GET TO KNOW: LONDON SESSIONS VOCALIST & BASTILLE COLLABORATOR BIM AMOAKO
This week’s ‘Get to Know’ London vocalist Bim Amoako. Bim created the music choir experience company Sessions by Ascension. She also works as a sessions and backing vocalist where she works with many of Britain’s biggest music acts. You’ll probably recognize her voice instantly on Bastille’s ‘Joy’. Bim turned a dream and passion into a successful business. Read on to learn more about her in my interview below.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Hi, Bim! Thanks for taking the time out and connecting! How have you been doing this past year? Specifically navigating the COVID-19 quarantine overseas?
BIM AMOAKO: Thanks for having me! I am doing well. Like every other person on this planet right now, I’ve been on the journey of figuring out how to live and adjust to the new normal. I’m grateful for having the privilege of being able to work from home to a certain extent as well as being in the position where I haven’t been ill or had to take care of someone who has.
(cont.) The UK, in my opinion, hasn’t managed the pandemic as well as we would have hoped and so it’s been an ever-changing challenge to manage life in lockdown. We are doing it though and will continue to work it out.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can give us a bit on your backstory and how you got into music and singing?
BIM AMOAKO: I’ve always loved music but started singing relatively late and didn’t take it seriously for a long time. I just didn’t think I could sing that well! I started singing in church but once I had enough confidence, I joined professional choirs which led to fronting bands and session work. My vocal is distinctive so once people heard me, other opportunities came through thankfully.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Who or what has had the biggest impact or influence on you as a singer and performer?
BIM AMOAKO: I’m not as impacted by perfect notes as I am by honest delivery so I love artists who give me no choice but to feel that moment. When I sing, I’m striving to do the same.
(cont.) Yolanda Adams, Sade, Aretha Franklin, Mary J Blige, Brandy…there are plenty of others but we’d be here forever.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How did Sessions by Ascension come to fruition?
BIM AMOAKO: After the Royal Wedding, I received numerous requests to do similar things or arrange music for high-caliber events. As a freelancer, its always been important to me to have as much control over my path as possible and help others do the same so I decided to create a company which would be able to do what people were asking in a comprehensive way. Through SBA I can create bespoke experiences with brilliant musicians for wildly different needs and I love that.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: You’ve also sung with your friends and choir at Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding. Knowing the historical significance I’m sure that experience was absolutely wild. First, How was it? Second, How did you prepare for something so grand?
BIM AMOAKO: The experience was spectacular but surreal. The choir was built specifically for the wedding so it wasn’t one I was already part of. I co-ordinated and curated the choir so everything you saw was a result of my planning in collaboration with The Royal Household. I considered it a great responsibility to showcase what Black Britain looked like in a musical sense and wanted to ensure we got that right. We worked in secret for six months in preparation and it had to be as perfect as possible. It was a great deal of pressure but it was really about being extremely organised, flexible on method and dealing with things piece by piece.
(cont.) In many ways, you can’t prepare for such a unique event but I had no choice but to bring every transferable skill and trust myself.
(cont.) Collaboration from what I gather is at the core of who you are as an artist. What has been the most rewarding aspect of collaboration for you? What tips can you give to other artists who want to dive into that world but may be hesitant?
(cont.) If I’m honest, I would happily do everything myself if I could but I find that working with other people very often brings out parts of you that you didn’t even know were there. There’s a different kind of joy when you can start from scratch and create something amazing together.
(cont.) Working as a session vocalist means you are always taking what others are doing into account and attempting to enhance it so that’s the mindset I run with. I’m most satisfied when my contribution and presence gets a project closer to the intended vision.
(cont.) I’m still very much learning but I’d encourage anyone to just stay open to the idea of collaboration and it’s the ability to help you grow and elevate as an artist.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: So back to quarantine. How are you staying inspired as creative these days? Is there more of a focus towards self-care too?
BIM AMOAKO: Definitely. It’s been an opportune time to ask what I would like life to look like in the so-called ’new normal’ and make the necessary adjustments. I’m absolutely a cliche in that I now have a house filled with plants and new interior ideas but lots of time has been spent looking after myself well.
(cont.) Creatively, it’s been about improving as an arranger, writer and producer. I haven’t put myself under pressure but I wanted this time to be of significance. I wouldn’t have ever chosen this but I wanted to come out on the other side better.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: I became a fan like others through your work with Bastille. How did that collaboration begin?
BIM AMOAKO: In 2017, I received a call asking if I would be available to sing for a band for a one-off show that was taking place in less than a week. I was told it was going to be a lot of songs but that they needed solid vocalists who could handle that and I fitted the bill. Once I said yes then I received a list of seventeen songs and was told it was Bastille! We got through the baptism of fire that was Union Chapel, I know their back catalogue extremely well and the rest is history! I’ve been working with them ever since and it’s been such a pleasure.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What advice would you give to other young singers out there particularly if they are Black or of color who want to work in music or sing?
BIM AMOAKO: Get to know yourself both as a person and as a musician as well as you can. Knowing what you like, what you are trying to achieve and what you are both willing and unwilling to do to achieve it, will dictate how well you are able to navigate this industry. Having a solid sense of who you are and your self worth – especially if you are Black or a person of colour – insulates you to a certain extent from the inevitable comparison and rejection allowing you to concentrate on being the most excellent version of yourself.
(cont.) Also, learn your craft but be ready to learn the business of music. You will forever struggle if you don’t know how to have a financially sustainable career.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How do you see the music industry coming back from COVID-19 and the pandemic?
BIM AMOAKO: Gradually and still with a focus on technology. Studio sessions have been happening and as long as social distancing is observed and testing is in place, that process can be be relatively unhindered. Livestreams and intimate virtual shows aren’t going anywhere for now but I think the focus will be on who can do it better. We’ve been away from live music so long that I think people want an experience that will transcend the screen and artists will have to figure out how to provide that. The hope is that between advised precautions, vaccinations and testing, gradually shows can get larger and larger.
(cont.) We just pray there will be venues and people left by the time we get there…
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What music has kept you sane during quarantine?
BIM AMOAKO: Oh the list is long and absolutely varies with my mood. Some days call for Paramore and Panic At The Disco, others are all about Lucky Daye, Alex Isley, Nao and Sir.
(cont.) Kaytranada features heavily while Ampiano and Afrobeats stay on rotation always.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: And… last question, Is there anything else you would like to add?
BIM AMOAKO: My first EP is coming out this year but aren’t you bored yet?! :))