Hers is a soulful voice that made a classic cover a chart-topper and propelled her into becoming a household name.
Almost 20 years since the release of her 1997 hit, You Might Need Somebody, Shola Ama’s vocal range is still going strong – and she’s heading to Sunderland.
The R’n’B singer is on the bill at this year’s Sunniside Live music festival, which returns to Sunniside Gardens in the city centre on July 16.
Alongside Shola’s set, the night will include performances from Brand New Heavies and Alison Limerick, as well as North East talent, including Picnic, the Juggernaut Love Band, DJ Deja Brew and Smoove & Turrell.
Shola, who’s also had hits with You’re the One I Love, Taboo and Imagine, said: “I’m really looking forward to Sunniside Live. I haven’t been to Sunderland in a while so it’s great to be coming back. Plus, I’m a fan of Brand New Heavies and Alison Limerick, so I’m hoping to catch their sets.
“People can definitely expect the classics, but I’ll be throwing a few more in there as well.”
Speaking about the success of You Might Need Somebody, which was one the biggest tracks of that year, Shola said: “You Might Need Somebody was great when it was done by Randy Crawford, it’s just a great track that has really stood the test of time. I think those classic songs are coming back, there’s been a resurgence of interest in classic R’n’B and that genre. I’ve certainly noticed an increase in bookings.”
Unlike the talent show route many pop stars take to stardom today, Shola was spotted singing to herself at Hammersmith Tube Station when she was just 15.
“At the time I’d just come out of school and it was all very strange,” said the 37-year-old, who sold more than a million copies of her debut album, Much Love.
“I’d had no preparation or media training to prepare me to be in that world as a professional young woman.
“I was just a teenage girl who liked to sing. I would have liked to have been prepared, but everything just happened so quickly, I think everyone involved was just winging it.
“I’d always wanted to be a singer, I was just one of those kids who was always going to do something creative.”
Today the Brit Award-winner is back in the studio, recording a Garage-style EP, complete with single and video, which will be released in the next few months.
“I’ve always dabbled in different genres, not just pop, R’n’B or garage, I’ve always liked to have that mix,” she said. “I released my last album donkey years ago. My last single was a couple of years ago called Boyfriend, which was released on soundcloud. So it’s great to have a release coming out again. I’m actually always making music. People are always saying ‘when are you coming back’ but I’m still here. I never went anywhere.”
•Tickets for Sunniside Live, priced at £10 each, are available to buy online at www.sunnisidelive.co.uk, or in person at Gin & Bear It, 200 High Street West, Sunderland or Bar Justice, 47 West Sunniside, Sunderland.
More information about Sunniside Live, supported by Sunderland BID, can be found by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, following @SunnisideLive on Twitter or searching SunnisideLIVE on Facebook.
•We’ve got three pairs of tickets to giveaway for Sunniside Live 2016, courtesy of event organisers Helen Davies and Sean Maddison. To be in with a chance of winning a pair, answer this question: Which of these is a Shola Ama hit:
Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk. Closing date: July 5.