June 26, 2008
January 20, 2011
Neo Soul, Reggae
Donny Hathaway, Fela Kuti, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, Pink Floyd
Universal/Polydor, Interscope Records
Total Songs Added:
"Everything I sing about is from my life," explains 26-yr-old acoustic soul songstress Ayo, "and I am always writing. These stories are timeless because they are my life stories and my story continues each day-it has not stopped." Ayo (pronounced EYE-OH) has enchanted fans worldwide with her honest, mostly autobiographical songs, filled with emotions and events that have shaped her life, making her experiences both universal and personal. Her willingness to sing from the heart has earned her many press accolades already-the
The name of Ayo's intoxicating, stirring Interscope Records debut is JOYFUL. The title is apt, since Ayo's delicately determined songs speak to life's joys and some of its disappointments- all presented with honesty and grace. "My name is Yoruba for "joy," a nickname my father gave me when I was young," comments the German-born beauty. "And my friends today always call me joyful. Even though you've gone through the hardest time, it is important to remember how to enjoy life and find laughter. You can't lose track of what motivates you and keeps you going. You have to persevere even if sometimes you cry inside. Joyful is the best way to describe myself." These emotions emanate from Ayo's enchanting vocals throughout JOYFUL, leading L'Express Magazine in
JOYFUL's first single speaks to the times when you have to cry. Anchored with folk/reggae rhythms (Ayo cites Bob Marley and fellow Wailer Bunny Wailer as inspirations). "Down On My Knees" is lovelorn, languid and an almost naked plea to the one that walked away. This was the first song Ayo wrote upon her departure from her home in
A bit more up-tempo and down to earth is "Life Is Real." With congas peppered throughout the undulating groove, gospel keyboards and Ayo's jazzy vocals delivering lyrics like "some people say I'm too open, They say it's not good them know everything about me," "Life Is Real" is an anthem to being true to yourself.
On "Help Is Coming," Ayo digs even deeper. With her vocals focused and straight ahead, and riding a raga flavored mid tempo track, the message in "Help Is Coming" is to believe in oneself. "Help Is Coming" is meant for all the people who struggle and are even sometimes blamed for their troubles. This is my way of telling them to believe, in the face of all obstacles, because that's the way to keep going. I know this because I believe in the universe' spiritual force. This song was inspired by my mother and is about how change will only come when you truly believe it can happen and help."
Ayo has a good reason for those beliefs; despite a sometimes tumultuous life she found a way to rise above and carry on. Many of the songs on JOYFUL were written as a form of therapy. Writing these songs was the best way for me to make sense of what happened during my childhood," says Ayo. "Today I hope people can see themselves inside of my music and find it as medicinal as it has been for me."
On Ayo's Caribbean-flavored version of the Abbey Lincoln song "And It's Supposed to Be Love" (the one cover song on the CD), Ayo elaborates further on how the including this song was a good way of summing up the sentiment on her album. "I always liked the way Abbey's song felt-there was an upbeat swing to it but the lyrics were not happy. And that is a good description of my record. If you read the lyrics first, you might feel sadness about some of the experiences, but when you hear the melodies, which are joyful and optimistic, and it is a great way to get to know me better."
To understand Ayo's music better, one must know where she came from. Ayo was born near
Turmoil came when Ayo was just a toddler. After traveling to
The tender track, "Without You" is a testament to her father's unwavering love and determination to keep them together. "This song was written for my father," explains Ayo. "When you listen to the song it is exactly what I was trying to say for years. It was the first time I could say that I was aware of everything he had done for me and my family and explains where I am from and the reason for who I am today."
Ayo was hit by another family crisis when she was six. Her mother developed a drug habit, forcing Ayo to live with her father (who was a part time DJ), an older a sister and two older brothers. Despite the troubles, Ayo never severed ties to her mother who Ayo describes as "strong, despite all her shortcomings."
Looking for shelter from the storm, Ayo began soaking up her dad's record collection. The young girl fell under the spell of everything from Pink Floyd, Nigerian legends King Sunny Ade and the late Fela Kuti and Bob Marley. The vintage soul and R&B of the 50's and 60's that she loved so much would later inform her own compositions-she describes her sound now as "soulreggafrofolk," combining her love for that vintage soul, reggae, funk and folk music.
Music became more than something she listened to, and by the time she was a pre teen, Ayo began to play the violin and piano, and eventually taught herself the guitar, an instrument she was drawn to because it was "more direct and aggressive in the best possible way." Ayo's own unique rhythmic guitar skills are the result of a kinship she forged with the instrument. "It is an extension of me, a way for me to communicate with the outside world. I even have my own term for how I play-guitarology," she says with a soft laugh.
After finishing school, Ayo moved to
During her pregnancy, Ayo sent an impassioned email to the head of Polydor France, Jean-Philippe Allard, one of the legendary music figureheads in
After taking some time to be with her son, Ayo went back into the studio in 2006, and driven by a new surge of creativity, she assembled a live band and completed and recorded JOYFUL in a scant 5 days. "I gave birth to my son, and then, when he was two months old, I went into the studio and gave birth to my album. His Yoruba name is Abiola, which means luck - and he has brought me a lot of luck," explains Ayo. "I wrote "Never Been" for my son (the only song she wrote on piano)-the song is about the force he gave me to accomplish what I needed to and is a strong reason why this record got finished. I had begun this album before he was born, but after his birth, I returned to NYC and my intuition said the timing and vibe were right."
American music fans have a chance to fall under the spell of Ayo, with Interscope Records releases her debut CD JOYFUL, which Vibe Magazine has already praised as a "a gorgeous collection of billowy ballads" (Nov. 07). Shortly thereafter, PBS will air her 90-minute concert special, "Ayo Live In Monte Carlo," on affiliates nationwide during their pledge week in December.