Titiyo greets the staff at the chic Stockholm coffee shop with familiarity. Arriving straight from the gym, dressed casually and wearing little makeup, she looks healthy and 10 years younger than her 41 years.
Her family is Swedish music royalty, older sister is superstar Neneh Cherry and her brother is Eagle Eye Cherry, best known for the 1997 hit “Save Tonight.”
The winner of four Swedish Grammies, Titiyo returned with new album “Hidden” at the end of last year after a seven year hiatus and is about to embark on a summer of concerts and festivals. Once dubbed the “Queen of Swedish Soul,” her protracted timeout has given her a new spark of creativity and a different musical direction.
“I was listening to [Radiohead frontman] Thom Yorke’s solo album and it gave me a lot of inspiration,” she remembers. “It reminded me that a song doesn’t just have to be verse-chorus-verse.”
Having not written any songs for 2001 hit album “Come Along,” she admits it was a big step to start writing again. Encouragement from friends and family helped.
“I went to a music store and I wanted to buy the cheapest, oldest synthesizer – it was a monster!” she laughs.
“I took it down to the most basic level and once I started I couldn’t stop. I was almost in a trance,” she adds. “I would start at 11 at night and when my daughter woke at 7 the next morning I would still be working and she would wonder what I was doing.”
Titiyo grew up in an artistic house. Her father was a drummer from Sierra Leone and her mother performed in theatre. While she appreciates their influence now, she admits that it wasn’t always the case.
“I just wanted to fit in,” she says. “Guys all liked the blonde haired, blue eyed girls and being not only black, but hippies too, I could be so embarrassed when I was a teenager.”
She was also shy when it came to her voice.
“I would perform duets in my bedroom with Aretha Franklin when nobody else was in the house,” she recalls with a smile.
“Then one day I recorded myself and played it back to my Mum and she started crying.”
Siblings Neneh and Eagle Eye live in Stockholm too and she says although their conversations rarely turn to music, they are all very supportive of each others’ careers.
“Neneh has been one of the biggest influences in my life,” she says.
“My first album was released in England at the same time as hers and it was rough to be compared to her as it has never been a competition between us,” she says with frustration. “But when I look back now I looked so much like her and she laughs at me now for that.”
Titiyo talks with pride about her self-penned latest album and says she is finding new respect from an indie audience. She seems to have found her passion for music again.
“I want to keep the creativity going,” she enthuses, “I’m writing now and there will definitely not be another seven years of no albums.”