After appearing on the UK version of popular talent show The X Factor in 2016, the world was introduced to the talent that is Gifty Louise. But after wowing the judges and audience with her performances, she was forced to make an abrupt and controversial exit after being voted off, to familiar “angry Black woman” comments when she didn’t smile pleasingly in front of the cameras. Fast forward two years and the powerful vocalist marks her return to the music scene with the release of her debut EP, Have it All!
We talked to Gifty Louise about her inspirations, upcoming music and the process of producing it, as well as her time on the show.
Your first EP is being released at the end of the month, how are you feeling about that? How has the process been?
It really is like giving birth! It’s kind of like being pregnant for two years, working on the music, and now it’s finally out! I’m definitely excited but I have mixed feelings too because you don’t know how people are going to take it…it’s something I’ve wanted for a really long time.
Do you have a favourite track?
I would say my favourite track is ‘Voicemail’ it’s so personal to me and it’s one that I wrote myself, I worked with a few writers on the EP. It’s about my Mum not being here and how I feel about that and all the people I have lost and loved in my life.
Let’s talk process, how do you create?
The first point has to be who I’m working with… the writers, the producers, we all need to be on the same side so we are one. We all have to be comfortable. I like to do things from scratch, it’s not a thing of the music or beat has already been made…. it’s what are we feeling, we drown in what we are doing. With ‘Voicemail’ it made me cry because I broke down while we were making it because of how important it was too me. It was stressful, exciting, sad, happy, every single kind of emotion you can imagine!
What can we expect stylistically from you? What were your inspirations?
Genre wise it’s Pop with an Afro flavour, there must have an element of where I come from, my Dad is Ghanaian and my Mum was Nigerian.
Inspirations-wise, I love neo soul, Lauryn Hill, India Irie that kind of funky song vibe. I try to bring a little of that too, but I would definitely describe my music as commercial Pop with an Afro twist.
I was looking at your twitter page and noticed in the summer you held a breakfast for young creatives; community building seems important to you. Who have been the people that have really supported your journey thus far?
My church has been there non-stop. When I was homeless, they were there, whenever I needed things, whatever it was, even studio time… everything and anything…the whole time being on the show, we are a real community.
What tips/advice would you give to those wanting to be part of a reality TV show?
I would say go in there being confident, know who you are and the kind of artist that you want to be. This industry can be brutal, be confident because people can smell that on you.
What was it like watching yourself on TV, was it weird?
I never watched myself on the show, I don’t even listen to myself sing! There are a few people/artists I know who do the same. I’m my worst critic rather than focusing on the good I’d scrutinize and feel like one little thing meant it wasn’t perfect enough.
Though your X factor exit was surprising what did it teach you about resilience?
I would 100% be on the show again. It gave me a glimpse into the industry, gave me tougher skin. Without the experience, certain doors would not have opened so I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t change anything.
I think I was seen as an angry Black woman. You can’t express yourself emotionally as it comes across as aggressive. I learnt if you are disappointed you have to keep a brave face. I look to my pastors’ wife; so calm in every situation, I don’t know how she does it as an urban Black woman… I wanted to say Michelle Obama too but is that cliché?
What are the three things you most like about yourself?
One, my confidence, two I love my smile (though I wish I had two dimples but I only have one) and my high metabolism, it’s God given! I can eat for days and not put on weight [laughs]!
If you could pick one album, one book and one person to be on a desert island with for a month, what would they be?
Album, definitely the one and only The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill… I love it so much, I listen to it all the time. I don’t read much…I can’t remember the last story I read, maybe Harry Potter…but it would be The Bible 100% and John Boyega because I find him so handsome [laughs] he’s my pastor’s cousin!
Gifty Louise’s EP Have It All will be released on 24 November 2018. Preorder here.