Catching Up With Aseelah
One of the reasons why I started this website (one year ago today) was to share good music. I can honestly say that it’s a task that I never get tired of, especially when I find an artist whose passion for music is so evident that I simply cannot stop listening. When a good friend sent me a YouTube clip of Aseelah, I watched the first minute and was convinced that she has the authenticity and passion in her work that we music enthusiasts crave. Her press kit includes the perfect explanation of her sound, and describes it as “honest lyrics presented with a voice that conveys a message of love through all its joy and pain with a passion that sends chills down your spine”. That’s the exact response I had when I heard Aseelah’s music. This North Carolina native has shared her gift with audiences around the world, as she has toured with such artists as Fantasia, Lauryn Hill, Rihanna and Diddy. As her biography alluded, her music really is a breath of fresh air.
Last week, Aseelah and I had a great conversation about her musical journey and future plans.
Mimi Soul: What are some of the things that inspire and influence your music?
Aseelah: I think a lot of times it’s something that I’ve gone through or something a friend is going through. I’ll start writing or humming something and then I’ll start creating a song. But, everything I write has something to do with somebody or myself. So, I’m really influenced by everyday life.
I also want to mention my brother Otis Battles, Jr. because he gave me my start with singing in the choir. He’s a gospel artist and just got signed to a label. To this day, my brother is always in the audience when I sing.
Mimi Soul: What is one of your earliest music memories?
Aseelah: Oh! One of my earliest memories is from when I was in 5th grade. My teacher told me I could no longer be in chorus because I was singing too loud.
Mimi Soul: Oh no.
Aseelah: I’m so serious. I grew up in church, where you have the tendency to sing loud. I didn’t know how to bring it down a little bit to fit in with everybody else. I loved to sing and in 5th grade I knew that was my thing. So, what my teacher said really just burst my lil ego. Needless to say, my mother had a talk with that teacher and the next day I was back in chorus. But, I always remember her because that could’ve crushed me as a young kid and now I’m making a career out of the very thing that she told me I couldn’t do.
Mimi Soul: If someone were about to hear your music for the first time, what three words would you give them to describe your sound?
Aseelah: love, soulful, pop
Mimi Soul: I noticed that you don’t shy away from talking about love in your music. An example of that is your song Morning. How did that song come together?
Aseelah: My cousin, Samar Newsome, is an awesome producer and he created the track. When I listened to it, I started thinking about what I wanted in a relationship and what I wanted in love. I thought about how most people have a cup of coffee in the morning to get their day going and I was like “all I need is love to get my day going.” So, that’s why I called it Morning.
Mimi Soul: I really like the song because I think you made it relatable for a lot of people. Even people who haven’t been in that situation before would be excited about the opportunity to feel that way about someone.
Mimi Soul: What impression do you want people to have of your music?
Aseelah: I want people to understand that love is possible, even if you’ve been in a bad relationship. In my song Why, I talk about a bad relationship and finding somebody cheating. Either you’re gonna work it out or you’re gonna keep it moving. But you can still find love. God is love and we all deserve love. I just want people to feel empowered by love and be able to say how they’re really feeling.
Mimi Soul: Would you describe yourself as an independent artist at this point?
Aseelah: At this point, I’m an independent artist. I’m slowly getting my following going. It helps that I’m traveling with different artists because everywhere I go, people know my name just from singing with Fantasia. So, right now I’m independent but I know I’ll be on a major label.
Mimi Soul: Has your experience as an independent artist helped you figure out the things you want with a major label?
Aseelah: Definitely. I get to see a lot of things from working with major artists. I think I’ve learned what I want and don’t want. I also understand that sometimes there’s a little give and take because record companies still kinda want to be in control. I know that I may have to bend a little for the record labels. But, I can say that sometimes when you start off independently and you develop a following, you have more of a voice than somebody they created.
Mimi Soul: What advice would you give an independent artist about how to build their following?
Aseelah: I would say put as much stuff on YouTube as you can. A lot of people didn’t know who I was but they knew Fantasia. I’ve had so many people tell me that they were looking for something on YouTube and came across my page. So, you have to have a web presence. That’s how you keep your following up. I’m constantly telling people what I’m doing on my Facebook page.
Mimi Soul: So, what’s the best advice you’ve received?
Aseelah: I have to say two things. My mother said “no matter how you feel, no matter what you’re going through, stay faithful to God”. She told me that at a young age and it still stays with me. I also do a lot of reading and Bishop E. Bernard Jordan has a book called The Laws of Thinking. The advice I got from him via the book is “learn to work the gift within so that you won’t have to work so hard without”. Everyone is trying to work hard to get things when all you have to do is use your mind and start drawing things to you.
Mimi Soul: What are some of your musical goals?
Aseelah: I want to touch people with my music and be recognized as one of the greatest singer/songwriters. I want to have a large catalog of songs that someone big purchases, the way Michael Jackson did with the Beatles.
Mimi Soul: Are there any artists that you would like to collab with in the future?
Aseelah: I would like to see Lauryn Hill make a comeback and I would love to collab with her. She was like a mentor to me so I would love to hear her wisdom and something fresh and new from her.
Mimi Soul: What do you have planned for this year?
Aseelah: I’m in the studio right now. I’m taking the whole month of March to just write. Hopefully, in May I’ll be having the album release party in my hometown of High Point, North Carolina. I want everyone to come to that because we’re gonna pack the place and have a good time.
Thanks for sharing with us Aseelah! Drop by Aseelah’s Facebook page to say hi — she asked me to mention that she enjoys hearing from fans. To get you talking, you can hear two of her songs, Morning and Why below. Also, be sure to check out this clip of Aseelah singing with her cousin, Samar Newsome. The song is called Cherish and is from Samar’s album entitled Depths of My Soul.