- Soul Singer Avery*Sunshine returns to St. Louis with sophomore album, The Sunroom
- Album Review: Marsha Ambrosius, Friends & Lovers (soul/R&B)
- Album Review: Meshell Ndegeocello, Comet, Come To Me (alternative)
- R&B singer Bradd Marquis speaks on love lessons, his listeners and new video “Break Up”
- Get In Media: NPR Music Critic Ann Powers talks first paid writing gig and the skills needed by today’s journalists [INTERVIEW]
- Thursday’s Pop: London girlgroup JUCE – “(H)ours”
- Get In Media: DJ, Producer Atlantic Connection Sets the Record Straight on Making Beats [INTERVIEW]
- Jay Z, Ron Howard “Made In America” Documentary on DVD in May
- New Video: Chromeo – “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)”
- Album Review: Ayo, Ticket to the World (Soul)
Upcoming Album Releases
Jul 29 - Shabazz Palaces, LESE MAJESTY
Aug 12 - FaltyDL, IN THE WILD
Aug 12 - SOJA, AMID THE NOISE AND HASTE
Aug 19 - Kimbra, THE GOLDEN ECHO
Aug 25 - Basement Jaxx, JUNTO
Sept 2 - Maroon 5, V
Sept 9 - Banks, GODDESS
Sept 9 - Delta Spirit, INTO THE WIDE
Sept 9 - Ryan Adams, RYAN ADAMS
Oct 7 - Macy Gray, THE WAY
With positive attitude to spare, singer and pianist Avery*Sunshine, along with writing partner and guitarist Dana “Big Dane” Johnson is set to play Kranzberg Arts Center on Friday, August 1st. Last week, I had the chance to speak to the Atlanta-based singer via telephone as she shared thoughts on their sophomore LP, her natural ability to write about love, how the record label model is completely different now, advice for new singers entering the music business, and how it feels to be a VH1 You Oughta Know Artist.
For those who haven’t heard the new album, what can they expect on The Sunroom?
Avery*Sunshine: They can expect a mix of a lot of music that I absolutely love. You can hear our influences from 80s and 90s R&B, from Motown sound – I’ve got some gospel stuff on there, to feel a soulful vibe. It’s a bunch of music that we love — Dana, my writing and business partner, the stuff that we love to hear. We just yielded to that energy, and if that’s what’s was coming out that’s what we’re going to do. Some of the stuff may put you in the mind of something that you may have heard before, but we don’t have any samples on the record. Everything is original.
I noticed that there isn’t any features either.
AS: But you know why? Only because I don’t ever want to do it, just to do features. It has got to feel right. And it’s not because I didn’t want them. If it’s not easy – I know that sounds crazy, but if it’s not easy and it’s our music and our art, we shouldn’t have to fight. Not that we’ve had any experiences like that but if it doesn’t kind of present itself… If you kind of knock on the door a little bit and don’t get an answer, we shouldn’t have to beat on the door. It shouldn’t be like that, let it happen naturally or organically.
You’re a VH1 You Oughta Know artist, how does that feel as an independent artist?
AS: It felt like, “What a minute, wait a minute, am I suppose to be here. Ya’ll want me to do this, you sure?” And Dana’s always on the other side like, “Yeah, we’re suppose to do this! We’ve worked so hard, yes!” So it is surprising; it’s exhilarating. It’s a little bit scary but it’s awesome all at the same time.
Do you think that there’s expectation behind the title?
AS: The expectation is that you deserve to be there. And that’s a fair expectation. That means that I have to make sure that I’m on all the time. When I say on I mean … I practice so much that making mistakes aren’t an option. What I mean when I say that, is being ready for those opportunities, when it’s time for a show, people get a show! When it’s time for a record, people get a great record. It’s something I thought about and was intentional about. It helps you raise your own bar, your own standard. It was a rite of passage, one of many rites of passage.
I’ve been following you on Facebook since I first saw you perform in New York around 2010. And you are hilarious! How do you keep your sense of humor in this business of making music? How do you keep that positive attitude?
AS: You have to. One, you keep people around you that feed into that good energy. And anybody that doesn’t or anything that doesn’t has to go. I have no room. I can be negative by myself. I don’t need anybody around me that’s going to be like that. You make sure to keep people around that can lift you up, so when you’re not feeling 100 percent, they are there to remind you to “stop it”. And then when I am a hundred percent, I have to remember to remind everybody else. That’s just the human part of us.
Avery*Sunshine – “Call My Name” –
How do your kids feel about your celebrity?
