Imany makes peace with her voice on debut album

by Alisa Yamasaki

Special To The Japan Times

As a model, Nadia Mladjao would have seen all there is in the world of luxury and excess. But the 27-year-old singer, better known as Imany, keeps it simple with her guitar on her debut album, “The Shape of a Broken Heart.”

“What I really wanted was for my album to be timeless,” she says. “Complicated music and music that’s marked by its own time is very current, but a guitar will always sound like a guitar.”

Her deep, soulful voice contrasts beautifully with the acoustic guitar and is what draws people to her music. While growing up in her native France, though, she says her voice used to bother her so much that she developed a complex about it. That changed when she moved to New York in her early 20s.

“Suddenly boys stopped saying, ‘You’ve got a monster’s voice,” she says. “It turned into ‘Oh, you have a sexy voice.’ ” Even after reactions to her voice changed, though, she still had to work through the complex she grew up with.

“I had to say (to myself), ‘It’s OK, it’s something different … so just go with it.’ ”

The seven years Imany spent modeling in New York may have given her a late start in music, but she sees it as a good experience.

“If I hadn’t gone to New York, I probably wouldn’t have gathered the courage to become a singer,” she says. “With modeling, you learn how to take 300 noes for one yes.”

Imany began her singing career when she returned to Paris in 2008. A native French speaker, she also chooses to sing in English.

“French sounds good, but it’s a very demanding language. It’s got to be super poetic.” When she writes lyrics, she says, “I don’t think too much about what I’m going to say; words come to me and for some reason, they come in English. English is a very first-degree language. (French) isn’t that simple. I like things to be simple.”

As the title suggests, “The Shape of a Broken Heart” is lyrically and musically melancholic. However, that specific theme isn’t what’s important to Imany.

“We wanted a very coherent album,” she says. “I wanted you, when you’re listening to the album, to feel that you’re traveling but you’re still in the same country.”

Sure enough, geography is what inspired the album’s title. When learning how to draw, an artist friend advised her to “close your eyes and imagine what you want to do and don’t judge your work.”

“I was in front of a map and there was the African continent,” she says. “I thought, ‘That’s easy enough’ and tried to draw it. When I opened my eyes, it looked sort of like a misshaped heart and I (realized) — that’s the title.”

“The Shape of a Broken Heart” is on sale now. Imany plays Umeda Quattro (06-6311-8111) in Osaka on Sept. 24; Hiroshima Quattro (082-542-2280) on Sept. 25; Gate’s 7 (092-738-9088) in Fukuoka on Sept. 27; and Omotesando Cay (03-3498-5790) in Tokyo on Sept. 28. All shows start at 7 p.m. and tickets cost ¥4,000 in advance. For more info, visit www.imanymusic.com.