Catch A Groove: You were part of the band Sekoya, what inspired you to cut a solo album?
Amalia: Being a part of Sekoya and many other projects was my training ground, my preparation for doing my own ting! I didn't feel like I was self aware enough up till the past couple years of my musical development. There was always this FIYAH in my belly to do my own ting, but I was terrified of putting 100% of me out there. It was kinda like standing naked on an airport runway ya know? Would people dig it, connect? Eventually I had so much to share, all this collective inspiration, I was ready to explode!!! It's all or nothing to me. ;-)
Catch A Groove: With Opolopo’s “Voltage Control Feelings” recently released, where did you find the time to record your own album?
Amalia:Haha, Opolopo is a magician when it comes to music. He works so fast, so unbelievable! I on the otherhand, need to build what I'm feeling to write AND I have to feel like it's fresh everytime I record. So if I've worked on a track for a day, I gotta put it aside for a week before I can pick up from where I left off. So to answer your question properly, it's a balance. We get everything done, but it can be nutz when we both need to record for different projects at the same time! We need 2 studios!!!
Catch A Groove: What is the meaning behind "Art Slave"?
Amalia:I've been involved in the music industry for years, working behind the scenes at record labels, management companies, booking agencies. I really schooled myself in the biz before pushing myself as an artist. Throughout my artistic career I deliberately missed big opportunities because of others telling me what to do, how to sound, ya gots to me more commercial etc. I am so so incredibly relieved that I was stubborn and didn't do something that I didn't believe in. It's perhaps been the trickier route, but I can't reiterate enough that ya can't give up on your quest and to trust your instincts. Every microscopic cell in your body vibrates and jives with what feels right...when it doesn't, shift away...I will always follow my heart for ART!
Catch A Groove: Who are the producers on this album besides Opolopo?
Amalia:I have some craZy talented sweet producers from Europa guestin' on my debut yes! UK man-at-large Atjazz, known for his distinctive Soulful House contributes a sexy remix of the first single *All The Funk I Need". He's embarking on his South African tour right now. Ay!!! Electro/Soul wiz AD Bourke from Rome, Italy contributes a remix as well. He hits it with a FUNK rendition of my Sheila E/Janet Jackson inspired *Luxurious*. Check his latest Mirage EP out on Citinite. Oh and the Psychstep/Dubstep maestro Son of Kick from France trips out the New Jack Swing track *Freeze That!*! Watch out for all of these fellaz, they are sweeties too, ya know this girl doesn't work with jerkypoos! haha Also have my 2 fave MC's on the planet featured - New York's very finest Probe DMS and Paris' Renaissance homme GREMS. YAYAYA! Can ya tell I am soOo excited! ;-D
Catch A Groove: One of my favorite tracks is “I’m a Woman”, the sound is slightly different from your dance oriented tunes.
Amalia:I am so happy to hear ya feel that track. My debut was very much inspired by the 80's/90's era I was reared in and the strong fierce Women of Soul. This track pretty much embodies that! Ya got the saying, I'M THE MAN! Well I wanted to flip it! This track is also very unique because of the production. Opolopo really wanted to add some more modern production techniques to the music. So some glitch cut ups mixed in with my chorus vocal stacked about 20 times. Dayz of work and play.
Catch A Groove: Are you planning to tour? The states perhaps??
Amalia:Yes and yes, just in the process of landing a booking agent, then we can meet yeh? ;-) I really miss my family in the USA. I'm craving their laughter and my auntie's Filipino cooking, oh and my cuz's cakes and cookies! hah.
Catch A Groove: That would be great! With your talents and energy New York would show you much love.
Amalia: Awww You are too sweet!
Catch A Groove: It is much deserved, much success with the new record.
Amalia: Thank you! Much love and sincere gratitude.
Catch A Groove: Your debut was released in 2009, are you pleased with how it was received?
Darien: Very pleased! While a project is forming, you are hopeful, but never know what to expect. As it nears completion, the nerves set in, and then it's released into the wild and out of your hands. Well, since it's "release" we have had nothing but positive reviews and have really been riding a wave of support from people that have gotten behind the message and the music. You can't ask for much more than that.
Catch A Groove: One of my favorite tracks from your record is "Gone". what's the meaning behind that record?
Darien: Gone is a very special record for me. It was the last song recorded for the album, and written before I, myself, had the courage to embrace the message. The song is about recognizing you have been in one place too long, and realizing the only way to grow is to move to your next chapter. For me, the next chapter was leaving full time employment and stability, for promises unknown. I held my resignation letter in my hand for 2 weeks before I had the courage to turn it in.... and I played this song every day to encourage myself to do so.
Catch A Groove: I was impressed not only with how strong your record was but that you did it without any guest appearances. Did you purposely not invite any other artists to perform with you?
Darien: Thank You. It's kind of funny, there are not a lot of guest appearances because.........I just didn't know a lot of people. :) When I started working on the album, I was a relative newcomer on the soul scene. In addition, I had a lot that I wanted to say. "If These Walls Could Talk" is really the story of my life... so who better to tell it? :)
Catch A Groove: Soultracks named you newcomer of the year back in 2009, what did mean for you?
Darien: As humble as you are, or want to be, it's quite an honor to receive an award, especially when it's a Readers Choice Award. Soul music is not like Pop music. People generally like the artists because they like their music, not because they are popular per se. I think, the recognition set us up and gave us a momentum that we continued to ride.
Catch A Groove: I recently heard you on the lead single for the Reel People project, how did you first hook up with them?