AS: At first they were like “You’re not here, I don’t like that”. But the older they get and they go to school and people are like and they’re friends are like “Oh my God we saw your mom on TV. Or oh my God I heard your mom on the radio.” Then they were like “Okay, you can go and travel just make sure you bring us something back, we’re cool, okay”. That clearly helps but when I am at home, we spend all of our time together. I make sure that the time that we spend is quality time. During the school year we’re doing homework together, we’re going to piano lessons, whatever performances they have, however I’m able to support them. In the summertime we’re going on vacation together, doing the movies, rock climbing, you know staying busy.
I’m grateful to have the kind of kids that I do that will tell me “Listen, I know you’re tired but we need you, we need quality mommy time right now, so what are you going to do?” And they are also able to dial it back where if I say “Listen, mommy needs 30 minutes, by herself, in her room; ya’ll don’t come in, don’t knock, don’t even breath for 30 minutes.” [Laughs] You know, I’m grateful but it was definitely an adjustment.
You are an inspiration for many aspiring and established artists. I mean opening for Ledisi and Kem, The O’Jays, among others. What advice would you give to new artists wanting to pursue a singing career? Your top two pieces of advice.
AS: One,no one can want this more than you want it for yourself. That record label model is completely different now, where you can just sing and you have all these people around you to do everything else. If you are not only prepared to make the music, but to promote and to market yourself; be your own foot soldier, then this is not the industry for you. You have to wear more than one hat. It’s not enough to just play well or sing well, it’s not enough.
Social media plays a part in that equation too.
AS: Oh my gosh, yes. And that’s a small piece of the whole picture. If your business acumen isn’t up to par, find somebody; learn the business. While you’re also honing your musical skills, you have to hone those business skills as well. Business management skills … people skills, how about that? Again, the days of the mysterious artist — I’m not going to say that they’re over, but you can’t necessarily be mysterious today. You can’t do the Prince right now.
Prince isn’t doing the Prince thing right now. He’s on Twitter.
AS: How ‘bout that — if he’s doing it!You got to be hands on, you got to talk to your fans; you got to be in the mix. You can’t do a show and then bounce. You can’t be untouchable. You can’t be that way. There are so many things to talk about in regards to being an artist, but those are the things that come to mind first. You have got to be ready to work. Bottom line and that doesn’t just mean sing or record, I mean the whole picture.
My favorite tracks on the album are “Won’t You Try”, “Call My Name”, “Nothing to Something”… there’s love throughout your music, is that something that comes natural to write about?
AS: It’s natural; it just comes out. I’ve tried to talk about other stuff, but it’s not authentic for me. It’s all love when I’m singing about my children, when I’m singing about my boyfriend, when I’m singing about music, singing about God; it’s still love. Being happy in it, losing it, or finding it or it finding you. Being upset with it, making friends with love again, you know what I mean. It’s all about love. It’s all about love for me.
Avery*Sunshine plays Kranzberg Arts Center (501 N. Grand Blvd) on Friday; August 1st. Click the link for show time and ticket info.
Marsha Ambrosius released her debut solo LP, Late Nights & Early Mornings, in 2011. Picking up where the classic R&B project left off is Friends & Lovers, a candid lyrical expression about love, sex and relationships. In an interview with The Boombox at Essence Music Festival earlier this month, the British songwriter admitted: “[Friends & Lovers] is very sexy. So I employ you not to play it for anyone that you’re not trying to ‘do it’ to. Don’t blame me later when you’re on some ‘I love you’ stuff.”
With songs titled “So Good”, “69″ and “Cupid (Shot Me Through My Heart)”, Friends & Lovers is an album for adults only, in terms of its straightforwardness. It features cameos from rapper Dr. Dre (“Stronger”, a cover of the Sade classic) and Charlie Wilson (“Spend All My Time”). My personal favorite is “Night Time”. Either way, below check out the video for the latest single, “Run” and be sure to catch Marsha on tour through August 9th.
With a career spanning 20 years, Meshell Ndegeocello has always kept it interesting in terms of music. From 1993′s Plantation Lullabies to 1999′s Bitter to 2003′s Comfort Woman and 2011′sWeather, the bassist and singer-songwriter has moved through neo soul, funk, reggae, alternative, rock and jazz, to include 2012′s Pour une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone. On her eleventh studio effort, Comet, Come To Me, Ndegeocello captures the depth and honesty that true fans continue to expect from her. Or maybe it’s the voice and bass playing that pulls us in.
Opening with an unusual but fierce cover of Whodini’s “Friends,” we’re then led down a path of coldness, heartache and pain in tracks like “Forget My Name,” “Folie a Deux” and lead single, “Conviction.” So there’s no doubt that Comet, Come To Me is an emotional ride, but like any album by Meshell Ndegeocello, it’s simply too hard to step away.
