Haula’s music hit you instantly. After just her first note you’re hooked, unable (or, rather, unwilling) to detach yourself until the song is over. We saw this on her debut single “Darkest Hour” and we see it again with her newest song, “Freedom.” Here she once again expertly weaves her evocative tale over dark, sultry production, careful to never make it sound too ominous where it’s no longer accessible.
Listen to her hypnotic new song, and read our interview with Haula below.
You were born in Uganda. How important is that experience on your music?
I was born in Uganda but moved to the UK when I was about 10 years old. I didn’t grow up with Ugandan music around me; instead what I remember of my childhood and what I’ve seen on visits back to Uganda motivates me to continue pursuing my dreams. It’s important in the sense that the hardships I experienced are a part of the fire that keeps me pushing forward.
I discovered music when my best friend and I jumped on-stage at a local carnival in Oxford and sang “Dream Lover” by Mariah Carey. From then, I knew I wanted to sing and perform. But my love of songwriting came when I started listening to Blues and Jazz, (Nina Simone, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald) after a major heartbreak. That had a major impact on my music. It was like a revelation and it connected so deeply and allowed me to really be expressive. I think that’s the most important experience – heartbreak!
One of the most immediate things about your music to me is how soulful yet powerful your voice is. It’s like a hybrid between Nina Simone and Sade. Who are some of your influences?
It’s funny you mention those two in particular, because Nina Simone and Sade are two of my three favorite artists. I absolutely love Nina Simone and her music the reason I started writing my own songs. There is just so much power and conviction in her voice/ lyrics that I wanted to emulate that in my own material. With that in mind, my goal is to write commanding material with intrigue and purpose that can hopefully resonate with people emotionally.
With Sade, she is a Goddess! I love her smooth, soft vocals and subtle sensuality. She’s just timeless. I want to be timeless and create music that is timeless. From her music I’ve learned that music can be sensual and sexual without resorting to the overt sexualisation of everything.
Then there is Beyoncé. She is King! Her work ethic, her talent, her power, her achievement, it’s all incredibly inspiring. The little girl in me wants to be just like Beyoncé. These three women are the holy trinity of music for me. Anyway, I think you can see a common theme here, which is that I love powerful women.
I wrote about this when I premiered your first song, but I love how you’re not afraid to make your music dark. I think a lot of artists have trouble making their music accessible but still mysterious, and so it teeters in this ominous area whereas yours just comes off as sultry and seductive. How conscious are you of creating that balance? Is it something you work on or does it come natural?
I think with me, it’s more emotional rather than conscious. I am a very emotional person. I feel everything and I feel it intensely, so my music is very much emotionally driven and I guess it all comes naturally for me. I started writing when I was going through a dark phase and that is what you hear in the music. I didn’t want to write straight, conventional pop music. I’m just writing and signing about how I feel so there isn’t a fear of it being wrong.
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of light and dark / good and evil, especially because of my religious background. It’s all about exploring the darker repressed parts of people and bringing it to light. With the seductiveness, I think it just comes with being a woman and us being so powerful. It’s not even necessarily sexual, I’m just exploring what it is to be a woman and not being afraid of looking at and enjoying the darker shades of me. I think everyone has a dark side and everyone struggles with it and that’s why my music can be accessible.
What’s next for you? Are you working on an EP or LP?
There definitely is a project forming out of my newer material. I’m always writing and with that I’m constantly exploring myself further, and this process shifts whatever will come next. But right now I’m just enjoying the journey and having people discover my sound.
What’s the most important thing someone’s told you or you’ve learned about making music?
It very simply is patience: patience with my songwriting, patience with the whole recording process, and patience with its development. Nothing can be rushed, pushed or forced. It has to breathe.