It might sound cliché, but Äyanna always knew she’d be a pop star.
At just four-years-old, she burst into her front room, telling her mum that she’d just learned a new song. “It was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” Äyanna, now 23, says with a laugh, Zooming in from her home in East London.
“Apparently I was riffing and belting it out, and it actually sounded good. Almost every day after that, my mum would ask me to sing, to check it wasn’t a fluke – next thing I knew, I was singing for family members, at weddings, going to theatre school and doing as much extra-curricular music stuff as I could.”
With natural talent and good practice in the bag, Äyanna released her first track Party Tricks in 2019. It set the scene for her ambitions to wrap R&B up into soulful pop music with romance oozing from its centre; in 2022, she featured on Stormzy’s track Hide & Seek, before releasing her debut EP, In A Perfect World, last year. Filled with anthemic love songs, it’s inspired by the artist’s “idealism as a person”.
“I’m detached from the world in a lot of ways – away with the fairies,” Äyanna says. “I’ve always kind of been blissfully unaware, which makes me a very happy-go-lucky person as a result. I think In A Perfect World encapsulates who I am.”
The EP’s five tracks chart Äyanna’s journey through love and coming-of-age. “I don’t wanna control you /We’ve been doin’ everything in my mind /And honey foreplay’s overrated /All that stallin’ you been doing’s enough,” she sings on Girlfriend, against twinkling production and a bassy beat. Then there’s the tongue-in-cheek Good Ex: “You’d make a good ex boyfriend /One I could learn so much from /You’d make a good ex boyfriend /This love affair has run its course.” Äyanna sure knows how to nail a playful pop tune.
“I’m always going to be unapologetically in my own bubble,” she continues. “That’s where my peace and clarity is, and I don’t care if that sounds naive.”
Äyanna’s an artist who’s always followed her own rules. Born in Kingston, Jamaica before relocating to Chingford, East London as a kid, she studied law and Spanish at Bristol University for a year before dropping out. The pull of being a pop star, it turns out, was too strong.
“I knew that uni just wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” she continues.
“Now, I hope people can feel the same sense of whimsy that I have when they listen to my songs. I want them to know it’s okay to be that way, to be in your own mind and have your own ideas about how you want to love and be loved.. That’s all that matters.”
What kind of emotions and experiences influence your music?
Love, relationships and friendships. My music is my perspective on the world. Growing up on the outskirts of London, I don’t see things exactly like my friends did. It’s all about being on the outside looking in.
What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
My dad always used to say this one thing: great heights reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but while everyone else slept, you were toiling through the night. Only it’s way better when he says it.
If you were cooking to impress someone, what would you make?
I hate cooking! But I would go on TikTok and find a recipe that’s fun to make, instead of finding something to impress someone. It’s all about me, really.
You rule the world for a day. What goes down?
I would make a law that says all men have to pay on dates. You’re not even allowed to argue about it. If not, you go to jail. And if you talk about it on Twitter, you have to do community service – cleaning the streets, picking up leaves.
How many selfies are on your phone right now?
Twenty thousand. Seriously. I’ve started taking selfies so much more recently, too. I’m just feeling myself.
Best hangover cure?
I don’t do hangovers. But don’t they say a bacon sandwich? I don’t really like getting drunk, to be honest.
Love, like, hate?
I love receiving gifts, and my friends and family. I like going for long walks in really comfortable shoes. I hate when people try to change you, or try to convince you to think like them. That is such a quick way to repel me in any conversation.
What’s your favourite song of all time?
I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston. That song makes me cry.
What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?
Snacks. I’m obsessed – Haribo, chocolate cake, rice cakes, the little triangle onigiris from Wasabi. Anything.
What can artists do to help save the world?
Just be themselves. Artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Ice Spice, there’s so much authenticity that emanates from them. It encourages and empowers so many people to do the same thing and like themselves. It’s a great domino effect.