Frya is a rising star in R’n’B from Zimbabwe, who does not just stick to one sound. With support from GQ and her music used on the Netflix series ‘Blood & Water,’ she is now definitely getting people’s attention. We sat down and had a chat with Frya about her life, authenticity, and the release of her recent album ‘Balance.’
Your name Frya comes from Norse mythology, which I found quite interesting. (Frya was a goddess) For people who aren’t in tune with that, what do you think you have in common with this goddess and what do you think it takes to be a goddess in the music industry?
I like that you did a bit of research, that’s really cool. The name stems from growing up, my mother studied theology and she always trained me to read books. All these myths and all these beliefs were things that ancient Greeks believed in. They believed that they had to create an alternative world to what they were going through, to give them hope. They believed a lot in this god Zeus and Thor and Freya. And Freya stood out for me specifically because every time she cried a tear, her tears would turn to gold, and she was called in on matters of love and she was very powerful, and she believed in her purpose, and she stood in her purpose.
So, when I was looking for a name and I was like I really want to get into music seriously, like a profession, I need a name that’s going to stand true to the woman I have become now, very strong and very in tune. Also, the time I shared with my mom before she passed on, we used to read together, that was our special time. That’s why the name had to be the name.
You were born in Zimbabwe; you’ve lived in Sudan and Europe and now South Africa. How has being part of these many different cultures and countries impacted your sound and you as a person?
I really like this question. I think the one thing that travel helped me understand, was a difference in perspective. I was born in Zimbabwe and there’s a form of thinking there that still has a long way to go, in how you accept people. We still haven’t got to that point where we accept everyone for who they are and there are just so many things that I think we restrict your ability to widen your perspective. And I think my parents did something really cool when they brought us up, they gave us exposure to travel and when I got to certain countries, I realised women can actually speak up, women can sing, and women can do all these things and you can be expressive, and you can say how you feel. I found that so powerful and that basically shaped me to be the woman I am now, that’s why even in my music you hear that what I am saying is how I feel, and what I feel is what I feel and I’m unapologetic about it.
A lot of women from my country, from Zimbabwe they listen to my music and they’re like we cannot believe that you said this in a song and it’s making us feel so empowered. Like I know with ‘B.D.E’ people were like what were you saying on that song. But once they understood the lesson behind what I was trying to say, and the lesson was about being confident and understanding that you can also say what you want and feel powerful enough to say it and feel free about it. So, I think that’s what travel helped me do.
One thing that impressed me about yourself, was your ability to alter your vocal tone and your pitch. Each song, you delivered it in a very different way, a lot of artists will have a very similar style. Whereas you, some songs were quite subtle, some song(s) were quite big and powerful, and you expressed that. Is this an ability you’ve always had or is it something you had to perfect over time?
You know what’s so cool is you actually picked that up, I am loving this interview. People don’t really listen to bodies of work anymore, so for someone to actually listen to your full project and pick up all those things is cool. I think for me it is a very natural ability and I’m really blessed in that way, because I never learnt music or had any musical training or anything like that. It’s all intuitive and even all the writing is intuitive. It’s literally me, hearing a beat and just freestyling. Most of them are freestyles and then I just piece in the missing words.
So, I think it’s something that is so innate in me and it’s like that because I listen to so much different music and when I listen to music I listen to learn. That I think subconsciously has really settled in my mind, so when I hear a beat, or I hear certain instruments I know what they need. Certain songs, like if you are doing Afrobeat’s you have to be mellow, you have to be chill, you can’t be trying to sing too much. But, when you’re doing a ballad that’s when you need to flex, you need to show people, me I can sing. But an R’n’B record needs a bit of bounce when you deliver it. I think it’s (different vocal abilities) very innate, it’s a very natural gift and I am very grateful for it.
We’ll move on to your track ‘Changes’ which was quite an emotional track, that was matched by the video which was as you mentioned before reminiscing about spending time with your mother as a child. How satisfying was it to see the video come out the way it did, and do you think it’s important to highlight the importance of your mother and other people that are of importance in your life in your music?
