We get up close and personal with the rising singer...
We get up close and personal with rising globe-trotting singer Anisa at Babble City in the heart of London as we find out about her dreams, her influences as well as the story so far behind her breath taking ability to move people with her music.
The Wrap Up: Singing - tell me how it all began!
Anisa: Started singing when I was 16… well I started at 6 really, when I had piano lessons. I bought piano pop songbooks ‘Mariah’s Number Ones’ and ‘Whitney’s Greatest Hits’ so from then I just started singing and playing. I’m not one of those people that feels like they’re getting old and age is a factor so I was going back and forth between London and Manchester juggling my degree with recording. After graduating I moved down to London and I was like, ‘great! I can do this full time now.’ I managed to visit New York and LA a few times and was lucky enough to be working with big names like Eric B, Andrea Martin and DJ Camper, who has been nominated for a Grammy.
TWU: I’ve seen you on YouTube performing live to small audiences, but I really feel like I could hear you play in huge arena tours - what are your ambitions? Obviously you think you can go as far as possible...
Anisa: Yeah, I’ve got big dreams. I think the ultimate dream would be to sell out...
TWU: To sell out? You want me to put that in the headline? [laughs]
Anisa: No, no! Wait let me finish my sentence! To sell out the indigo 02, and back home the Apollo because I refuse to go to big arenas now and see people perform, it’s just ridiculous- you end up just looking at a screen, you might as well just stay at home. I love going to the more intimate gigs. So my aim would be just to have an audience that wants to hear me sing every night and to share my music with the world.
TWU: Do you feel like the industry doesn’t really provide a platform for real, authentic music from up and coming artists; is it difficult to find inspiration now?
Anisa: I think so but then you get people like Emeli Sande who to me is just a piece of magic - she made music that’s of substance, which is what I want to do. She’s opened the door for people like me. Growing up my influences were anybody with a big voice so Toni Braxton, Mariah, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Lauryn Hill. Everybody inspired me in different ways but the running theme is big voices. Actually, my dad used to be a singer; in fact he used to do the prayer calling in Iran back in the day and he sings around the house and stuff.
TWU: What’s on your iPod? What are your guilty pleasures?
Anisa: There’s a lot of Backstreet Boys, I need a daily dose of them. There’s a lot of 90’s soul too. I used to listen to Dr Dre’s ‘Chronic’ all the time and Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco are favourites of mine in the hip-hop world.
TWU: How important is the song-writing aspect for you?
Anisa: It’s really important, it’s my therapy and music has always been that. It’s been like an outlet, to put pen to paper and write something that matches my feelings. Recently I wrote a song for Ariana Grande’s album - I wrote and recorded it in LA initially but it just didn’t fit me at the time… it was younger than I am. You know, sometimes you make a song and it just doesn’t work at that moment. So, the producer sent it to Ariana, she loved it and I was more than happy for her to have it because I love her and her voice.
TWU: I notice you do a lot of covers and I heard that Brian McKnight and Tank reached out to you recently?
Anisa: Yeah, it’s just amazing! They reached out to me after hearing my covers of their songs on YouTube. Getting acknowledgment from artists that you admire is the most precious gift ever!
TWU: Wow. These are legends in the game, you must be doing something right...
Anisa: Yeah I mean when you say what are your dreams, my dream is to be locked in a studio with Brian McKnight, with Tank, do you know what I mean? It’s not necessarily to be signed, people have this thing about if you’re signed you’re going to make it. To me it’s more just doing what you really want to do inside and I just want to make music with the people that have inspired me and share it with the world.
TWU: Tell us about your latest song, 'Ghost'.
Anisa: ‘Ghost’ is a ballad that explores the ever-familiar feeling of missing someone, but only in that split second you allow your mind to wander. I recorded it acoustically and live – it’s quite haunting. I hope people will relate to it – we’ve all missed someone before!
TWU: Can you describe the music you make in three words?
Anisa: I think ‘piano-led’ would be one - all the music I’ve made has come from me sitting at the piano and playing something. Also it’s just being real, I think my music is much like my diary; it’s heartfelt, soulful R&B.
TWU: What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
Anisa: Recently I released the extended version of my first EP which has got two cover tributes on it, one to Brian McKnight and one to Ne-Yo - he’s one of my biggest inspirations as well. So we released that on Soundcloud. I recently got the chance to open up the show for Bridget Kelly and for James Arthur, which was a huge honour! I’m just working on doing as many live shows as possible, sharing the stage with other music lovers in London.
Words: Riky Bains
Edit: Maz Khan