In 2015 Emmanuel Nwamadi secured his spot on BBC’s The Voice, the show that would radiate his talent to some 8.5 million viewers. The UK press herald him as having a ‘soulful voice’ likened to ‘Seal’ and ‘Barry White’, but the artist himself felt otherwise and rather misunderstood.
Taking a few minutes out of his evening to chat with Musicvein, Emmanuel spoke of challenging misconceptions, his view of himself as an artist and new single ‘With You’, a collaboration with partner in life and crime Shristi Jade.
Musicvcein: Emmanuel since leaving The Voice what have you been doing with yourself?
“To be honest with you I’ve just immersed myself in writing music, producing myself and performing all around the UK. I’ve had interest from record labels but it’s never really been something that was in line with who I am as an artist so a lot of the time I’ve turned them down and stayed in my own lane.
Being on The Voice is both a blessing and a curse in that you’re labeled. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great label to have, however it can be quite limiting due to people hearing a certain type of sound on the show and thinking that’s the artist that you are. Whilst on the show I sang quite a lot of classic songs by artists such as Phil Collins, Sade and Procol Harum – so it’s been quite tricky trying to get record labels to buy into me as the artist I believe I have always been before the show.
I’m very much into grunge music, hard rock and I’ve always 100% felt misunderstood as a person and artist. As a 14-year-old my friends used to call me Moses! I wasn’t smart when it came to academia, but when it came to life I was always ahead of my friends, so my conversations were always a bit too much for them. They were like “Bro! Let’s go have some fun, do some nonsense…” and I was like “But wait, no, you have to think about life and choices you make…” they just told me to go away in the end (he laughs).
As a 16 year old teen I was a big fan of Metallica and Nirvana – if it wasn’t for Nirvana I wouldn’t be playing the guitar. I also loved Alice in Chains – if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be singing. Quite a lot of people, I feel, just don’t understand my music due to it being so different from the preconceptions they hold.
It’s like people have been programmed to have a fixed mindset of who you should be as soon as you step out onto a stage. They see a black person and immediately think ‘Soul singer’ and as an artist it’s almost easier to go with what everyone wants you to be to succeed – which is a sad thing as there’s no freedom in that, you’re more trapped and almost stunt your own growth in going along with that mindset.
Many a time I’ve been to an event and left people feeling confused after my set. I get the head scratches and comments like, “You’re black so why?…what made you perform that song?”, “I’ve never heard Nirvana performed in a soulful way”, “Your voice is so low but you sing so high!” – it’s laughable (he literally falls about laughing). My response is usually that if I state my influence as Luther Vandross or Stevie Wonder and sing in their way – for every time I do that there are another ten people doing the same, we’re all sounding the same! So by me using my childhood rock influences and bringing a different element to them, yes, it’s an acquired taste but there will be people who will buy into that.”
Musicvein: So tell me about the new single that you appear on with Shristi Jade, ‘With You’ – (for those who don’t know Shristi Jade is an Australian RnB artist influenced by the likes of Aaliyah and Jhene Aiko).
“Well the single itself is about us finding one another in life. It’s that whole story of knowing you’re in a relationship which is wrong for you but you can’t help yourself being in it. Shristi herself came from a bad relationship and while I was in mine, I too was wishing I met someone like Shristi so here we are finally.
Shristi came over to my place one day after working with her producer, she had a verse which she played to me and I immediately said we have to finish this! We sat down and within 1/2 hour the song was done! It was that quick!”
Musicvein: It sounds like you do a lot on your own, writing, producing, isn’t there anyone you’d like to work with?
“I do, I learnt how to produce myself so I now don’t need a producer. I know how I want things to sound so I write my own music, play piano and guitar – the thing is these days you have to be this way. Some artists get signed to a label, the label do everything for them then when they’re dropped from the label, they’re disabled and can’t do anything for themselves. As for artists I’d like to work with, hmmm at the moment I’m mainly working with Shristi and artists closet to my genre, but I’m always open to new genres, as long as it resonates with me. I would have liked to have worked with XXXTentacion – I loved his rhymes but unfortunately he’s no more.“
Musicvein: So what plans do you have for 2019?
“At the moment I’m working on my music and performing as the opportunity arises. My diary is so random, one minute I’ve not got plans then I’ll be booked up with events and personal appearances, only a few weeks ago I was called to perform at Richard Blackwood‘s housewarming party – that was so random but a great night, so I just keep my options open.”
The new single ‘With You’ by Shristi Jade and Emmanuel Nwamadi is available to stream or download now.
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