Singer-songwriter and producer Oyinda spent her childhood singing along to Disney movies. Born in Nigeria, she moved to London with her family at a young age to get some distance from the political unrest there. As a teenager in London, she got used to the rush of the big city, and developed a taste for ‘90s pop and R&B divas like Whitney Houston and Aaliyah. It wasn’t until she discovered Imogen Heap and Little Dragon that she decided she was more interested in masterminding her musical output as a producer and songwriter than simply singing.
Now based in New York, Oyinda is set to drop her Restless Minds EP on June 10. Her first official project follows two well-received singles, “Rush of You” and “What Still Remains,” both released in 2014. Off the strength of two songs alone, she booked her first major performance on the Lollapalooza Stage, a prestigious honor for such a new artist. Shortly after she made the move to NYC and began developing her skills across songwriting, vocals, production, and music video direction.
Her sound and visual presentation are seamlessly intertwined, both oscillating between bold, gothic tropes and soft, delicate precision. Today she shares “Serpentine,” the project’s standout song, produced by herself and mastered by Henry Laufer, better known as Shlohmo. The song is dark and sensual, with roving electronic production that accentuates the purposeful restraint in her vocal delivery.
We caught up with Oyinda over the phone to learn more about the EP and her plans to come. Listen to “Serpentine” and get familiar in the Q&A below.
How has the move to New York affected your music?
I don’t think it was jarring to move to New York. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the fact that there were a lot of people. Being able to meet other musicians was the thing that was different. New York’s music scene is a lot more open than it is in London. That has allowed me to meet people and do some writing.
I moved a lot when I was a kid. The political instability in Nigeria made it so. As a result, I’m not uncomfortable being in new places. Actually, being in New York and settled really feels weird. I’m like, “How do I have two cats?” I think it’s made me really open-minded. I have had a chance to explore lots of different cultures. I think that changes how I write music and what I choose to write about.
Your EP Restless Minds is out June 10. Are you excited? Nervous?
My vibe is like, thank god it’s done. I was so meticulous about it. It’s a breath now. I’m not nervous about it, I don’t really care about what people think. Of course I’m happy if people like it, but I created what I wanted to create and I’m very proud of it.
How do you picture people listening to your EP?
I never really think about what other people are going to think. I want to paint a picture, convey a mood. I feel like that first listen should be in the dark. It should be very moody.
Is that how you listen to music?
Not necessarily. Like the new Radiohead came out and I listened to it right away during the day. But I think it’s nice to sometimes focus just on the music. When I wrote this EP it just didn’t feel right to write anywhere other than in the dark. I built a little studio in my apartment and I usually turn off all the lights except my computer light and maybe some candles.
I wrote “Days Fast Forward” on my phone. I don’t know what it was. I was working on the production with my friend Raf. I ended up being in bed with all the lights off and I just wrote it on my phone.
Who is Raf?
Rafferty Swink. I write with him occasionally. He lets me do my thing, and he has the editing red pen. He’s my best friend and he’s known me for the longest. He knows me well enough that he can call me out. I’m oddly shy when it comes to my art or interacting with others. I work with the people I know. Maybe eventually I will branch out, but by singing and writing with others.
Who would the first collaborators be ideally?
For me it’s definitely Yukimi [Nagano of Little Dragon]. I would love to pick her brain and write with her. I appreciate people like James Blake, Thom Yorke is a huge influence, I love Radiohead. There are so many people I’m fans of that I learn from, like Kanye. The people who intrigued me that I loved from their writing. Kaytranada just put out a record that has a Little Dragon collab on it, and I love Craig David.