Darien: I linked with Reel People in the days of myspace. :). They heard some of my music and told me they would like to work with me. They sent a track over which I wrote to and sent back. The next thing I knew I was on a plane to the UK recording what would become the lead single "Alibi" and the third single "Upside," on the album "Seven Ways to Wonder." It was quite an honor to be on a record with artists like Omar and members of Incoginito. On the latest project "Golden Lady," I happened to see Oli Lazurus of Reel People on Instant Messenger. I hit him up really just to say hi and update him about my project. He told me he was finishing up a record and had a track that I might like... the only catch was I had a week to finish it. Well the great thing about Reel People is they know their soul and that makes it easy for me to lock to. A week later and "Sure" was born. .
Catch A Groove: What else is in store for you in 2011?
Darien: Well 2011 has started off with a bang. We had a great performance at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in January and my first televised performance on BET's 106 and Park in February. In 2010, we launched the Love Revolution campaign and the response was amazing. Bringing that message to a show like 106 and Park, with the live band is something I am really proud of. The response so far has been incredible. Looking ahead, I am booked for the Capital Jazz Cruise with artists like Eric Benet, Frankie Beverly and Maze and many others. We are planning on shooting videos for songs on "If These Walls Could Talk," and are scheduled to get back in the studio. Also look out for collaborations with DJ Kemit and Defected records. One good thing about the exposure we have had thus far is that every day, new opportunities are presenting themselves.
Catch A Groove: Do you have a new album coming out?
Darien: We are going back in the studio, but I don't have any dates yet. I can't say much, but I will say that I plan on exploring more collaborations with my new friends in the Soul Community. :) Stay Tuned!!
"If These Walls Could Talk" by Darien is available now.
Catch A Groove: I was familiar with your background in that you worked with a few hip-hop artists but I didn’t realize that you were on Nas’s label.
Tre Williams: Yeah, I was with Nas for 3 to 4 years. I was on “Hip-Hop is Dead” (Let There Be Light).
Catch A Groove: I have to go back and play that record now.
Tre Williams: It’s funny because he wasn’t gonna use that record. It was a Kanye track and he wasn’t feeling it at first. Later on he came to me and said “Tre, pick a song for the album”. So I picked that one, I said “This is hard! You need to do this one”. I wrote it and laid it and gave it to him. He said “This is it, this is it”. Then LA Reid fell in love with it. It was a no-brainer after that.
Catch A Groove: Let’s take it back to the beginning. When did you know you were going to do nothing but sing?
Tre Williams: When I was five. Coming up in my household, it was a gospel household. It was all Church everyday. You had to be in the choir. I used to tell my mother that I want to lead the choir. When my brothers and sisters were running around I would be there learning all the songs and sang them back to her. So I knew what I wanted to do. I want to be the one in the front with the mic. She said “You ain’t scared to do that”. I said no so she said she would call over there to see if they let you try. They called me, I remember it like it was yesterday. I sung for the choir director Ms Natalie, God rest her soul. She said “Boy! There are angels inside of you. You’re the leader of this choir”.
Catchagroove: Even back then you had passion in your voice
Tre: My mother always told said if you gonna sing, sing with conviction, sing from your heart, sing from your soul. Don’t just sing to sing. Make people believe and understand what you sayin’ because if you don’t believe it then how do you expect them to. So every time I sing a song that’s what I think about. I think about, if I feel good I want them to feel that I feel good. That’s my definition of soul music, people singing and believing what they’re saying and they make you believe what they’re saying. That’s soul music.
Catch A Groove: When did you move beyond the choir?
Tre: As a youngster I would turn on BET and try to sing their songs better than they did. I was always in the local talent shows and did all those things. I sung gospel because that’s where I had to be but I sung everything, it didn’t matter what it was, I sung it and even now if you listen to me, the things that I sing about is real life stuff, it’s straight from the heart type stuff, I don’t sing a lot of foolishness, I won’t do that. I don’t sing a lot of songs that’s trendy, The things I sing about is life. My fans gravitate to me because they want that. They want to feel like what they’re listening to is true, something that can happen in their life or has happened in their life.
How did wind up on Ill Will Records?
Tre: The first thing I did was appear on the Petey Pablo album. I did the title track to “Diary ofa Simmer”. When I did that I got this taste in my mouth, I had never been on a cd before, in the stores. I pick up the cd and I see my name on the back. I had never tasted that. Inside of that my life was taking a lot of different turns because I still in the world, I was drinking, smoking, wanting to hang out and go to the studio, I thought the studio was party time. So I still wasn’t serious with what I was doing but I had made people take notice. After that, I moved around in the game but I didn’t do anything serious until I did a song called “I-95” with Styles P. I had done a few songs with Styles and I told him that I this song and could you jump on it? He said “Tre, whatever you want me to do”. You know, Styles has always been hot and when we did that song, it really stood up. I remember Cocoa Chanel coming to D-block studios, that song was playing and she said “I want to play this song on the radio”. I said I’m waiting on Styles P to do it. She said “I don’t care if Styles is on it or not I want to play it as is”. So she took it and played it and by the time she played it Styles had laid down his verse and the record had leaked out and it took off from there. It became a big record underground, as big as any record out and sometimes you have to go underground to get on top and I respected that game. Meanwhile as that song is blowin’ and hittin’good, Nas heard it, then Nas people heard it and told him that was me. He tthought I was on D-Block but they told him that I didn’t have a label. So he sent his people to my house and told me that Nas want to meet with you. So I ask them, “where? Do I have to come to Queens? They said nah, they’re gonna come to your house. So I said “cool”. So when they came in, the President of his label Mike Brinkley talked to me and said that Nas was out of the country but he called him and put him on the phone with me and he said “Yeah this is what I want you to do” I was honored but by that time I had switched my life up. I had stopped smoking, drinking and everything. To this day, ten years later I’m still straight because of that. So I wanted to speak to Nas personally, not over the phone. So he came and we met down in the city and we sat across the table from each other and I told him if you’re serious about me being there then I’m wit it, if not then I’m gonna keep searching for a label like I was. He said “Nah Tre I’m wit it, I want you” So we went on from there but things didn’t take off like I planned it. My album never came out on his label, you know you get mixed feelings but I thank him for even giving me the opportunity and giving me his fan base. By being with him I absorbed, the people that loved him loved me and to this day I still have his fan base and that’s a beautiful thing. Being with Ill Will gave me a sense of what the game is like and being with a legend first and foremost. Think about it, I’m with one of the biggest artists of all time. Say what you want but he’s that and I had the opportunity to learn from one of the best. Who has that opportunity? Who can say that? I can say that. I never was bitter, I never was sad cause I knew God had a bigger plan for me. Now that plan is in motion right now.
