Ayiesha Woods: Rock, Reggae, R&B Super-Talent

Wednesday 5th July 2006

A new singer/songwriter AYIESHA WOODS is all set to make a huge impact with her eclectic music. Mike Rimmer met the lady.

Ayiesha Woods
Ayiesha Woods

Imagine how weird this must be. You're pottering around the house minding your own business and the phone rings. Your mum gets it and then you hear her call you. "There's a Toby on the phone for you." But you don't know any Tobys. Toby who? She shouts up, "TobyMac." Now, how would you respond? Ayiesha Woods describes how she handled the situation, "I was like.gasp! I kind of laid out on the floor real quick and then I was like, 'Okay, okay, okay.!' Gathering my thoughts. Then I sat back up and I was like, 'Should I put on my cool voice?! Hell-lloo?' Like I wasn't freaking out."

So I know what you're thinking. You're wondering how you get to a position where TobyMac is phoning you? The former dc Talk member was on holiday in Jamaica and heard a track from Woods' independent album 'What You Do To Me' playing on the radio and was so impressed that he called the station and tracked her down to her home in the USA. From that conversation, it took two years to finally sign Ayiesha with Toby's record label, Gotee. And now the world is ready to discover Ayiesha via the aptly titled label debut 'Introducing Ayiesha Woods'.

Back in the day when she was an independent artist, Ayiesha would dream of getting signed and Gotee was always her first choice. "Because of the diversity and the type of music that they put out," she says. "They've always been the type of record label to step out on a limb and do something new and introduce something new to the industry and to the marketplace. They've always been very open to new types of music. I used to think that if I was going to sign with a label, then the best label for me would be Gotee. And sure enough that's the way that it went."

Like many artists, Ayiesha doesn't like to be pigeonholed stylistically and certainly within Christian music, there isn't anybody who sounds like her. She sums up her style by saying, "My music is very different. I think that it's a fresh sound. It's Word-based. My songs, lyrically, are Word-based. Stylistically speaking I've got rock on my record. I've got reggae on my record. I've got some R&B-sounding tunes on there. Some worship-sounding stuff. So it's just an eclectic blend of a number of different genres of music."

Flashback to a few days earlier at an EMI CMG presentation. Ayiesha is playing an acoustic showcase. Even with just her brother tapping some percussion and Ayiesha playing keyboard and singing sweetly, she has the personality and sound that fills the room and although this is the first time I've heard her play live, I'm in love with Ayiesha's music immediately. She's a very warm performer, immediately connecting with the audience through the sheer strength of her personality and the very evident musical talent. In our interview I ask the singer what is it she wants to bring to an audience? "I want for them to be able to recognise the level of intimacy that I have with Christ Jesus. I want them to be able to feel that in the songs they hear, and experience that in the ministry. When we come and we sing for them, or even if we don't sing for them, if they just pick up the record, after they're done listening to it I want them to be able to say, 'Wow! That really challenged me to get to know who Jesus is!' Or if they already know him - 'That really challenged me to a greater level of intimacy with him!' I want them to walk away with that every time."

It's been very important for the singer to write the songs on 'Introducing Ayiesha Woods' in order to continue to deliver those feelings of intimacy. Apart from two songs she co-wrote with producer David Mullen, everything else draws on her own experiences. She shares, "I'm 27 this year. One of the things that I thank God for when we come to talk about intimacy is that God has kept me. I definitely believe in sexual purity and abstinence and waiting until marriage for the type of intimacy that God has ordained between man and woman. As it pertains to a personal experience, with God being able to keep me all of these years, he has shown me a level of intimacy that doesn't come from men. Do you see what I'm saying? And so it's a different level of intimacy altogether. I thank God for teaching me a level of intimacy between him and I. A level of closeness and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That has been just amazing! I always say, when it's time for me to get married, God knows, he's gonna have to send me somebody that's been intimate with him real good, you know?!"

Meeting Ayiesha, she has her family all around her as she travels. Obviously her brother helps to back her and her parents sit in during our chat. Ayiesha's father is intrigued by my hair since it's a rather attractive punky pink colour. He's worked as a hairdresser so we spend some time comparing notes on hair gels and colouring products!

