Hailing from West London, Emiko is an emerging R&B-soul artist with a voice that proudly carries both a strong message and a whole lot of heart.
Embarking on his journey into music officially in 2018, his debut single, ‘Is It Real’, followed shortly by cuts ‘R U Down’ and ‘Care Free’, saw Emiko receive a co-sign from iconic international artist Masego, join Nadia Jae on BBC 1Xtra’s RnB Mash Up, open the 2019 Screen Nation Awards, and perform at the iconic Jazz Cafe in London, Woolwich Works and The Great Escape Festival in Brighton (twice).
Subsequent releases ‘Say What’s On My Mind’, ‘Pride’ and the five-tracker ‘Piece Of Mind’, that featured his stand out live highlight, ‘Old Skool Lovin’, further demonstrated Emiko’s statement of intent. With a voice that’s both timely and timeless, singer-songwriter Emiko embodies qualities of soul’s yesteryear whilst remaining part of today’s R&B zeitgeist.
Following his first sold-out headline shows in 2020 at Colours, lockdown meant plans to elevate his trajectory further were on hold. “That for me was like the beginning of everything but also the beginning of the end. My momentum was lost but it’s now revived… Now that I’m self managed, I’ve realised I’m the initiator of everything that I do with my art. Now I’m an artist, creative director, PA… But I’m in total control. Now I’m like ‘just do it’, make the most of the opportunities you’ve been given!”
Taking his business to the next level in 2023, Emiko has been part of UD Music’s Incubator Programme, a six-month talent and career development opportunity for exceptional independent artists making Black music. Enhancing his existing skills with intensive songwriting workshops, performance bootcamps and industry knowledge, collaborating with a wealth of multi-genre artists, Kat Friar finds out more…
UD: Tell us about your journey with music all the way from the beginning…
I’ve always kind of been singing for as long as I can remember. The same way I know how to walk, I know how to sing, but I was super shy as a kid so I wasn’t singing to anyone. No one really knew I could sing, but I was always singing to myself and my family at home knew. Then when I was 18 I applied for this open mic and I invited all my friends down and I just said, “Hey look, I’m doing this thing. Come over,” I was even shaking whilst I put my name down. I just started singing and I remember looking at their faces in the audience and they were just shocked ‘cause they had no idea. Some of them I’d been friends with them for five-10 years! That was like the shift in in my confidence and I just started doing more shows, put myself out there and then before I knew it, I was less shy and I was able to really just kind of like own the stage.
UD: Who inspired your sound?
I would say I’m inspired by anything and everything that I listen to, but I would say the roots of my sound is quite soulful and R&B, so that stems from when I was younger. I used to listen to a lot of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding – that’s where I got the soul sound – and then the energy on stage, I would say I listen to a lot of Michael Jackson; lyricism – Lauryn Hill; vocal delivery – Brandy; storytelling, Frank Ocean, so I get pieces of everything in it, everything inspires me.
UD: How have you found the Incubator Programme?
I think it’s been a great process. I think at the beginning I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I remember I was told the Programme is more about what you can make out of it from the connections and the networking. It’s been incredible to be amongst so many other talented artists and I feel like if anything, it’s given me that accelerator, that boost and confidence to keep going. It was really good at motivating me to keep going.
UD: What’s the part of being an artist that you feel should be talked about more?
The fact that if you are independent, there’s a lot that goes into the work that you produce – i.e. you are the creative director, you are the publicist, you are the marketing manager. You’re basically a salesman or saleswoman and you have to be on top of everything, especially if you haven’t got management and things like that, so there’s a lot of work that goes into it. When you put a piece of a body of work out, every like, every share, every conversation about the music goes a long way because it’s literally blood, sweat, and tears and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
UD: Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future that’s inspired your music?
A lot of them are dead, which is unfortunate, but at the moment I would really love to do a collaboration with Kaytranada. I think he’s a really exciting artist. Also, there are some UK R&B acts like Bellah – I think what she’s doing is really good. In terms of producers, I would really want to work with D’Mile.
What are your thoughts on the state of R&B and soul in the UK specifically?
I think so many people have different things to say about R&B and soul in the UK, but the fact of the matter is that the music is there, the talent is there, there just isn’t that platform or resource to really push it. If you are someone who likes R&B and soul music, the best thing you can do for the scene is go to the shows, pay for a ticket, go and see your favourite R&B act, share their work, stream their work because that’s all gonna help in highlighting and elevating these artists. At the moment we are not [the] USA, we never will be, that’s just a whole different ball game. What we can do is just focus on the talent that we have here and just promote them and build them, cause even in the last five years there’s been some exciting things happening in the R&B space, so just imagine the next 10-15 years, people have to stay positive and stop being negative about the scene. With any genre there will be a moment where it blows up, especially if it started to bubble – you saw that with grime – and then you’ll have a time where it dips. R&B used to be one of the biggest popular music back in the nineties and noughties and it’s no longer the case even in the States, so there’ll always be like changes in music, but just trust the process and keep your loyalty to what it is that you love, which is the genre.
UD: What’s your main goal?
To drop my EP. I really want to just get the body of work out and to do more live shows, get into the habit of getting booked for different things, which I’m also in the process of doing… I’ve been booked for shows but one of the goals was to do an international show, which I’ve done. Now it’s just more about building a stronger audience, but that only comes with the things I mentioned like releasing more music.
UD: How have you found the Incubator Programme?
The Incubator Programme has been amazing. It’s really highlighted that your network is your net worth. There’s so many different types of artists that have been in this process and it really inspires you to see how they deliver certain music that can inspire you and how you deliver your own music, and just being able to be in a space where everyone else is also trying to achieve something makes you feel like you’re not alone… As an artist – whether you’re independent [or not] – it can feel like you’re in this on your own, which you are, but it’s nice when you can get that support from not only artists but industry professionals as well who can help you, like yourself who’s out here taking pictures and documenting everything that we’re doing, so thank you.
UD: No problem, I feel special now! Tell us about what’s on the way this year.
I recently released ‘Me You Came For’ and it’s featuring a very talented rapper called Biyi. The song came out in the month of my birthday, and I’ve got a music video coming for that. Then I’ve got an EP coming this year and then you can also expect some headline shows and just basically me doing more live performances from now till forever. Check my new single, ‘River’, too.