Iva’s in hot demand
Iva Lamkum turned teenage angst into a fledgling songwriting career that’s ready to fly. By Kimberley Rothwell.
LISTEN to Iva Lamkum’s new CD and you’d expect a diva; you’d expect lashings of eye makeup and immaculately coiffed hair, perhaps a manager or PR person in tow. What you wouldn’t expect is Iva (pronounced to rhyme with diva), the 22-year-old singer and songwriter, to be at the cafe early, straight after finishing work for the day as a receptionist.
You’d expect a diva because, listening to her debut self-titled EP (extended play CD), you would think she was one. Her voice is huge and rich and deep. She’s been favourably compared to Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse. She writes her own material, plays guitar and drums, and sang with Wellington artists for about five years before recording her own EP.
‘‘I got into music when I had just left school. At the age of nine, that’s when I knew I could sing because one of my teachers used to nag me about it. She said ‘You have to go sing, you’re good at it’.’’
Iva’s in hot demand at the moment, even fitting in an interview on Radio New Zealand National during her lunchbreak.
The past two months have been crazy, she says, promoting the EP, performing at night and holding down a day job. ‘‘It’s been a long day,’’ she sighs.
Though the music world is awash in young female singer songwriters, Iva says there’s no one really doing what she does right now.
‘‘We all have something to talk about. The only thing we have in common is that we have our own personal experiences.
‘‘I like to call my sound ‘street soul’. I was pretty much born and raised in the city, I just live 10 minutes up the road from Cuba St. Being surrounded by a lot of people and going to different places all the time, I kind of feed off that energy. It inspires me in my lyrics, I like that city talk language.’’
It may seem that, armed with such a voice, a career in music was a given for Iva from a young age. But it was almost accidental.
‘‘After school, I went to study business and did a short course in music composing. It was just something to do with my spare time, I wasn’t serious about it. I started jamming with bands and got paid for that. Because music was a hobby, I just did it for the fun of it.
‘‘ I did gigs for different people and people were interested in my musical background. It dragged me into different contacts and then suddenly I was doing solo gigs.’’
Some of the six songs on the EP were written when Iva was just out of school, and they’re very personal, she says. Growing up in a Samoan Methodist household with her mother, two sisters, four brothers and an aunty, she rebelled against what she says was a strict upbringing. Writing about it, she realised she could turn her stories into songs.
‘‘I had to be home at a certain curfew, I couldn’t do this or that, I was missing out on a lot of stuff. I did some sneaking out, got in with some bad people, you know. I was going through a lot of stuff; those teenage years you don’t really know what’s right or wrong. The whole teenage experience, being told no to this, no to that, I struggled with that, I didn’t know who to talk to about it. So I just started writing it down. And all of a sudden I was writing heaps of pages of gibberish, and that’s when they just turned into songs.’’
The first track on the EP, Kung Fu Grip, is about that time of her life. ‘‘You had to go to church in a skirt, and I’m so uncomfortable in skirts! I always wore trousers or jeans. I would get told off for that. I was judged by others, because I didn’t like dressing up. In the song I’m saying don’t judge me for that.’’
Having had such a hard time growing up under her family’s thumb, Iva says her mother is now her biggest fan, showing up at every one of her gigs.
‘‘In the first place she wanted me to get a real job, she didn’t want me to do music. But she saw I was working hard at it, and now she’s very supportive. She knows I’m old enough to make my own decisions. She saw my development and knew that I was becoming mature and making decisions on my own. She’ll try and leave work early to come to my gigs, even if it means missing out on eight hours’ pay.’’
Next month Iva takes her band on tour around the North Island, performing in Rotorua, Black Barn Vineyard in Hawke’s Bay, Auckland and Raglan. There’s also work on a track for Sola Rosa’s next album, to be released at the end of the year, and a music video for Kung Fu Grip to be shot.
It will mean taking an even longer lunchbreak than usual: ‘‘I have to take leave from work. I’ve explained to them that, look, music comes first. They’re cool with that.’’ – The Dominion Post