Michael Kiwanuka opens up about imposter syndrome after Mercury Prize win

Michael Kiwanuka said he has previously experienced imposter syndrome and self-doubt after he was revealed as the winner of the 2020 Mercury Prize.

The singer-songwriter has taken home the award for the first time after being nominated on two previous occasions.

He won the prize for his self-titled third album Kiwanuka, which reached number two in the charts after it was released in November 2019 to rave reviews.

Graham Norton Show – London
Graham Norton Show – London

After being announced as the winner of the award on BBC’s The One Show, Kiwanuka said he wanted to express himself in the “truest way” with the album.

“When you are in a business like music, music is fun but when you are in kind of a more commercial setting, you have to be out there to the public,” he said.

“You can sometimes have a bit of an imposter syndrome or doubt yourself.”

He added this was “taking away from my experience of doing basically my dream job, so I made a decision when I was making this album to really just be myself and enjoy it and not hold back”.

The Brit Award Nominations 2017 – London
The Brit Award Nominations 2017 – London

The album’s name “says a lot for me because obviously it is my heritage, it is who I am and even that in itself was something I want to be loud and proud about”, he added.

Kiwanuka said he was “seriously surprised” to win the award.

The Mercury Prize is usually handed out during a concert-style event featuring performances from all 12 nominees.

Kiwanuka, from north London, saw off competition from Stormzy’s Heavy Is The Head and Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia.

Mercury Prize nominations 2020
Mercury Prize nominations 2020

Laura Marling, Kano, Lanterns On The Lake, Moses Boyd, Porridge Radio, Sports Team, Georgia, Charli XCX and Anna Meredith were also up for the award.

While Kiwanuka’s latest soul-inflected album failed to top the UK charts, his 2016 release Love & Hate was a number one.

Earlier this year Kiwanuka was also nominated in the male solo artist and album categories at the Brit Awards.

On Friday he will appear on a special edition of BBC Two’s Later… With Jools Holland in which he will discuss his creative process and musical influences.

BBC Radio 1Xtra Live
BBC Radio 1Xtra Live

This year’s Mercury Prize was overseen by a panel of judges including Anna Calvi, Annie Mac, Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes, Jamie Cullum, Jorja Smith and Vice.com’s editorial director Tshepo Mokoena.

Last year’s Mercury Prize was won by rapper Dave for his album Psychodrama.

He beat nominees including Slowthai, The 1975, Little Simz and Foals to the award.