Love Itoya is channelling Aretha Franklin and Afrobeat for a new generation

As The Blues Kitchen celebrates its 15th anniversary, HUNGER catches up with rising star Love Itoya to discuss her infectious performances at the iconic venue.

As The Blues Kitchen celebrates its 15th anniversary, it’s rising star Love Itoya that’s taking centre stage. Since opening in 2009, The Blues Kitchen has blessed Londoners’ with over 100,000 hours of live music performances. Now a staple destination in the capital, the iconic venue is loved for it’s Southern-style BBQ food, cocktails, and infectious performances from up-and-comers of the music world. One of those characteristically Blues Kitchen performers comes in the form of Greek-Nigerian singer Love Itoya — a resident musician of The Blues Kitchen for nearly 2 years, Itoya sings energetic renditions from the world of blues, funk and soul multiple nights a week. Her journey as an artist has been shaped not only by her supportive family, but the diverse musical influences that have inspired her along the way. From the blues music introduced to her by Koko Taylor to the empowering sounds of Lauryn Hill and Rihanna, Itoya has crafted a sound that is uniquely her own.

On Friday the 19th of July, The Blues Kitchen will honour performances like Itoya’s – as well as everything the venue has loved and shared over the last 15 years – with an extra special birthday party featuring a line-up of the most iconic bands that have graced their stage over the years. Meanwhile, also in celebration of the anniversary, the venue have also produced a content series featuring Itoya and a selection of other artists who discuss the importance of live music and what it means to them.

Here, HUNGER sits down with Love Itoya to discuss her creative process, personal growth, and the empowering message she hopes to share with her audience as she makes her mark on the music scene.

How would you describe your sound in five words?

Powerful, representational, raw, empowering and relatable.

What is it about working with The Blues Kitchen that encapsulates who
you are as an artist?

I’m so thankful that people from all over the world are able to see my passion, and that I get to share it with them. When people tell me how much I inspire them or how my show made their night, I feel very grateful and blessed.

How has your Greek-Nigerian heritage influenced your music?

It’s the way I move, sing, speak, and the way I view things. My heritage has shaped me in a lot of ways — most of all, it’s made me picky about the sound I want to create. I want people to feel represented when they hear my music. I refer to myself as a melody creator because I’m inspired by the melodies before I even write the lyrics. I believe that melodies allow listeners to connect with music and understand where someone is from. I also place a lot of emphasis on sharing the Edo and Esan tribe roots of my parents with the world.

Your performances at The Blues Kitchen can be anything from funk, to soul, to blues. Is there one that you gravitate towards most? Why is that?

Soul — I adore Soul music. My soul godmother, as I like to call her, Aretha Franklin, has always inspired me. She helped me realise the potential in my voice, and when I sing, it makes me feel at home.

How would you describe your current creative process?

Having the right people around to support and believe in what I’m doing has made my current creative process very stress-free. It’s inspirational and easygoing. London has also inspired me a lot.

What role does performing at The Blues Kitchen play in that evolution?

Having the opportunity to perform on that stage allows me to further develop and explore my musical skills. It keeps things exciting for me, because I’m challenged to sing in so many various genres and styles. The best teacher an artist can have is performance.

What would you hope for someone to take away from your music?

Confidence in being their true selves, and the encouragement to never give up. Comfort in knowing that they are not alone, particularly when it comes to mental health issues. Self-Love, healing, and normalising vulnerability.

Growing up, was your family supportive of you making it as a singer?

Since the beginning – and even when I wanted to give up – my family has supported my music career. My father would be at every performance. And my mother, who’s my hairdresser, will always style my hair in a way that reflects my true self, because she understands that’s how I express myself. Colours are my brand. My brother, Life Itoya, who’s also an amazing music artist, is my choreographer and creative director. He always goes above and beyond to help me in this really competitive music industry. And my sisters inspire me by giving their honest feedback on anything I create. I have a team here. I was born into a family that loves music, and I’m really grateful for that.

Your shows are always super energetic and infectious. What’s behind that? It would be so easy to say, just stand there and sing.

My mother is my inspiration — she taught me how to dance, and I combine that with the voice God gave to me and my dancing skills. Also, I don’t just listen to music and stand there. I let the beat carry my feet away. When I dance I’m in my own world.

Who are your biggest influences?

Most people don’t know this, but Koko Taylor is one of my biggest influences. She introduced me to blues music. And the list goes on… Lauryn Hill, Blu Cantrell, Beyoncé, Aretha Franklin, Rihanna.

You need to get a party going. What song are you putting on?

‘Anybody’ by Burna Boy. 

Are there any other sounds or genres you want to experiment with in the future?

House music, neo soul, reggae. Hopefully I’ll make soulful funk album.

WriterAmber Rawlings