Tagged as the ‘Best Folk Singer’ by Seattle Weekly, Naomi Wachira is an established singer/songwriter that is making a name for herself in the Emerald City’s booming music scene. Her latest EP, ‘African Girl’ is a beautiful blend of African rhythm and American Folk. We spoke to Ms. Wachira to learn more about her music and to find out what we can expect to see from her in future.
Some have described your music as Afro-Soul whereas others have referred to it as folk. How would you describe your style of music?
I’ve always had a hard time describing my style of music, because when I sit to write I just go with whatever comes out. My style is influenced by afro rhythms, soul, folk and reggae, so for now, I say my style is Afro-Folk.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue music full time?
It’s been in my blood for as long as I can remember, but I decided to pursue plan B in life, before trying out plan A. After I had my daughter, I realized that in order for both of us to be happy, I needed to be doing something that made happy, which was music. Then I lost my dad this year and finally knew that it was time to go after my dreams because life is too short or too long to do something that isn’t fulfilling. So I quit my job in September and here we are!
I’m really loving ‘African Girl’. The words are so powerful especially for many Africans in the diaspora and that underlining message to not lose sight of who you are. How did the song come about? and what do the lyrics mean to you?
When I wrote “African Girl”, I was in the middle of trying to figure out who I was. After nearly a decade of living in this country and assimilating for the sake of survival, I woke up to the realization I had lost my identity or at least it was far tod hidden. I remember taking a multicultural class in graduate school and it’s then I started to understand that there was a perfectly good reason for being born in Africa… and a woman and trying to hide that was a disservice to my existence. I wrote a poem titled “Where I’m From” and that became the inspiration for African Girl. In essence, it was a way of embracing my heritage, my family, my community and remembering the hopes and dreams I had when I first came to this country and holding on to the things that have shaped and keep shaping who I am.
You are currently based in Seattle by way of Kijabe (Kenya). What do these 2 locations mean to you and do you feel that these places have any influence on your songwriting (music)?
They’ve both shaped who I am. Kijabe is the place of my birth… both physically but also my dreams. Seattle is the place where I became more of myself, a re-birth if you could call it that, and also where my dreams have started to unfold.
Being an African woman, would you say that you encountered any hardships trying to get your music heard?
There are hardships just being in the music industry regardless of who are. One thing I’ve tried not to dwell on is whether the hardship is brought on by my identity… I figure if I do that, I’ll probably give up even before I’ve scratched the surface. I believe very much in my privilege as an African woman and have to believe that God who gave me this gift knows what He’s doing, so that’s where I put my focus on.
What has been the general response from your fans? Do you feel that you get a different response from your fans in the US in comparison to fans outside of the US?
I’m really thankful that my music has been very well received both in and outside the US. My philosophy as artist has always been to write the kind of music that is universal and relatable to the basic human experience.
I must congratulations on your recent successful kickstarter campaign for your upcoming full length album. What can we expect from the new album?
Well thank you! That was perhaps one of the most stressful things I’ve done so far and even though it was successful, I don’t know that I want to do it again. As for the album, I think you can expect to hear my heart, my soul, my idealism about life and hopefully at the end of it all, a good debut album.
2013 was quite a remarkable year for you with so many exciting developments happening for you and (of course) the release of African Girl. What can we expect from you in 2014?
I’m really hoping that more doors will open for me in 2014 and maybe go on my first tour after my album release in January.
You are also a full time mom. How do you juggle this with the pressures of being a singer/songwriter?
The only way I’m able to do this, is because I have an incredible family. When I started thinking about doing music, I asked my parents if they could care for my daughter (I’m a single parent), and of course they said yes. It was important that my daughter had a stable environment, especially when she’s still so young, and it’s hard to do so at this point in my career. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be where I am, were it not for their support.
What do you do when you are not singing/songwriting?
I’m typically a homebody. Favorite things are eating with friends or cooking at home… I live a pretty quiet existence.