By Grace Lauson
Lila Iké is a musical artist from Manchester, Jamaica who sings soulful tunes with influences from Reggae, Dancehall, Rock, and more. Lila recently released an all new album, called “The ExPerience”. WTBU journalist, Grace Lauson, chatted with Lila about her background in music, performing, her new album, and much more.
Grace Lauson (GL): How has life changed for you recently with COVID-19?
Lila Iké (LI): It definitely slowed things down a bit. I was supposed to be on tour this year with Protoje as well as going on my own solo tour. That is a bit of a bummer. I released my first project this year. So, I was really looking forward to playing the songs live. I also understand that it is a global pandemic and everyone in the world is dealing with it. I spend a lot of time at home reading and practicing my guitar. I try to take everything one day at a time and not worry about the future.
GL: Do you enjoy the process of touring and being busy or does it get overwhelming?
LI: I definitely get overwhelmed being on tour. I am a bit of a homebody. I really love Jamaica so sometimes being away is difficult. I run into certain challenges while being away too. Such as the language barriers in Europe. It can be difficult when I get to a restaurant or want something to eat and they aren’t really understanding what I want. The food is also a big thing for me because I really like Jamaican food. I like to eat it no matter where I am in the world but you learn to deal with certain things as you grow old.
GL: How do you think your background or upbringing in Jamaica shows up in your music?
LI: I really only sing about what I know and what I experience. Growing up in the country, where things aren’t as busy as they are in Kingston, I really got to zone in on whatever I was doing. It makes you really enjoy life. I go to the river or wherever it is and just have a really great time. Kingston is more of a really busy city and people are always working. I guess how my upbringing impacts my music is that I bring that kind of vibe or feel to my music to really get people to slow down and tap into what life really is. I sing about the struggles of me becoming an artist and my mom not being on board with it. I really feel like this has impacted a lot of people who have been in my position. I’ve even had older people come up to me and tell me that a song about where I come from pushes them or serves as a drive for them to live differently. Also, the way I speak and the way I write my songs is a product of how I was raised.
GL: Have you ever thought about doing anything other than music or did you know that was the goal since you were little?
LI: I kind of evolved into an artist because I grew up listening to a lot of music. My mom has tons of records and my stepdad was a DJ. So, I grew up hearing all different kinds of music including Soul, Rap, Dancehall, and Reggae. I began to just fall in love with not just what the artist was saying but the rhythms I was hearing. I started writing my own songs when I was very small. So, there wasn’t a moment where I decided that I wanted to be an artist. I actually wanted to be a pilot. I wanted to fly planes. However, as I got older, music remained a hobby that I really enjoyed. I started meeting people who had similar interests. I moved to Kingston where I actually had the freedom of going out and going to different sessions and shows. I started meeting young producers and I guess more and more people started learning about me. Also, I was just enjoying music and I wasn’t really sure what I really truly wanted to do with my life. It evolved into me meeting Protoje, him producing my first single, and it kind of just took off from there.
GL: Do you have any other hobbies that aren’t musically oriented or are you mostly focusing on music right now?
LI: Music is a very selfish thing. It really likes all your attention but I do have other hobbies. I like playing the guitar which is still connected to music. I really like reading. I also love going out to the beach and the river. I like learning new things. I didn’t learn to ride a bike when I was small so I did that recently. I bought a bike about a month or 2 ago. I work out a lot too. I try to just not be too involved in the music. I really have to live in the real world because that’s where you get your real life experience.
GL: What is your songwriting process like? Do lyrics for songs come easily for you or is it a more of a grueling process to finish each track?
LI: It really varies. If I get a sound that I really like, I might sit for hours listening to it. I will try to figure out what I want to do with it but that’s my least favorite way to create. I really like to be around the musicians when they are making a beat. We are just all there and everything comes together to eventually make a song. I don’t really like sitting down and just focusing on writing the song. I am a bit of a busy body. I like to feel the music. I like dancing and singing and interacting with other people while I’m creating.
GL: Do you prefer touring or the process of making music?
LI: It definitely coincides with each other. As soon as I make a song that I really like, I immediately start thinking about what it’s going to sound like live and how I’m going to perform it on stage. Before Corona, I would have been linking up with my band every day to figure out how we were going to be delivering the music live. Performing is definitely one of my favorite parts of being an artist.
GL: Do you get anxious or nervous before playing shows or is it just excitement at this point?
LI: Definitely! Every single time before I go on stage, no matter how small the event is, I get anxious. It usually happens just before I know it’s my time to go on. I get a little panicky but as soon as I start singing, I completely forget about all the nerves.
GL: I know you have played some festivals in the past. Do you prefer playing your own shows or festivals more?
LI: They are both nerve-racking but the thing about playing my own shows is that normally Protoje puts on a show and we all perform. So, it is basically my core fan base. Everyone there knows me already, they know the songs, and they are pretty excited to see me. So, that makes the whole situation a bit less scary. For festivals, where I’m going in front of a ton of people who have possibly never heard of me before, it can definitely be a little bit scarier. Although, it always ends up being fun.
GL: Is the team of people you work with the same as it has always been or does that change a lot?
LI: I usually tour with Protoje. So, I am with his band and his management team. I am very familiar with them. That team is just like family. I went to high school with his assistant. So, we have been friends for like 15 years. I know his mom. I am at his house for Christmas dinner and everything. It’s really a family thing and I am very comfortable being on the road with them. However, I went on my first solo tour last year and that was with me and my band. Right when I met the tour manager we kind of just connected. So, it is always comfortable.
GL: Do you plan on touring your last album once COVID-19 slows down and touring is an option again?
LI: I’m not in the studio right now because I just released my project. So, I am kind of just taking a break to clear my head. I was in the studio for the entire year before I put the project out but I am definitely looking forward to being back on stage. It’s going to be amazing once we can perform and connect with people again.
GL: How did you come up with the name “The ExPerience” for your album?
LI: I actually got that name from Protoje. After listening to the songs and hearing how each song has different influences and sounds different, he was like, “Yo, listening to this is sort of an experience. People are going to be able to experience different sides of you.” and I found that to be true. He then suggested that we call it “The ExPerience”. I thought that was really cool. So, that’s how we got that name.
GL: Who are your favorite artists currently?
LI: I am a huge fan of Dancehall. I also really like SiR and I’ve been loving Snoh Aalegra. Those are some of the songs that are on my playlist right now. I also like listening to really old Reggae music. I am still listening to things like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh
GL What has been the best performance of your career so far?
LI: I would say that it’s a close tie. I really enjoyed Sumfest which is a Reggae and Dancehall festival here in Jamaica. It’s one of the biggest for any artist to be a part of here. I did that last year and I got called up in Protoje’s set. I didn’t get my own set but it definitely made an impact. I was supposed to be headlining it this year but Corona. Also, Rototom is a European festival that I really enjoyed.
GL: What’s next for you? What do we have to look forward to?
LI: I am getting a lot of interest in requests for features. One of my favorite artists actually reached out to me to be a part of a song. We are kind of working through that right now. I am also really looking forward to getting back into the studio next month after Sevana and Protoje have released their stuff. I also hope we can travel sometime this year and just get a different feel and energy to get back into writing and working on music again.
Lila Ike’s new album is out now. Listen to it here.