Catch A Groove: Who were your influences?
Tre: All those singers, David Ruffin, Otis Redding Teddy P, Gerald Levert, Eddie Levert, The Manhattan’s, those type of people. The Luther’s and the Freddie’s, Marvin Gaye. If you a real singer and you don’t have those guys as your influences then you don’t really understand what music is and what singing is cause those guys are the pinnacle, those guys are the highest high. I decided to use all those guys to make the best Tre I can make but if somebody ask me what my biggest influence is I tell them that it’s poverty. Just wanting more for my kids, my family, and my wife, that’s my motivation because when you go through a lot and I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been shot, I’ve been stabbed, I done been through a lot and to make it out, to want more for your kids, that’s my motivation, that’s what drives me, that’s why I’ll never stop. That’s why I give a heartfelt cause I have reason to, it was never for me to have a big house, a big car, none of that stuff motivated me. What motivated me was being able to take care of them and do it so they can take care of their kids and so on and so forth.
Catch A Groove: I can’t just describe your music as blues because your sound is bigger than that. How would you describe your sound?
Tre: I thank God everyday for the things he has allowed me to do. I did a show one day in Philly for five hundred white people and then I turned around and did a show for three thousand black people. In the same week I had two hip-hop albums that I came out on. That in itself said to me, “Wow, you can reach everywhere”. It’s amazing the people you can touch, that let me know my gift is special, beyond reproach, beyond a box, it’s beyond RnB, soul, blues, southern soul, pop, all these things are a box and I’m beyond that box.
Catch A Groove: That never concerned you?
Tre: It never concerned me because I make good music. I don’t go out and say I want to be RnB or I want to be Blues. I had one of the biggest Blues selling soul songs of the year and I never set out to do that. When we did the Revelations album, it was not an idea to shoot for a genre. Then I turned around and they played me on Soul radio, Blues radio, contemporary adult radio, then they turned and played me on triple A radio and then I won one of the contests they had in Milwaukee on a Rock station so there’s no way you can put this in a box. I asked myself all the time, “What was Otis Redding considered?” he wasn’t considered RnB, he was considered Pop because he was the most popular guy in his era. He was the biggest but now you say he was a soul singer or a rhythm and blues singer but back in the day you didn’t say that, he was just Otis Redding, the biggest star of that generation, there’s no nobody bigger. The beattles wanted to be Otis Redding, they don’t sing soul music, the Rolling Stones, they got ther music from Little Walter and Muddy Waters, they don’t sing soul music, they don’t sing the blues, so how could you put it in a box so that’s where I try to remain grounded. I’m not gonna be labeled, I’m going to be an artist that gives you good music, call me what you feel and I’m not mad at whatever you call me.
Catch A Groove: You mentioned Otis Redding, that’s the guy that comes to mind when I hear you sing. Your sound isn’t watered down, it’s raw uncut, straight no chaser soul music.
Tre: That’s the best. It’s not watered down, we go in there and put it in a pot and we brew it up and put it out and say taste this. Some might say it’s too salty and some may it ain’t enough salt, some may say it’s not juicy enough, some might say it’s a little too juicy, ya see what I’m sayin’. At the end of the day just take it as it is, some goin love it , some goin hate it but they all gonna listen.
Catch A Groove: There have been others before you who have come and gone. What makes you different?
Tre: First and foremost there’s not a lot of people doing it. I’d had the honor and privilege to be around some legends like J Blackfoot, Otis Clay, Swamp Dog, Lenny Williams, some real people and they all come to me and say the same thing. “Tre,you the future of this”.
Catch A Groove: You have managed to take that seventies sound and make it sound hip again.
Tre: This is who I am, not who I’m trying to be, know what I’m sayin’. Some people try to be seventies and they dress the part. They fix up their hair, wear the glasses, the shoes, I won’t do that, I won’t conform to that. I’m just me and that sound suits me. I like to be on top of the music, not on top of me.
Catch A Groove: How did you connect with the Revelations?
