Soleima Talks 'No. 14' And The Pursuit of Multiple Passions
Soleima isn’t your conventional pop-star-in-the-making. The Danish singer songwriter combines confectionary vocals with hypnotic electro-pop production in the most enticing way; and her seraphic harmonies are reminiscent to no one, meaning she’s entirely unique from start to finish. Growing up on classic soul and having a start in music as a teen with the hip hop inspired group Flødeklinikken has no doubt left a notable impression on Soleima’s artistry. In 2015, Soleima set out to pursue a career of her own as a solo artist.
Her debut mini-album, No. 14 (out now via Big Beat Records), is a fusion of R&B and synth-infused future bass, set on a bed of stirring lyrics that are both beautifully distinguishable and relatable. Not one to sit still, Soleima is already back in the studio and is slated to perform shows throughout Scandinavia and the UK within the coming months. Watch this space on Friday for a special playlist and treat from Soleima, and in the meantime, check out our chat with the Danish darling below.
I really love your latest EP, No. 14. Was this project a long time in the making?
Yeah, actually it was a long time in the making because I’ve been doing a lot of stuff and I wasn’t really doing music full-time. I was more like working on music for myself if that makes sense. Then suddenly me and the guys I’ve been working with wanted to release it because we liked it so much. So we were like, “Why not release it with a label to put it out?” So yes, I’ve been working on this for a long time, but not full-time. This EP kind of started that for me. It’s special to me.
Nice! There’s a lot of R&B influence throughout the EP and I read that you grew up on soul along with R&B. How would you say your upbringing has shaped your sound as an artist?
Definitely very much. It’s hard to avoid. What you grow up with often affects you in such a strong way that you can’t really—even if you wanted to—get out of it. I’ve listened to a lot of classic R&B stuff like many of us have been doing – like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone—all of those R&B or more blues end of the scale. That’s definitely been influencing me a lot. It’s something that I listen to a lot still.
You have a very cool background. You majored in anthropology. At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in music?
As I told you before, I’ve always been doing music, but not on a professional level because I’ve always been doing other stuff as well. What happened was I got a label deal at the same time that the Danish government made a rule that you can only study if you do it full-time at the university. So, I was kind of forced to choose between my two passions. At the time it was a really tough decision, but now when I look back at it I think it was a really good thing for me because I somehow ended up doing the two things I love the most half. Now I’ve been doing music half a year full-time and it has been growing so quickly just from choosing it. You know what I mean?
It definitely was a tough decision.
I think it’s great that you’re pursuing your passion.
I feel lucky to have two passions. It’s definitely a gift. I shouldn’t look at it as a negative thing. I think it’s a blessing actually.
It’s rare that an individual can actually make a career out of something that they love to do. So, it’s definitely a gift. You used to be in a collaborative project (Flødeklinikken) that was focused on hip hop. Were there any challenges you faced going from being in a collaborative effort than being in one that’s solo?
Yeah, definitely. The group I was in we started out as children. I learned a lot from that. We grew up together and we learned how to play music together. In that way it’s been absolutely the best thing in my life. When you’ve been making music with seven people for a long time—all of us having to agree on everything—you want to do your own thing. I think it’s kind of natural. You feel like, “Okay, now I need to do something where I don’t have to compromise anything.” I think one of the biggest differences that I’m now doing it as my full-time job. Earlier it was always something on the side.
Getting back to the EP, I want to talk about “Cracks”. The lyrics there are powerful: “There are cracks in the ceiling/Painted walls they never stay the same.” What do these lyrics mean to you personally?
The song to me is very much about the feel that there’s life on the other side of something very, very difficult. Personally I wrote it as a comment on feeling that you’re living in a time where everything feels quite dark. I wrote it last fall and it was at a time when a very big political turn took place in our world. So, in many ways I think it was about the frustration of the time we’re in right now. I know it’s a big thing to say, but in many ways that’s what it is to me. Then also, I think you sometimes feel like that on a smaller scale—like if you’re super hungover everything can seem like it’s never going to get better. I love that a song can mean something on both a small and big scale.
What do you want the listener to take away from No. 14?
It’s always such a personal thing with the lyrics. I think what I would want people to feel related to it somehow or just to react on it. Sometimes I’ve had people think that my voice is the most annoying thing in the world and other people would be like, “Oh, it’s so unique.” I want people to be affected by it. Even if it’s negative, I just don’t want people to be like, “Oh, that’s fine. It’s whatever,” kind of thing. I’d rather people be like, “I hate this!” You want people to feel something. I hope I can be able to touch somebody I guess in one or the other ways.
Right. You mentioned potential negative feedback that may occur. What helps you to maintain confidence despite naysayer comments?
I think that it’s super, super difficult. Even for big artists that get a lot of this, it must be extremely painful. People should never have to get used to that. I think you can’t let it in or even read it or try to avoid it somehow. It’s such a difficult thing, especially when you’re working so much with your own feelings and emotions and sharing them with people which is what you do in this kind of job.
So, do you have any tour dates coming up in the States? I’d love to see you live!
Right now it’s very much in Scandinavia and the UK I play. We’re very much thinking about coming to SXSW. For a newer act like me, festivals like that make sense for me to play right now.
SXSW is such an excellent platform for new artists.
I’ve never been there, so I’m super excited. I would love to go!
Featured image courtesy of Dennis Morton
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