Imani Hutton is a singer/songwriter/drummer from Maryland. Her passion for making music has led her to create her debut album Go The Right Way. Tomatrax caught up with Imani to talk about her music.

You have just released your debut album, what’s it like to have it out?

Having an album out is a great feeling: very fulfilling. To know that I put so much time and passion into something and seeing it as a finished product that people actually like is such a humbling experience.

You cover a wide range of styles across your album, was it your intention to have a varied album?

It was and wasn’t my intention to have a varied album. It was intentional in the fact that I always try to stay true to who I am and who I am is a musician with a wide range of “favorites.” So naturally, the songs that I write are going to reflect my favorites. It was not intentional in the fact that I didn’t purposely decide to write genre specific music. It honestly sort of just poured out of me.

There are quite a few guests on the album, was it hard to round them all up?

The guests on my album are all friends and family. So getting them to participate was as much of a pleasure for them as it was for me when they all happily agreed to play a part in my project. I’m blessed to have such talented people who are only a phone call or text message away.

You’ve described your album as a “5-year long conversation with God”, does that mean the album took 5 years to make?

Yes! This album did take 5 years to make. However, it didn’t start off as “an album.” My first experience recording a song that I’d written was when I recorded “Can’t Help Myself.” I wrote that song simply because God gave me the thought to write it. I had no idea, then, that I would be making an entire album and that it would take 5 years. The idea of an album became more developed as I wrote more songs.

You cover some thought provoking and confronting themes in some of the songs, where do you get the inspiration for the lyrics?

The inspiration for the lyrics to my songs came directly from the experiences I’ve had over the years. “Out to You” is a real life story of me trying to fix my own problems instead of asking God for help. “I’m Grateful” came directly from thinking about all of the things I’m actually grateful for. All I know is what I’ve lived and I try to explain what I’ve learned from my experiences in my lyrics.

You keep a blog of your thoughts behind your music, is it hard to have something so personal up for everyone to see?

Great question! It isn’t as hard having that personal information available to the public as you’d think. The way I see it, my blog is a way for people (especially those in my age bracket) to relate to me and to each other. All people really want is to know they’re not alone. So, what I’ve done with my blog is explain that everyone is trying to figure “life” out the best way they know how. My music and my blog are my ways of saying “Hey! I’m struggling with you. We’re in this together. Let’s help each other.” I share my story to give people a positive boost to keep going even though life knocks them down. Getting back up is easier when you know someone in a relatively equally bad situation can be positive. Hopefully sharing my experiences will lead to active communication between perspectives among my peers and listeners.

On one blog post you wrote “Of all the lessons, though, I feel the most important has been realizing that I’m credible. My music is going to be everything I hope for it to be.” Did you have doubts about what your music would be?

I’ve never had doubts about the messages my music holds. I believe they’re relevant to today’s world and I’d support the message 100% even if it didn’t stem from my own mind. Unfortunately when a person has a vision, though, it sometimes takes a bit of convincing for others to get on board. I’ve been blessed with a great team that believes in my vision as much as I do. But as a new artist, there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to credibility. I know that it’s going to take time to build a fan base. And I’m sure I’ll run into people who don’t see my vision as I see it. I can’t let that sway what I believe. I have to stay firm in the belief of my project because I’m the only one who can accurately share my experiences and I believe those experiences are worth sharing.

Your blog also mentions a number of dark periods in your life, how did you get through these?

FAITH. The only way to survive any dark period is to believe that it won’t last forever. Faith kept me strong. Faith kept me sane. Faith saved my life. Without it, I’m sure I’d be in a deep depression right now. My faith was anchored by focusing on what and who I believe in. In turn, my dark periods seem brighter and now, I’m able to maneuver through them with an overall positive outlook.

Your facebook bio says that you felt that music needed to mirror life and address the fact that there will be heartaches and disappointments. Do you feel that this is missing in music today?

YES! I really do feel that music is missing an element of authenticity. When I was growing up, music spoke. It told of real life experiences. Off hand, my mind goes directly to Lauryn Hill’s “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” album. That album is saturated with stories that teaches young how to deal with and properly experience love…actual love. Conversely, much of the music that has come out recently is saturated with fantasies and false expectations. There are artists out now who are slowly taking us back to the story telling days but for the most part, I feel like music is being pumped full of unattainable and irrelevant goals. Music’s only objective is to heal the soul. That can’t be accomplished if the artists are hiding behind fantasies of being “so fancy” or “drunk in love” and not getting in touch with, therefore neglecting, their own pain and even happiness. Artists must be completely vulnerable to convey a real message. Hopefully, my music reflects that vulnerability and passion.

Do you ever listen to your own music?

I listen to my music all of the time. I genuinely love the songs that I’ve written so far. If I didn’t want to listen to my own music, there’d be no way I’d want other people to listen to it. Haha!

What other music do you listen to?

I listen to almost everything. I love 90’s R&B! Brandy is one of my absolute favorites. But if we’re going to talk about my favorite artists, we might have to have a part two to this interview LOL! I love the old school like Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Al Jarreau, The Doobie Brothers, Anita Baker– They set the bar for music’s standard so high! I can only hope to meet those of them that are still living one day to thank them for their clear influence in my overall life! Not just my music. Stevie Wonder has helped shape my perspective into what it is today as well as many other musicians, I’m sure. Artists like India Arie and Janelle Monae are obviously influenced by greats like Stevie and Michael Jackson. I also listen to a lot of Hip-Hop (Kendrick Lamar, Mos Def, The Roots, J Dilla, The Fugees, J. Cole, to name a few) as well as Jazz and Classical. Pharrell is one person I can say that I intentionally try to emulate in terms of creativity, though. I love his lack of limitation. It’s so inspiring. If you condensed all of this into “Imani listens to everything,” I would not be offended. It would be accurate. ha!

Now that your debut album is out what do you plan on doing next?

I plan on pushing the album to as many folks as I can. That means performances and interviews and networking. Having Hutton Records and a CEO like Armand has been great so far, because he knows exactly what I need to do to keep the momentum of my artistry going forward. His knack for navigating through the music business is quite impressive. I’m excited to really dive into what it really means to be an artist with Hutton Records as my support.

Check out Imani’s webpage to find out more!