Imany is a French singer who released her first album, The Shade of a Broken Heart, in 2011, after having been a model for several years on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2014, she wrote the soundtrack of the film Sous les jupes des filles, by Audrey Dana.
Besides her beauty and hourglass figure, it’s her deep voice, “an ogre voice” as she used to describe when she was little, which enabled her to be noticed. When she came back to France, her sister, Fatou, became her manager and she began her singing career. Malick Ndiaye (Ayo et Grace’s producer) discovered her talent during a show at the Sentier des Halles (Paris 2e).
She then began singing for famous artists’ first parts (Hocus Pocus, Sly Johnson, Ben l’Oncle Soul…). In 2010, she releases her first EP, Acoustic Sessions, downloadable legally. It’s with her hit, You will never know, extract from her first 2011 album, that she received a platinum record. After a long tour which led her to numerous countries, Imany came back in 2014 with the soundtrack of the film Sous les jupes des filles.
It was during her acoustic tour, and in particular while singing at Poznań to represent through Europe her new album of which the release is expected at the end of 2015, that Red Tapes met the singer.
Your uncommon course is often described by the media: sportswoman, model and then singer. With hindsight, how would you analyse it ?
Imany: I don’t. I just tell myself it’s part of life. Our days, it’s quite rare to get into a specific career and to stay in the same branch for 30 or 40 years before retiring. Today, people search, people search themselves: they think they know what they want but eventually change their mind, change their lives … It’s pretty common to have several lives within one single life. As for me, things just happened in a natural and coherent way that I have trouble saying I had ‘several lives’. I simply followed my path.
A model’s life and a singer’s life seem quite different … But how did this ‘fashion’ experience helped you in your latter career?
Imany : It’s always useful. There are some things we don’t have the impression we have learnt from, but actually we have. I would say that modelling and the world of music are very different, both are not based on the same reflexes. Fashion is really an exterior job, where we carry someone else’s art, whereas music – as I see it and live it – is very interior, I show my own art. Thereby, making music is much more of a risk : it’s more introspective, it implies to feel naked in front of people. And it’s not that simple. On the other hand, fashion is … a ‘YES’ for 250 ‘NOs’ and music is kind of the same thing. It taught me patience, acceptance of refusal, and other similar things which are quite useful.
You released your first album, The Shape of a Broken Heart, in 2011. What is your view on it today? You seem to have changed quite a bit since then?
Imany : Oh yes ! I’m even quite sure I have evolved, I have improved musically and vocally. My voice has changed, and I tame myself more. Personally I can’t listen to it anymore. I took a cab once and the driver recognised me, so to please me he decided to play the album … I found the taxi ride very long! When I listen to it, I here all the flaws, I realise what I should or shouldn’t have done. In terms of personality, I believe I’m still the same person, but I have evolved. Throughout life, we always moult, even though we remain sitting on the same chair fir thirty years, we are never the same person. I’m all at once myself now and the person I was four years ago.
After this album, you were in charge of the soundtrack to the film Sous les jupes des filles by Audrey Dana. How did this project come into being ?
Imany : The producer came to see me: she liked my music and told me she wrote the script to a film while listening to my music. Therefore she asked me if I was interested to write the soundtrack to her film. I had just finished my big tour and I had time. I was thinking to take a whole year off, but I didn’t because I was too busy with the album. I found the experience interesting enough to go through with it.
It was actually the first time you wrote music for a film. What does it change compared to a a “classic” album ? What did it bring to you ?
Imany : There are many things which changed because I had to write music according to an image. It’s something I didn’t know how to do and that I had to learn at the moment. The producer asked me to write pop songs, but for other singers. And this was very new to me : I only used to write for myself. I had precise themes for the characters in precise situations. It was really a commissioned work, and quite frankly it’s relieving! Indeed, there’s no pressure to have to put yourself naked in front of others. It’s easier to write about the sunny weather when asked for it rather than to write about it when you feel like it. The approach is very different. It taught me how to forget the complex I had about my writing.
You’re beginning an acoustic tour, how is it going ?
Imany : Well! I actually started yesterday in Wroclaw, it was great! I love going to Poland. I know all artists say that about countries where they are touring, but I am sincere. Poland is a country that welcomed me straight away. I find the public is very generous. The fact of singing only with a guitar is not an easy thing to do, especially when the public knows you with an album and a group : you have to re-tame it.
So why did you choose this acoustic tour?
Imany : On the first album, for the first tour, it’s what I had already done. I started music with voice-guitar: that’s how I write my music. It seemed logical to do the same and to present my new songs this way. I had to show I had been discrete for a very good reason (laughs). With only a guitar, you can’t cheat. There are no special effects, no corners to hide: when the guitarist makes a mistake, you hear it, when I make a mistake, you hear it too … But when both a perfectly in synch, it’s much more percussive: it goes straight to the heart. It’s like a balancing act …
So new songs… What are your plans for the future?
Imany : The next album will be released at the end of the year ! Tonight, we are presenting six or seven new songs.
What influences your work?
Imany : Good question … Many things. Travelling helps me, even thought I don’t travel enough to my mind. The tour isn’t really travelling because we don’t see much. Reading is also very important to me, I love reading. And listening to music of course: I listen to singers such as Bob Dylan. I wonder what they write about and how. Cinema is also on of my influences, some films simply hit you in the face and are bound to have an effect on your work. I also have an interest for other people’s art.
One last thing: what would be your “song of the moment”?
Imany : Let me think … The artist Faada Freddy, who is on my label it’s true so it can look like cronyism, who wrote the song We sing in time, extract from a super album of body percussion and voices. It’s very pop, but it was never done before in such a way. This song really puts you in a good mood.