Eclectic influences infuse life works of a slow-blossoming major talent
Her warm and distinctive voice is becoming a familiar pleasure on the radio airwaves, and she can also claim the honour of an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland, but Manchester singer songwriter Josephine Oniyama is still relatively unknown in the live arena.
That should be remedied next month when she steps out on tour opening for Paloma Faith, including a sell-out date at Plymouth Pavilions on February 15.
That show sits neatly next to the release date of Josephine's new single, Portrait, the title track from her highly acclaimed debut album of the same name – an LP destined for award status if there's any justice in the music industry.
She looks and sounds like a breath of fresh air, but Josephine's journey has already been a slow and bumpy one.
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At 29, she's been making her own music for a decade now, gradually building her skills and confidence.
"I started gigging when I was 16 and playing professionally when I was 18 or 19," she says. "But that's cool. I've been earning my stripes."
Her music draws on an incredibly broad range of musical influences, starting with the music she heard growing up in a West African family in Manchester's Cheetham Hill.
"At home I remember records by King Sunny Ade, The Isley Brothers, Fela Kuti, Johnny Cash and Ali Farka Toure," she says.
"I have a special love of Bob Marley too. I was born in the 1980s and at the time my mum was also listening to the pop of the time – Spandau Ballet, Bananarama, Mel and Kim, stuff like that. She was massively into music.
"I used to listen a lot with my brother and sister. They are a little bit older than me; when they went to high school and uni I was left on my own to pick up my guitar."
Creativity has always been a compulsion for Josephine. She remembers first trying to compose a tune when she was 12 or 13, but lyrics came three or four years earlier.
"I was always making something, whether it was words or pictures or music. I asked my mum for a guitar when I was 11," says Josephine. "It was the peak of Britpop at the time, so I was into Blur, Oasis, Kula Shaker and Supergrass – all guitar-based music. I knew then that I wanted to be involved in it."
She went to the after-school guitar group to point her in the right direction and there was no stopping her.
"After learning just a few chords I went home and started writing on the very first day, and I've been doing it ever since."
Singing also came quite naturally. "I don't try to labour things or make them over-dramatic. I just sing in my normal voice – the sound my head makes," she explains.
Portrait is an eclectic representation of her songwriting over the past ten years or so. "I've kept everything I've ever done. One of the songs was written when I was 19, and Last Minute is the most recent from around 2011," she says. "It really has been a long process with lots of ups and downs."
In 2006 she was signed by Island Records; she recorded an EP but they decided not to release it. "I wasn't devastated – it was all part of the learning curve."
She has done lots of support tours in the past, with artists like the Noisettes, and even remembers an occasion playing in one of the biomes at the Eden Project.
But 2012 marked a significant boost for her career with her album, released on the Ark label, plenty of radio play and a tour with guitar maestros Rodrigo y Gabriela.
There's no doubt she can build on these firm foundations in 2013, with headline dates already in the pipeline.
Josephine supports Paloma Faith at Plymouth Pavilions on Friday, February 15. Tickets are sold out. Check for returns on 0845 146 1460.