A good artist is self-aware. They understand their genre, their audience, and within the lane sculpted for themselves, they play their position adeptly. They are consistent. As a fan, you have a level of expectation with each release. A great artist on the other hand has the ability to adapt without compromising their art. With each project, they have the ability to set a new standard. From caterpillar, to cocoon, to butterfly, the essence remains the same. This week, I introduce a woman not only unafraid of evolution, she welcomes it.
Born into a “musical family”, as far back as Prima remembers, music “was always there”. “My mum and dad can both sing and my dad can play keys. My (maternal) granddad is a jazz pianist, my (paternal) granddad was an organ player, and my grandma was an opera singer”. When one considers the talent in which she descends from, as she playfully declared: “I had no choice”. Succumbing to nostalgia, she recalls early childhood memories with reverence. “I used to go round to my grandma’s and she used to make me and my dad sing to her all the time”. Being a precocious child (that’s how I’m putting it!), music “was more like an extension of my talking and it went from there”.
By age 3, her parents placed her in organised group sessions where she began playing the piano. And she was excelling. Realising she was following in their footsteps, her father decided it was time she learnt how to sing simultaneously which meant that at 8, he enlisted Joe Dawson to train their budding prodigy. “He put this book in front of me and the first song I learnt to play was Bette Midler – The Rose. He gave me loads of exercises to do so I progressed naturally”. The culmination of this meant that by 11, she was writing her own songs (which she confirms due to her “amazing memory” she never wrote them down – a practice she stopped at 20 when she “wanted to get better lyrically”). By 12 she received her Grade 8 in singing and by 13, she earned her Grade 8 in piano. An amazing achievement due to hard work and in part the acknowledgement she “was one of those children that could do things at an early age”.
The idea of doing anything else was never there.
Her time with Joe consisted of “a lot of classical singing”, mainly in part, opera. Though her formative years were instrumental to the artist she has become, there was a level of rigidity she could not escape. “It was like being shackled in some ways”, she admits. “I would stand there – really straight. Everything would fall out perfectly. Then I would go home, break it all off, then I would be like – how do I feel? To combat this feeling of captivity, after practice each day she would study songs by artists such as Aerosmith, Shania Twain, and Alicia Keys, who she cites as most influential in her quest to become an artist in her own right. “When she came out, I was like OH MY GOD! She was doing something I wanted to. She was my first massive female influence because she sang and played the piano and I thought, WOW! – I do that”. It was at this point, she formed a kinship. “I identified with her instantly as an artist even though I didn’t know that’s what I was at the time”. By keeping her classical training “completely separate” to the “pop stuff” she was writing at home, it helped her form an identity. As she puts it: “It was my way of letting my emotions out – I was allowed to be me – I was free”.
For Prima, though music has always been “natural” – something she once didn’t “think too hard about”, she now acknowledges the gravity of its importance. “When you’re younger you’re just having fun – just singing. The last few years I’ve understood that music has got me through some really dark times”. At this point, she opens up. She draws the curtain back just enough for the light of a friendly conversation to beam through and radiate a sombre reflection. At this point I understand what music truly means to her. Her six-month stint at Manchester’s The Royal Northern College of Music did little to break the darkness. This was the first continual period since 11 she did not write music. “The only way I can describe that place is that it was grey. The colour of the place was grey – the greyness of the place was completely draining me and I am NOT grey”. And I concur. When you’re in close proximity, she exudes a vibrant energy that infects your core. Some time after, choosing to leave “that whole classical world behind”, she moved south where though she “worked with some great people and some opportunities came”, things did not truly materialise. In her mind: “I just knew I was always going to do music. I didn’t know where or how – a writer or an artist – all I knew was that I love to perform, I love to write, I love to sing – eventually something would come together”. This determined belief brought her to the next step in her evolution. The caterpillar, abundant in raw talent and passion entered the cocoon to truly discover what destiny had in store.
