Pop-R&B fusion artist Äyanna has recently cultivated a fanbase at a rapid pace with her sweet melodies and captivating lyricism. From becoming LVRN’s first UK signee to immaculately rolling out and releasing her first EP, In A Perfect World, Äyanna’s talent and success has no limits. GUAP caught up with the popstar post-EP release.

Kat: Talk us through In A Perfect World, what was the inspiration and how did you create the concept behind the rollout?

The way that the title for the EP was selected is that my marketing manager, Taylor, she had been working with me whilst we were doing the visuals and doing photo shoots and picking the setlist for the songs. She just randomly said to me, when we were trying to work out what the title for the EP was, “Oh, I think you should call it In A Perfect World because those some lyrics in your song.” In my song ‘Say You Love Me’, I say “In a perfect world, you would speak your truth,” and so she was like, “It really epitomizes who you are as a person, you’re really idealistic, you’re in your own little world. We should call it that,” and I think by that point the project was already a TV theme and it was already so whimsical, so it just made perfect sense to call it that, but I think the theme of the project as a whole just stems from my idealistic mindset, personality, my perspective on the world and so everything that happened in terms of the title, the visuals – it was all just a reflection of that.

Kat: Especially during the In A Perfect World rollout, but also overall as an artist I feel like your branding and aesthetic is so clear and consistent. What inspired the vision for how you wanted the world to see you as an artist and how did you execute that?

I feel like it just starts with clarity [and] knowing who you are. Knowing your music, knowing what you want to say. I think that’s the only thing I can really think back to, because like I said, when Taylor suggested that we call it In A Perfect World, it was based on some lyrics that I’ve written in a song. In order for her to have picked up on that, those lyrics had to be there in the first place. When it comes to just myself and my motivations and my trajectory, I just have such a clear idea on how I want to be seen, how I want to present myself. Before I even got signed to LVRN, I gave the label a presentation on my brand and the things that I want to be associated with and who I am and what I stand for. I think having that clarity made it so easy to go and create visuals. It made it easy to pull songs together and tell a story because it was very clear from the beginning. 

Kat: Take me back to the day you signed with LVRN as an artist, how did it feel to become a part of such a substantial R&B label that’s home to some of R&B’s hottest artists.

A lot of people ask me “How does it feel to be the first UK signing?” And honestly, I didn’t really even realize that when I was getting signed or when I was negotiating with them that I was their first, I didn’t think about that aspect. Honestly, I was so honoured and excited to be a part of a label that was home to 6LACK, Summer Walker, Baby Tate – I was really just excited about being able to be a part of that legacy. I think it’s the perfect place for me to be, especially because I see myself wanting to accomplish things that haven’t been accomplished yet, and I feel like LVRN are also interested in trendsetting and pioneering in R&B and in the music industry in general. It was an absolute blessing, a dream come true and a prayer answered, 100%.

Photography by Guled Hassan

Kat: How did you coin ‘Cuiii’ and could you explain what it means?

“Cuii” is a lifestyle, it’s a perspective, it’s a set of values. It’s a stylized abbreviation of the words “cute” and “innocent”, because I feel like those words perfectly encompass how I look at the world, how I see people around me. Looking at things at face value and seeing the best in people [and] in the world. And also just kind of being in my own little bubble – so being carefree, quite detached because there’s just so much going on in the world nowadays, especially with social media – it’s really important to create your own bubble and just live in that world. I just called that my “Cuii” world – just being cute and innocent, not really being too bothered by anything that doesn’t feel good to focus on, just not focusing on it, focusing on something else and with that ideology comes an aesthetic, a set of values. I made it up with a friend actually, one day we were having a chat and I was like, “I feel so cute and innocent today,” and she started laughing – we were texting each other and she was just like, “LOL, why do I know exactly what you mean?” It started off a little bit ironic at first, but she knew what I meant. We made the word “Cuii” just to use whenever we feel that way. Whenever you’re feeling yourself, you’re happy, you’re in your element – nothing really can take you out of that space.

Kat: I love how you fuse pop and R&B, who are your pop influences and who are your R&B influences?