R&B crooner Bradd Marquis recently released “Break Up,” the latest video and single from his third LP, Thank You via his own imprint, Soulman Music Group. Telling the story of a relationship gone sour, “Break Up” poses the question that no person in a committed partnership wants to ask: Should we stay together or go our separate ways? Like many talented songwriters, Bradd writes songs that are literally pulled from life experiences.
“Break Up” started as a conversation between a friend and myself where we were both venting about our relationships,” says the singer via email. “She had broken up with her boyfriend and I was trying to determine whether I wanted to move forward with my girlfriend or just let it go!”
With a “clean-cut, old school charm” about him, Bradd grew up in the church, as well as traveled as a child performer in the “Family & Friends” gospel troupe. He has opened for soul artists such as Angela Winbush, Frankie Beverly and Maze, and India.Arie — amazing songwriters in their own right. As such, Bradd’s on track to bringing back real R&B music, where the art of storytelling; talking about releationships, figuring out ways to mend them, and sharing of honest emotions are at the heart of every song. And like many great songwriters, Bradd wants “listeners to be inspired” by his music, too. “I want them to find joy, motivation and encouragement in my music. I hope it can be the soundtrack to their lives, finding their experiences in my songs.”
When asked about the love lessons he’s learned over the years, the New Jersey native shared: “I’ve learned … that love is a constant sacrifice and compromise. It’s a team effort between two willing partners, two teammates.” He continues, “It’s not about how you love when things are good but how you love when things are not so good. [And] make sure that you find the partner that possesses your non negotiables, those traits or qualities that you can not live without! [Then] everything else won’t be so hard to make concessions on.”
Bradd’s previous albums include Authentic (2011) and Finding My Way (2007).
Get In Media: NPR Music Critic Ann Powers talks first paid writing gig and the skills needed by today’s journalists [INTERVIEW]
Ann Powers has written for a who’s who of respected publications. The Seattle native began her career at The Rocket, one of the first magazines to help break grunge acts like Nirvana. She went on to become editor and columnist for San Francisco Weekly, and pop music critic at The New York Times as well the Los Angeles Times. However, since 2011 she has curated NPR music blog, The Record, making music predictions on everything from R&B and pop to dance music and rock.
Working remotely from her home in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a typical day will have Ann catching up on “whatever new music is out that week—not just albums, but mixtapes, what’s on Soundcloud, [and] stuff that’s causing a sensation on YouTube.” Here, she chats about her first writing gig, the appeal of talking about music day-in and day-out, career advice for new music writers, and her favorite artist interviews over the years.
Ann Powers: I grew up in Seattle and started out writing about local bands for my high school paper. This is pre-grunge! I covered New Wave and punk bands. I was approached by an editor for the Rocket, the legendary Seattle music magazine that later helped break artists like Nirvana and Mudhoney. My first article was about a band called Fred—my cousin and my boyfriend were both in the band, so I had some things to learn about conflict of interest! The first rock star I interviewed in person was Joan Jett. Her brilliance, attitude, and eyeliner techniques changed my life.
AP: Since I was 10 or so, I’ve looked to music to help me understand my own emotions and the ways people treat each other in relationships. It’s my map of the human heart. Later I learned to read music and understand that it’s also this endlessly complicated language. And of course, it can help us understand the history of our nation—jazz, rock, soul, funk … those are the American art forms.
AP: I live in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where my family moved when my husband [rock critic Eric Weisbard] became a professor of American Studies at UA in 2009. So, obviously, I work remotely. An average day involves trying to catch up on whatever new music is out that week—not just albums, but mixtapes, what’s on Soundcloud, stuff that’s causing a sensation on YouTube. I read other music websites like The Wondering Sound and Soulbounce, and aggregators like The Daily Swarm, to see what’s happening. There’s always something new to contemplate and comment on.
I do travel a lot and see as much live music as I can. This summer I’ll be in Nashville for a while, and then Los Angeles. When I’m in a bigger city I spend a lot of time checking out music and movies, too—all the popular arts are related.
AP: The huge difference is that we’re all online now. The move away from print destroyed the conventional careers my peers and I could once pursue. You can’t get paid the way you once did for a music feature, and staff jobs are few and far between. I am really very lucky to have been able to sustain myself doing what I do, considering this transition.
On the up side, the infinite expandability of the Web means that so many more voices are out there participating in the critical conversation. And I love the ongoing conversations made possible by social media. I do wish we would all take a collective breath sometimes, though. Snap judgments and the perceived need to weigh in on everything diminish criticism’s depth.
AP: Learn multimedia. That’s obvious. At the same time, hone your skills as a writer by reading a lot of books, not just blogs and Tumblrs. And spend time really listening to music. See as much live music as you can. But wear earplugs! I’ve lost a good amount of my hearing because I stuffed napkins in my ears at too many shows when I was younger.
