NAILAH BLACKMAN and her management team had a three-year plan. Most of what she set out to accomplish has been achieved within that timeframe.
The singer/songwriter/soca artiste wants to take her career to the next level. Part of that three-year plan is the release of an EP (Extended Play) record which showcases her musical versatility and seeks to establish her on the international stage.
The EP, the Reel will be released on Friday.
Her manager and producer
Anson Soverall said in WhatsApp responses to Newsday that the name is a (near) homonym – reel/real – playing on the fact that “the music industry is like a movie," and Blackman "has many different roles and is trying to find her true musical self within the musical chaos.”
In a phone interview, Blackman said she started working on her first EP at 17, before she began making soca music.
“Before doing soca music, I was doing pop music. It was very alternative but still folksy. That was my main form of music, which was my core. But everybody knows me for soca music,” she said.
When she sang Workout with Kes the Band, her musical career took off.
But the longing to an LP or EP remained.
When Blackman began singing soca, Soverall devised the three-year plan to make her a household name in TT in the first year; in the second, to gain a reputation in the Caribbean and the diaspora; and in the third, to become more known to international markets.
Last year, her nomination for a Black Entertainment Television (BET) award in the best new international act category came before it was expected. It gave Blackman and her team “a lot more encouragement and inspiration to do international music.”
So immediately after Carnival, Blackman and her team went to a writing camp in Miami for two weeks.
“Out in Miami, there were writers and producers from all over the world and we brought them all together to make music to put on this EP...at first it was going to be an album, a whole LP, which would have been 14 to 15 tracks.
“After the workload came upon us, with the tour schedule and everything else that we were doing, we were like, ‘Wow.’ I said I felt we should do this the right way and start off with an EP, seeing as I am a brand-new artiste to this market.”
At the writing camp, Blackman and her team crafted 54 songs, but eventually only recorded 16, at Miami’s Circle House Studios.
After that, Blackman further narrowed them down to the seven on the EP. The choice was made with two questions in mind: “Who am I as an artiste? Who am I as a person?”
Blackman described the EP as being multi-genre, ranging from R&B to Brazilian funk. Her favourite song is called No Barbie, one she wrote at 15. There was “a little bit of a struggle” choosing a single, but eventually it became Sweet and Loco.
Another song featured on the EP is Kill, which she wrote at around 17/18. The production began with Johann Seaton from Ultimate Rejects but was completed by Soverall.
Before making the EP Blackman polled her fans via social media to get their views on branching out from strictly soca and the response was largely positive.
“There was no one that said, 'No, you should just be a soca artiste.' And I get a fair amount of hate in my comments on social media and there was none saying no to that.”
Blackman is also travelling a lot this year performing in countries such as Japan, Switzerland, Norway and France. She will be performing at the Soca Swiss festival in Switzerland, Soca in Japan and a music festival in Norway.
While many international record labels have come knocking at her door, she wants to be "locked into the right deal.” Blackman said as she and her management team have a plan for her career, she does not want to align with anyone who does not fit with that plan.
While not everyone can get a record deal, she said, one is available to most artistes who are doing big things or good music.
“The right record deal with the right amount of finances with the right people in the right situation is one of the most important things. A record deal can come and go, but if it is the wrong one, then you can really be putting a shelf life on your career...”
So she and her team are keeping their feelers out for the right record label.
On the EP, she has a collaboration with rapper Trinidad James but all the other songs are solo, as she wants the world to focus on her. She hopes the EP will doors to new people and markets.
“This EP is to start the conversation that, ‘Hey, I am an artiste doing world music,’ whether it be pop music, R&B, soca or dancehall. I am a world artiste and I can do anything.”
The EP will be available on all major streaming platforms including iTunes, TIDAL, Apple Music and Spotify.