Harmonizing Activism and Artistry: An Interview with Lola Vista

Discover the inspiring journey of Lola Vista, a multi-talented musician, singer-songwriter, and former social and political commentator, as she shares her path from activism to artistry. With a deep-rooted passion for music since childhood, Lola’s career has taken her from performing in choirs and orchestras to advocating against racism at Cambridge University and later, to writing and speaking on major news platforms. Her latest venture as Lola Vista marks a pivotal shift, where she blends her social consciousness with uplifting melodies, aiming to create a brighter, more inclusive world through her music. In this insightful interview, Lola reflects on her transition, shares the motivations behind her songs, and offers valuable advice for those looking to pursue their passions amidst life’s complexities.

What motivated you to transition from a social and political writer to a musician and singer/songwriter?

It’s a bit of a long story with a few twists and turns!!! To provide some context, I’ve always loved, been passionate about and involved in music. I started playing the piano and recorder at 5 and the alto saxophone at 12 which is around the same time I wrote my first song. Growing up in England, I was in choirs, in bands, in orchestras, always performing and on stage, and I was awarded a music scholarship high school. So music – playing, writing and performing – has been a major constant in my life. At the same time, I’ve always been multi-faceted and deeply curious about the world and how things work, particularly when it comes to issues like race, identity and class, which is what led me to do a degree in Social and Political Science at Cambridge University. 

My great-grandmother was one of the first female senators in Nigeria (which is where my family is originally from) so politics is very much in my DNA. I’m also a first generation immigrant so issues of identity and belonging are things that I have had to personally think about and grapple with. While at Cambridge, I was on the student council where I was twice elected as the University’s Anti-Racism Officer. Meanwhile, I continued on with music on the side. 

When I graduated from Cambridge though, I wanted to understand the business side of music so went to work in the music industry, starting off at Warner Music in TV and Radio Promotions. As a creative I felt that I should understand the business too. After a few years, having gone from Warner to Ministry of Sound (in brand partnerships and events), to being a freelance experiential event project manager for big brands, I was burned out!!!! 

At the time, I had started blogging as a creative outlet and decided to come to NYC to hang out for a while. It just so happened that I stumbled on an Obama rally in Washington Square Park which, to keep a very long story short, led to my career as a social and political writer which I did throughout Obama’s two terms and Trump’s one term. 

I’d been wanting to spend more time working on music anyway, but once the pandemic was over, I decided it was time to take the leap of faith, especially with the political climate being so toxic. I also wanted to use my voice in a more expansive way especially after the events of 2020 with George Floyd; it just felt like it really was the right time. 

Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that inspired the creation of your song “GET UP AND DANCE NOW”?

Yes! Post-pandemic has been a strange time in the world and, with various situations going on globally, there was a real heaviness and sadness in the air. I was feeling the weight of it all myself, so one day I really thought about how best to deal with it emotionally. 

For me, singing and dancing in the face of oppression are revolutionary acts and I have often used dance to shake off heavy emotions. I’d also been digging into music I grew up listening to, in a way mentally taking myself to a time in sound when life seemed brighter and easier which for me was that mid 90’s acid jazz, funky soulful uplifting house vibe. 

I knew I wanted to make a song that would make people feel lighter, brighter and get them up to dance and shake off some of that weight even if temporarily. That’s where Get Up and Dance Now came from. 

What challenges did you face during this career transition, and how did you overcome them?

There are a good few challenges that come with changing careers, but having done it before when I transitioned from the music business to being a social and political writer, I had some experience. 
That being said, it’s never easy. One challenge was that I had made quite a name for myself as a social and political writer/commentator and broadcaster (as Lola Adesioye which is my birth name) on major networks like MSNBC, CNN and the BBC, as well as writing for prominent international publications, and it’s always difficult for your audience to see you in a new light. 

So, I actually created a new name for myself as an artist (Lola Vista), a whole new instagram page and decided to not just transition but to reinvent myself.  This involved showing this “new” side of me to my existing audience who knew me primarily for my social and political work while also introducing myself to a new (music) community who didn’t really know me before and to who I am completely new. 

It’s actually quite a delicate balance and there is actually even a little sadness that comes with stepping into a new phase of your personal and professional evolution. It involves owning your own narrative, really understanding who you are, what you’re trying to do and being able to explain it to people, finding some common threads between the different worlds and ultimately not being afraid to just step into your new skin and being unapologetic about it. For the most part, people have been very welcoming and accepting, partly I think for that reason – I haven’t gone in looking for validation but more with an attitude of “Here I am!”

I’d been slowly moving away from more hardcore politics to more culture-leaning work (such as interviewing prominent creatives of color and trying to combine the social, political and cultural through events etc) but at some point I just had to make the leap. I stopped posting under my real name and also started saying no to some work which I didn’t think was in alignment with my new direction. Of course there are just some people who don’t get it and I actually had some people actively attempt to discourage me, but I just stay focused and ignore those people — and they are also no longer my ‘friends’. 