AP: Music writing isn’t always respected as its own pursuit. A music writer has never won a Pulitzer. I think many other journalists feel that anyone can do it—everybody likes music, right? But it does demand a strong self-education and the development of an ear, as well as a critical vision. What’s the pro? Well, you get to think about music all the time! That’s unbeatable.
AP: Sure, but it is work, too. Most of my time I’m sitting at a computer, alone. I’m not complaining though.
AP: I always say interviewing Prince was the high point. And doing the book with Tori Amos—Tori Amos: Piece by Piece. I’ve been able to meet many people I admire so much, and engage in serious conversation with them. The Pearl Jam guys are special to me. I’m glad I met Bono and the rest of U2. Bruce Springsteen! Bonnie Raitt! I found Garth Brooks fascinating. I was lucky to interview Amy Winehouse before she passed. The list goes on. Right now I’m excited about younger artists I get to help out as they rise, great songwriters like Alynda Lee Segarra from Hurray For the Riff Raff or Sturgill Simpson.
- Published via Get In Media, June 23, 2014.
Directed by Kate Moross, London trio JUCE recently released their funky new video “(H)ours”. The clip shows Georgia, Chalin and Cherish in choreographed sequences that are fun and cool to watch as they take you back with their early 90′s girl group vibe. “(H)ours follows the retro outfit’s debut single, “Call You Out“.
DJ, producer, and musician Atlantic Connection grew up hearing theory, scales, and chords. Born Nathan Hayes, his mother was a professor of music and piano teacher. He started making music at age 16. Since then, Atlantic Connection has released numerous singles, EPs, albums, and toured. In 2008 he “switched gears and put a focus on music sync licensing,” where his career has taken him to television and film. MTV’s new series The Show With Vinny starring Vinny Guadagnino from Jersey Shore fame features his track “Hypem” from the EP of the same name as the show’s theme song.
Atlantic Connection released the four-song EP The Limit last year. In 2012, it was The Love Architect, a full-length album blending soul, R&B, dubstep, and drum and bass music.
Get In Media spoke with the DJ recently as he shared four misconceptions that new producers should know that are so not true, the beat-making process, as well as how he got started making music.
4 Misconceptions About Making Beats from Music Producer Atlantic Connection
Sample CDs Are Bad
Sample CDs are great for the simple reason the sounds are already cleared. You may have to dig for quite some time to find sounds that work for you. However, if you take the time to dig and think outside the box, I bet you’ll be surprised. Of course, knowing theory and playing original riffs is extremely valuable, but we don’t all have the same backgrounds and that’s what keeps this whole thing uniquely unpredictable.
Making Electronic Music/Beat-based Music is Simple and Formulaic
Sure you can throw some loops together, download some construction stems etc., but where’s the creativity in that? And how are you contributing to the innovation of the music? If you’re simply regurgitating trend expectation, you’ve missed the plot (and I’m not talking imitation equals flattery. That’s a whole other topic). Creativity is the only reason we’ve made it this far. Contribute or peace out.
One DAW is Better or Worse Than Another
At the end of the day, you should work with what works for you. I started with Acid 1.0, moved onto Reason. Used that for years. I tried Logic, but I just didn’t vibe with it. Same with Cubase. It just didn’t feel natural. I ended up with Live and I’ve not looked back since. Why? Because it works for me. So find what works for you and use it to it’s fullest.
You Should Sit Still and Be Serious While Making Music
No, get up and dance around the room to your song. Sing it in front of the mirror. Order pizza. Pretend you’re hearing it in a club. Empower yourself through your art. If you can’t, why would anyone else?
Atlantic Connection: I was born in and adopted from Colombia, raised in Boston, moved to North Carolina in high school and a year after college moved to LA, and been here ever since.
I was always into music, playing guitar, bass, violin, sax, piano. I played in a few punk/ska bands in the ‘90s. Fast forward, I cut my teeth in the whole rave scene in the late ‘90s, started DJing around 16 or so, started gigging out before I was even able to get into the clubs [laughs]. I started producing music around 2000 and signed with my first record label in 2002, and from there just took it up—tours, record releases, etc. Through 2008, at which time I switched gears and put a focus on music sync licensing, got a job with MTV, which turned into a six year relationship resulting in some incredible experiences and opportunities, which opened a ton of doors. I did a lot of TV shows, movies, and a few commercials, during which I was always asked to write electronica, so it all tied right back into my love. Now it’s all come full circle—the producing, DJing, all of it. It’s merged into one experience.
