Emerging Artist to Watch Out For: Fana Hues

The California newcomer sits down with V to chat about her new music video “Lay Up,” relationships and growing up in a musical family

Family is at the core of everything Fana Hues does, even her moniker “Hues” derives itself from her last name, Hughes. Growing up, her house was always filled with music, everything from Erykah Badu neo-soul to Destiny’s Child contemporary R&B to Beenie Man reggae. Not to mention, her parents nurtured her musical ear from a young age. Her mother grew up playing in a Nigerian band and her father taught her how to play the bass. Fast forward two decades later, the 25-year-old artist shares a new video for her song “Lay Up.” Set in a lodge in Northern California, the music video follows Fana and her friends on a girls’ trip.

I want this visual to be a deep sigh of relief after a dark time,” the singer-songwriter shared a week before her music video dropped. “I want you to feel the rays of light only your homegirls can give you.”

“Lay Up” is one of many visuals from Fana’s debut collection, Hues, which was released last year. Other critically acclaimed songs from the project include “Desert Flower” and “Yellow,” which show Fana’s broad musical range as she weaves through the complexity of human emotion. Her intimate songs visualize different emotions as shades of color: “I wanted it to feel like a spectrum of hues of different colors,” Fana said. “I didn’t always feel the freedom to express all of my emotions growing up, and in society. So I really wanted to just be as free as I could.”

Read our conversation with the emerging artist below: 

V Magazine: First I want to congratulate you on HUES it’s phenomenal. What themes did you set out to explore?

Fana Hues: So for HUES, I wanted to capture like a full spectrum of emotion within a project. Because I didn’t always feel, I don’t know, I didn’t always feel the freedom to express all of my emotions growing up, and in society. So I really wanted to just be as free as I could even with the genres or like the stylings of the songwriting that I was doing and choosing. Yeah, I wanted it to feel like a spectrum of hues of different colors, and things like that. So that’s what that’s the theme that I set out to accomplish. And I sat down and was like, ‘Okay, what am I going to make?’

V: That’s beautiful. So where did you pull inspiration from?

FH: All from life. Definitely from romance from past relationships and things like that. I was single when I wrote it. Well, when I wrote the majority of it, I was single, but definitely from romance. And then also friendships, too. The way that I experienced people and love and romance and things like that — they kind of like always overlap. Like, for instance, the song Desert Flower is like yes, I am talking about like a romantic partner. But I also have people who I consider desert flowers in my life. Like my sister, I consider her like a desert flower. Or like my best friend, you know, so they kind of overlap in meanings as well. Same with like, “Notice Me,” it is about a romantic partner, but it’s also about the love that I have for my family. So I pulled definitely from my life, but the meanings were overlapping.

V: I understand your family played a huge role in your musical journey. How did they shape the musician you are today?

FH: Definitely. So my dad is a multi-instrumentalist, but the bass is like his main instrument. And he’s a singer as well, but he wrote songs for us. He’s taught us harmonies, and like, really trained our ear. The first song that I remember learning with him, was the song by Sweet Honey in the Rock called “Of Children.” So that was very pivotal because I still listen to that song to this day. It’s like one of the songs that’s at the front of my mind at all times. I think I even put it on, like one of my playlists on Spotify, because I really be listening to this song. When I first started writing, I was writing with my sister, she wrote on Lay Up actually on my album, but I first started writing with my sister Kaba. And at first I was finding my footing as a songwriter and like finding the things that I wanted to talk about when I was like, 14-15 years old. Those two are like my most pivotal moments with my family, in terms of music, and how they helped me.

V: So I’m curious about what type of music was being played around your house. How did that influence your musical tastes today?

FH: A lot of soul. My dad loves soul music, but he’s a funk man. Like he loves funk so it was a lot of soul and a lot of funk. From my mom, a lot of Neo-soul like my mom really liked Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and my dad like them too, but he also liked a lot of old Diana Ross and like, you know, Dionne Warwick. But then also like I had my sisters because I have two older sisters, and they liked Aaliyah. We were obsessed with Aaliyah and Destiny’s Child and Toni Braxton. So there’s a plethora of genres and styles and tastes and things like that. And my stepdad was like really, really, really into reggae. So, like a lot of Beenie Man and stuff like that.

V: What was it like growing up in this musical family?

FH: It was crazy, because at the time, there was only four of us, like when we first started the family band. I’m the youngest of four. So I was like the baby. And my brother, he raps. He’s a rapper. So he was the rapper, like the star. And then me and my sister, Kaba, who I started writing with later, we were just backup. But it was a good experience because again, like I was saying before, my dad really trained my ear to just listen to music differently. From birth, basically. And we probably were not good at all, we probably were not. But it was good to just have that foundation of being on stage and doing shows and working a crowd and doing all of those things.

V: And to pivot the music videos—Where do these visuals pull their inspiration from (for Yellow and Lay Up)?

FH: I wrote them at the same time, I did the treatment for them. And for Yellow, initially, I was trying to outsource an idea for the music. But I was trying to outsource the idea for the music video just because I felt like I was tapped out. I just felt like I didn’t have any more ideas. And then the feedback that I was getting just didn’t really like fully capture everything that I was trying to, to put out there. So I just sat down for like, a good three days with the song and just like, played it over and over and over and over again. And I was like, Okay, what do I see? Like, what, what is this music saying to me? And so then I wrote the treatment. And I actually had a little help from the DP, his name is Drew Robinson. He actually helped me a bit with fleshing out my ideas for it, because I’m not like a director or anything like that. I just like to put my ideas out there. So Drew helped me formulate my ideas a bit. And then we took it to David, who directed the music video. And he just put a splash and made it really, really nice. And I was like, we have to dance in this. Like, I knew that off rip like, we I wanted to do a little bit of dancing in this. And my younger sister, she’s a singer and a songwriter, and a dancer as well. And so I was like, can you choreograph something for me? She’s in my music videos, too, but I was like, can you choreograph something for me? So we went to a dance studio for, I think four days, and we made up the dance and we taught it to everybody else. And we did that for both Lay Up and Yellow.

V: And what was the choice behind having it in this lodge cabin?

FH: I’m really into fishing as of now. I’m really into camping and fishing and things like that. So I was like, I’m going to make a girls trip/retreat, but like, F it up. Make it more like me. So it’s like, where would I want to go? Probably somewhere in the woods. And so, then we found the spot along the river, where we were going to shoot and then the Airbnb for the cabin. Because we looked at a lot of different places, but I wanted something that felt real, like, somewhere I would actually go. So that’s why we’re up in the woods, because that’s where I would go.

V: Was there a time when you were either making music or performing and you were like this is it? I’m where I want to be and everything is in reach?

FH: Music was always embedded in my DNA, but I would say like in middle school is like when I started teaching myself how to sing. I knew how to sing but I was actively teaching myself how to sing to find my own voice. I would just go home every day after school, and go on YouTube and just sing covers over and over and over again until they sounded somewhat good to me. That, I think was when I was like, okay. It wasn’t a thing with my family, it was something that was really mine at that point like, “Oh, I can have this for myself as well.”

V: What creative efforts are you looking to explore in the future?

FH: Maybe like 10 years down the line I might start directing some short films and things like that. In the immediate future, I’m writing right now and working on my next thing. Also, 15 years down the line, I want to open up like a performing arts school. Just because again, when you’re an artist, there are so many different avenues you can take. But I feel like right now all the performing arts schools, or a lot of them, I can’t say all, but a lot of them make you choose. And I want to create something where you hone all your skills. Because I felt like that’s the type of student I was. Once I acquire all the skills, then I can pass things on.


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