Interview: Mirel Wagner

Okayafrica sat down with up-and-coming Finnish/Ethiopian singer Mirel Wagner to talk about her beautiful bare-boned folk compositions and her upcoming self-titled US debut on Friendly Fire.

"No Death" has gotten a lot of coverage in the US, can you talk about the background of the song?

That's a difficult question because I don't really remember much about the writing process. I do remember that I wrote the lyrics in one-sitting. But the melodies and that sort of stuff just happened when I was playing guitar. Then the song just came to me. I think I wrote it 3 years ago.

How about the music video, it's quite stunning.

Yeah, that was shot last summer at this remote town in this renovated house. It was shot very fast. We just kind of went for it. We wanted to make a video that's simple, like the song, but still has that something, you know? [The video is] a bit scary, or so I've been told, but I think it's a very beautiful video.

Yeah, it's both gloomy and beautiful. Is this something you wanted to portray with your music as well?

Yeah, what I really like to do in music, and what I listen to, has that sort of simplicity that creates a huge emotional response. I like simple things, you don't always need to shout to make an impact.

Where do your influences come from?

Everything I listen to. Everything I see, imagine. There's not one thing that's the cause of it all. But I'm inspired by everyday life, and many things that don't happen everyday. Love and happiness, books I read, things I see, people I meet. And just my imagination.

What are some artists that have influenced you?

I don't know if they've influenced me in a way that I sound like them but I've been compared to Leonard Cohen, who's a big hero of mine. Then Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. And old blues, I really like old blues.

Been into any books or films lately?

I've been reading a lot of classics lately. Classic horror stories, like Edgar Allan Poe, I just bought this big book of his collected works. Then I like horror movies. I'm not picky. I wont be like "I'll only watch [Federico] Fellini movies." I like really bad movies, like slasher films from the 80s.

Anything you'd like to add.

[pause] ... One thing, I don't really like to explain or analyze my music or lyrics because I just love to leave it to the listener to make their own interpretation or connection to the song. That's why I didn't really talk about the music.

That's all right.

Yeah, because I think it blocks something if you start to lecture people about "this is how you should listen to my music" or "this is what it's about". And I love to hear people's interpretations of the songs.

Have you heard any interesting interpretations?

I've read a couple of reviews where the song has been interpreted as a song about a dead baby or a dead lover. It's interesting to hear.

News Brief
Photo: Akinola Boluwatife

Whoisakin Channels His Love For Anime In the New Video For ‘Magic’

The single, featuring Olayinka Ehi, comes off his latest EP Full Moon Weekends.

Nigerian singer-songwriter Whoisakin is sharing a new music video to accompany his hit summer release, "Magic".

His roots certainly show true as his Lagos inspired trap soul/R&B sounds fill us up with feelings of summer and a love made from dreams.

High off of a recent feature in Rolling Stone, Whoisakin's latest music video comes off of his debut EP Full Moon Weekends, his first release as a part of Mr Eazi's #emPawa30 project.

With all of the successes and accomplishments that have come along with it, the original story behind the song isn't as sweet, "Magic was actually inspired by a summer 2019 fling I had with some girl", the 22-year-old singer says, "Even though I thought the relationship had potential at the early stages, she never felt the same way and it was just 'vibes' for her. I mean the moments were beautiful but they never lasted. I made the record a few weeks after we were over. She got upset at me and that was it."

He went on to speak about his first release into the music industry as, "a full story about me and my relationships in 2019, basically. I was doing an internship with some construction company at the time so I had a whole lot of time to live life (especially the nightlife), experience new things. So, I felt like an animated series for the whole tape would be the best way to share the story better. Plus, I'm a big anime fan."

Check out Whoisakin's music video for "Magic" here.

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