1. The songs from your new album Contending and Contention were written during a time you refer to as ‘one of the most challenging and defining periods of my life’. Can you describe how you used your music to create something positive from this time?
For me, song writing has always been a way to uncover feelings that I struggle to express in my everyday life. I used to have a lot of repressed feeling, so using music as a way to talk through my doubts, my worries, and my uncomfortable moments helped me to maintain a balance. Writing about people and events is the more obvious side of it, but there was also a joy in the fact that every chord, every instrument, every hidden motif contributed to the layers of mixed emotions and nuanced feelings. I enjoy moments like Introduction and Heaven Minded, which through the harmony and journey of the pieces tell as much of a story as the other songs do. Because of all this, I have captured that difficult period of my life and turned it into a musical snapshot in time that I can be proud of.
2. You have said that ‘This album is me owning who I am as an artist, and a producer’. How would you describe yourself as an artist and a producer?
I would describe myself as a storyteller, and an explorer. In my music, I hope for every element to contribute to the story being told, regardless of the style of music. I do experiment with many styles, but the storytelling underpins everything. Another important aspect is the way I use my voice – the more I lean into my vocal identity as a soul artist, the more it has allowed my music to vary and yet the songs still feel connected to each other. Me finding myself as a producer was such an important part of this because I had ideas that I hadn’t given myself permission to express. But now I feel bolder in the fact that my production has a distinct sound, which isn’t based on what I use, but how I bring whatever I use together.
3. You recently posted that your ‘heart hasn’t really been in social media lately and I don’t want to force things’. Many artists find social media and self-promotion a challenge. How do you find the balance of the ‘creative part’ of you alongside the more business-related elements?
I have never had the best relationship with social media, but I’ve come a long way since my first release in 2019. Balance has come from finding what I love about the ‘business elements’. You have to be motivated to do it, and to be proud of what you share. I like sharing my feelings, and I like being creative, so that is what I try to focus on. Some things are more difficult, but I try to not compare my achievements or social media stats and focus on celebrating my personal wins. There are times when I need breaks, and my notification settings on all of my social media apps are turned off, because I know it’s what I need to do to stay healthy.
4. Your work has been championed by the mighty China Moses ‘“When I heard it, I literally screamed when I got to the end… the production is perfection, it is giving me full Sade vibes’. How does it feel to have someone as inspirational as China Moses, celebrate your work?
I was so blown away, honestly. When you send your music out as an artist, with no team and no track record, it’s quite intimidating. You have to be fully prepped for the best-and worst-case scenarios at all times. So, I didn’t expect China Moses to respond to my email, let alone support my music in such a big way. I got to meet her in person towards the end of last year, and it was so lovely - I spent the whole time thanking her. She really does get it. Her support, as well as the support of others helps me on the days where things aren’t quite going my way.
Watch the video to Turning Time here:
5.The musicians on the album (Kwanyee Chan, Michael Magambo, Twm Dylan, Jerome Lincoln, True B & Sharyn, Alex Wesson, Rob Johnston, Will Gisa Mugabo, Arvid Rongedal, Theresa Zaremba, Isaac Mugerwa, Ben Swan, Dave Holmes, Rob Kitney, Fabian Xander Okello, Nat Willow and Luke Moore) are brilliant and the instrumentation platforms your voice beautifully. How did you meet and start working with these musicians?
Some are friends all the way from university. Some are long time church friends. Some are more recent friends, or people who I’ve been connected to through other people. But they are all musicians I highly respect. I would ask musicians whose playing style I felt resonated with what the song needed. With certain songs, I could not move on until I had a certain musician on it. Of course, that’s not always possible, and I also learned to be flexible. But I’m so grateful for each person who said yes to my vision – they made the album what it was.
6.Looking back on your first single Beautiful Love, how do you feel your song writing has developed?
I think I was about 20 when I wrote Beautiful Love! It reveals so much about everything that has changed in my music, but also about what is still the same. I’m still obsessed with a good bassline, I still love unusual chord progressions, I still do believe in love. But back then I would write melodies based on what my voice could do, rather than what my voice thrives doing. Lyrics have always been an important part of my musical style, but I think I have also grown in the depth of my writing.
7. The same question as above, but in relation to your production skills – how have you developed those skills?
Most of the development happened just by me believing in myself as a producer. Following this, I would listen to songs intently, trying to figure out how I could imitate these same feelings in my songs. It all came back to the way a song made you feel. I made a Spotify playlist of about 5-20 songs for each song on the album for production inspiration. I watched production breakdown videos, went to networking meetings, researched plugins. But most importantly, I learned to slow down and just sit with my music. I used to rush so much out of fear of running out of time. Now, I’m ok sitting with a lyric, or a sound, or a mix, for much longer, until I know I’m happy with it.
8. Any advice or guidance for artists just starting out?
Firstly, start. Put yourself out there. Rejection is inevitable but it’s not something to fear, and you must go through the rejection to get to the exciting stuff on the other side. Always work on making your art better. Surround yourself with people that will inspire you. Finally, focus on primarily doing things that you are proud of, as how you feel about your music will only amplify when other people take notice.
9. How can we see you live? Do you have any gigs planned?
Yes - I am working on performing much more with my band this year. My next gig is end of April, but I’ll keep my socials updated with all of my gigging info.
10. And finally…any words of wisdom for staying healthy – mentally and/or physically - in the jazz industry?
Well, I am only trying to do the same myself! But what I will say is enjoy what you create. And enjoy what other people create as well. I hope to listen to a lot more new music this year, especially from those in my community. I’ve spent too much of the past few years stuck inside. I want to get out and see more beyond my own musical lens.
To find out more about Evie Asio visit her website here.
To purchase Contending & Contention click here.
Interview: Fiona Ross
Cover Photo: Genesis Shalom
Other Photos: Nelson Ekaragha