Aliyah Marie is a Detroit-based RnB singer with a penchant for soulful lyrics and a honey-dipped voice. As a self-trained singer and musician, the talented Aliyah was accepted into and studied at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance.
Aliyah Marie’s single “Soul Is Gold” is a triumphant piece of work, a message to herself and her audience about the virtue of perseverance and the necessity to keep a positive attitude in times of trauma. Today we speak with Aliyah Marie about “Soul Is Gold”, her Louisiana music roots, and more.
“Soul Is Gold” has such an uplifting message about keeping one’s head up and persevering, was the song written for a specific person or situation? Or was it just a general message to everyone listening? Or even a message to yourself to keep going and keep your head up?.
The message was for all of the above. The lyrics directly illustrate my life experience and my thoughts at that time. I overcame trauma. The song was speaking to myself reminding myself that my soul is gold. Sometimes I speak in the third person lol, like a pep talk, a personal friend in myself. The song describes a moment in which I had to learn and tell myself that I am a good person worthy of a good life, a life that I have more to live. And that no one or no situation should keep me in a dark sad place. I can’t control everything that happens to me in life but I can control how I react, where I go next, and how I chose to feel. And I chose happiness and optimism, Lessons and blessings, instead of a life of continued fear, doubt, loneliness, or sadness.
The opening bars of the beat for “Soul Is Gold” is pretty epic and cinematic, they are almost reminiscent of ‘Gladiator’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’. What was it like for you when you heard that beat for the first time? Were you immediately excited to jump on the track?
J Street produced the beat. When I heard the beat for the first time I knew it had to be something special, something real, something monumental. I was excited, but I wanted to do the song justice. I knew this was meant to tell a story of triumph. I felt it.
Speaking of the beat, which came first for “Soul Is Gold”, the beat or the lyrics?
I heard the beat first as mentioned earlier. I began writing ways to overcome and persevere. The chorus came to my mind first. The infamous “sting like a bee” get in the ring the Great Muhammad Ali. “Fight like a soldier” means fighting for a noble cause to protect your/my freedom. “Fly like a bird” represents our freedom in life. “Rule like a King” illustrates the importance to be the captain of our own destiny. “Protect like a Queen” because as a woman, we are natural nurturers we love and continuously care for life. And it’s important to practice self-care mentally, physically, and spiritually. And “Gold” is radiant like our “soul”, and gold represents a champion.
In the second verse, you are speaking about how you used to be a different person, someone who lived in fear and was afraid of others’ opinions. Then you break into this new you with the line “I am a savage/I am compassion” that’s such a great juxtaposition of ideas. Was this verse about a specific time in your life, and if so, did you feel like when you came out on the other side that you had a savage side and a compassionate side to show for it?
I’ve always been a nice girl. I use to choose to be the bigger person rather than defend myself. Eventually, that wore on me. I had to learn to protect myself from toxic situations. So being a savage was me putting myself first, even though yes I am still compassionate. I just decided to no longer put someone else or any situation over my well being. I also decided to value my opinions of my life over others’ controlling and judgmental opinions. I began to live my life, and be proud of myself confidently.
There is a certain Caribbean or island vibe to the vocals in “Soul Is Gold”, is that a nod to your Creole heritage?
It’s definitely related to my Creole heritage because that’s the sound rooted in me. Born and raised in Detroit, yet growing up and to this day everyone in my hometown says I have an accent. The flavor comes out naturally I suppose.
Speaking of Creole, the New Orleans/Louisiana/Mississippi Delta region of the US is known to be a veritable birthing ground of some of America’s greatest musicians and an all-around hotbed of musical genius. Do you draw on that heritage as an influence on your music? Does music run in your family?
Music is in my blood. My grandmother was an opera singer in France, and on both sides of my family relatives were choir singers and pianists at church. My other grandmother loves the Blues and was a dancer. I didn’t grow up directly with the musicians in my life because unfortunately, they passed before I was born. But I started singing at the age of 4. It’s definitely my calling. Louisiana is also the birthplace of jazz legends and the culture is rich with music.
Detroit is another city known for its musical history, your vocals on a lot of your tracks are in a deeper register than a lot of modern female pop vocals, in a way your vocals have a depth and soul that reflect the stars of the Motown era, notably Aretha or Etta James. Do you find a lot of inspiration in the music of the Motown era?
Yes, Motown is a huge influence in my upbringing. The first songs I performed were the Supremes “Stop in the Name of Love” in 4th grade. Diana Ross “I’m Coming Out”. Etta James “At Last”. I listened to The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Jeniffer Holiday, Yolanda Adams, Whitney Houston, and an array of Neo-soul artists like Lauryn Hill, India Arie, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu. I am SOUL FED. And I’m naturally an alto vocalist but I have a very wide range as well…
In the music video for “Soul Is Gold” you spend a significant amount of the video either riding or sitting on a quad. You looked more than comfortable on that quad with the one-handed riding and hair flips, do you ride quads or dirt bikes often?
That was my first time riding a quad ATV! I love adventures and thrills. Anything that gets my adrenaline pumping I’m game. I played sports all my life so I love to have fun and I’m not scared to get “dirty’. It’s all about confidence. I was confident I could ride so then I did with a breeze. I’ve bungee jumped, zip lined, and skied mountains. I love to have fun. I love experiences.
Who are some of your musical influences/icons and how do you use their music to inspire or influence your own?
My top 3 is Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Lauryn Hill. Whitney Houston is a master of her vocals. She represents poise, class, and purity of the voice. Beyonce is one of the greatest performers. She sings and dances live as great as she sounds in a studio. Lauryn Hill represents soul and swag. Lyrically she teaches a nation while also being a beautiful storyteller. These three women represent 3 parts of myself and who I aspire to be. I believe my music and my stylistic representation exhibits that.
Lastly, is there anything that you’d like to tell us about “Soul Is Gold” that might not be obvious for the first-time listener?
While singing “Soul is Gold” talk to yourself and talk to others. It’s meant for yourself and it’s meant to be a support system for others. Some people don’t have a support system, so this song is written for the listener to hear someone say “Your soul is gold”. Affirm thyself and affirm others.