That’s such a good question. The first thing I will say is I work with really cool people, who really allow me to do as much as I want to do creatively, and with the making of the song to the video, I sent the treatment, this is how I want the video to look, this is the story I am trying to tell and this is how I need you guys to tell it. Everyone just got on board, didn’t question anything and when it came out it was such a beautiful moment and for me what was important was with this song and with my album in general, was I wanted to connect with people.
That’s the whole reason why I do music and with ‘Changes,’ I wanted to highlight not the pain, but I wanted to highlight who you become once you overcome the pain or on the other side of it. I wanted the video to showcase that, ok maybe we used to go horse-riding together, but now I do it on my own, but now I do it with the power of all the knowledge that was poured into me, all the love that was poured into me. And you see that in the video it’s quite transcendent, I’m alone and really showcasing that you can be powerful after.
And like you said to say the importance of me bringing my real life basically into music and everything I write is something I have been through, and I can only write what I know. So yeah, it’s very important, once your intention is like that, you also connect purely with people just based off the intention. I know I’ve got so many DMs from people, even the comments on the video, like yo the song has changed my life, or the song has helped me with grief. Especially during Co-Vid and everything, it’s been helpful for people to listen and cry and let it out. That’s been the coolest thing about this entire album.
As you’ve talked about it there, I will put (the next question) in there now. You’ve talked about your authenticity and that your music has to be who you are. Has it always been easy to be this authentic or is it something you’ve had to learn over time or something that wasn’t as encouraged in you when you started making music?
I wasn’t expecting that, ooo that’s a good question. You know what I think it’s a combination of things. I’m naturally an introvert, I love to just be in my house and read books and just live a very peaceful life. Growing up I have always been a very emotional person, not in how I express myself, but in how I absorb things. I never understood why I used to feel so much and not be able to express it. So that’s when music came and oh so all these feelings I can put in a song or oh I can connect this with that, and I that became an outlet.
So, I think even from the beginning, it was authentic in the fact that I needed it. I needed music and the very first time I ever wrote a song was after the passing of my mother because I didn’t have any other way to communicate, I didn’t understand. I remember even at her actual funeral when people were standing up and people were giving eulogy(s) and it was my turn to give a eulogy. I only knew how to sing, and I sang her favourite song. Because to me that’s my highest form of expression.
We’ll go onto something a bit less deep now, a bit more happier. If you could go back in time to one concert, who would you see and where would you see them?
The one thing I would have wanted to see was Michael Jackson live. Wait can I do two? Yes, ok I don’t know how I forgot this, but Amy Winehouse… oh what do you mean! I would have loved to see her live. Amy is such a big, big influence to me, and her story and just how she carried herself, (and) expressed herself is so powerful. And even Michael Jackson, his ability to make people transcend to a different kind of place. I would watch these videos where people were fainting at Michael Jackson’s concert. What level of energy do you have to be at to get to a point where just your aura, makes people faint. I think that’s incredible.
Which upcoming artist has caught your eye and what advice would you give to them on making it in the industry?
Well firstly, I have a long way to go. So, I don’t like to give advice to them for learning. But what has been working for me that might help someone else is really take time to know who you are. Because music business is exactly that, it’s the music business. And if you do not have a strong sense of self, if you don’t know what your about, who you are, what your message is, and what you’re trying to do, I think you might get lost in a lot of things. So, know who you are, it’s going to transcend into the music, people will hear it.
A U.K. artist that I have been watching and really loving is (IAM)DDB. I really like her; she’s doing incredible things and she is expressing herself in an authentic way and I would love to meet her one day. Yeah, I think she’s dope.
And while you said you’re still starting out in the music industry, I still think that’s very good advice for somebody who may be not as far into the music game as you are yourself, who’s maybe just starting out.
Out of everything we spoke about I really want people to understand that my message with my album was about accepting yourself and finding the balance within yourself. At the end of the day, be it music or whatever you’re into, it’s about the person you become at the end of it. Learn the lessons, be kind, and put in the work. That’s the vibe.