Ayoni is such a great, humble talent. A first listen to her material reminded me of a young Angie Stone. Ayoni blends her R&B and Gospel based harmonies beautifully. She knows how to interweave through genres. Her most recent song, “Vision” is a mature sounding R&B tune with guitar licks that make it pop even more. It’s an uplifting dance tune that will be remembered for years to come. AYONI hits the refresh button with this sophomore EP with her style, vocals, and lyrics.
Surviving the Golden Age’s Robert Frezza sat down with the budding star to talk R&B, her roots, and how she is growing with her brand new EP Vision.
Tell me about yourself.
I moved around a lot growing up. When we were living in Miami, my Dad used to be a part of the choir in Church. That was my first introduction into singing, vocals, and harmonies probably at the age of four or five. We used to have an upright piano at our placed in Miami. I always wanted to learn how to play the piano, so I started learning keys at age nine. I kind of started writing at the same time. As I got older, I discovered Adele at the age of twelve, and really propelled me to take it more seriously. When I was in my late teens, I started getting into production and attended University of Southern California to study songwriting.
What album did you love from Adele?
I loved them all. I loved 19 and 21 as they were introductions for me to her music. I used to look up her covers online and watch her Tiny Desk and all her performances. I appreciated all her performances because I appreciated jazz vocalists. I think her albums were coming off the end of jazz approach of vocals. I think her earlier albums were pure. I don’t think her music has been meddled with like how it is today. Obviously, there’s more hands-on deck and more people involved. Her songwriting was unique, and the choices she’s made were interesting.
It was great seeing her evolve.
It was a lovely time. Now you can find early clips and stuff. It was special. I think when you see artists before there’s a demand or awareness of what people resonate within their artistry when they are free to choose, it is a pure time.
You lived in Barbados, Singapore, and Indonesia. What were those experiences like?
They were great and enriching at such a young age being exposed to very different cultures and ways of life. It’s just the things that unite humans. It’s about emotions and human experiences and connect to the people you are meeting or around. It helped me feel grounded in a global community. It’s about building a community as well.
How does your Vision EP differ from 2019’s Irridescent?
I think it’s a lot more mature. My approach was a lot more intense and intentional in terms of creating. I actively felt my restriction in my journey in terms of production. I had a clearer but more whimsical approach with this album and appreciated the journey. I worked out of my home and was comfortable making choices just because I did not work with too many people.
“You Said I Love You Too Soon” is a great song. Was it written from a personal relationship?
Interestingly enough, when I wrote it, it wasn’t about me at all. I had a close friend that was going through a situation that the relationship she was in was moving too fast. I had this idea about not being alone or being in a relationship that doesn’t serve oneself when you don’t feel comfortable being alone.
Your music blends pop, R&B, and even gospel. How important was it to incorporate gospel into your music?
I think it comes through more from my understanding of what music means to me. When I create music, it honors life and makes life the centerpiece. Growing up in the church, it’s about leading people into a divine experience when it comes to music. I try to captivate my audience in a more altered, happy, or peaceful state. I just don’t want to make songs that sound good. I want them to feel heavier or feel real or tangible. You can hear the influence of the church that my favorite artists like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, or Jazmine Sullivan had on their stories.
How long did it take you to write and record the Vision EP?
Some of the songs were written in 2018. We revisited them in the past two years. There were some songs we were steadily working on though. It kind of varies from song to song, but they were created in chronological order.
The visuals to single “Vision” are amazing too.
The “Vision” music video was a really fulfilling experience. Filmed after the release of the EP, translating the sonic ambition of the EP into a visual manifestation was a very healing way to close out this chapter. Filmed around DTLA and in studio, the director, Francisco Cavarrubias, and I wanted to represent the journey to living your dreams. Using fashion, glam, and setting to highlight the beauty of the journey, I hope this video presents this song in a new light.
Do you think R&B is dead?
I think R&B is just branching out to different categories. I don’t think we are going back to the late 90s that R&B had that specific sound that lived in a specific place. It’s always evolving. Black music is always going to be innovative, and it won’t stay in one genre for long. I think when you strip it down it’s Rhythm and Blues, which it’s always at the core.
You also worked with Dirty Projectors?
I worked with them during the pandemic. I had a song out at the time called “Unmoved (A Black Woman Truth)” and it was about growing up as a Black woman. The Dirty Projectors listened to it and was moved by it. The band had this song and didn’t know how to make their song quite work. I did a background arrangement. It came out as a feel good record and it was a great collaboration.