THE Nigerian-born, British Soul singer-songwriter Bee Bakare…
has been on a high since the release of debut single, Little Darling. Following that, she released her eponymous E.P. (in 2015) and, following gig requests and popularity, has toured around Bath and West England. Now, Bakare prepares to release her new E.P., Brighter. It is out in April and I speak to Bakare about the E.P. and what we can expect from it. She discusses her music idols and her Nigerian heritage – how her poetry-writing youth has influenced her current music. Bakare discusses the importance of social media and the close bond with her fans; what she hopes to achieve this year.
Hi, Bee. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, Sam! I’m really well, thank you. Great week so far; been quite busy with some travelling to visit family and also planning my next release.
For those new to your music can you introduce yourself, please?
Yes, of course, My name is Bee Bakare and I am a female Soul singer-songwriter.
You’re based in Britain but born in Nigeria. How much of your Nigerian roots go into your music and how would you say you’re defined by your heritage?
Hmm, yes. I do often wonder about that – whether or not my Nigerian roots have influenced my music. Growing up, I listened to a lot of R&B and Gospel. I was surrounded by music in this genre growing up.
My ‘cool’ aunties and uncles at the time would listen to a lot of that and naturally; so did I. R&B/Soul have influenced my music, for sure.
You have said how poems were important to you when you were younger – as a way of working out issues. Do you approach songwriting the same way now would you say?
Ah, yes, absolutely! Just the other evening, after a rather emotional day, I started playing around on my guitar and spontaneously (started) singing a new song. It might sound strange, but it felt like the song was telling me exactly how I was feeling before I even knew myself. I’ve just always felt very connected to music and writing. Saying that; I do get inspiration to write from outside of myself as well. It could be a story I’ve imagined or been told. I love stories. There’s a track on my new E.P. called In my Head which is purely fictional.
Little Darling and your eponymous E.P. came out in 2015. You have covered a lot of ground since then. Does it seem a-world-away from where you are now? Do you look back at 2015 and see how far you’ve come?
Ah, Little Darling was where it all started to get real for me and I started to feel like a ‘real’ musician. I released Little Darling and the first E.P. from a place of frustration – with not releasing any of the music I was writing. They were all buried in my head with no real audience for a while. I feel like, since that time, I’ve been able to start connecting more people with my music – which has always been my dream. Prior to that, I’d play (sometimes) in cafes or to friends – or small events – but then Little Darling went digital, and it was like, wow! People in other parts of the world have heard my music. The big change, I guess, has been playing all the venues and gigs (I’ve been fortunate to). So, I’ve played a lot in Bath and around: Cambridge, Leicester; been very active in London.
I do love Little Darling. Can you tell me about the song and how it came to be as it were?
Aw, thank you, very much! Little Darling is really close to my heart for many reasons.
It’s about someone close to me who had lost their way a bit over the years. I was laid in bed one night just thinking about them and the choices they had made; some not-good ones.
I think the song makes people think about someone or even themselves, maybe, but the message in the song is Hope. The music video and lyrics do tell a story that whilst mysterious and cryptic at times (especially the ending) – it was created from real life events. There’s a little bit of my own personal story in there too.
In 2016, you performed over two-hundred shows. You played at festivals and small gigs alike. That must have been an exhausting year! What are your memories of that time?
Yeah! To tell you the truth, it was, indeed exhausting, but I was so determined. I moved to London to play my music and once I got going I couldn’t stop. It felt like I had been deprived and suddenly I was going to need to make it count or something. Some days I’d play two shows in a day. Once I did three! I had a great time, though. I started to get real ‘fans’! Well, I prefer the word ‘supporters’. Before 2016, I had had incredible support from my network of friends and family in Bath and Bristol. They have been unbelievable to me. Since the ‘gig marathon’, as I call it in hindsight, I’ve met amazing people that never knew who I was – and just loved my music and personality and keep coming to my shows, writing me. They are the best. Means the world to me.
