Manchester born chanteuse, Josephine Oniyama, is not just your average soul singer. This talented 30 year-old has been likened to musicians as varied as Morrissey, Mahalia Jackson and Ed Harcourt. Josephine may be hard to pin down in genre or ‘type’ but there’s little doubt she possesses a powerful set of lungs and a rare and beautiful sound that will keep music-lovers listening. Her album Portrait was named in Q Magazine’s Top 50 List and features the warm, beachside-perfect ‘Original Love’, the sixties-inspired ‘What a Day’ and the soulful ‘Portrait.’ To describe it as is easy listening would be reductive but there’s definitely something about the album that makes us want to stretch out on a lounger and let it wash over us.
We spoke with the Liberian and Jamaican songstress about music heroes, Manchester and what she’s listening to right now.
How did growing up in Manchester impact on your music career?
You never really run out of places to play in Manchester or a new night to get involved in. For these reasons I think Manchester has made performing live a big part of what I do. It’s what my career is base around.
What musical artists inspired you most when you were younger?
I’ve always loved folk music and real story telling. I found heroes in people like Odetta, Johnny Cash and Carole King.
What was the main drive or inspiration behind your debut album Portrait?
Telling the story of how and where I grew up, and the feelings involved.
How would you describe your music to anyone who’s never heard of it before?
A blend of folk and soul made in the North.
Do you have any must- haves to take whilst touring?
A pen, paper and my kindle.
How would you describe your style and is there any look you’re craving at the moment?
I’m fairly bohemian I think. I’d love to have Kiera Knightly’s wardrobe, it’s all the best of glamour and bohiemia, but it isn’t something I can afford.
You’re supporting Paloma Faith this year – are you a fan?
Yes, because she’s a great girl and very bold in what she does.
Where are you most looking forward to gigging this year?
I am doing a few of my own headline gigs around Europe. I also have a special headline show in London at Bush Hall on 6th February.
What are you most looking forward to the year ahead?
I hope I can start planning out the next album and seeing something really interesting evolve.
Any new year’s resolutions?
No. I’ve only really made resolutions when something is wrong. At the moment everything feels right …phew.
Watch and hear Josephine in action in the video for Original Love.
Here’s the playlist Josephine will be listening to whilst on tour with the hat-wearing, glamour-puss Paloma Faith:
Haim – Don’t Save Me
Jack White – Sixteen Saltines
Laura Mvula – She
Stealing Sheep – Genevieve
First Aid Kit – This Old Routine
Jessie Ware – Wildest Moments
The Black Keys – Dead and Gone
Saint Vincent – The Neighbors
Grizzly Bear – What’s Wrong
Michael Kiwanuka – I’ll Get Along