PRODUCTION PRODIGY

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Likkle Jay has been producing since she was a little girl. (Credit: Likkle Jay)

Likkle Jay has had a passion for production since she was a little girl. Now, at just 23-years-old, she is working hard to pursue her dream job.

Hertfordshire based producer Likkle Jay has been creating and producing music since she was a young girl, her nickname sticking with her. She got into producing, or at the time making simple beats, when she was about nine years old. Her dad taught her how to sequence and use software such as Fruity Loops, sparking a childhood hobby and a passion for making music.

Up until she was 16, Likkle Jay was self-taught, practicing and creating with software at home. She then decided to do a Music Technology course, where she not only improved her composition skills but also learnt how to engineer, working on recording, with live sound and learning how to mix and master.

Likkle Jay is passionate about production because of the creative freedom it allows her. “I love being creative and being able to bring an idea to life from scratch” she says. When asked what inspired her to consider production as a career path, she is not short of answers. “What inspired me is the music I grew up listening to. My biggest inspirations include Timbaland, Michael Jackson and Missy Elliot, to name just a few,” says music lover Jay. She is determined for others to be as passionate about her own music. “I love an artist either because their music is unique, because it makes me want to dance or just because it makes me feel good,” she says “that’s what I want to do with my own music.”

In the Grammys 59-year history, only six women have ever been nominated for the Producer of the Year award. A 2017 survey by the Music Producers Guild in the UK found that only 6% of it’s members were women. The biggest issue is that women who work in technical fields, like production, are not seen or recognized nearly enough. “I think it is very important to encourage and support girls to get into the technical side of music,” Jay says, “so many girls have the talent to do so, they just don’t know how to or have never thought about it, as it is such a male dominated industry.”

However, steps are being taken in the industry to encourage and support young girls who want to produce, as Likkle Jay has experienced this year. “I’ve been to a few music networking events this year where I’ve met so many talented musicians, a lot of which are girls! I’ve been able to work with some of them too which has been great,” she says. One particular project has had a big impact on her career and confidence this year. She was involved in Nexxt Step: Women In Music, a project launched by Radio 1XTRA DJ Sian Anderson, managed by Emma Stephens and with Komali Scott-Jones as A&R. The project, aimed at supporting women of colour in the music industry, brought together a small group of 18-24 year olds to create and release an EP. “The EP we created, Behind Every Great City, which I contributed to production wise has definitely benefited my career,” says Jay “I’ve had my first radio plays and even playlisting on Apple Music and Spotify.”

Likkle Jay is planning to continue working hard next year. “I want to work with a lot of artists and really showcase my production more,” she says. In particular, Jay is excited about an upcoming project with singer-songwriter Josh Kai, saying that “it’s definitely one to look out for”.

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Likkle Jay with the girls involved in Nexxt Step. (Credit: Nexxt Step Press)

Visit soundcloud.com/likklejay and listen to Behind Every Great City on Spotify and Apple Music now.

SOULFUL: AMAHLA

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amahla is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Hackney. (Credit: Almass Badat)

With the release of her debut single and an array of opportunities at her finger tips in her hometown of London, 21-year-old singer-songwriter amahla is making waves in the music world with her soulful sound and poignant lyrics.

Your single Old Soul is very nostalgic and suggests you fell in love with music at a young age. When did you start singing?

I’ve always sung, I was in school choirs and I loved it. I thought I was Rihanna or Leona Lewis or Beyonce. I don’t think anybody thought it’d be a credible route for me to go down though. I always wanted to be a singer but I didn’t know if I was good enough.

When did you start playing guitar?

I actually grew up playing piano, but I was playing classical music which I didn’t like because I couldn’t sing along. I switched to guitar when I was 14. I learnt 4 chords and then tens upon tens of songs. I feel like my guitar has been around more in my journey as a song writer.

How would you describe your sound?

I think soul or adult contemporary are the closest to my sound. I’ve tried very hard to make it succinct! Genres have changed a lot over time, so I don’t feel like I’m R&B anymore. The British adaptation of soul or adult contemporary alludes to early Adele or Amy Winehouse, which I think is more what I’m like.

When did you start writing your own songs?

When I was about eight, I would take songs and change the words so that they’d mean something different. So I guess that was the first time I realised that I wanted to make narrative to fit my own interpretation of the world. I think I was 10 when I started actually writing my own songs, they were very Destiny’s Child Independent Woman-y!

Who are your musical inspirations or influences?

I feel like there’s been phases. When I was a teenager it was people like John Mayer. I was learning guitar so I was into guitar bands like Green Day and Coldplay. However, people like Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Otis Redding trump anyone else. All of those artists had something to say, their lyrics aren’t just throwaway and they all participated in social justice so they influenced me in a more personal way.

You often speak about being inspired by artists who are politically active, both in their music and in a wider sense. Is this something you strive for?

Since I was a child I’ve always wanted to change the world in some way. I was aware of so much injustice. My parents are immigrants and have had their fair share of struggles and, although I’ve been able to grow up fairly privileged, it is something I’ve always wanted to do. I still don’t know how, but by talking about injustice in my music and using it as a way to explain what’s going on in 2018 or even in 2025, that is timeless but contemporary at the same time.

You’ve had some great opportunities to perfect your craft this year, one of them being your Roundhouse Residency, how have they helped you grow as an artist?

I joined the Roundhouse two years ago as part of a music collective made up of 11 young musicians under the age of 25. It was absolutely brilliant and was made up of people playing so many different instruments. I got to write music with a live band and think about what style of music I wanted to do. I was also at University studying Anthropology, so it gave me an outlet that wasn’t academic and was more creative. The Roundhouse has been huge in building up my confidence and skill for sure. I then applied for the residency which lasts for a year. They are really supportive of all of their resident artists, but I feel like because I’ve been able to create a bit of momentum by myself over the last few months, they’ve been able to help me get to that next step.

A very exciting part of your year must have been receiving the PRS Foundation’s Lynsey De Paul Prize?

I was so shocked! I had to do a video application about why I needed the grant at this point in my career. Most of the money is going to be used on studio time. I’m going to use the rest to make a music video, the visual side of my music is something I’m learning to like! It doesn’t feel essential for me because you can’t see music, so why would you want to do all of this other stuff! But obviously we’re living in a visual world.

amahla’s debut single Old Soul is out now on Spotify and Apple Music.