For singer/songwriter Princess Idia Gamble, whose forthcoming album will be self-titled, soul music has been a major part of her life since the day she was born. Idia is the daughter of legendary lyricist, producer and Philadelphia International Records co-owner Kenny Gamble. Mr.Gamble is also co-creator of the Philly Soul Sound that dominated the seventies. Idia, whose name means “God’s promise fulfilled,” has fond memories of her dad encouraging her to write when she was a child scribbling her first songs.
“My dad started bringing me to the studio with him when I was five and we would sit at the piano together writing songs,” Idia recalls. “He would throw out ideas and I would add a few lines. He’d say, I like that, baby, that’s good,’ and we went back and forth from there.” What began as a game quickly developed into a poetic passion for Princess Idia, one that she has worked on steadily since those early days, developing her style as a lyricist years before deciding to step in front of a microphone.
“Believe me, I put in a lot of work just trying to make my writing better,” she says. Additionally, Idia began developing her skills as a singer a decade ago in order to have more control over her vision of the material. “Each of these songs is like one of my babies that I’ve been carrying for years; I wanted to make sure they were treated right.”
Collaborating with producer Ben Ford for the past two years, Idia has been in the studio prepping, preparing and perfecting a series of songs that serves as her aural introduction as well as the next chapter of the Philly Sound. Executive produced by Kenny Gamble and Harry Coombs, it will be the first release on “Princess Idia Productions” imprint. “Idia has a heart of gold and I’m very proud of her, Kenny Gamble says. She committed herself to this album and I think she, her producer and co-writer did a wonderful job.”
High Heels stepping boldly into the future, Idia’s music is both seductive and soulful, yet refuses to anchored down by definitions as her music merges genres including EDM, Jazz, Pop and R&B. Writing from the heart and singing from the same place, the first track Idia completed for the project was the club anthem “Put Me on the List,” a booming dance track destined for dance floor domination.
“I’m not your average girl,” the lyric that Idia disco-diva wails in the opening before the music slides into electro beat- reminiscent of a new millennium Giorgio Moroder. Fused with Idia’s sensual vocal style, “Put Me on the List” has a hypnotic quality that will have listeners repeating the catchy lyrics to themselves long after the DJ has mixed in the next song
“We originally recorded that song when I was living in California,” Idia says, but when I returned to Philly, we remixed it and gave it a different vibe. I wanted “Put Me On the List” to capture the fun that people have when they’re out dancing and their feet is hurting, but they’re so intoxicated by the excitement of the moment it doesn’t even matter.” Although the track is scorching, Idia’s burning vocals gives “Put Me on the List” that extra heat. Having studied voice with soul/disco diva Jean Carne, who is also Idia’s godmother, Idia modeled her alluring vocal mannerisms after her radio personality mother Dyana Williams, a broadcast star.
“If my mom could sing, that’s what she would sound like,” Idia laughs. Others who’ve inspired her include Nina Simone, Erkyah Badu, Jill Scott and Phyllis Hyman; when Idia was a kid, she used to observe Hyman in the studio working with her dad. “My favorite of her songs is ‘Meet Me on the Moon,’ which I used to play all the time. She never gave me any singing tips, but she did teach me how to put on make-up.”
While Idia spent many of her younger years in her father’s Philadelphia International studio as he worked with R&B luminaries including Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle and The O’Jays, she later became friends with a clique of up and coming young artists who were contributing their own boom bap and soul to ever changing soundtrack of the city. “When I was twelve, I met the Roots and later I started going to the studio with them,” she says. “those guys had a big impact on my life.”
A few years later, Idia started attending the cutting-edge music showcase Black Lily events where emerging artists came hoping to perfect their craft. “Singer Jill Scott, The Roots, Musiq Soulchild and Jasmine Sullivan used to come down and practice their songs. It was really hot, but it was also exciting to see them developing their talents.” Inspired by what she witnessed, Idia’s began recording as well, working in the studio with her brothers Caliph and Salahdeen .
“They were developing me as well as being supportive and encouraging me,” Idia says. Still learning as a songwriter during that period, Idia describes her style during that time as, “…very poetic and out there. I had to learn to make the songs less complicated and be more in tune with what people could understand.”
Listening to the upbeat blues of “Ain’t Got No,” one of the stand-out tracks from her upcoming album, it appears as though Idia learned her lessons well. Inspired by blues majesty of Nina Simone, whom she met once when she was a kid, Idia takes it to the people with this powerful song of struggle.
“People are forced to deprive themselves every day and to make extreme sacrifices to get what they want,” Idia says. “I want to write about that struggle.” While Idia’s lyrics are straight-up urban blues, the music is retro disco with a futuristic feel courtesy of Chicago native producer Ben Ford, who met Idia after relocating to Philadelphia.
“Our collaborations have been really smooth because Idia is very creative and we just have this great vibe in the studio,” Ford says. “She is a real artist who just comes up with these dope crazy ideas.” Two additional songs produced by Ford include “Tasty Cake” and “Outsiders,” which is a cover of song first recorded by The Sapphires and written by Kenny Gamble. “It’s an honor for me to be able to work so closely with Kenny Gamble. It’s major; I’ve learnt so much from him.”
Although Idia loves her native Philadelphia, she has travelled extensively and lived in various cities while also pursing her studies. After graduating from Lower Merion High School, she attended New York University for two years before matriculating to Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta Georgia. Later Idia studied at the Gemological Institute of America, where she learned the art of making jewelry; she is also an accomplished painter taught by her brother Salahdeen. As with any good writer, Idia has processed these experiences into her work as a songwriter and singer.
The young singer/songwriter, takes the listener on a musical journey that proves an exciting trip as she incorporates old school with alternative R&B that is beautifully futuristic. Born into musical royalty, Idia Gamble has developed a brazen signature sound and delivers grandly on her first project.
“With this upcoming project, many of my life experiences, including the five years that I was engaged and living in Miami, has gone into our work,” Idia says. “My observations, my feelings, my relationships, they’re all in these songs.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is only the beginning.