Tre: I don’t want the buzz to die cause it’s a hard thing to get back. I said to myself, “Start calling around, figuring out some labels, start figuring out where you want to go”. One of the guys that work for Nas called me and said “Tre, I work with Bob Perry from Koch records. If I set up a meeting with him, would you talk to him? I know he would love to get a hold of you.” I said Alright; I’m taking meetings now anyway. So I go to see Bob and give him my demo, this was on a Friday and he was going to Boston over the weekend. He would listen to it and call me Monday or Tuesday. He calls me Saturday and said; “This is the best demo cd I heard in my life. Can you meet with me Monday?” I was coming back on Tuesday but now I’m coming back Monday. Let’s sit down and work some things out. So I go over there and he wants to start recording, get some things out and do get a deal. He had an idea for a song but I told him that I really want to do something different. I want to take that BB King, the thrill is gone sound and make it a today sound and I got a song I want to write to it. I haven’t wrote it but I got the music in my head, I just need the sound to match it. That song became “I don’t want to know” and he came in with the band and we did it and I said “Whoa!” Meanwhile we were trying to do the deal with Koch and another label called Traffic called. Bob played the song for them and they wanted the song. Bob told them I was going as a solo artist. They suggested that we do a group thing and feature him and we can do both. That’s when we ended up with the Revelations, featuring Tre Williams. Then The Revelations took off and became big, it was just right, from the first song it was just right.
Catch A Groove: How long did it take for you and the band to jell?
Tre: Our first rehearsal was a show at the Rose Bar in Brooklyn. That let you know that we had to be good.
Catch A Groove: How long before you recorded the EP?
Tre: Me and Rell came in and started writing, it took about six months to finish.
Catch A Groove: Rell? Is that the other voice on the Bleeding Edge?
Tre: That’s him covering Carole King’s “It’s too late”.
Catch A Groove: Really? Is he the cat that was down with Roc-A-Fella?
Tre: Yeah, he’s about to come out with a single called “Beautiful”. Watch out for it. I can’t wait for his project to come out.
Catch A Groove: Speaking of cover songs, Lattimore’s “Let’s Straighthen it out” sounds tailor made for you. What made you do it?
Tre: Somebody hit me on myspace and said that I would sound good covering Lattimore. So I checked it out and said “Oh my God! This is an incredible song, I want to do it”.
Catch A Groove: Just recently I heard a version sung by Gwen McCrae.
Tre: She sung it first.
Catch A Groove: Really! I never knew that.
Tre: Lattimore made it bigger, I had to privilege of performing with him in New Jersey. He said “I never listen to people cover my songs but when you did it I fell in love with it all over again. I was so impressed, I wanted to be on stage with you”. To have those guys like J. Blackfoot who sung the song “Taxi”,. we just performed together. It’s not just about me, it’s about the movement of music. More people like that make it better for me. We have to do this strong, we have to make this vibrant and make it as big as it was before. Now is the perfect time, I love hip-hop but it’s at a stalemate right now. The older guys still got a hold on it and the younger guys aren’t doing nothing with substance to move them. Right now real RnB has a chance, it’s up to us to push it.
Catch A Groove: Are you pleased with the success of the record so far?
Tre: With “Deep Soul” people gravitated to it, the sales weren’t what they should’ve been because the distribution wasn’t the greatest. They didn’t put a lot out but it did what it needed to do. As far as radio and people understanding and wanting to be a part of it, it did that. We knew we had to do another version so we did “The Bleeding Edge”. “Deep Soul” was so strong we were afraid we couldn’t match it but we did.
Catch A Groove: Some people who hear your voice say you sound like Anthony Hamilton.
Tre: I get that a lot. That’s because me and AH are the only ones out there.
Catch A Groove: Any artists out there you would like to work with?
Tre: I would like to work with Lauren Hill.
Catch A Groove: Wow! If you could pull that off……..
Tre: I think I can.
Catch A Groove: That would be huge.
Also, Leela James, Mary J Blige, Angie Stone and even Duffy from overseas. As far as producers go, nobody. I think I reached out to a place where nobody is right now. I think I reached a zone of music where not one producer out is doing it. No one is using the three horns and that lead guitar. No one is doing that.
Catch A Groove: What’s next for you?
Tre:I have a solo project coming up.
Catch A Groove: Really?
Tre: We’re trying to close the deal now, if not I’m sure some label will come up after reading this article and try to get me on their label. The title will be “Depth Of My Soul” and hopefully it will be out in the fall. The material is almost done and it’s gonna be a little different from The Revelations. The same love is gonna be in it but the big sound. I got from The Revelations, I don’t really need as Tre Williams. I want people to see the difference and feel the difference but still know it’s me. I still want to put my fingerprints on it but I want to use different color paint.
Catch A Groove: I can’t wait for that.
Tre: It’s gonna be big.
Catch A Groove: I don’t doubt that but while they wait, go out buy “The Bleeding Edge”. And hear the new voice of soul music.
Tre: Go out and catch the groove.
"The Bleeding Edge" and "Deep Soul" by The Revelations feat. Tre Williams is available everywhere.
An interview with Ayanna Witter-Johnson
Catchagroove: Your rendition of 4Hero’s “Give In” is simply incredible, how did you become involved with that project?
Ayanna: It was really the most surreal experience. Marc from 4Hero found me on MySpace and sent me a message. I thought it was a joke at first but I replied anyway and it turned out to real. He then said that he'd like me to cover 'Give In' and left me to make all the artistic decisions. He was awesome.
Catchagroove: What was the experience like working with Courtney Pine’s Jazz Warriors?
Ayanna: Working with the Jazz Warriors was an immeasurable experience. I truly felt as if I was on a course with experts. I felt so stretched and it made me aware of all the things that I need to work on to become the musician I want to be.
Catchagroove: What was it like working with Jason Yarde on the Urban Classic project? Ayanna: Urban Classic was my first professional experience with Jason and with an orchestra. I was in my second year at Trinity College of Music and I felt as though what I was learning in class was directly applicable to this situation. It was a unique project that brought UK Grime MCs and the BBC Concert Orchestra together. I was so excited to be able to arrange a few of the songs for the orchestra and help Jason with the technicalities of processing parts for the players. Jason was very sharing and taught me lots of practical techniques. He was wonderful.