Obviously another challenge is the financial aspect – it definitely helps to have some money saved when you’re making a transition to make it smoother financially. It also helps to have a couple of people (friends/family) who know and love you and believe in your transition as much as you do, for some emotional support and understanding because there are always moments of doubt. 
I’m currently an independent artist and the music business is ever-evolving so there’s also a learning curve, which involves me doing a lot of research, reading and learning to get up to and keep myself up to speed. Thankfully I’m pretty good at networking, which helps a lot. Meeting people and speaking face to face is very valuable. 

How has your background in social and political commentary influenced your approach to creating music with a message?

As a commentator and generally as an observant person, I spend time really thinking about what’s going on around me and in the world and I’m used to speaking to what issues are and how I think we should deal with them. My music is really my commentary now. This also means that I’m conscious of what I’m really saying in my music because I know that messages in music really do have an impact on people. I also write music within a context of wider events. My song “Down Time”, for example, came about as a response to not just my feelings but to conversations I’d been having and hearing about hustle culture and living in a profoundly capitalistic system which is obsessed with productivity and 10x’ing your life. 

What lessons have you learned about personal strength, resilience, and mental health through your journey as a musician?

Ha, too many to count really! 

I’m quite a stoical person which I believe helps a great deal in life in general. It’s important to me to be able to face reality, to look it directly in the eye, and then decide what I’m going to do in healthy response. 

Self-knowledge and self-understanding are key. You have to really know your own values, trust in your own beliefs, advocate for what you care about, and stand firm in what you are and aren’t willing to do. Never compromise your own integrity or betray yourself. I often try and think how my future self would feel about my current actions. 

I don’t expect to be unafraid or confident all the time, but I am a big proponent of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’ if need be. You just have to keep moving, one step at a time, day by day. 
Music is a competitive space and it’s easy to get caught up in comparisons and looking at other people’s careers and successes, but each person’s journey – your journey – is a unique and individual one and that’s all that really matters.  

There is also power in doing your own thing and not following trends, but it takes a certain amount of mental strength to do that because it means believing in and trusting your own vision regardless of the noise around. Forget FOMO! 

You also have to stand strong and do what you believe in no matter what numbers say, especially in a time when everyone can see your follower count and how many likes you get! Those numbers do not determine your worth, value, nor quality of your work. 

You have to be mentally and emotionally flexible enough but have a healthy amount of stubborness at the same time! You also have to have faith, determination, tenacity and be able to persevere if you truly believe this is what you’re meant to be doing. It isn’t always easy but such is life; it’s worth it. 

Can you describe the role of music as a form of activism in dealing with the complexities of the world?

Music goes straight to our emotional center which is what makes it so powerful. All musicians are, in my view, messengers and we musicians are all activists for something whether or not we see ourselves as that. Music provides answers. It heals. It helps. It soothes. It energizes. It also provides people with a form of community and connection, a sense of affinity and belonging. As a listener, you know there is at least one other person who resonates with you on some level. 

Music is itself an activist for humanity – it profoundly and directly speaks to our human needs. In a complex world, it’s very easy to feel misunderstood, alienated and isolated. Music takes all of that away. 

What advice would you give to others looking to pursue their passion and make a career shift like yours?

I believe that something that is meant for you will always haunt you if you don’t do it…. and that’s a very uncomfortable place to be because you never feel fully at ease with yourself. If you feel very strongly that there is something you are supposed to do, you just have to do it. 

Sit down, research, outline your vision and your aims and your goals. Journal: confront your fears, soul-search and ask yourself hard questions about what’s been holding you back. Think about how you’ll feel in 20 years if you didn’t go for it… and then get to work. 

The hardest things in life can really be overcome through doing them and through bumping up against ourselves, our fears and our limitations in the process of making our dreams come true. You just have to, at some point, do it.

I’m single with no children so I’m in a different position from others who may have dependents, and I know it isn’t that easy when you have kids to take care of, for example, but it isn’t impossible either. I would also say do what you can with what you have. If you can only carve out 30 minutes a day to work on your new direction, do that. The time people spend scrolling on social media is valuable time that can be put towards a new endeavor or career shift. Every little bit of forward movement helps! 

In addition, try to find kindred spirits and like minded people who are also starting new things. It helps a lot! Lastly, be patient. Things may happen faster than you expect them to but it definitely won’t be overnight. 

How do you balance the creative aspects of your music with the practical aspects of running a business?

Honestly, you just have to make it work. All aspects of everything you do matter! As much as I love recording and writing and performing, I also have to market and promote my work if I want people to hear it. I have to go to events and meet people, I have to introduce myself to people and get to know what people are doing and how we might be able to work together. I have to do whatever has to be done to keep my business running… I don’t really enjoy social media, for example, but it is part of it these days. I don’t know if I balance things per se, I just try and ensure that everything that needs to be done gets done! Obviously there are only so many hours in the day, so this year I intend to start building more of a consistent team around my business. 

What impact do you hope your music and message will have on your audience and the world at large?

I hope my music uplifts people and makes their lives better. I want my music to make your day brighter, especially if you’re going through something! 

Can you share any upcoming projects or initiatives that your fans and followers can look forward to?

My next single will be out in May! I’m also working on an EP which will drop later this year. I’m working on a couple of exciting commissions as well so watch out for those. Lots of shows to come in the next few months too. For more information, people can check out my website www.Lola-Vista.com and sign up for updates! Please follow and like me on Spotify, Apple Music and wherever you stream your music. 

by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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