freedom has proved to be extremely popular with airplay from BBC Oxford and BBC Radio 6 on the Tom Robinson’s BBC Introducing Mixtape.
My EP is due out in early 2016 so keep a lookout. I’ll be concentrating on that for the near future and doing lots of promotion and so forth.
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