Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Northern-Irish-Ghanaian artist Winnie Ama. Together we discussed their influences, their involvement with Why Not Her?, their newest single “Don’t Worry”, and so much more!

1. Mustard is thankful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you? 

I’m good thanks, I’m really happy to join you at Music Shelf! Thank YOU so much for having me.

2. What relationship did you have with Music growing up? Did you have a favorite song or album?

I LOVED Stevie Wonder, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, The Spice Girls and Ricky Martin. On Saturdays we would put on some vinyl and take all the cushions off the sofa and dance around to Islands in the Stream as the first song and then dance all day. We didn’t have a TV because my mum said it made kids lazy so we listened to a lot of music and audiobooks. My first two albums were Elvis’ greatest hit and Ricky Martin’s self titled album. I also was obsessed with musicals. Joseph and his Technicoloured coat in particular. I would put on mini musicals for my mum in the living room and she was incredibly patient, she even sewed us costumes so we looked like the actors, and we would dance around with all the kids from the street casted and directed by me in our mini show, definitely being very loud and wild. 

3. Your writing style is inspired by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder. How have these artists influenced you? What deep cuts of theirs would you recommend humans listen too?

Ella’s greatest gifts were her perfect pure tone, her commitment to detail, her unshakable work ethic and dedication to success for not only herself, but for her community. She knew that she was a trailblazer, not only musically, but an inspiration for others like her who had little to no privilege in society. Nina Simone’s biggest asset was her honesty, she used every part of herself in her performances and wasn’t afraid to be real. Her honesty was the root of her creativity and that’s what makes her so captivating to watch and listen to. Stevie Wonder’s music is magic, so clever, the lyrics, the melodies and the intention are all top class.

4. You originally began writing poetry. Do you have a favorite poet? What kind of poetry did you write? How did you transition from poetry to songwriting? 

Fav poets: Maya Angelou and Seamus Heaney. I wrote mostly observation poetry. I met a producer called Val Lopes at a conference and he explained the theory of songwriting and I realised that it’s similar to poetry so I thought I’d try it, and I liked it. I found that people are much more open to listening to songs and music rather than reading or listening to a poem. So it became a more efficient way to express myself in a way that I could find listeners for my thoughts.

5. While you were writing poetry did you ever take part in any poetry slams? Would you say there is a difference between performing music and spoken word?

I never performed my poems live, I only ever wrote them and only a handful of people have seen them. So it’s more like a diary in poetry, the songs started out the same way too. I had 8 people I would share my poems with, but then they started to share them, so I did too.

6. Who (or what) influences you?

Conversations or emotions usually. Normally the tense or high energy emotions that make you wanna talk about something again and again.

7. Besides being a musician you are also the lead data analyst for Why Not Her? Could you share more about Why Not Her? 

Why Not Her is an activist group campaigning for equality for women and minority groups to be represented in the music industry, in particular on the airwaves. We analyse which songs are played on the radio, who performs them and who writes them, to see if there are any demographic trends. The main trend is an 80/20 split Male/Female or Other non-male artists as the most played artists on UK and Irish radio. We have been in discussions with Ministers and Politicians about policy change across the broadcasting industry that will charter a new course on Diversity, Inclusion and Equality. Here’s a summary from our latest UK report:

  • UK solo male music artists are present in the Top 100 x3 more than solo female music artists.
  • Including solo gender performances and gender collaboration performances – UK male music artists are present in 80% of all Top 100 singles, female music artists are  present in 60% of all Top 100 singles.
  • When UK artists collaborate with International artists in the Top 100, male music artists are present 94% of the time, female music artists are present in 56% of the time.
  • UK, white-only music artists/groups are represented x10 more than POC-only artists/groups.
  • Overall, among UK & International entries, solo male artists present twice as much as solo female artists in the Top 100.

8. You were named as “One to Watch” by BBC Introducing 2022 while also featured apart of their “Best song in the world.” How does their support make you feel? Do you have a favorite BBC program?

It’s really surreal to have the support of the BBC. I am so grateful and so excited to have the opportunity to express my creativity on the biggest UK platform for new music with BBC Introducing and in Northern Ireland on BBC Radio Ulster – Across the Line. It’s a huge honour to be part of the Introducing programme. The national BBC Introducing show has always been my favourite show to watch and listen to artists at the beginning of their careers. 

9. Your music has been featured multiple times on MusicWeek UK Club Charts. Can you recall the first time you charted? 

I’ll never forget my first appearance in the MusicWeek UK Club Charts, my first song ‘I Swear’ reached number 7 which felt wild. I was in Ghana visiting my extended family for the first time and I told all my family and friends, they definitely thought ‘that’s it – she’s famous now’. Hahaha! Of course, success in the music industry is a marathon, not a sprint, so I enjoyed celebrating with them and marking the occasion but I was, and am still aware that success is one that requires time and deep foundations. 

10. Could you share more about what it was like opening for Macy Gray? How did that come together?

I made friends with one of the promoters who was managing one of the support acts for Macy Gray – Toshin. Toshin couldn’t make one of the shows because she was off to Paris for a music residency. So they asked if I was interested. I was standing in a field at a songwriting camp and the sun was setting on a hill. That moment – being asked was very surreal. Macy Gray is an original superstar. She let me interview her for my radio show. She was my very first interviewee. 

11. In 2020 you released “What We Are.” What was the inspiration behind this single?

It’s about questioning society and the people you surround yourself with, when you realise that what you thought the average people believed is further away from your original thoughts.  It’s about realising that sometimes differences in opinions are too wide and too vast to comprehend. It’s also about when you have to spend time with those people even though you don’t really want to because you think whatever they believe is too outrageous or grating to be around. 

12. Your newest single “Don’t Worry” is about following your dreams and living in the moment. In our Information Age, what advice would you give to those who may struggle living in the moment? How can a human step away from their devices?

I think it’s good to remember that all we ever have is the moment that we’re in. We don’t have anything else, even our memories are projections in a current moment of a time passed, but still the present is the only thing that makes the past real for us in that moment. The future may or may not arrive and the past only has the power we give it in the moment we’re in. So truly the moment that exists is all we really ever have tangibly, so it makes sense to make the most of every moment you’re in when you have the awareness of that moment. I think that happiness is found in current moments, not longing, not pining, in the present. When I feel tethered to my phone or feel like I’m wishing away time, sometimes I stop and focus on my fingertips, the weight on my feet, the breeze in the air and I try to absorb everything around me. In that moment one can often conjure happiness from nothing in the beauty of the small things with awareness of the present. 

13. A human gets invited to a Winnie Ama show. What kind of show can they expect?

  • Different moods and musical styles – happiness, love, existential questions in my lyrics, disco, rnb, soul.
  • Colourful outfits
  • Dancing
  • Good people with good vibes 
  • Original music – including both released and unreleased

14. What’s next for Winnie Ama?

2023 has so many great things in the pipeline – I’ll be on my US debut with a mini-tour and releasing my EP.

15. Where can readers listen to your music?

On Youtube, Spotify and all other streaming plaforms! Here’s the link for ‘Don’t Worry’.


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