Iman is a British singer and songwriter whose song Wishing is currently in the UK Urban charts. Her unique flavour of electronic, soul, R&B and pop has marked her as one to watch. She has toured with Rudimental and written and recorded with Ed Sheeran. Despite her busy schedule, she still finds the time to train with us at Gymbox. "I love the classes and the DJs!" she says. We meet her.
Hi Iman! Congrats on your song Wishing making it into the UK Urban Charts. How does that feel?
It feels great! I'm extremely happy and thankful. It's a buzz.
What makes you unique as an artist?
A lot of people comment that my voice is quite distinctive, so I think it's probably that. As an artist you just have to do what feels right, and hope people like it.
Who have been your biggest influences?
A lot of the music that comes out of the UK has always nudged me in certain directions when I’m writing. I love the fact that UK artists tend to be a little less refined than the Americans – quite rugged and raw in their sound. I like to adapt this into my work.
Sadly, you've had little family support. What happened, and how has this shaped you now?
They just didn’t understand why I’d want to do something that was essentially so alien to them – I’m literally the only musical person in my massive family. They wanted security for me, and for the most part creative industries don’t always promise that. I found it incredibly difficult when I was starting out as I needed the support, but I knew they just wanting to protect me. I think that period really defined me. It gave me a thick skin, made me focused and determined to succeed.
Good for you. Have you always loved music from a young age?
I grew up in west London, and I used to listen to whatever was on the radio! I’d spend days on end listening to pop music of all varieties and I think perhaps through osmosis I tend to write melodies that have a pop edge.
You used to write songs for other people before becoming an artist, was the transition difficult?
I like to think I've always been an artist, even though I was writing for others. Luckily, as a writer, I've been able to keep the songs I didn’t want others to use, so fortunately there was no transition at all. It was all a natural progression.
You're a one woman powerhouse. Do you also produce all your own work?
I co-produce. My strengths don't lie in the technical side of things at all. I have tried, but I get bored out of my mind! So, when I’m in a session and working on a track alongside the producer, I’m very vocal about the sounds, arrangement and sonics of my music. I use other songs as reference, and whatever else I can think of to get my point across. I’m very hands on with every part of the record-making process, from the mixing, remixes, right through to the music videos. However, it would be good to see more women involved in production.
You play the guitar, was it hard to learn?
Yes! I decided to stop day dreaming about playing the guitar and found someone to show me the ropes. I avoided it for so long because for some strange reason I convinced myself you had to be super gifted to be able to play an instrument. And you do, especially if it's played to an exceptionally high standard. But turns out I was good at it, and picked it up pretty well.
Do you have insecurities? If so, how do you cope with that niggling voice of self-doubt?
We all have it, and there’s no shame in it. I think the most important thing is to acknowledge the fear or doubt, then do it anyway. It loses its power sooner than you think. When I have those wobbly days I always make sure I nip it in the bud very early. I literally tell myself if I’m going to choose to feel like this, then I have to give up right now. If not, then change the internal dialogue! I’m very strict with myself in this sense.
You’ve worked with Ed Sheeran, who seems like a regular bloke. Is it hard to be 'normal' in mainstream pop music?
Like most artists Ed went through the struggle of not being accepted in the industry at first, and most artists don't forget that. It’s what keeps you grounded and focussed on what actually matters – which is the quality of your art and how it can be improved. For me, I would only ever want to be famous for my contribution to music.
Your success is picking up. Could you cope with fame?
I have no idea how I’d handle it! It's not really something I think of. But if I do, I hope to have the same friends and stay grounded. I think when you start thinking you’re saving lives because you can sing, then you’re in trouble!
What are your dream goals? And how do you think you can get there?
One of my goals is to make a debut album that's received to critical acclaim, and literally has people making babies to it! I reckon I can make this happen by continuing to make each day as productive as possible. This is really important to me, as is having integrity in everything I do.
Do you feel any pressures as a woman working and being visible in the music industry?
I was asked this recently, and my answer is no. Maybe this is because I run my own label, so I don’t have anyone to answer to but myself! I think having lots of female acts currently in the pop market is a good thing. If this is what people want, then it’s all good. I think there’s space for everyone, and the more great female musicians there are out there in the industry, the better. How could that possibly be viewed as a negative?
Absolutely. However, do you feel the pressures to look good?
My old management team did put pressure on me to lose weight. After they put me on a diet they soon realised I don’t really follow rules, especially when it comes to eating. I love that we have artists like Adele and Meghan Traynor. To think women like this would never have been accepted by the industry, not even that long ago, is hard to believe. These women are powerhouses in in their own right, and I love to see it!
How do you like to be seen as an artist when it comes to image?
I just trust my intuition and go with the flow. I don’t like to stay in the same place, so for my image has evolved and become more womanly over time. It wasn't strategically thought out. It’s more a case of knowing and accepting my body shape, and knowing what looks good on me.
How important is being fit to a music artist?
It’s incredibly important! When I was on tour I could see my shape getting bigger with all the late night tour stops and takeaways. I want to feel good on stage and feel comfortable in my clothes, and know that I can move and sing on stage without being breathless. Being fit also keeps me stay clear headed and focussed.
What is your training schedule with us at Gymbox?
I tend to workout early mornings, whenever I can fit it it. However busy I am I always make time for at least four workout sessions per week. I love the classes! Hardcore, MetCon, TRX, Spin, Grip – and my own little sessions on the gym floor. Having the DJs in the clubs is a life saver – they keep me going!