Ushering in the new wave of ‘electronic soul’, Ideeyah is quickly becoming one of the most prominent vocalists in the Detroit music scene. Drawing inspirations from funk, soul, house and jazz, she has lent her voice for some of the most prolific artists to come out of the Motor City, including Amp Fiddler, Theo Parrish and Waajeed – the last of which gave her the opportunity to perform in front of hundreds at the annual Detroit Movement Electronic Music Festival last Map. Her 2017 release – ‘BRAVE’ – is a vibrant, sensitive and free-spirited record that preaches feminism, empowerment, and love. Ahead of what is going to be a very busy year for the singer / songwriter, we snagged a quick interview to talk the significance of Detroit, love, and the importance of imperfection.
You’ve had the chance to work with many local legends, including people like Theo Parrish, Amp Fiddler and Waajeed, how have those experiences been?
I have a deep respect for each of them on a personal level and of course on a creative level. I’m really thankful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with them both individually and collectively. All of the experiences just kind of weave in and out of one another. Creating and touring with Theo is like being in a science lab, and the professor instructs you to just experiment with all of the tools and materials in the lab. There are no limits when we work together, and I enjoy the process of filling a wide-open space with our collaborative sounds and words.
Collaborating with Amp has always been so easy flowing – he’s truly the coolest and most honest person in the studio – I’m a huge fan of his funky and experimental sound. Waajeed has also become both a mentor and somewhat of a spiritual guide to me. It’s kind of like a Jedi and his student intuition kind of thing. He just knows the perfect formula of sounds and rhythms that will establish the strongest connection for me to pen the lyrics. I really respect how much he respects my process of creating stories – he doesn’t stand in the doorway or post up at the board ‘because he’s Waajeed’, he literally gets the fuck out of the way and lets me do me. He trusts my writing process and I’m grateful for that.
How have they helped you grow as an artist and knowing you have support from them?
They have absolutely helped me grow, Theo, Amp, Waajeed and my long-time friend and fellow artist Dean Beanz are the reasons that ‘Brave’ even happened. If it wasn’t for them pouring genuine encouragement and support into my art and providing me with opportunities to grow as a songwriter and performer, ‘Brave’ would’ve never been released.
They are my tribe and I’ll be forever thankful to have found them. They’re such grounded individuals… grounded, genius people. I’m grateful to know them and I will always have their backs.
Detroit has a very important significance in terms of musical culture and history, what do you think it is about your hometown that has touched so many people around the world?
I think people are fascinated with how so much gold can be found in so much dirt. Detroit is still dirty and I love it. We aren’t afraid to get a bit dirty and funky to create a new sound for the world to pulse too. It’s not always polished and perfect, but the little imperfections are what make it perfect. Dilla taught us that.
Detroit is important to me because it’s home. I feel the most comfortable and recharged here. There is also so much beauty and art just hidden in plain sight, all over the city. I’ve lived here my whole life and I am still discovering new places and things to see – the energy is constantly inspiring to me.
Do you ever feel any pressure knowing that you are treading similar paths to Motown legends?
Honestly I don’t always think about that, it’s not something that crosses my mind very often. The legends of Motown are incomparable, and I honour them for blazing their musical trails in our city the way they did. I believe art is meant to evolve – we wouldn’t have our sound if it weren’t for the bravery and boldness. They created the sound they wanted to hear, so that we can create the sounds that we want to make, I don’t feel pressure, I feel grateful.
What do you think is next for Detroit?
Right now there’s so much experimenting with sound going on, I cant really say. But I can say that it feels exciting – it’s raw, its honest and its free. We are taking what we’ve learned from some of the world’s greatest leaders and innovators in music, and marrying that with our limitless imaginations. The product of this marriage will definitely be something that will take the world by storm again.
‘Brave’ was a very strong and empowering album, and turned a lot of heads because of its honest power and unique soul sound. How has your life changed since the album was released 18 months ago?
Thank you! ‘BRAVE’ felt like giving birth – there’s even more work to be done once that work is released. I’ve learnt a lot about me and had quite a few intense moments after the release of the album. After the release in June 2017, my ex-husband – and business partner – and I separated, and we followed that up by dissolving the band we co-founded 3 months later. Without a doubt, it was a lot to process all on the heels of releasing my first solo album. But there were some amazing moments – like it attracted more opportunities to collaborate, travel and perform with some of my favourite artists and producers in the industry. I think the release of ‘BRAVE’ was the catalyst for all of it – the good and the seemingly not-so-good, I’m grateful for both.
Initially I didn’t have time to reflect on the release, I was trying to figure out my personal life. But with all of the collaborative work that was done in 2018 I can tell my style is headed for a more electronic and house feel, which is where I wanted to be in the first place.
What inspires you and who do you wish you could collaborate with?
I've found writing inspiration in almost anything from an article I might've read on the National Geographic website to a track that triggered an old memory – Literally anything. I'd love to collaborate with H.E.R., Taylor McFerrin, Benji B, Shigeto & Yukimi from Little Dragon. There's a quite a few others, I have a long list of dream collaborations. But I’d love to watch Nai Palm in the studio, I love her writing style, the way she chooses melodies and cadences in her songs just really blow me away.
What is the plan for 2019?
My next album – ‘S’ – is still in the works, I’m really taking my time with this next project because the plan for it is very detailed and particular. You can expect a few more works with some of the artists I mentioned earlier, and definitely more house influenced tracks