Royal: adjective, latin regalis, regis
(…) One who reaches a high level of superiority among their kind; May refer to animal or plant species that stand out through their size or beauty. (…)
And it’s undoubtedly for its beauty that Royal does stand out, with a melodic and emotional quality that is difficult to resist.
Originally, Ayo was going to record an album of covers of her own songs, from „Down on my Knees“ to „Help is Coming“. A few days before the session, she completely changed tack: „I felt I had more to give than just old songs. I didn’t see the point of the record, even though I love my first albums.“ And what she had to offer comes through loud and clear on Royal. Simple melodies that go straight to the heart, a confident tone, a sense of throbbing rhythm. „I sent some new songs and it all came together quite naturally as soon as we started in the studio; it was all very natural and warm.“ On the production side, we find guitarist Freddy Koella, who you may have seen playing with none other than Bob Dylan, or Willy Deville. And behind the microphone, now fully focused on her voice, is Ayo. „I was very much the girl on the guitar, but this time I only use the instrument the track „Fix Me Up“. Although the other songs were composed on the guitar, I wanted to have the physical freedom of not playing while singing. Because my voice is an instrument.”
And it’s a voice she has found, in every sense of the word. Firstly, because at age 39, Ayo has matured. She has lived, she has experienced, stages and studios, happy times as well as sad. The birth of her children brought affirmation of her place in the world, a desire to devote herself entirely to music, as she has understood it since she first began. „It is not becoming a mother that has made me into a woman; it’s letting go of my fears. Before, I was afraid of not being liked. I wanted my work to be appreciated, I was timid, not very confident… Now, I am fully Ayo, and no longer need to be protected. I have more confidence in myself, and it shows in the way I sing.“ It also shows in the enthusiastic inspiration behind songs like the folky „Rest Assured“ and the groovy „Like the Ocean“ – not forgetting „Royal“, a ballad whose acoustic sound reaches out and touches hearts. When she sings, „I’m In Love“, over Jamaican beats, we can’t fail to fall in love too. It’s the same for the declarative „Beautiful“, whose intertwining of strings and percussion make it a captivating anthem of jazzy pop.
Royal is both a new beginning and a homecoming, guided by Ayo’s instinctive faith. „My main inspiration is God“ she explains. But not from a theological point of view. Allah, Yaveh, Buddha, Jah… Whatever his name, he has always been there, before the invention of religions. Light, anything that brings faith and love, is God. That’s what makes us king or queen, that’s what makes us exist.“ What better way to face this sometimes cruel and difficult world? Having lived in New Jersey for the past few years, Ayo has suffered the horrors of Trumpian politics, which wanted to separate her from her children because of visa issues. The last two years have been devoted to sorting out her administrative situation. The result is a record that strives for serenity, that explores the possibility of being whoever you want to be, wherever you come from.
It’s a declaration of love to music, so it’s only natural that Royal has some covers too. And not just any. There’s „Né Quelque Part“, an ode to the universal appeal of Maxime le Forestier, which she presents with a delicate charm. „I was worried about not managing it“ Ayo confesses. But Jean-Philippe Allard and Freddy were convinced that I could take it on, despite my poor French, because it’s a powerful song that reflects me well.“ No doubt! Ayo also reinterprets „Throw it Away“ by jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln, another powerful woman in music, and the iconic Lhasa. „I really discovered her through Freddy, who had worked with her a lot. She was a beautiful person, inside and out, sweet and humble. People need to know more about her… It was very emotional recording ‚Fool’s Gold‘… we felt like she was still living, through her music.“ Somewhere between pure folk and soul, Royal is an album that reconnects Ayo, now stronger than ever before, with her audience. It’s the one she’s been waiting to make for a long time. Us too.
Tickets : https://Ayo.lnk.to/