Musical Chameleon. Songwriter. Visionary. Producer. Artist. New Yorker. Risk-taker. Violinst. Trail-blazer. Maverick – Whilst all of the above emphatically describe her, it’s almost impossible to truly define singer Imani Coppola who first launched into our musical consciousness in 1997 with her debut album ‘Chupacabra’ which included the hit single ‘Legend of a Cowgirl’.
Fast forward 20 years and with an impressive collection of 13 solo albums to her name along with three albums as part of musical duo Little Jackie, Imani is back with her new album ‘Hypocrites’ and talks to House of Coco about her never-ending passion for music, her painting and how she continues to defy genre boundaries.
Growing up in Long Island, New York, who or what were your creative influences?
Growing up we were exposed to a lot of jazz by our parents, either they were playing it om the record player or they had friends over jamming. Also by classical music, because we all were in either orchestra or band.
Not much mainstream music as FM radio wasn’t much of a thing in our household, but my sister used to play Billy Joel when our parents were out and she was babysitting.
I remember loving the song ‘Set on you’ written by Rudy Clark, performed by George Harrison. I’d hear it on my bus drivers radio on the way to school. It would get stuck in my head.
You are often described as a musical chameleon – what inspires you to keep evolving?
My love for music inspires me to keep evolving. I love it all – I want to create it all.
You are often labelled as being an ‘avant-garde’ artist – does this annoy you or do you think this is a fair description?
I think people are generally narrow minded when it comes to labelling others who are ‘out of the box’. It doesn’t upset me any more than the rest of the stupid waking world does. It’s not like I’m recreating the diatonic scale by setting fruit loops (cereal) on fire and sampling them as they burn.
How do you continuously defy genre boundaries?
By waking up and being me. I have no say in the matter.
You are an artist that clearly treasures your craft – how do you stay on track with executing your vision?
Sometimes, it’s not always about your vision, sometimes the song has its own vision. You just gotta be true to whatever you are creating. Live and let live.
What drives you to keep making music?
It’s like breathing for me – when I am not creating music, I am not breathing and potentially dying.
Which artist (dead or alive) would be your dream collaborator?
Jesus. He was a true artist.
Is it better to make someone laugh or cry with your lyrics?
Whatever it takes to deliver the message!
You always look amazing! How would you define your personal style?
Lately…scrub! But, typically I look like I am about to ride a horse, pilot a single engine air-plane or assassinate someone bad.
Do you have any plans to visit the UK and play a gig for your British fans?
I don’t have any plans to and a lot of whining and complaining goes along with that statement. No label. No budget.
If you were to release Chupacabra today – how do you think it would be received?
I don’t believe it would be received.
If you could change anything about the music industry of today – what would it be?
Do you have any more plans to record as part of Little Jackie?
No, Adam (the other part of Little Jackie) has moved on to other projects and I need to focus on my own music. Plus, that sound is kind of over now (at least for me it is)
How do you separate writing for yourself from writing for other artists?
It’s the difference between using a condom and not using a condom.
Which of your albums are you most proud of and why?
The Black and White Album, because it was the first album I created without the nagging obligation to please the label before pleasing myself.
Out of your entire back catalogue, which is your favourite song lyrically and why?
It’s all relative. A song that was lyrically very important to me, in relation to what was going on at the time I was writing it, can mean absolutely nothing to me right now. My favourite song is always the last song I’ve written.
Is it true that you have plans to create a musical adaption of cult 80 film ‘Weird Science’ for Broadway?
It’s a cheap shot I know…Broadway is all about rehashing shit that’s already been done. I think this one could really be fun in a really retro tech sorta way. Forget trying to make it contemporary. I’ll get around to it eventually. Or not.
Your new album ‘Hypocrites’ is being released on July 21st – what can we expect?
What inspired the name ‘Hyprocrites’ for your forthcoming album?
Your new single ‘Just Feels Good’ feels like a celebration – what was your inspiration for this song?
I was having an extended bad moment in my life and wanted to write my way to a better place. I thought if I wrote and recorded a super positive song, naturally it would play through my mind all the time and this way I could manifest the message the song is putting out.
How do you reflect on your twenty years as an artist and what lessons have you learnt?
Bananas! Save some for later.
How would you sum yourself up in three words?
What was the last book you read that influenced your artistry?
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are struggling to get their music heard? Your guess is as good as mine.
Painting is clearly a passion of yours, how long does it take you to create a piece and how would you describe your signature style?
Depends on what I’m trying to make
Sometimes you have to allow time for layers to dry so that takes several hours. Sometimes, it happens fast…almost instantaneous. Sorta like song writing.
Not sure if I have honed in on a signature style. Clearly, I like colour, circles and eyeballs. That’s really all I can say about my style as of yet.
You have recently celebrated your one-year painting anniversary – How would you describe your art in three words.
Bright. Fun. Weird
Imani’s latest single ‘Just Feels Good’ is out now and is available via the usual digital channels. Her new album ‘Hypocrites’ is out on July 21st. You can pre-order it via Pledge Music. Imani can be followed on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.