‘What A Day’ is the intriguing lead single from the Manchurian singer-songwriter Josephine, due to be released on 20 August 2012 as a forerunner to her debut album, Portrait.
Josephine has a varied and interesting heritage; born in the UK to a Liberian mother and a Jamaican father, she has not only drawn upon the influence of her West African background but also embraced her own deep-rooted sense of Britishness, inbibed with a local Mancunian identity that is undeniably very passionate (if you’re in any doubt just take some time to view her YouTube introduction to herself, below). The combination of her background and her present is evidently hugely important to her. When she talks it is clear that she has a keen sense of her own ‘northernness’, which is refreshing to hear in an age where so many artists are drawn to London to ‘make it big’.
She lists a whole range of artists as her influences, such as The Smiths, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, and further into the realm of World Music; these elements are all evident in her work, which she self-styles as a ‘folk-soul-indie-pop’. Josephine embraced her musicality from an early age, drawing from the old records her mother would play and the gift of a guitar at the age of 12, a present that must have caused tremendous excitement for any child who as an adult now admits ‘I always knew I’d be musical’. By the time she was 15, Josephine had already played her first gig and was increasingly influenced by reggae, a musical style which taught her ‘to feel the music and that writing a song could be different to the way I imagined it before’.
In her late-teens, her song-writing began to expand greatly, from college days through to holding down a regular job her life appears to have been a frantic creative juggling process, involving gigging, song-writing and the 9-to-5. Now, at the age of 29, she certainly appears to have worked hard to get to where she is now, seemingly poised on the verge of success, having shared stages with both Paolo Nutini and the BBC Sound of 2012 winner, Michael Kiwanuka. As recently as 29 June this year, Josephine was featured as the Guardian ’Band of the Day’, who found her music nothing short of ‘fabulous’.
With such a build-up, it was with a sense of trepidation that we at So So Gay embarked upon listening to her music. To put it bluntly, how on earth could all these influences and styles go together? The answer is, extraordinarily well. First, Josephine’s voice is both soulful and husky, it contains both presence and range and it is unique. As a song ‘What A Day’ is toe-tappingly infectious and fresh, from an intro that is briefly reminiscent of World Music artists Amadou and Mariam, through to a pounding beat and guitar riffs that pay homage far more to the Manchester indie scene. But this is not simply a combination of many things that have been done before, thrown into a mixing pot and presented as something new; it sounds organic and that makes it fresh. Indeed, as an infusion of styles and influences it undeniably works, drawing the listener in and, at just under three minutes long, leaves you wanting more. Not only that, but you come to the realisation that Josephine is a force in her own right.
Just in case you were in any doubt, we at So So Gay can’t wait for the album.
’What a Day’ (below) will be released on 20 August 2012, and the album, Portrait, will follow later in the year on 8 October 2012.