Not one to shy away from an opportunity, upon seeing Midication’s open audition call in Star Now, she promptly applied. “I emailed them and said I’m an artist and songwriter – I wanna come and see what it’s all about”. The first person she met was Nik, one half of the legendary Virus Syndicate. “It was a great meeting”, she professed. “I turned up and auditioned and he was like yeah, we wanna work with you!”. Her second meeting with Jay solidified she had indeed found the cocoon from which she could truly flourish. “I sat down, opened my laptop and instantly he started beat-boxing at me. From then on, I thought, this guy is gonna change my life – I could tell our relationship musically was gonna be insane”. And for the past three years she has gone from strength to strength steadily perfecting her craft. “My writing has soared. I’ve developed as an artist – I’ve developed as a human being just by being around these guys”. Now, she found a musical home. “Jay is the father figure of the whole movement – I’m like Momma P – I want all the boys to be okay – they mean a lot to me”. This is the familial bond I mentioned in Dyno’s feature. It truly is more than music. “It’s like the universe put me in an environment where for the first time in my life I thought, I can fit in here – I can thrive and not be frowned upon for it”.
Singing helps me to be happier.
Between teaching piano from home once a week (something she has done for the past 8 years), gigging on a consistent basis, to ensuring she is in the studio each week, her “full time music” status means she is immersed in the cocoon of her artistry. And within that immersion lies an awareness of her social intelligence. “When you’re an artist, everything is about yourself”. And there is a semblance of truth to that. Only you can be willing to lock yourself into the cocoon to come out on the other side an improved being. However this ‘selfishness’ (which true artists must have to some degree), gives way to a more nurturing side. “When I teach 30-60 minutes at a time, it’s not about me. There’s something I get back from that I don’t get elsewhere”. By nature, she’s a humanist. “I’m a very giving person – I’m passionate about lifting people up. If I was to meet someone today and they were sad, I would try to make them happy”. By “living for the day”, she is in control of her every whim. “I thrive of the feeling of pleasure” she attests. “I wanna feel it in my work – my personal life – every social aspect of my life”. However, at times, “what comes with massive joy is massive sadness”.
Drawing the curtains slightly wider, she reveals another poignant moment in her life where music and her family brought her back from the brink. “I remember my mum saying you need to stop working. I said no because I really love the music”. She was at an impasse. “My gigs were topping me up and giving me a bit of happiness. You know when you get there, you can be completely yourself – it’s nice to be singing to people”. Music provided the glimmers that punctuated those morose moments. “My family means everything to me – my mum is my rock. Without them, I don’t know what I would do”. From these junctures, she has learned to harness the pain and channel it into her art. Whether it be an “indulgent and heart wrenching” ballad born out of the cathartic need for release, a beat (bar piano segments) she “puts into Logic straight away, get my headphones and mic and sing freestyle” (gauging various styles and melodies), or writing with Jay, “if i’m feeling funny, the feeling of being grateful comes flooding back”. She is appreciative of the fact that what she can do with her voice “is a gift”.
On an adjective level, “honest” is how Prima describes her sound. Though she admits “there are stuff I keep for myself”, she concedes some may consider her “too open”. When it comes to true artistry, is that necessarily a bad thing? “I think you can read me like a book in some ways. I used to apologise for it, but not anymore. It’s who I am”. And so she shouldn’t. Referencing a recent conversation she had with a fan who reached out stating they too were in a dark place and that her music provided solace, a short exchange wherein she assured them of their self-worth went a long way. “Artists are supposed to be like this, we have a voice for everybody on this planet”. And I concur. On a sonic level, there are undeniable shades of “retro RNB” present which hearkens back to childhood. “I remember my mum bringing home a DVD of the divas – Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Toni Braxton – it’s come full circle from when I was a child”. Though Alicia Keys provided the aforementioned kinship, this is the era that sparked her interest. Once she discovered Sade, that pushed her even further. “By Your Side – I sing that at every gig. Every time I sing it, I feel like I wrote this song”. Like the iconic women she holds in high esteem, her true power stems from creating music that resonates. As she states: “I make sure my music is relatable”.
