Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Beautiful Human”?
Beautifully human is an anthem I wrote for every human being who’s ever felt like they don’t fit in or don’t belong because they look different or come from a part of the world that might not be looked upon favorably. It is my simple affirmation that every single human being is beautiful because they are a unique representation of the collective human race.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Beautifully Human is a song a wrote almost 8yrs ago after my Graduate Professor asked me to share my perspective of missionaries from an African perspective. I did a lot of research for the project and one of the disheartening discoveries I made was this belief that Africans were less than or were viewed as not civilized and even cursed. The song was a way to not only affirm my life and it’s validity, but of countless others who’ve ever felt like they don’t quite belong for various external or geographical aspects of their existence. I wanted to talk about this injustice, but in a way that is inclusive of all the places one can find injustice happening.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
I will be working on a video towards the end of April.
The single comes off your new album Song of Lament – what’s the story behind the title?
Song of Lament is my expression of how I feel about the current status of the world. The fear is palpable in every direction you look and fear will only lead us to harming ourselves even further, which is where the lament comes in. But this awareness of where we are does not mean the story ends there, there is still hope and potential for a group of people to stand up and say this is not who we are and we can be better because the potential is in all us – it’s a matter of making a choice to explore that potential of what else can we be?
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing process was actually pretty easy. I was able to write and demo the album in a week because I felt the message so strongly. Some of the songs I had written years earlier, but didn’t know what to do with them and when this album started to form, they all came together with such ease. I started recording the album in 2015 and by the end of that year, I had to abandon those plans because it wasn’t quite working the way I wanted it to. Then I reached out to producer Eric Lilavois in early 2016 and instinctively felt that he was the person I was supposed to work with. Once we started recording, everything flowed with ease. I recorded all my guitar and vocal parts in 2 days and then left Eric to handle the rest.
What was it like to work with Eric Lilavois and how did that relationship develop?
What I loved the most about working with Eric was that he trusted my vision. He was more like a guide for me on how to execute this vision I had for the album. I loved that when we had a our first pre-production meeting he had laid out this vision – not just about the sound, but also the message of the album and it warmed my heart that he had really understood what I was trying to create. We formed a really great trust and we both were on the same page on almost every decision we made about each song – and that to me is always rare to find with producers.
How much did he influence the album?
I think his biggest influence was bringing to life my vision. I had demoed my album on Garage Band and I was really impressed with how he heard those ideas, as basic as they were, and brought them to life with the musicians we brought into the studio.
What role does Kenya plays in your music?
Because I grew up in the Church, I would have to say harmonies are what I’ve carried over from my younger days in Kenya. It’s hard for me to sing without harmonizing and sometimes I have to really push myself to keep a song simple with just a melody. I think my parents also influenced me in terms of always trying to find the best in life.
What aspect of sorrow and hope did you get to explore on this material?
There are different aspects of sorrow I explored. The first is grief after the loss of a loved one. I wrote Our Days Are Numbered the day after we buried my dad. I was angry that after everything my dad had done, life had sort of let him down because he died so young and so quickly. And it reminded of the story of Moses climbing the mountain to see the promised land, and yet he never got to experience it. That’s how my dad’s death felt. But I was also reminded that what makes a remarkable life is how you spend your days – no matter how many of them you get – how you live is what makes or breaks a person. In Heart of a Man, I explore the sorrow of political upheaval, as we witnessed in Kenya in 2007 where neighbors turned against each other because of whoever won or lost in that election. I will never comprehend why such horrid events happen because of political affiliation. Farewell is a dirge for those lost at sea or in others way, while they escape their war-torn homelands and Where is God tries to understand those who commit violence in the name of religion. Hope is subtle through out the album and comes in the form of the questions asked in these songs. I believe that when we ask questions, we create space for life to happen even in those really dark moments of life. Hope is also about never giving up, like in the song Run, Run, Run, or just a simple reminder that we are born to live and die, but what we do in between is what matters most.
Any plans to hit the road?
I am currently putting together a domestic tour for the summer and also a fall tour in Europe.
What else is happening next in Naomi Wachira’s world?