Catchagroove: You recently composed a full length Opera. What did you learn from that experience?
Ayanna: I started the project but unfortunately was unable to finish due to funding. From the involvement that I had, I learned that compose and opera you really have to dedicate everything possible and believe in the artistic vision of the story you are trying to tell. I wasn't convinced that I truly believed in the story which was a lesson in itself. I am now more aware of making commitments to projects as important as that.
Catchagroove: What led you to continue your education at the Manhattan School of music?
Ayanna: My gut feeling. I genuinely try to listen to my inner voice and although I couldn't see how studying in New York would be possible from a financial standpoint I went for it anyway and God did the rest!
Catchagroove: What are you listening to in your ipod right now?
Ayanna: Rachmaninoff's 'Piano Concerto No. 1' and Stevie Wonder's 'Songs in the Key of Life' .
Catchagroove: Any artists you would like to work with?
Ayanna: Take Six, M.I.A., Esperanza Spalding, Tracy Chapman and Ron Carter.
Catchagroove: When can we expect your debut album to come out?
Catchagroove: What else can we expect from you in 2010
Ayanna: The final Super Top Dog round of Amateur Night Live at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on the 27th of October!!
Catchagroove: Well good luck and all the best to you!
An Interview with Rita J
Catchagroove: Your style has a throw back sound to the early days of hip-hop. Who were the rappers that inspired you?
Rita J: Nas, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Black Thought, Buckshot. (Random order)
Catchagroove: What was your favorite hip-hop track from back in the day?
Rita J: There were a few I remember writing the lyrics to: MC Breed "Ain't no future in yo frontin" Common Sense "Breaker 1/9" MC Lyte "Cha Cha Cha"
Catchagroove: Being a female rapper, was it more difficult for you to be taken seriously?
Rita J: Definitely, the reason is unknown (??) People assume I don't or can't rap at first glance.
Catchagroove: How many years did it take to complete “Artist Workshop”?
Rita J: About 5 years from start to finish. There were many others elements besides the creative side that went into it, the business side took the longest to organize.
Catchagroove: One of my favorite tracks is the one with Guilty Simpson, how did you two hook up?
Rita J: He is someone that I admire and he's just a friend and a phone call away, I have many Detroit friends and would like to work with more of them.
Catchagroove: What is your favorite track on the album?
Rita J: I really like "Listen" but
there really are no favorites, they're all my favorite but I think Black Spade is amazing and he produced and sang on "Listen" and I like the vibe of it.
Catchagroove: What’s next for you?
Rita J: I plan on touring, continuing to record and drop another video, I have many things I want to accomplish this year.
Catchagroove: Any New Years resolutions?
Rita J: That New Year's resolutions are corny, Do It Now!
Catchagroove: Is the song “Message” a conversation between you and your son?
Voice: It’s a message that I wrote to my son before he was born. That song was the first song I wrote for Nola and I always liked that song. I updated it just before finishing the album but the lyrics stayed the same. This is the version that I recorded with my friend Grazz in Belgium when I was evacuated, right after Katrina. It was more of a demo that we both liked and I felt that it really worked for this project. I believe this project started around that time (during Katrina).
Catchagroove: Isn’t Grazz part of a group?
Voice: Yeah, I actually put out a record of him and his wife Mo. They have a project called Mo & Grazz. She’s a Philly soul singer and he’s a producer/turntabalist. He has put out a bunch of records on his own throughout Europe as well as the States. We met in met in 2005 and I really liked what they do. They put out a record in 2006 and I appeared on a song of theirs and when I came to tour last year I stayed with them in Belgium when I had downtime. They played for me songs from their album “Gemini” and I was like “what is this?” I made a promise at that time that I put it out for them and they are the other group on my label. I don’t really know what to call it; it’s like future gospel soul. They do a lot of live shows here in Belgium. They have an amazing live show. I’ve been hustling their album as much as mine, I feel like it’s my baby.
Catcahgroove: It seems that right after Gumbo dropped; you started collaborating with a bunch of artists like Marc Mac and Aaron Jerome. How did those appearances come about?
Voice: I’ve popping up here and there but I change it up for each. That’s how I hold myself over. I do really well with features, they work for me because I can stay at home and work with people that are in my city and when I go to their city there’s someone there I can work with in our musical community. With Marc it started out as a trade, he did “Total eclipse” on Gumbo and after that he thought that I’d be good for his “Visioneers” album. He sent me the “replay” beat and I liked it. So I wrote something to it, he said that it was a homage to past hip-hop heads. When I heard the finished version it sounded nothing like the original but I love it. We linked up last summer in Strausburg for a festival and that was the first time I met Marc in person. He also did “Dynamite” on Nola.
Catchagroove: You did a song called “Create For love” which recently appeared on the ep you gave away on myspace
Voice: Yeah, the original version was on the myspace only mixtape. That song was done with my friend Chris aka Kut Fingaz out of France. I actually put out the myspace mixtape so people could let me know what they think so I could put it on the live set. There seemed to be a lot of responses to “Create For love”. I only worked on the mixtape for four months and “Create the Love” was the last song I wrote, just two weeks before I put the mixtape out and it became my motto. It still is and probably the entire time I’ve been making music. People really responded to it. I got a lot of love from the myspace people for that record as well as “Boom Bap” and “Father Bother”. Except with “Father” it would be more specific things like situations people had with their dad or a situation they knew with someone else’s father. I would get a lot of messages through myspace. It’s crazy because at one point I was getting about thirty messages a day and some turned into conversations. There would be something in the song that told their story and as a result opened up a lot of dialogue. That’s what I like for people to do, listen to the song and ask questions or apply to their experiences. When you link with other artists and they love what you’re doing and you love what they’re doing and you just create together and put aside all the other craziness.