Born in Bermuda to pastoring parents, Ayiesha left there in 1987 and has since resided in Florida, Georgia and Hawaii but for the last five years she's been in Dallas, Texas where the family have a youth ministry in a small church. She says, "We've got a number of young people and I thank God because we're not a huge church. We're a very small church and there's a level of accountability that's there. It's a number of young people that have a heart after God and have a heart after missions and doing what God has called them to do. It's almost like a preparation. We come and we get trained and get discipled so that we can be sent out to make more disciples. To train others and to be able to minister and to be effective in whatever fields that we're in. Whether it be professionally or in full time ministry."

In that kind of environment, I'm not surprised at all to find that Ayiesha is so ministry focussed. Was it inevitable that she would end up doing this? "I think it was," she smiles, "because if I wasn't singing I'd probably be preaching or something. But my life has been ministry. I can't see myself doing anything else really. When it comes to ministry there's that balance that's necessary of course. And balance is necessary for anything in life. I thank God for the parents that I have because I've seen them do so much and I'm like, Lord, this is something that you just absolutely HAVE to be called to! This is not something that you just aspire to in a casual 'Look, I'm gonna go and I'm gonna pastor!' Because the issues people have! You absolutely have to be called to be able to deal with those things. You have to have the heart to be able to deal with those things. It's taught me so much, how to relate to people and to not ever think that one thing is worse than the other. Because we're all in need of Salvation. We're all in need of a Saviour. God can meet every last one of us at the point of our need."

Aside from any ministry opportunities that will open up for Ayiesha, she's also got to deal with the challenges of working within the Christian music industry. But she's preparing for those challenges, "I am staying in my Word because I know that's the only offensive weapon that I have against the enemy. That's the only way that I can fight. And if I don't get the Word in, Word's not comin' out! I stay in my Word so that I can be strong when it comes to the challenges that I face in the industry. There's a level of integrity that has to be upheld. There's a standard that has to be upheld. And in order to be able to maintain that, I have to stay in God's face. I have to have a lifestyle of prayer. A lifestyle of worship. A lifestyle of being God's and seeking him and digging out his Word so that I can continue to grow and be an effective minister for him."

The interview is taking place at a massive Christian music convention and as I enter the hotel to go in the lift up to Ayiesha's room, I notice that the lift doors are completely covered with a more than lifesize picture of her. Doesn't this sort of stuff go to her head? She responds, "At the end of the day all glory goes to God. If it wasn't for him, none of this stuff would be possible. So when I see stuff like that it's just, whateveeeer! You know? I refuse to let that stuff get to my head. The humility factor is so important to me and oh my Lord, just keep me near the cross because if it wasn't for your grace and mercy I don't know where I would be."

But everything in the industry mitigates against humility because artists are so "looked after" and revered by labels, media and audience. Ayiesha agrees that it's a challenge, "But the reality for me is, when I go home, I'm home. You know what I mean? I'm amongst family and I'm amongst friends. They know the things that go on when I'm away but I'm just a normal person like everybody else. I have normal challenges. I have normal things that I deal with. I pull my pants on the way everybody else does! That kind of stuff really doesn't bother me too much. I'm kind of oblivious to a lot of things. For a little bit, that's to my advantage. I thank God. I'm like, 'Lord, just help me to see people the way you see them. Give me discernment so that I'm not taken advantage of or anything of that nature.' And he's been faithful to do so all this time. I think he'll be faithful to complete the good work he's started in me." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Mike Rimmer
Mike RimmerMike Rimmer is a broadcaster and journalist based in Birmingham.


Reader Comments

Posted by CARMEN in United Kingdom @ 14:16 on Mar 27 2007

"I Don't Mind" is a fab song. kind of Corinne Bailey-Rae sound. Really cool. i'm not a big fan of secular RnB compared to Christian RnB singers, I prefer the softer-edged sound artists like you have produced. Keep up the good work, girl.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

Add your comment

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.