AC: The process of making music starts in many ways. Sometimes it’s a melody in my head. Other times it’s a sample I hear when listening to old soul ‘n’ funk records, or sometimes I just build some nice drums and add different sounds and stuff until I find a good vibe. Lately, I’ve found some pretty cool apps for my phone where I can scratch ideas on the go. Inspiration for me has always come from my experiences in life. I always tell people, if you want to know where I am in life (emotionally, spiritually, socially), go listen to the last three songs I wrote. My music is an internal expression of my external reception. It’s how I process life.
AC: This is going to sound so archaic. Once I’d written enough music I felt confident in sharing with labels in 2000—most were all in the U.K. as that was the core market for all of us—I would find the labels post mailing addresses and send physical demo CDs [laughs]. I would also go to every single club [and] event night within a five-hour drive that was hosting a DJ who was signed to a label I wanted to sign with and bring them a CD for the label.
But once AOL Instant Messenger happened, everything changed. All of a sudden we, the producers and DJs, were all connected through these secure chat windows with file-sharing abilities and we all got on music forums and shared our contact info with each other. The fans joined these forums and we were able to interact with them. The international community grew closer.
Within a couple years, not only did the U.S. scene get a lot tighter, but also a lot more of us started breaking into the U.K. markets because ideas and collaborations were more easily exchanged. Going back to how I was able to promote my music, it was through all of us playing each other’s tunes. Constantly supporting, camping up, collaborating, working under different names, playing weekly nights and interacting with the small community of magazines promoting the sound—Bassline, URB, Rinse Knowledge.
There also weren’t as many of us back then, so there was this limited element to it with all, in terms of skills as a DJ and who was bringing the freshest ideas to the table and who had the hottest tunes. It really mattered.
AC: Listeners? There’s every way in the world now, just pick your poison. TV execs? That’s a whole different game. I’d start with registering yourself with a PRO (performance rights organization) and keeping up to date with their newsletters and events. Lots of times companies like ASCAP and PRS host networking events and conferences dedicated to the subject of networking into the music sync-licensing world. You can also pitch your productions to music houses. You may have a sound they’re looking for. I know lots of young producers who have had success doing that.
AC: I’d say nothing is subtle and everything is out there. Nothing wrong with using another vehicle to be heard. Just be true to your personal beliefs and don’t judge others in the process. Future Soul? Yeah, sure will! I’ve just finished off a new EP for SMOG Records that’s full of it. So excited about it. One of the tracks is already in rotation on MTV.
AC: I came up with the term future soul back in my drum and bass days. Must have been around 2004. I was still living in North Carolina, listening to a ton of soulful, sampled hip-hop, which was heavily influencing my drum and bass productions. Aside from the community of DJs and producers I existed within, no one around me knew what drum and bass was. I’d try to explain it to them: “Oh, yeah, it’s kind of like soul samples with D&B.” They’d respond with something along the lines of, “So, do you play the drums or the bass?” So, I just started explaining my style as future soul and it stuck. The term in its current simply means the fusion of soul music with electronica.
- Published via Get In Media, April 14, 2014.
Budweiser Made In America is an annual music festival held in Philadelphia that features some of the hottest hip hop, R&B, rock and EDM performers on the scene. Directed by Ron Howard, the documentary Made In America releases on DVD and video on demand on May 19th.
Jay Z, alongside business associate Steve Stoute, created the fest in 2012 “as a way to bring together music and culture.” First premiering on Showtime in October, Howard gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how the festival came together for its inaugural show — which includes interviews and concert footage from artists such as Beyoncé, Kanye West, Janelle Monae, Run DMC, Skrillex, and Pearl Jam.
Signature Entertainment’s Jon Bourdillon said, “We are proud to release Made In America in the UK. With the collaboration of great talents including Ron Howard as director and one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time, Jay-Z, it is the must-see music feature film of the year.”
Canadian electrofunk duo Chromeo returns with new visual “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)”, where lead man Dave 1 (born David Macklovitch) plays a jealous priest. The pair, which includes Patrick Gemayel (aka P-Thugg) releases their fourth album White Women on May 12th, a follow-up to 2010′s Business Casual. Regarding the album title? In a Rolling Stone interview last October, Macklovitch had this to say: “It’s ambiguous – ethnic guys [Dave 1 is half Moroccan, P-Thugg is Lebanese] making a tribute to black music with an album called White Women. “We felt it was a challenge to this super conservative climate we’re feeling in America these days… We just wanted debates like this to be engaged. It’s interesting that the music we make can branch out into these conversations.”
Once again working with Jay Newland, who produced her first two albums, Ayo penned songs about world matters as well as everyday issues such as people who “whine, whine anytime of the day” (“Complain”) to living life simply with just her guitar (“Hullabaloo”), and a song she wrote in New York about the riots in London (“Fire”), which is also the first single from the album. The talented guitarist also performs a duet with singer- songwriter Citizen Cope on “Justice,” a country-folk ditty with a blues-like quality.
