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Emerging Icons Featured Artist: Josephine

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The Emerging Icons message can be described in many ways- but it can in fact be condensed down to just three words. LOVE NEW MUSIC. It's what we do and what we promote, and we do so in many ways.

As these impassioned lovers of new, original music we are forever extending our insatiable tune-seeking tentacles across the market and sticking our fingers into all kinds of genre pie. (We also took the award for most obscure metaphors of 2012.) It's in our constant search for new sounds and promising artists that we make some brilliant discoveries, within the world of Emerging Icons and beyond.

A name that has been honey to the lips of many critics of late is one Josephine Oniyama; a super-chilled Mancunian alt-soul singer-songwriter. With so many descriptions to follow her name, it's no real surprise that she has opted to perform under just 'Josephine'- a less cumbersome mouthful to match her clean vocal style and classic style of composition.

Comparisons have been drawn to retro-soul goddesses in tracks such as 'Portraits', contemporary soul powerhouses like Adele in the gutsy anthem 'Original Love'... and with Manc background in mind, it's hard to not hear glimmers of 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want' in the gorgeous 'A Freak A'. This eclectic blend has served her well, providing a freshness that has impressed enough to earn prolific support slots, prestigious industry accolades and a veritable buzz to frame her future. Oh, did we mention that she's even got Guy Garvey as a very publicly supportive fan too? Suffice to say, we're just a little envious. (Guy, call us. Please.)

The latest opportunity to present itself to this tenacious vocalist is an appearance on the somewhat legendary show, 'Later With Jools Holland', to be shown on Tuesday 23rd and Friday 27th November on BBC2. When performing in THAT studio is all in a day's work you've surely got to feel pretty content with your career. We thought we'd find out from Josephine herself- as she is much more qualified to speak on the matter- as well as asking a few things about her experience, her inspiration and her thoughts on certain 'demonic' talent shows...

How was it for you getting to appear on such an iconic show as 'Later...'?

It was really surreal. The whole thing went by really quickly and I'm still pinching myself a little bit now.

Is it as fun an atmosphere as it looks on television? Fingers crossed the illusion isn't shattered... it's only a few months 'til the Hootenanny...!

Haha! It really is what you make of it. I think you can really choose whether or not you go in and relax and have a laugh or whether you get really nervous and just look astonished instead. There was a really mixed bag of people on the episode with myself and I found Alice Cooper and his band really warm friendly people who really made the atmosphere.


Given your vintage soul affectations, what was it like performing alongside a legend like Dionne Warwick on the show?

Again, things don't really sink in until after the fact but she gave me a hug and said I was really lovely and well done. It was a really nice gesture and it's great to get a sense of reaffirmation in what you're doing from someone so special.


Your album 'Portrait' has received some incredible feedback and all of the critics seem to be falling in love with your music! How does it make you feel when you read those reviews?

It's really great having good reviews, obviously it helps to create a buzz and get some info out there to prospective new fans ... which I think is the most important thing.

The record is very self-reflective in content- how does it feel to speak so openly and honestly to your growing fanbase?

A lot of people say the album is fairly honest and exposed- to me it doesn't seem that way though. The songs are all observations, to me that doesn't feel too personal.

Next year is already looking set to keep the momentum going with a tour supporting Paloma Faith- what aspects of your sound are you hoping the Paloma fans will really get into?

I hope they enjoy the variety in the sounds cause it's rather different to Paloma's sounds. I tend to like more percussive and acoustic elements in the live show. I'm guessing these are people who are really into female vocalists so I'm hoping they'll be into what I do in those terms too.

You're a Manc through and through- what is the best thing about being a musician in a city as 'buzzin' as that?

Well, I've never been short of a gig because there's always something happening in Manchester. There are loads of festivals throughout the year. It's been great to grow up on the scene in Manchester, I don't think there are that many better places to be as a musician.

The Guardian's Paul Lester compared you to Morrissey when you were his Band Of The Day- do you feel that's more because of your Mancunian roots or your approach to your songwriting? (Perhaps you just love gladioli?)

I think a lot of people hear hints of Smith style songwriting, but yes that tends to be after they hear I'm from Manchester. So it's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. But I'm a Smiths fan so I'm sure that sometimes, melodically, there are a few things in there that sound like northern discontent.

What aspects of your Jamaican and West African heritage do you like to use to flavour your music?

Rhythms and riffs mainly. There's a real jangly, one-line riff sound to West African music and I tend to do that a lot.


Even though you are new to the scene, you are by no means new as an artist. Do you feel that those extra years of experience bringing you to the buzz surrounding you today were important for your growth?

I think now I have enough experience in music to enjoy the process where before I think I would have been a bit terrified by now. These days I've done so much gigging that I'm just enjoying being out there and having fun.

Have you found a support network amongst your fellow up-and-coming artists? We saw that you went on tour with the brilliant Michael Kiwanuka...

It's really great to be touring with some of the most current artists of the moment and while I'm doing it there's nothing I like more than to have a bit of a chat with them, I think they think I'm looking for gossip but I just like to get to know them. But as you said, I've been at this a really long time and I think I've learn how important it is to look outside the music for support. After the tours I go home and get that support from friends and family. Not glamorous, but advisable.


It's got to be asked as everyone seems to be talking about it- but what are your thoughts on The X Factor and its impact on the mind-set of developing musicians? We spoke to The Kinks' Dave Davies and he reckons the promotion of quick fix talent shows is 'unhealthy' for young creatives and 'should be banned'! What say you, Josephine?

I certainly wouldn't mind if X Factor didn't exist. I don't know how much of an impact it has on young musicians but I think it just needs re-labelling. It's a TV show in the end, it's not about the contestants or allowing them to advance in the field of music. The winner is a celebrity not a musician. There should be a disclaimer saying words to that effect.


You can hear some of Josephine's tunes via her artist page on Emerging Icons. Click here now.

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