Is it fair to say that a lot of the tracks on Gumbo dealt with the shadiness of the industry?
Catchagroove: What is it like running your own label?
I like the freedom that I get running my own label, you just have to stay on your toes because you can have your label but doing nothing with it. You have to understand how people are receiving music. I started Featherperm records in 2004 and I don’t even factor in album sales because that’s not how people are getting the music, I do a lot digitally, I have street teams in different areas and I trade music, I do a lot on barter. It does help to have the actual music available when you’re touring. Most of the physical units I move are on tours. I move stuff throughout the year but when I’m on tour there’s a big leap. Catchagroove: Tell me about the producers on NOLA?
Voice: There’s about four or five different producers but I put a lot of thought about what would work well together and there’s a certain mood I wanted with this record so it starts a certain way and then it builds up and tapers off. I think it works well but I’ve so immersed in this project that I haven’t taken the time back. I feel like it works.
Catchagroove: One of my favorite tracks is the intro?
Voice: That’s one of my favorites
Catchagroove: It has that Gamble & Huff soulful Philly sound to it.
Voice: Yeah! I’ve been on a big Gamble & Huff kick. This album is way more soulful than Gumbo, it’s just where I’m at right now. The NOLA theme is actually something that I’ve been hearing for a long long time. I knew I wanted it to describe sonically what the album was about. I was sitting on that beat for a while. Grazz came up with that beat and he did about six tracks on the album. I wanted a male vocalist for that track, being a female there’s nothing like a man singing to me. I wanted something that sounds sexy but not overtly sexy. Abdul Aziz is actually a photo journalist based out of New Orleans who can sing his ass off. I mean he kills it. I still listen to the NOLA outtakes. He would just sing and sing and I would just piece everything together. I told him what I was looking for. I asked him to imagine walking by this beautiful woman and how would you get her to turn around. He got on the mic after that and wouldn’t stop, that was fun to mix, I was feeling great. I put a lot more thought into this project than Gumbo. I love Gumbo too but a lot of that stuff I had no intention of putting out. It was more a collection of things I had worked on. This definitely was intentional plus I have a lot more knowledge on the mixing side of things so I have a lot more freedom so when I send stuff back to producers everything is outlined and I work with people I trust I know can enhance it. I’m way more involved now, not just with the vocals. Grazz is like my brother, he’ll make me stuff and email me. I’ll be on my way to teach and he’ll call me and tell me about a beat he made for me. When you find people like that you build with them.
Catchagroove: Tell me about the song “Collective”
Voice: I love that song. That song is produced by Pudge and he also did “Create the love”. Some of the vocals on there include Mo, my sister Indigo and Eugene, a singer out of Belgium.
Catchagroove: How did you hook up with Moonstarr?
Voice: I met Moon back in 2001, the first time I went to Toronto. I was working with Nick Murray who was one of the producers of Da Grass Roots. He also works on a project with his girlfriend Rosiva Kazi and they’re part of the group called LAL. I went to Toronto because I heard a LAL record and said “that’s the kind of music that I want to make, musically that speaks to me” I was bold and young so I just went. They knew I was coming through and they introduced to some of the PTR people and eventually I met Moon after a show. He did a show at a mall in Scarsboro and he was there juggling beats. I was like “Whoa, he’s ridiculous. I ended up recording “BB girl & next move” with him the day before I was leaving. “bb girl” ended up on Scattered smears, across the tracks. He put “next move” on a Japanese 7inch.
Catchagroove: Did (producer) Arch_typ worked on tracks on Gumbo?
Voice: Yes, I met him around that time as well. He did “Fantasy”, and “clock in”. He did a “Fantasy pt 2” track was crazy that didn’t even make the record. I still love that beat. I’ve done a couple of things for him too. There’s going to be a NOLA remix album and he may do something on that. Moon did additional production on Lone Wolf.
Catchagroove: Unlike Gumbo you have a few guest appearances on NOLA
Voice: I’ve been practicing that it’s more powerful collectively. I realized on “Gumbo” that “Wow I can say this and who’s gonna stop me”. Now I say this and I hear something else, plus the production side stepped up more. Now I just to go on what I’m hearing without compromising. If I don’t like something we sort it out. Ultimately I just trust the people who are creating the music and smooth out the edges on the final soundscape.
Catchagroove: What is your creative approach? Do you hear a beat and then write to it?
Voice: I’m usually inspired by the music. When I do features I realize it’s not my own thing but can it be something I can bring myself to. For my own stuff I got to get that feeling in my solarplex. Sometimes it can be just one element of a beat. I don’t stay married to the beat because sometimes they change. I allow the music to speak to me and start writing from there. It’s usually a combination of both music and story. I’m really big on stories now. I guess I’ve always been but I’ve just gotten to a point where I can tell a story through rhyme.
Catchagroove: Do you have a favorite track on the album?
Voice: A favorite track? I haven’t discovered a favorite yet. There are certain segments that work well for me. Some of it is just sheer amazement. A lot of it is how I heard it, an idea or a vision that comes into a manifestation. If I had to name one, I don’t know if I could name one, maybe the NOLA theme because it gets you ready for the album. I really like “Dynamite” We did some changes but ultimately the original beat still gets me. I listen to that and I’m like “whoa”. Marc did that track and I did a track for him called “Roll the dice” which appears on Marc’s mixtape. This was about a year and a half ago. He sent me a bunch of beats and that was one of them. He never used it and I always loved it so it became “Dynamite”. I always liked that one because the drums change and the harp was always there and I love a harp.