Waiting to Happen is the first single from your forthcoming E.P. I notice hints of Erykah Badu, Whitney Houston and U.S. Pop/Soul greats. Who are the singers/artists that have helped shape that voice and sound?
I think Whitney Houston was a music legend. I’ve always been fond of big female voices like that. They are some of the artists whose music I truly admire and was surrounded by growing up. The sound of my music has taken more influence from the soulful female legends like Tracy Chapman, Lauryn Hill and India Arie. This is the music I still like to wake up to on a Saturday morning. I love the soul and lyrical content of their music. I do love my British Soul like Gabrielle, Emeli Sande; Beverly Knight etc.
Your new E.P. is out in April. Can you reveal some of the songs that will appear on it and the sort of themes covered?
Yes! April, the 26th. I can’t wait. It’s a five-track E.P. The title track is called Brighter and it’s a happy song. It’s the kind of song you want playing in the car on a summer’s day! It’s also won a couple of U.K. songwriting awards recently which has been awesome. The whole E.P. takes you on an emotional journey. There’s one song on there I wrote after my car crash, called Best Shot, which is a song anyone can relate to if you’ve ever gone through a difficult time. I generally enjoy writing about love, relationships and people: things anyone can relate to. You’ll definitely pick up these themes. The songs are catchy. I dare anyone to not sing along to In My Head. You can listen to Waiting to Happen – the first single from the E.P. – which is already out now for streaming or download.
Are you excited about its impending release or is it quite nerve-wracking?
I am so, so excited! Nervous, too. It’s a pretty terrifying thing: putting yourself (so very) out there for the world to review. Every artist feels this I think, to a degree.
For me, I’ve been waiting a long time to share more music with my supporters – and to reach more people I haven’t (reached) yet.
Plus, the excitement of being able to get another release out there that reflects some of my growth and personality as an artist and writer is pretty cool. It feels pretty good when all the studio hours and writing and re-writing and everything else comes to something you feel proud of.
What other plans do you have for the rest of this year in terms of touring and recording?
I’m looking forward to touring the E.P. and covering more cities in the U.K. that I haven’t yet. Europe and the U.S., also. It’s the first time I’ve been able to. I really do enjoy gigging, playing live; I especially love intimate shows, too. Hoping to incorporate more of those as well. My tour dates will be announced soon. I am constantly writing so will be back in the studio working on the next project as well. I can tell you my E.P. launch party will be 26.04.2017 at the Notting Hill Arts Club.
Before we leave, can you tell me about the albums and records that influenced and fascinated you growing up?
Growing up, the music that has fascinated me and influenced me has been quite different! Haha. So, this one is super-cheesy – you’ve been warned – but I am in love with the Sound of Music soundtrack. There, I said it! The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album is simply… timeless; so is Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin! Love that song! This isn’t as much from growing up, but I am slightly obsessed with Emeli Sande’s Our Version of Events and Jessie J’s 2014 album Sweet Talker – I know all the songs by heart. It’s the honesty they poured into their music; it’s hugely inspired me to do the same.
You seem to have a very intimate and personal connection to your fans on social media. How important are sites like Facebook and Twitter with regards promotion and inspiring your music?
Aw, I really do cherish the relationship I have with my fans – or ‘supporters’, as I like to say. Every ‘Like’ and ‘Following’ is precious to me.
Social media is gold for independent artists like myself. Facebook and Twitter are a really helpful way of staying in touch with people who use them; for getting information out and potentially finding new supporters.
Though, I will say it’s limited by its algorithms, for instance – so a well-protected private mailing list is also very important.
Are there any new artists you’d recommend we check out?
Have you advice for new songwriters coming through right now?
My advice would be: keep writing, keep sharing and keep asking for constructive feedback.
The more you keep this cycle going, the better you develop your skill, talent and gift.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song you like (not yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.
Ooh okay. Choosing this mainly because it’s one of the best-written songs. I love. Love Is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse.
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