Swt Valli Hi is a band hailing from America, formed in Los Angeles in 2018 and named after their lead vocalist, Nigerian-American singer songwriter Val Okolu. The members of the band are diverse and come from the United States, Nigeria, Spain and France. It’s no surprise then that the music the band create features elements of so many influences. Soul, Afro-fusion, Blues Rock, R&B, Chillwave, Electronic and Electropop can all be found amongst the growing catalogue of excellent songs.
Lead singer Swt Valli Hi has been signed before by a major label but has been burned by them and her response has been to take control of all facets of her creativity. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in her latest release ‘Over It’ which is accompanied by a brilliant music video which was conceptually created by SVH herself. Not content with coming up with the concept, she directed it and produced it. The gritty video could be an audition for an acting career in itself but the icing on the cake is the fantastic song that it represents which takes SVH on from the releases of the past and is so wonderfully layered that listening to it is like peeling back the layers of a musical onion. Every listen brings new discovery and new realisation that this independent artist is very much a star of the future and of the now.
SVH has previously said that the track “began from a conversation talking about some really personal things that had happened in my life. I was with Canadian music producer CJ Eriksson, and the music and lyrics just flowed out of us. With this track, I want to encourage people to let all the people that cross you and all the negativity go. See who’s for you and who are not and those who are not, tell them bye bye. You only live once, so let’s love and enjoy”
With new music planned for release, these are exciting times for SVH and I was lucky enough to pose some questions to the artist and hopefully the interview will act as an introduction to this powerful, exciting, empowering and genre defying artist.
EP: Over the long months of pandemic, lockdown and the resultant chance for reflection, I’ve noticed that there has been a real shift amongst artists to defy genre, free their spirit and really just let their creativity fly. The song ‘Over It’ really seems to do just that, brilliantly merging R&B and Soul with subtle hip-hop sensibilities and then at its core having hugely personal lyrics. Is it a conscious effort by you as a creative to push the musical boundaries and if so, has this always been your goal or something that has happened over the last period of enforced introspection?
SVH: I’ve always had an eclectic and experimental taste in music. Growing up I listened to all kinds of music. The music my father played around the house had a huge impact on that. Ranging from Classical to Reggae, African sounds of Fela and Miriam Makeba to the sounds of Rock and country. I love music so I make music that affects me.
EP: The video for the song is a work of art in itself, it could be the trailer for a very intriguing movie. Do you think it’s important to be involved in every aspect of the creative process? How much input did you have in the story telling in the video and is acting something you’d like to explore?
SVH: Thank you! Yes, the concept originally stemmed from the idea of using a short film format. Right now, I’m wearing multiple hats and anyone on my team is doing the same. It’s about getting it done and we did! Being the first video I’ve directed, the input and story came from me. As far as acting, there are a lot of things in the works; it’s definitely something I’m exploring.
The quality of the work is important but I also believe in the saying “perfection is the enemy of progress”. In the past I would stand in my way but in these strange times I just do what’s natural and fun. F**k it!
EP: The song seems to have a positive vibe that shines through the backdrop of gang culture, flashing lights, police interrogation and bags of cash. It seems to me that there is a dichotomy between the darkness of the big picture and the light at the centre of the lyrical message. Is this something you planned and what do you feel is the lyrical message at the core of the song?
SVH: The lyrical core is to be over it! You’re exhausted when you’re done, you surrender, now you’re moving on. Over that situation, finally over that person, over that problem, over the trauma, over the Covid.
EP: Your Nigerian-American background and the eclectic mix of the backgrounds of the band must make for a brilliant melting pot of styles and influences. Who do you see as your musical influences and who and what influences and drives you in your life? If you’ve never heard of them, can I suggest you listen to Deva Mahal and her sister Zoe. Also, an artist I recently chatted with, the brilliant K.ZIA has a similar genre defying sensibility.
SVH: I will definitely check them out! I’m not really influenced by a particular artist per se but more so inspired by a great vocal, a great lyric or those who push the boundaries with their art.
Certain artists definitely inspire me creatively such as Kanye, Toro y Moi and Tame Impala. Lyrically artists such as Drake, J Cole and Frank Ocean. Vocally, Beyoncé and Sam Smith are two of my absolute favourites.
EP: Looking at the big picture, since the brilliant ‘Threats’, ‘In Time’,’ and ‘Needy’, your more recent sound has definitely developed sonically. Was that something that happened in an organic way over the pandemic or is it just the way your own musical taste has changed?
SVH: To be honest, I’m a music junkie and I love all forms of art and theory. So I would say my sound has developed fairly organically. This is just the first time I’m really sharing my sounds.
EP: Looking forward, what are the plans for musical releases? Do you have an album in mind? Are there any plans to visit the UK, I would love to see you sing live!
SVH: Yes, I plan on visiting the UK at the top of the year. I’m going to release a full project in early 2022. I have two singles coming up that are on that project ‘Telescope’ and ‘Nirvana’.
EP: I can’t wait. Good luck with the new project and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the UK.