Catchagroove: What do you think is missing in hip-hop today?
Voice: Hmm, I guess honesty. People need to tell their story. They’d be surprised. It always surprises me that my story connects with people. When I wrote “Message in a bottle” I was four months pregnant and I wanted to have a conversation with my son. It’s interesting because I have an older son who was two at the time. I wanted to tell them a bunch of stuff and maybe things would be different but one is too little and the other isn’t here yet. So I just wrote it, me being me. It didn’t always fare too well but I wrote it and recorded it and I always listened to it. Then I had it up on myspace briefly during my last tour. I tested it out on the tour and I liked how it worked live. When I had it up on myspace I would get a lot of mail from guys who thought it was really dope that I made that song. It’s funny but I used to have these long myspace conversations and they would be so intriguing.
Catchagroove: I can relate to the verse where you say “We may not get along all the time but that’s life.
Voice: Yeah, a lot of people can but no one talks about it, we’re all going through it so why not just point it out.
Catchagroove: What does NOLA represent?
Voice: I’m actually from Cali, born and raised in LA but my parents are from New Orleans. I would go to New Orleans in the summer and as I got older I went more often. I thought it was important for my grandparents to know my kids. About five years ago I decided to move to New Orleans and I like it. I don’t think I’m coming back to Cali.
Catchagroove: Were you in New Orleans during Katrina?
Voice: We had moved down here six months before it happened and we left the day before it happened, a bunch of us like eleven of us in three cars. We ended up at a shelter in Lafayette La for a few days and when the shelter ran out of resources we went to Houston. After Houston I came back to LA for some of the time and then I had to go on tour to Europe. We were kind of fed up with the country at that point, like why is it so difficult to get help for over a month. That was around the time I wrote “Message in a bottle”.
Catchagroove: You get a lot of love in Europe
Voice: Yeah, in the states it’s more of a package, this whole presentation involved in breaking artists and in Europe it’s not like that. Plus women have a longer shelf life musically, it all about what she sounds like as opposed to what she looks like. I don’t really think about it too much anymore. I just go where they’ll have me. I definitely plan on having a US tour next year, probably in the spring but it’s harder to figure out where people are. Who would be interested, I’m sure I’ll do Philly and I have a community of people that follow me in New York, probably DC as well.
Catchagroove: When will the album be officially released?
Voice: It will be released in February.
Catchagroove: Well, for the folks that liked “Gumbo” they’re going to love “Nola Darling”. Much success with the record.
Voice: Thank you.
An interview with Joy Jones
"Godchild" is without question one of my favorite records of the year. I had a chance to speak with the lovely and talented Joy Jones before she started her east coast tour.
Catchagroove: What is the significance behind the title “Godchild”?
Joy: My basic message is that before I am Joy, before I am Black, and before I am a woman, I am a child of God. It is the single truth that keeps me grounded, sane and constantly reminds me of how loved I am and that things will always work out for my good.
Catchagroove: How long did take for this project to come together?
Joy: Although this album took a strong 3 years to create, it really is my musical life’s work to date in so many ways. Godchild is a collection of snapshots of who I am, like a musical carnival photo booth that always seems to capture the moments you were least expecting to show… so you’re left with a beautiful vulnerability that I would hope represents my true self.
Catchagroove: What attracted you to the afrobeat sound?
Joy: Afrobeat is the African cousin to James Brown’s funk! It’s just as raw and unapologetic, but rhythmically on some other tribal bonker-ness. Lol! Tony Allen! Come on man, he kills me everytime. Basically, I like any kind on music takes as long as it feels it needs to, to tell the story or convey the message. Bring back the 15 minute songs!
Catchagroove: Afrobeat has a history of being associated with protest music, what messages are you trying to spread with this record?
Joy: This is my personal revolution against mediocrity and self-doubt. It isabout being painfully honest with yourself but also learning to not take yourself too seriously. Some of the message that I wanted to tackle on this album was the enormity of life in a spiritual sense. I wanted to remind people that as tough as times get, you will survive them because you are made of divine stuff.
Catchagroove: Describe the chemistry between you and Daz-I-Kue?
Joy: That’s my brother! We met in London and there was a wonderful connection that has endeared him to me forever! We give it to each other straight, which is sometime very hard to take and dish out, but the love is always there. I really appreciate him having faith in me and staying the course with this project. Not only is he an incredible DJ/Producer, he is an incredible person who is always doing all that he can to make sure everybody is happy.
Catchagroove: Do you have a favorite record on the album?
Joy: Nope. I have a favorite song of the week, or the day, but because they all portray different aspects of myself somedays I’m artsy and pensive like “Constellations” and other days I’m hopeful and shoutin’ like “This too”, there’s no telling.
Catchagroove: What’s the story behind the track “Hollywood”?
Joy: Hollywood, as a planet, definitely has it’s own force field and it’s so easy to get sucked into it and loose yourself. If you don’t land grounded and protected, it will carve you into whomever it wants you to be if you let it. It will tell you pretty lies until it has used you up. This song is a reminder to name your price in all your hustlin’ and remember who you are.
Catchagroove: What will be the next single on the album?
Joy: It is looking like a toss up between “Over” and “Supernova”. We just completed the video to “Over”, so that song end up being the unofficial next single. We’ll see. Lol!
Catchagroove: Do have any remixes lined up for any songs on the album?
Joy: Yup, there’s a few in the works. ;)
Catchagroove: When are you going to tour?
Joy: Next week! I’m hitting up the East Coast (DC, NYC and the likes), then I’ll do a series of shows in LA before I hit the South and go overseas! I’m so excited to share this album with the people who have been supporting me around the world. It’s gonna be the best! (Visit me on facebook and twitter for tourdates.)