I have loads of pop influences – Michael Jackson, The Bee Gees, TOTO, Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Ariana Grande – there are so many more that I can’t think of right now. Rihanna’s a huge pop influence but I guess she’s also R&B in a way. My R&B [and] soul influences [are] Destiny’s Child, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Ledisi, Sade aswell – she’s more neo-soul, jazz vibes, but yeah I would put her in the R&B category. Beyonce, of course. I love that there are new pop icons every day. I think Doja Cat is a huge inspiration to me and I see her as a pop icon as well.

Kat: I know that you dropped out of law school to pursue music, is there any advice you would give to anyone considering the same?

I definitely don’t want to tell anyone to drop out of uni, I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s lives like that,  but I would say if you have a strong urge to pursue a passion, pursue it, however it feels like it makes sense. Some people complete their degrees and still go on to do something completely different with the rest of their lives. Some people don’t even consider university and go straight into their dreams, after college or after sixth form. Some people’s dream is to go to uni, but I just feel like if you have any kind of passion that exists inside of you – even if you’ve never told anyone about it – if it’s something that you care about, something that keeps you up at night, something that you think about in the morning – definitely pursue that because honestly, you don’t want to live with the regret of not doing that in your younger years, so I would definitely tell people to pursue their passion.

Kat: How did it feel to get a co-sign from Stormzy and what was it like working on lead single ‘Hide and Seek’?

It’s still so surreal. Every now and then I think about that and I’m like, “Did that really happen?” And because I kind of knew one of the main producers who was like doing his album, it happened in a very gradual, slow way. It started off with him just asking me to lay down some demo vocals. I’d been doing songwriting and things like that up until that point, [so] I was very familiar and comfortable just doing demos and nothing happening. I was really happy to be able to do that, I was like, “This is cool and exciting,” but that was it.Then a few months later, I got a call from PRGRSHN, the producer, and he was like, “Stormzy heard your ad-libs and he wants to keep you on the album, so can you write this singing part to Hide and Seek and send it back?” I was like “What are you even telling me?”

  Then when it came out, I hadn’t met Stormzy up until that point, or maybe just before or something, I hadn’t met him. And then I met him – I literally just bumped into him at an event, it was the premiere for a movie and he just happened to be at the after-party and so the producer was there, PRGRSHN, and so he introduced us and I spoke to him and he was just like, “Bro, you’re brazy. Your music is so sick.” I was looking up at him and I was like, “Is this really happening?”  It was very much a “pinch me” moment and I’m very grateful to have been a part of his project and I hope to work with him again. I hope that he comes and does something on one of my songs one day.

Kat: I would love to hear that. I think that would sound really good. What your writing process is like?

I think everything I write is always based on something true, some kind of personal lived experience. Something that I’ve witnessed or something I myself have been through. Other than that, a song could start in my bedroom – it could just be a hook that’s in my head with no music and I’ll record it on my voice notes. That’s how I wrote ‘Party Tricks’ [and] ‘Good Ex’. Or it could be a melody from a dream, that’s how I wrote ‘Water’ – it can happen so many different ways. It just depends, sometimes hearing music can be the trigger, or a conversation [or] a phrase. It happens so many different ways.

Kat: You’ve blown up recently, how have you found the response as a pop star? 

It’s quite interesting because – this happened to me the other day – I was just with my friends. We were driving from Vegas to LA. We were talking in the car and then I looked at my phone and then I just had 2,000 followers extra on my Instagram page. And I was like “What is happening? What’s going on?” I found out that some of my singing videos had been posted on Spiritual Word, which has a few million followers. That happens more now, sometimes random videos go viral and things like that. I’m just appreciative of the people that find my page and follow and interact with me and comment. Sometimes, it can feel a bit surreal when I see big numbers – like if my EP does numbers or something, because I found out it has over 2 million streams already. Things like that [are] a little bit [of a] “pinch me” moment. I’m more just excited and grateful, really excited for 2024 as well. 

Kat: What’s next for you?

Every day I just say to God, “I’m ready for whatever you have to give me – whatever it is that feels necessary to come, I’m ready to receive it.” I asked for some things – like more live performances, more music to be released – and then I just put it down. I’m so excited for next year. There’ll be more music, of course [and] more performances.

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Kat Friar