However, a surprisingly sweet cover comes in the form of “I Wonder” by newly re-discovered artist Sixto Rodriguez. Sixto’s story was documented in the 2012 film Searching for Sugar Man, about the folk musician that seemingly failed as an artist in the U.S. in the ’70s, but become a huge hit in South Africa years later. The documentary was a fan favorite at film festivals like Sundance and Tribeca. Simply put, Ticket to the World is as powerful as it is beautiful.
Ayo was born Joy Ogunmakin to a Nigerian father and Romani mother. “Ayo” is the Yoruba translation of “Joy.”
Producer Dam-Funk and rapper Snoop Dogg (aka Snoopzilla, aka Snoop Lion) have teamed up as 7 Days of Funk to pay homage to funk performers of the past like Bootsy Collins and George Clinton. The duo recently stopped by Conan (Dec. 9) to perform the lead single “Faden Away”, a mix of G-Funk hip hop and urban soul that includes heavy synthesizers and basslines.
Dam-Funk says about working with Snoop, “Snoop is a funkster, too, but he’s a well-rounded artist across genres, so to work with him on this music is to further the sound. He’s beloved worldwide, so anything he says or touches or does, people respect and trust. And for this particular project, it was such a natural vibe. It wasn’t put together by labels or management — these are two brothers who came together.”
The record 7 Days of Funk is out now on vinyl, CD and cassette. Yes, cassette.
Minneapolis isn’t particularly known as a hotbed for hip hop, but it is known for innovative sounds in the soul and R&B category with groups like Mint Condition, The Time, 94 East and of course, Prince. Rapper/singer Lizzo is an emerging artist from the city that has the likes of NPR music critics taking notice. Her blend of catchy wordplay and confident presence makes “Batches & Cookies” a standout from the crowd, so be on the lookout for more of Lizzo in 2014. Meanwhile, peep her new album LizzoBangers and watch the video for “Batches & Cookies” below.
A follow up to 2011’s Pieces of Me, New Orleans native Ledisi returns with new single “I Blame You” from her forthcoming LP The Truth. In the Derek Blanks-directed video, the singer showcases a slimmer, trimmer, more confident Ledisi.
Regarding the single’s meaning, the Grammy-nominated artist told ESSENCE magazine: “It’s about a relationship and you’re excited about the person making you excited about you, again. So, you’re blaming that person for bringing some light into your life.” She also shared via The Singersroom,
“With every album I grow, and with ‘The Truth’ I’ve gone to a new level. It’s an extension of who I am and where I am in my life. Everything I am feeling and experiencing is in this album and I am excited to share it with my fans.” And we can’t wait!
Check out the video below. The Truth arrives in stores on March 11, 2014.
Last month soulful singer Alice Smith performed on BET’s Black Girls Rock! awards, an organization that empowers, encourages and celebrates women of color in the arts. However, weeks before the show aired, the Brooklyn-based artist shared her newest video “Be Easy,” a black and white montage of vintage images showcasing her in different settings.
Having been on the music scene for nearly a decade now, Alice released her sophomore album, SHE, in March, a follow-up to her Grammy-nominated 2006 debut For Lovers Dreamers and Me. SHE is a blend of soul, rock, blues, R&B and jazz.
Unlike mainstream artists who have large marketing and PR departments behind them, independent artists do much of their promotion and advertising themselves or with a small team of support. Paris-based singer and songwriter Osmojam will soon release her debut album Echappée, a project blending nu-soul, jazz and pop sounds, however, she will be doing it with the help of fans and not a record label.
The French artist, born Nadia Henry, will allow you to listen to the whole album for free via email subscription, and then you can make up your mind on the album’s release date. Once she hits 500 subscriptions, the album will be out!
Osmojam is a contraction of “osmosis” and “jam” like in jam session. Echappée means escape in English. Earlier this year, the indie artist released an acoustic 80’s EP where she covered American pop songs from the 80’s such as Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much” and Wham’s “Wake Me Up”.
The lead single from Echappée is entitled “Avec une Idée” which translates to good ideas and ironically is about using creativity to renew and push us further. Recently the singer took the time to answer a few questions regarding the theme of the album, why it’s easier to write in French than English, her love for Brazilian neo-soul artists and the artists she collaborated with on Echappée.
Watch Osmojam’s “Good Ideas”
What can we expect on Echappée? What’s the meaning behind the title?
“Echappée” means escape in French. I’m both a very nostalgic person and a dreamer. The music I find the most moving is the one that takes me back to my childhood, when I used to listen to good old R&B, when I used to think everything was possible and I could become anything I want. Writing the tracks on the album, I really wanted to go back to these old Rhodes sounds you could hear on some of Whitney Houston’s songs or Disney’s soundtracks. I wanted the album to be an invitation to escape from the present and to go back to the time where people seem to take more risks while composing, both on the texts and the melodies.