I feel like I’m in a relationship with music.
To achieve success in music, passion, drive and love are the three determiners highlighted to ensure fulfillment. Linking back to her ‘humanist’ disposition, she has an interesting approach. “I always do good for everyone. I always go to the end of the earth for someone. But when it comes down to yourself, would you do the same? I’m at that point where I see this body of work as another person so I think, I can really work hard for you – because I am so proud of what I have written and recorded, I feel like I cannot let this body of work down”. This is the first time I’ve heard one refer to their art in this manner. It’s noble. It shows true affection for the other ‘person’ in the relationship. It’s self-less. It’s true love. “If I take myself out of it”, she begins, “this music needs to be heard – it’s not even about me – this has to come first”. This is her social intelligence coming to the fore once more. Understanding her position as an artist means she “writes everything from a place of truth”. Knowing that her audience is split between women and men who listen to her from reasons stemming from empowerment to a sweet serenade (word to Push!) she consciously considers her audience when creating.
“Anything I write now I’ve become a lot better at looking at it and thinking, don’t just be satisfied with that version. I’m enjoying sitting down and crafting – and that is from working with Jay“. And that is also from “having a bit of a perfection problem”. And that is understandable. When you have put your all into a project, you want it to be a true representation of your capabilities. Also, you want someone willing to give unflinching constructive criticism. This is where ‘Father Jay‘ excels. “He is like my mentor – anything I do, I will show him. If he says yes, great; I’ll fly with it. If he says hmmm, we will work on it”. Within the confines of the cocoon, she has someone dutifully overseeing the internal progress that shall soon flourish into an external achievement. “Him as a writer, he’s a genius – just one of those crazy genius people. Writing with him has levelled me up”.
This continual growth is also in part due to the activities she conducts to ensure she is operating at optimal potential. “I need to make sure I exercise, eat well and write music”. Doing these on a regular basis safeguards her mental well-being which is “very important” to her, and also keeps her “consistent with who you are and what you’re putting out”. These days, she owes her positive mindset to Rhonda Byrne’s – ‘The Secret’ and Paulo Coelho’s – ‘The Alchemist’, which she read 2 years ago on a trip to Thailand. “They retrained my brain to spin things in a positive”. She’s all the better for it. She no longer lets the dark prey on her mind.
My songs are my diary.
Her new project ‘The Butterfly Effect. Volume 2 -The Cocoon (OUT TODAY!) is the second installment in a planned trilogy that follows The Caterpillar (released earlier this year on February 27th). Whereas Caterpillar “had a playful demeanour with a lot of attitude”, Cocoon takes a more introspective approach, evocative of the divas she reveres. “It’s personal. It’s very emotional and coming from a truthful and honest place. It’s basically me evolving as an artist”. Having listened via an exclusive private link ahead of release (perks of the job), I can assure you, she’s created a wonderful body of music that encapsulates the ongoing transformation. “It’s one of those ones where it’s definitely a mood or a vibe that you would latch on to if you were in a certain space”. And I concur. From the production, subject matter, lyrics, cadence, energy and delivery, you are drawn into a reflective abode where the owner draws the curtains wide enough to welcome you in. GO CHECK IT OUT NOW!!!
For emerging ‘caterpillars’, she believes one should “write – all the time as it’s all about having the content and the material and to try to get into a position to work with someone who will bring out the best in you”. And of course “get into the studio”. From the precocious child to the intelligent woman she is today, she is continually changing. She is continually evolving. As she puts it: “if you saw me 3 years ago, in some ways, I am a totally different person”. An ability she has eternally acknowledged (until she gets laser treatment) in her ‘constantly evolving’ tattoo. If as an artist, you’re happy in the lane you encompass and don’t seek change, that’s perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to change. If on the other hand, like Prima, you’re constantly challenging yourself to level up, to think what if?, to transform, you run with that. And do it to the best of your ability. You owe it to yourself to find out what you’re truly capable of. The point is, what makes you happy?