Wherever AHI goes, people fall under his spell - an essential trait for an artist who has travelled everywhere from the creative hotspots of Nashville, Toronto and London to the desolation of the Ethiopian highlands. The seasoned soul of his voice brings his authentic, storytelling songs to life, each of which catalogues the spectrum of experiences that he’s lived through. His talents have been rewarded with a coveted Tiny Desk / NPR session, 14 million streams of his track ‘Ol’ Sweet Day’, and a Juno Award nomination.
AHI is now set to gain a wider international discovery as he today shares his new single ‘Until You’, along with an accompanying video. It’s the first track to preview a new body of music from the acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter. Music News caught up with AHI to find out more...
Please tell us about your new single ‘Until You’ Until You is the first song I’ve released since 2018, which is kinda crazy when I think about it. As soon pandemic restrictions were eased last summer, I took the first available flight from Toronto to Nashville to record it with Grammy-winning producer Paul Mabury. It’s a pretty straight-up folk-pop song with lush Simon and Garfunkel style harmonies, but at the heart of it we wanted my voice and story to shine through.
If you listen closely to the lyrics, you can learn a lot about who I am and where I’ve come from. I wouldn’t call myself an outcast, but I’ve always felt like I’ve been on the outside of everything. That is, until I met that special someone who made everything make a little more sense, and that’s what this song is all about.
Like a flower bursting into life the song draws the listener in, where did you get your inspiration from? That’s a beautiful way of putting it. I’m extremely proud of this song because it’s inspired by the most important person in my life: my wife. Artists often sing about what they can do for someone else to make that person love them, but I wanted to sing about how someone else has transformed me for the better. Who that person is might be different for each listener, but for me she was the only person who could help me feel absolutely comfortable being myself.
You shot the video in Bata Shoe Museum in your native Toronto, why was that the perfect setting for you? As someone who has backpacked thousands of miles by myself, I can say from firsthand experience that your shoes kind of become your best friend, haha. Shoes are very intimate for a lot of people, and your choices can say a lot about you, but they can also be simply functional, depending on the environment. So with their collection of over 13,000 shoes and artifacts spanning 4,500 years of history, from ancient cultures around the globe, the Bata Shoe Museum was the perfect backdrop for Until You. Each shoe became symbolic of my own wandering and journey to finally finding myself and ultimately my soulmate. I guess this is where you insert a “sole-mate” joke.
You say you had a ‘spiritual awakening’ during your travels leading you onto your musical path, how did that manifest itself? I’ve had some very low moments during my travels, moments where I broke down and realized how vast and beautiful this world truly is. We often spend most of our time and money distracting ourselves from an emptiness we all feel inside, but in doing so we can miss the miracles that are constantly happening all around us. On my travels, I’ve had a few spiritual awakenings that have shaped who I am today, but a very pivotal moment came when I changed my name to AHI. In the entertainment industry, people change their names all the time; but for me, changing my name helped me realize my calling: to use my voice and my music to help people fill that emptiness in a fulfilling way. I want people to see that there’s more to life. That you have everything you need inside you, and that only becomes more powerful when we come together.
You’ve travelled far and wide, how has that shaped you and your song writing? What is it that drives you on? Life is so short and we’re all experiencing it for the first and only time. My travels have taught me how important it is to be patient and kind to everyone you meet, because for the most part the goodness I’ve experienced from complete strangers has far exceeded any bad. People just need reassurance to be good and keep going in life, so I try to write songs that can help and uplift others. I’ve seen some low moments and been in situations that I thought I’d never find a way out of, but finding my voice has helped me through it all. That’s what drives me. Seeing how much my music has helped me in my own life gives me the hope that it’ll help others, too.
How would you sum up your musical style? I might give you a different answer depending on the day of the week. But the first thing that comes to mind is honest. I don’t know if honest is a style, but if nothing else I want my music to feel like the most genuine thing you’ve heard in a long time. If you feel pain in my music, I want to you to know that the pain you hear comes from a real place. If it’s joy you hear, it’s because that’s a joy I’ve experienced firsthand. I kind of wish we described music like that more often.
Who are your heroes in music? Hero is a strong word, but when it comes to music I would probably have to limit it to the purest souls I’ve ever seen: Bob Marley, Michael Jackson and 2Pac. My honourable mentions would have to be Mahalia Jackson, Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, Mavis Staples, Lauryn Hill, Sade and Marvin Gaye.
What are your musical ambitions? We live in a very difficult world, so I just want my music to help ease some of that burden for as many people as possible. That’s all I care about.
For someone that hasn’t come across you yet what three songs would you say check these out that sum me up? Ol’ Sweet Day Breakin’ Ground Until You