Ironically, some people told me I did not take any risks with this album since I did not propose anything new, musically. To my mind, the risk I took was elsewhere: I made the music I wanted to make, regardless of what people may want to hear right now. I chose French, which is not considered to be the ideal language for this style of music, and on the top of that I chose quite unusual subjects for a soul/R&B album: music creation process, childhood, multiculturalism, boredom and disappointment, politics… So listening to “Echappée”, you’ll find groovy tracks, from R&B to neo soul, with a jazzy touch, not really addressing subjects like love and relationships. [Because I feel] there are already some people out there doing it very well [laughs].
The songs on this album are mostly in French, but your 80’s EP was in English. Why did you decide on French this time around?
When I compose original songs, it is really important for me to write in French because I have the impression I will never be as truthful in another language than in my native language. The director of my choir had these beautiful words: to really touch people, you need to use the language you’re crying in. Plus it is kind of a challenge to deal with the sonorities of French words, to keep it grooving, and I love challenges! If Joy Delalane can do it in German, it should be possible in French! I think French soul/R&B artists need to be more proud of their language and should promote it more, even if their inspiration mainly comes from Anglo-Saxon artists. For “80″ EP, it was quite different since I did covers. My aim was to give my own rendition of pop songs from the 80′s, to transform them but to keep the lyrics. That happened to be in English.
It’s funny, though I don’t speak the language, I still find Echappée very relaxing. I’m a big fan of R&B duo Les Nubians, been for years. I interviewed Hélène Faussart in 2011 and asked her if that’s intentional, to make music that connects to the listener no matter the language spoken. She essentially said it’s about the feeling; music is a universal feeling. To that, what would you add?
I think she pretty much said everything. True, you don’t have to understand the language to be touched by a melody or a rhythm, or to even sing the song. For instance I love Brazilian neo soul (Patricia Marx, Ed Motta…) and I can’t [understand] a single word! You know the big impact American music has in the world. In fact I think many people in non-English speaking countries are used to not understand the lyrics, at least at first listen, and to look for the translation if they really like the song.
Talk to me about some of the collaborations on Echappée.
I collaborated with many French soul singers on this first LP. I met most of them in my choir “We Are One”, directed by the talented Obam Zoe Obianga. I have a trio with two-gifted songstress, Judy Benonie and Nkia Asong, who are very active on the Parisian stage. The song, “Un simple accord” (A Single Chord) is about how joyful and satisfying it is to make music with other people. Then “Déception” (Disappointment) is a duet with my dear friend Aldrick, who released his album “Histoire de” (This is the story of…) last year. We are both fond of acappella R&B so we did everything with our voices on this track. Then I have a song with the brilliant Ray Lika, who is also doing many of the backing vocals on the LP. Our duet, “Des crayons de couleurs” (Coloured Pencils) is about how time flies and how we sometimes regret our childhood. I also invited two rappers, TIS on “Metro” (Subway) and Nicky Lars on the remix of “Si tu veux rester” (If You Want to Stay), which is a track I gave up for free several years ago and decided to redo.
What inspired the Lady Gaga jazz cover?
Frankly, at first I disliked this song, but they always played it in my sports club and I ended up knowing it by heart. Then I said to myself “how about redoing it but in jazz fashion”? I know Lady Gaga is a gifted musician and she already did a jazz duet with Tony Benett. So I thought she would not be too offended with this version if she happened to stumble on it [laughs]
What do you want fans to take away from this album?
I simply hope they will be pleased enough to replay it several times, and I hope they will get what I’ve tried to do: make French grooves and tackling different themes than what we are used to.
Describe your music in three words?
Nostalgic, groovy, and frenchy!
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Janelle Monae electrified on The Arsenio Hall Show on Monday night with current single “Electric Lady,” taken from her sophomore LP The Electric Lady (Wondaland Art Society/Bad Boy). The singer danced and moonwalked across the stage with her trademark high energy and live band, which follows her recent SNL performance and Sunday night’s Black Girls Rock! opening. The Electric Lady is out on iTunes and in stores everywhere now.
Folk singer Valerie June recently stopped by NPR to perform a three-song set for their Tiny Desk Concert series. With an unusual sound that blends folk, soul, blues and gospel, the Tennessee-bred artist sang “Workin’ Woman Blues,” “Rain Dance” and “Somebody to Love,” from her acclaimed LP Pushin’ Against a Stone.
