Some have already spent years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment - others have barely left their bedroom studios. Some aim for headlining festival stages, others aim for nothing in particular – but all of them have developed a sound with the potential to turn a lot of heads. With this feature we shine a light on some of the most interesting emerging new talents our tiny country has to offer.
It’s unlikely you have heard much about the Antwerp-based vocalist who goes by the name of WAYI; but that’s about to change soon. This woman is more than blessed with a silky smooth and versatile voice and a healthy desire to make it in the big league without coming across too pushy: two obvious, but nonetheless underestimated qualities for artists in this world that’s oversaturated with new music coming from all directions. The simplest way we could describe her vibe would be if Jhene Aiko and Solange had a baby that was raised in a world of electronic music and hip hop. With only a debut single, ‘The Way I Am’, and two guest appearances on tracks from TheColorGrey and K1D so far, she hasn’t made any big moves just yet – but with a debut EP on the horizon, it’s clear her untapped potential is about to pay off real soon.
Hi WAYI, what’s your story so far?
"I’m the basic girl next door who grew up in Antwerp and who used to daydream in school about having a music career. I started singing in the school choir when I was about 12 years old. After class, I loved imitating the likes of Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Keyshia Cole and Beyoncé. A few years later, I began to put song covers online and eventually, my sister joined the fun. As soon as I graduated from university, I started gradually focusing on my music, starting out by posting snippets of me singing on my Instagram. At just the right moment, I got an email from the Weird !s Good Music record label and we immediately started working on my first single ‘The Way I Am’, which has come out not too long ago."
The school choir bit is pretty interesting! What’s the most important lesson you have learned from those days?
"The fact that it’s utterly important to warm up your voice beforehand! Over there, I also learned not to just sing a song, but to really feel it too. If you don’t feel it as the performer, then no one will!"
What are your most cherished qualities as an artist?
"I don’t always find the right words to talk about my feelings, so being able to express myself through my music is a quality I definitely cherish. It makes it all easier to tell people how I feel. All that, plus my voice of course!"
Are there Belgian artists that you look up to for inspiration?
"Stromae is my number one favourite Belgian artist I look up to for inspiration! He is extremely creative; he even gives me goosebumps when I watch his live shows on my phone or laptop. As if I was there with him in the venue! He’s also an artist that really thinks about his lyrics; his words are layered, but he produces them fun and easy to listen to. Another (non-Belgian) example of this is Amy Winehouse: ‘Rehab’ was about a very dark period in her life, but the song remained really ‘fun’ to sing along with."
You were featured on tracks from TheColorGrey and K1D already. How did that come about? Any further collaborations in the pipeline?
"Belgium is a small country - and the music scene is even smaller! I met K1D a few years ago somewhere at the studio of a mutual friend. After we started chatting, we both realized we were singing ourselves; and so it started. One day, he asked to record some vocals for ‘Delorean Dreams’ and I was instantly vibing on that song, so that went extremely smooth. I know TheColorGrey because he actually lived near me; and also went to the same school as me. I was in his studio one day with a friend when he asked me to sing the bridge on his track. That very same day we recorded ‘Clear Blue Skies’ in a single take! That’s really extraordinary. As far as the next collab goes, I don’t really have a plan yet, but I’ll definitely let you guys know when it happens!"
So which steps will you take now? What’s next?
"I’ve been working on my debut EP which will consist of five original tracks. All of them are written by myself; and they’re all produced by James Lowland (who also produces for Amery, amongst many others, ed.). Once my EP is finished, I will focus on my live performances. Although that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing any new songs. I’m already eyeing my next project after that, which might even be a debut album, who knows!"