From anthemic stadium rock to longstanding boy bands, Ireland has already made an indelible impression on the global stage. Yet it’s only now that a new wave of talent is emerging to represent the growing interest in electronic pop, hip-hop and R&B. And at the forefront is of that scene is Soulé, a soulful young artist with the ability to take on the world’s best.
Within the space of a year, the Dublin-based songstress is already hitting all of the right achievements dead on: a Choice Music Song of the Year nomination for her debut track ‘Love No More’, over a million Spotify streams for ‘Troublemaker’ and festival sets at Electric Picnic, Forbidden Fruit and Longitude.
Standing alongside the likes of Hare Squead, Jafaris, Super Silly, the Rusangano Family and Loah, it’s clear that the new breed of Irish artists are just a step away from making a major international breakthrough.
“Something super dope is happening in Ireland now and people are going to take us much more seriously,” begins Soulé. “I’ve come at a time where all the underground genres are being noticed and played on the radio, and that gives artists the confidence to do new stuff. I love that we have a community vibe. We all know each other and it’s going to be a cool story to tell when one of us makes it big.”
Born in London, Soulé moved to Dublin as a child and shared a love of TLC, Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls with her mother, together with Congolese music from her family heritage. Etta James, Erykah Badu and Whitney Houston were influential in finding her voice, while her first steps as a songwriter came after teaching herself to play keyboard with the help of YouTube tutorials.
Already firmly on the road to where she is now, Soulé’s first brush with success came with an audition for The X-Factor. “At that age my only goal was to become a pop star!” she admits, and she came tantalisingly close. “The feedback I got was that my voice was there, but I was too young. They wanted me to find myself and come back the following year. Looking back it was the right decision because now I’m sure of who I am as a singer and songwriter. Being a singer isn’t about just being a pop star: it’s about writing music, rehearsing with your band and going to the studio. That’s what I enjoy about the most about being a singer.”
“Being a singer isn’t about just being a pop star: it’s about writing music, rehearsing with your band and going to the studio.”
Soulé first visited Diffusion Lab when Precious – later of Super Silly – invited her to collaborate on some ideas. Although her studies limited the time she could spend on music, Diffusion nonetheless encouraged her to return to work on ideas whenever she could spare the time. Now Diffusion Lab has progressed to the extent that they can be Ireland’s answer to the great production houses of the UK, Germany and Scandinavia. “They speak the language of young people who are into hip-hop, R&B and pop,” says Soulé of her mentors. “The producers are able to create the beat that you want as a young artist.”
The first public results of that collaboration emerged when Soulé filmed a Diffusion Lab Session of ‘Love No More’. Originally written as voice-and-keyboard torch song and a world away from the finished bass-heavy pop banger that would be released a year later, it demonstrated Soulé’s skill for blending contemporary sounds with classic songwriting.
Between ‘Love No More’ and the follow-up ‘Good Life’, Soulé defined herself as a vital new talent to watch, but the huge success of ‘Troublemaker’ is beginning to open doors. Blessed with a powerhouse vocal, her tracks touch on 2-step, R&B, neo-soul and vibrant pop but Soulé would rather not pigeonhole herself too tightly. Electronic pop is the closest definition that she’s happy with, but if you imagine a young Erykah Badu for 2017 with production by MNEK or Mura Musa you won’t be too far away.
Soulé’s latest track ‘What Do You Know’ continues her ascension as Ireland’s hottest breaking artist. With rhythmic bass, an undercurrent of world music and a sassy topline that recalls the best late 90s R&B divas, it could be the track that elevates her to the next level.
Lyrically ‘What Do You Know’ works as a second chapter to ‘Troublemaker’. Whereas the girl (“Or guy!” she interjects) in ‘Troublemaker’ discovered that she was being cheated on, ‘What Do You Know’ is about celebrating your independence in the aftermath of those events. “There’s no point dwelling on that situation, that negativity, or the bad things that he did to me. I’m going to reclaim my confidence and my good vibes and just chill with my girls. No amount of begging or calling or texting is going to get me back!”
That sense of female empowerment is central to Soulé’s approach. Her live band is an example of sisterhood in action with a female DJ and backing vocalists. “I feel like showcasing different artists and putting females at the forefront is important as everything seems to be so male-dominated in the music scene. I want my message to be about girl power – if you’re a female creative, go for it and don’t be discouraged! Also, it’s important to be yourself and don’t be a certain way just because society says you have to be.”
Despite that clarion call for independence, Soulé’s cocktail of talent, determination and fierce individuality is the perfect blueprint for any emerging artist. As her star continues to ascend, it won’t be long before Soulé is considered to be a role model in her own right.