“Dontcha” is the new single and video from Syd the Kid and Matt Martians, better known as soul band The Internet. It’s from their latest LP Feel Good (out now via Odd Future Records). Vocalist Syd the Kid is noted as Odd Future’s DJ/producer and Martians is The Internet’s producer. “Dontcha” was created by Chad Hugo (of The Neptunes) and Grammy winning Michael Einziger. The smooth black and white visual was directed by Lacey Duke — who also directed Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope [Wondamix]” video featuring B.o.B. and Lupe Fiasco in 2010.
The Internet met through MySpace five years ago, but only formed the band in 2011 — which includes bassist Patrick Paige II, drummer Christopher Allan Smith and keyboardist Tay Walker. Having produced music for Odd Future over the years, they released their debut album Purple Naked Ladies in late 2011, featuring controversial single “Cocaine.”
Noteworthy releases for today.
Robert Glasper Experiment, BLACK RADIO 2 (Blue Note Records)
Following last year’s Grammy-winning Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment returns with Black Radio 2, featuring a who’s who list of R&B stars from Brandy and Jill Scott to Common and Dwele. Also peep the hilarious Wayne Brady interlude after the Norah Jones-assisted track “Let It Ride.” [jazz/R&B/soul/hip hop]
“THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY” SOUNDTRACK (RCA Records)
“The Best Man Holiday” (in theatres Nov. 15) is the sequel to the 1999 romantic comedy “The Best Man” about old friends with their share of secrets and relationship problems. The film’s holiday soundtrack includes tracks by R&B vets like Charlie Wilson and R. Kelly, as well as R&B stars like Fantasia, Jordin Sparks Ne-Yo and John Legend. [soul/Christmas theme]
Yuna, NOCTURNAL (Verve)
Malaysian singer/guitarist Yuna returns with her third LP Nocturnal. A blend of soulful, melodic pop songs. [pop/soul]
Last week Robert Glasper Experiment released the new video “Calls” featuring Jill Scott. The single is from the forthcoming Black Radio 2, which hits stores October 29 via Blue Note Records.
It’s a follow-up to last year’s Grammy winning Black Radio, and like its predecessor features a slew of R&B and soul artists including Brandy, Faith Evans, Lalah Hathaway, Anthony Hamilton, Dwele, Marsha Ambrosius and Emeli Sandé.
Noteworthy releases for today.
Amel Larrieux, ICE CREAM EVERYDAY [Blisslife]
Fifth studio album from singer-songwriter and former member of 90′s R&B group Groove Theory. (soul/R&B)
Donna Summer, LOVE TO LOVE YOU DONNA [Verve]
A tribute/remix collection from house legends Frankie Knuckles/Masters at Work, and newbies Holy Ghost!, Hot Chip, and Laidback Luke. (club/dance/house)
Katy Perry, PRISM [Capital/Virgin EMI]
Sophomore release from America’s favorite pop star featuring lead single “Roar.” (pop)
John Legend’s fourth solo studio LP, Love In the Future, sells us on all the good and right parts of finding a perfectly imperfect love. The great thing about the singer is that he’s so believable in respect to his admiration and very public romance with his new wife (model Chrissy Teigan) for which most of the album is dedicated, that you do not get bogged down in the intensity of the entire project.
Following 2010’s Wake Up! with The Roots (which won a Grammy), the “Get Lifted” singer also hit it big last year with the single “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)” featuring rapper Ludacris from the Think Like a Man soundtrack. Though Love In the Future features a host of collaborations from Hit-Boy (Kanye West, Jay-Z), Ali Shaheed Mohammad, Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest, Lily Allen), as well as West and Dave Tozer as co-producer and co-executive producer, Legend still couldn’t lose by tackling what he does best — which is love. With covers of Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes” and Anita Baker’s “Angel” (a duet with Brooklyn singer Stacey Barthe), the album is a wonderful mix of old school love and new love perspectives. And the newly released “All of Me” video featuring Teigan just solidifies the entire project’s theme.
Must-spins are “You & I (No One In the World),” “All of Me,” “So Gone” and “We Loved It” featuring Seal.
Though Prince doesn’t appear in his latest music video for new single “Breakfast Can Wait,” the Minneapolis native is showing that sense of humor I’ve always heard he had. The video, directed by model/actress Danielle Curiel, an 18-year old whom the artist discovered is the clip’s main star. She’s playing “a decidedly sexier version of the purple superstar.” According to USA Today, “he gave her artistic freedom of the video when he read her proposal for it.”
The release date for the tentatively-titled new album Plectrum Electrum has yet to be confirmed, but it is expected early 2014.
Diffuser.fm says: “Breakfast Can Wait” became an instant viral hit due to its cover art, featuring comedian Dave Chappelle dressed as Rick James. The comedian’s famous impersonation of the late singer originated from his days on the 2000s series Chappelle’s Show.
“Breakfast Can Wait” can be purchased at 3rdeyetunes.com.
Source: USA Today