PAM caught up with the Caribbean rising star for an exchange around authenticity, the 90s and eclectic playlists.
Proudly repping Dominica, Navy’s star is ascending. Having collected 3 million streams for her sun kissed island pop releases which blend in hip hop and neo-soul, on new single ‘’One Shot’’ Navy shifts seamlessly between fluent dancehall chat and sweet vocals. As the frontwoman of Caribbean collective Taste Of Pluto and a recent brand ambassador for Clarks Originals shoes, she’s working hard and thinking big. We caught up with her over zoom.
How did you come by Navy as your artist name?
I’m very disciplined in my music, I was a brownie and a girl guide and so it just goes with my style and my background and a lot came together in that name.
You’re currently in Sint Maarten? What takes you there?
We’re doing visuals for the songs we recorded last year when we were stuck in London. We did some in Barbados but we needed to come here to Sint Maarten so we thought we’d take the opportunity of the different scenery.
And did being in London change the sound? The UK is also a small island but the weather and the food is a little different!
During the lockdown we were like: “Okay we can’t go anywhere, we have a studio, we have a producer so let’s just keep working!” You know stuff like that can’t stop creativity. It can hamper it, but it’s not really able to stop it. Then you see as a Caribbean person you carry the Caribbean everywhere. So as long as I have the right seasonings, you know the right ingredients, I’m gonna be cooking some Caribbean stuff! But it did influence the record as having so much time to think and reflect a couple of songs had a darker tone because I was reliving a couple of messy moments that I had with my first team. So a couple of them are really serious and a bit gangster. “One Shot” is a bit of a beef song, but most of them are happy Island influenced sunshine-filled songs.
And what’s the significance of the High Priestess reference in “One Shot’’?
The High Priestess is significant of my love for tarot reading. I am very into tarot cards and spirituality, and I’m also Sagittarius so the High Priestess is my card. So it’s because of how liberating that song was for me.
So now you’re with the Bajan label Pretty Boy Worldwide. How’s it going?
Coming from one of the smaller Caribbean islands there is a lot less opportunity. You really have to be equipped not only financially, but you have to have a certain network in order to get where you want to see yourself as an artist. Before I didn’t necessarily have the adequate knowledge to really drive my career in the direction that it is going now. So when I first met Pretty Boy they were asking questions I didn’t have the answers to like: “What is going to be the theme of your album?” and I’m like “Bruh! Just give me a beat! What are you talking about?” So it was really eye opening, the image, the consistency, sticking to yourself. They were like: “Don’t you dare pick up an image you can’t keep up with, just be yourself.” They’re really particular about who you are and how it shines through your music and not saying things in songs that you can’t explain or identify with. So it really had me thinking about a wider audience, the wider audience that comes with Prettyboy and the worldwide reach they have. They were like: “So are you ready? Are you sure you want to go this far? Because things are about to get crazy when people hear your music.” So they really did like a 360 turn for me. It was crazy, but I appreciate it because I now see myself on the way to where I’ve always dreamed.
Here in the UK we traditionally hear a lot of music from Jamaica and some from Trinidad. Apart from you what have we been missing out on from Dominica?
You know there’s so much! I used to work on cruise ships, which means I was on a different Caribbean island every day of every week. And as time passed I got more immersed in the different cultures and learnt how to speak to certain people in different islands. I learned French, I speak Creole and I have very basic Spanish. So I learned similarities and differences. I learned the connections and cultures, the histories, why people behave or dress, look, speak and act a certain way and eat certain foods. There’s a lot of folklore and stories and superstition and all that juicy stuff that you get from different Caribbean islands. And I remember having to cut my sessions short by like 30 minutes because my audience would ask `Where are you from?’ and I’d say “Dominica” and they would say: “Is that in Jamaica?” So I’d be like: “Stop the music. Let’s fix it” and it was really like a blessing to be able to inform people.
So now as Navy with this wider platform I am slowly but surely integrating Dominican culture into my music. Certain people look at my lyrics and they ask: “What does this word mean? What does that word mean?” And I’m happy because I get to explain Dominican dialect. There’s a Caribbean dialect of course so you can tell when someone is from the Caribbean, but there are specifics to each island.
There’s a definite nineties vibe in your music. What is it about that era that appeals to you?
It’s what I grew up listening to in my house. My Mum and Dad are really into that type of music so it was just that era that I was surrounded by. I like the colours, I like the freedom of the music back then, the dancing, the fashion is very significant. The type of shows that were on TV, all of that is very fresh in my memory so it will infiltrate my music.
And what are you listening to at the moment?
I have a very weird playlist! I remember the first time my dad heard my YouTube playlist he was like: “Why is your playlist so warped? There are so many different genres in here!” I like and listen to so many different artists. Right now I’m really loving Jazmine Sullivan because she’s challenging my vocal ability and vocal range. I tried to copy those runs and fail miserably. I love H.E.R. I still go back to people like Common and A Tribe Called Quest. I have REM and a couple songs from Madonna, then Tanya Stephens from Jamaica. My playlists are just very mixed! You’ll get Beanie Man then you’ll get Kendrick Lamar. It’s not even a mood thing, it’s just songs I consider the top of the top for me.
And how about a dream collaboration?
Easy! My dream collaboration is Kendrick Lamar. He can call me at three in the morning and I’m there! This is like my 20th interview I’m calling his name. He just needs to hear me and call me okay?
Looking up the High Priestess tarot after our interview I learn that one meaning of the card is “of things yet to be revealed.” Apt in the case of Navy whose future is calling.
“One Shot” available on all platforms.
Listen to Navy in our One Dance playlist on Spotify and Deezer.