After listening to the ‘Black Alliance’ EP released by Warner Music, we had the chance to sit down with Ethiopian-born Toronto-based singer, Andyé. The project was released back in February to honor Black History Month. The Black Alliance EP paid homage to black musical legends by having Warner’s younger artists perform their own rendition of their songs, including the charismatic Andyé. Renditions included music from icons such as Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Sam Cooke, and more.
With his own version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In the Mirror’ featured on the collaborative EP, Andyé performs the song with his own touch, delivering an all-out soulful rendition. The Black Alliance alumni talks to us about why he chose MJ’s legendary track and what it meant to him performing it. Read the interview with Andyé and stream the Black Alliance EP below:
XMPL: How did you get involved in this project and the whole ‘Black Alliance’ EP?
Andyé: This opportunity came from one of my managers. It was just a normal day. He’s like, “Hey, I want you to be involved with this one opportunity for the culture and everything, just for what’s going on right now,” and I was like, what is it about? You know, I just wanted to ask. Then they’re like, he’s got to get a song from the old times that talks about change, and what’s happening. And honestly, Michael Jackson, first thing! First thing, because it was the best thing to hear, and you know it was Michael Jackson! So it’s intimidating but, you could do the best you can right. I felt like what that song meant to me, it was perfect for what’s going on right now. The whole point of this was just to educate more people. So you know, so we get a push for change, if anything.
Bringing on the next question, knowing that you picked the song it makes the shoes a little bit bigger to fill. ‘Man in the Mirror’ was definitely a strong song, even with the problems highlighted in it’s music video. We still face some of those problems today. What kind of mindset do you take when going into a song like this? What expectations do you have of yourself covering Michael?
I’ll tell you a little story about it. So me and my mom were just watching the video a couple weeks ago. If you don’t know, I’m born in Ethiopia. So when I saw the video, I saw this in real life, you know? So obviously, you get emotional watching it, watching the video, because you could relate to it and everything. And I just felt like, on a legacy point, I’m just trying to be great, and I’m trying to be the greatest of all time. So why not go for the greatest of all time? They go hand in hand. On one hand I relate to but at the same time, I’m trying to show that I could do something that feels unreachable.
How do you perceive that message today and how does it compare to the message he tried to deliver when he released it?
You can just listen to the lyrics and it hits when you hear it. It talks about just looking at yourself, and what can I do better, to inspire other people, to educate other people, you know? That’s what I’m going for. I realized with this movement and what we’re doing with Black Alliance, it made me more positive actually. Right now I’m actually just telling people to be more positive, you know? It’s kind of weird to say, but it’s like, that’s what I’m striving for. I know because of the Black Alliance.
How do you go into a cover, without taking anything away from the original song? How do you deliver a different perspective without over saturating the song with an over the top performance?
I mean, that comes with just confidence of what you are as an artist. As an artist, you just need confidence, I’m gonna learn more, I’m gonna get better soon, but yeah. I was talking to my dad. He’s like, I saw that you did in your own way because in his it’s different, in his punch here, you know? We’re like, I’m gonna make a change. Like it’s more smoother. I just did it in my own way.
Me doing this song, there might be some kid that never heard the Michael Jackson version, you know? They might think “This song is dope, look at the message he’s tryna send.’ The whole point here, whether it’s Michael Jackson, or all the artists on Black Alliance is just to inspire other people to better themselves.
As a younger artist you notice that Michael Jackson influenced you to choose his song, you’re generations apart. What kind of motivation do you take from that and try to put into your music to influence future generations?
That’s the whole plan, even when I was a kid. I see how Michael Jackson inspired me and now there’s a whole lot of kids that need to be inspired. Just because of this one dream and this God given gift. It made me just distance myself from distractions in life, and just focus on my family and my music.
Is there anything you can take away from this cover and the process of making it that you will add in your music?
Alot! When I found out I was doing that cover, I was studying him for like 2-3 weeks. Searched up his interviews, searched up his life. I’m a big Michael Jackson fan but I didn’t know I could even be more of a fan. There is so much more to learn, not even just him as a person but what he did with music and bringing back that back to my sound. Now it made me think more about quality of music.
What was the experience like working with everybody, how was the atmosphere and were there any sounds you had to change?
Initially from the song, when I did ‘Man In The Mirror’, I’m not going to lie to you, it was probably one of the easiest songs I’ve ever recorded. Just because the beat was my way, I didn’t have to make those punchy sounds. Video wise, that was my first time doing a big production video and you’re gonna see I’m dancing, but behind the camera there’s a bunch of people staring at you. They kept telling me to keep dancing and that fueled me, when they gave me positive vibes and made me say go rock it. If you look at the reaction of people and they loved it, that’s the whole point, I did my thing. The other artists also did their thing!
Did you get a chance to talk to the other artists and discuss this project?
Not at the beginning but we did talk to each other saying like, “dope track, love what you did”.
This project was made to celebrate Black History month, seeing all the social justice movements this year, how do you view everything that’s going on?
I can see initially it was worse, but I can see us moving towards a positive road, we’re trying to get better. You know what, because of the Black Alliance and what Warner did, we need to do more of this. We need to educate more people. Even me, I learned more about my history because of this opportunity. As long as we keep going down a positive road I can see it getting better.
In regards to the Black Alliance movement what do you see in the future for this project? Will it continue with a part 2?
Warner has good eyes and good ears. I’m confident they will pick great artists to do what we did and do better. It’s not a competition here, it’s just to inspire other people.
In 2020 you had your track ‘On My Way’ which was a little bit more upbeat compared to this project. Can you tell us a little bit about this project?
Look I got a whole plan in my head. I want to start off with the vibey tracks, get the ladies involved. Get all the people to look at me as the new kid. Definitely want to go into pop, I have pop records I’ve been working on. At the end I want to make Michael Jackson music, that is world music, Timeless music basically. In regards to ‘On My Way’ It’s just a good record. You can listen to it driving your car, you can have your girls, your friends with you, it doesn’t matter it’s just a smile good feel, good type song.
Can we expect any projects or albums in 2021?
Oh my God, yes! I’m trying to drop two songs and a whole tape. You know what I’m trying to bring R&B to Toronto. This is the headline, Black Alliance – Andyé is bringing R&B to Toronto. There’s no R&B headliners because I know The Weeknd and all of them left, but we just need artists to come up with melodic R&B sounds.
Can you name some R&B artists that are just timeless to you? Top 5.
This one I can give you a Top 5, I won’t mess up on this one. Chris Brown number 1, no doubt. Usher, Trey Songz, Boys II Men. I want to go Jodeci or New Edition.
Can you recap the whole project in hindsight and what it feels like now.
Going into it was like, ‘I never heard of this before’, I’ve never seen anything like this. I never questioned it but I was just interested to know what they were going to do with it. Overall it built my confidence as an artist, it hit more people, I love it. Basically I love it.
If you could leave this interview with a message your listeners, current or future listeners what would it be?