Naomi Pilgrim

Naomi Pilgrim had been a part of the music business on and off for almost fifteen years when she was introduced to the producer Fredrik Okazaki and decided to embark on a solo career. With her impressive debut single No Gun officially released today and an EP due out later this autumn, we met with the Swedish-Barbadian songbird to learn more.

How come music became your way of expressing yourself?
– My dad is a musician and my mother is an artist, so creating was an important part of our family life, Naomi says. I’m a creative person, and I’m always making something; furniture, greenhouses, birthday cards, you name it, Naomi says laughing. Music is my happy place. I’m not special in that way, music has an impact on most people. It has the power to change one’s day.

You’ve been working in the industry for quite some time, how come you’ve waited this long to make your own music?
– I started as a demo singer when I was fourteen, and I’ve been working on and off as a backup singer for many years. I’m really glad I waited until now to make my own music. I’m much more confident today, and I was able to make a mature decision about my own personal development.

– I started thinking about what I want to leave behind, like to my future grandchildren. I realized that I wanted to express myself and use my voice in a way that I put value in. It doesn’t have to be a song that gets a lot of plays on Soundcloud. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for the response I’ve got, but the ambition wasn’t to be acknowledged by others, it came from within.

I wanted to express myself and use my voice in a way that I put value in

And how does it feel now, when your debut single No Gun has got a lot of positive reviews, including more than 140 000 plays on Soundcloud?
– Well, I guess this is the honeymoon period, when I’m attracting a lot of attention and everything feels amazing. That might of course change, but right now I’m just so happy about it. It’s a great experience. I love working with Fredrik, he’s the greatest producer in the world, and has become a good friend of mine.

– I’m of course excited that a lot of people have heard my song and hopefully liked it, but I would be glad either way. I’m just happy to have the opportunity to do this and to be able to do it my own way. It’s rewarding in itself to know that I’ve challenged my fears and put a lot of effort into this. At the moment we don’t know what will happen, so we just have to wait and see.

Tell us about the song No Gun.
– It’s our baby, Fredrik’s, Carl Johan Bohlin’s, and mine. It’s a conception of life; about the struggles we have to fight, where some people are forced to live through horrible things while others dwell on trivial things, like your day is ruined just because you spilled some coffee on yourself.

It reminds me a little of Alanis Morissette’s Ironic.
– I love that song!

Where do you find your inspirations?
– Well, I grew up with bluegrass, jazz, and acoustics. And Sade, she is important to me; as a child I couldn’t fall asleep without hearing her songs from the vinyl. You might hear it when you listen to the EP, or maybe not. At least I know I can feel Sade when I sing. I would say it’s a lot of atmosphere in the recording, and a combination of inspirations from the past and the future. The songs differ in themes, but they share a common feeling that forms a whole.

Naomi Pilgrim. Photo by Mathilda Österlund.
Naomi Pilgrim. Photo by Mathilda Österlund.

So how does it feel like to sing your own songs compared to be a background singer?
– We had a pre-release gig for friends and family. And I must say that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life! It felt so good to show everyone what we had been working on, and everyone in the audience was enthusiastic and supportive. Just to have a whole band of talented musicians to back you up is a kick ass feeling. So I’m excited to play more shows in the future.

What’s next for you?
– No Gun will be released on November 18, followed by a second single. The EP will be released together with the third song. Apart from that I will get back into the studio where we will be working on new material. 

I read somewhere that you’re engaged in Falling Whistles, will you be able to continue your work with the organisation in addition to your music career?
– That’s right, my sister, one of my best friends, and I founded the Swedish branch. Falling Whistles is a non-profit organisation working for peace in Congo. We have a great team working with campaigns to get companies and politicians to collaborate and communicate with people representing Congo. I’m an ambassador, which means that I engage in various projects aiming to spread information about the war in Congo.

– I think my music career will only be in my favor. There have been times when I’ve become so frustrated that I can’t bring forth any motivation. Like this one time when the M23 rebels stormed one of our orphanage, raped, killed, and kidnapped children. I just lost all hope. So to make music will be a great complement, and help me to find strength and motivation. So yes. Of course I want to continue my work in Falling Whistles. I feel it’s so fucking important not to keep my mouth shut.

Listen to Naomi Pilgrim’s debut single No Gun here

Photos by Mathilda Österlund.