Catchagroove: I simply love the record. It’s easily one of the best records to come out this year. Thank you so much for spending time with me today.
Dezaray: I started singing I would say when I was in grade school. I was in the school choir thoughout high school. My mom always had music playing in the house. Music was the healer in our household.
Catchagroove: Who are your influences?
Dezaray: Influences are so many. The soul i think comes from my moms loves for the classics like Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, to funk like Gap Band and Cameo. My mother didnt care for hip hop, so I was delayed on really experiencing it until college, and I dove right into conscious rappers like Common, Mos Def, Talib Kwali. Then the progressive heavy hitters like Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Muhsinah cause they produce their own stuff, and the UK nu-soul, brokenbeat sound just blows my mind. The first time I heard Silhouette Brown, I was hooked!
Catchagroove: You mention on your myspace page that you’re an army brat, how has traveling around the world shaped your sound?
Dezaray: Traveling was stressful as a kid. I never got to keep friends until later in life with all the moving around. However I think it shaped who I am now to be able to adapt in any environment and i appreciate and love diversity in culture and people in general. And with that appreciation of culture, learning about new music, and hearing soul from around the world just makes it feel like home.
Catchagroove: How would you describe your sound?
Dezaray: I think I sound is like my life... sporadic, transient, melodic, raw, electric... Futuristic, soulful, jazzy, broken, Nu (new)
Catchagroove: How long did it take to put the “Chameleon EP” together?
Dezaray: Oh man, well Chameleon was started in 2006. From that time until this year I have been adding life to the full album. I think I create from life experiences so I had to live to finish to project.
Catchagroove: Who are some of the people that you worked with on this project?
Dezaray: An awesome producer out of Nashville, TN William (Crisis) Holt(http://www.myspace.com/crisissituations), along with his brother Elijah Holt (bass on "Chameleon" track). I knew Crisis through a friend back in 1999 / 2000. He was hot in town for thinking out the box and making dope hip hop & soul tracks. I would create the tracks at home and call him up and he knew just what to add to make the songs vibe.
Catchagroove: This EP is being marketed along with the new Bugz in the attic record, how did that arrangement come about?
Dezaray: Wow, yes another Nashville, TN connect Dj MissKai (www.misskai.com). She is a dope dj and brainstormed the idea while she was bored! lol. She is connected to some of the hard hitters in this genre and thought it would be dope if i showcased my music along side B.I.T.A launch... I am so excited!
Catchagroove: When can we expect a full length album?
Dezaray: The full length, we are looking to the end of this year or very begining of next!
Catchagroove: Are there any artists or producers you would like to work with?
Dezaray: I think it would be dope to work with other female producers like Muhsinah, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and I can't leave the guys out..... producers B.I.T.A, Mark de Clive Lowe, Brooke with J*Davey. Singers Deborah Jordan, Tawiah... man I could be on collabs all day lol.
Catchagroove: Favorite pastime when you’re not writing music?
Dezaray: I know it sucks but I like to watch reality TV. I know most of it is fake but they keep my attention LOL. I am also and stand comedy junkie. Im always doen for a good laugh!
Catchagroove: What does the future hold for Dezaray Dawn?
Dezaray: I think the future is very promising to bring happiness in doing what I was put here for, and not just in myself but for people that luv this thing that we do.
Ayah: I think I’m in a space where I’m using everything that I grew up with and been exposed to music wise, life wise, culturally, all that. At the end of the day I just try to make music that you can feel.
Catchagroove: What made you want to sing?
Ayah: I’ve always have a passion for music and I love listening to music. My mom would bring home albums like Whitney Houston and even some Arabic artists. My dad would bring home James Taylor and Bob Marley, people he grew up with. I enjoyed being a fan first, loving the way music made you feel. From there I was taking piano lessons and realized that I enjoyed singing even though I couldn’t sing very well. I started teaching myself, sticking to it and the rest is history.
Catchagroove: At what point did you decide to make singing your career?
Ayah: I tried to go all the way after my first year of college. I didn’t want to go back so I wanted to try while I didn’t any real responsibilities like a family, kids, things like that. At school I was taking behavioral Science, which was cool because I really liked people but I really wanted to try music while I had the time. I actually tried to go back to school and take marketing, at the end of that year I said I really need to do this (music).
Catchagroove: How did the “Problem woman mixtape” jump off?
Ayah: A couple of years ago a good friend of mine who comes from the hip-hop world suggested that I do a mixtape. He came up with the concept from Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” album. I thought that was really cool. I wrote some songs a couple of years ago for that and then I caught up working on some other projects and left that on the backburner. Then last year a lot of people were saying that I should put out a mixtape. I said “You know you’re right, as a matter of fact I already have one started. I might as well finish it and put it because I really like the concept and the whole mood of it”. So I got it done and I put it out and it’s done really well.
Catchagroove: I noticed on your new project that you worked with Jazzy Jeff. How did you two hook up?
Ayah: To tell you the truth, we met through myspace. I was just spanning myspace and just hitting up people randomly about the mixtape before it came out and I came across Jeff’s page. I thought the worse he could say is no so I sent him a message saying that I really like your stuff, what would it take to work together? He hit me right back, which was crazy because I didn’t think he was online. He said all you got to do is just ask. I was like, cool. He ask for my email address and sent me a beat right on the spot. That turned out to be “He don’t want it” which is on this album. We’re in the studio now working on a new album.
Catchagroove: How did you hook up with the producers Thrysite and Slakah the Beatchild?
Ayah: Thrysite, Amir, Slakah the Beatchild and my boy Lyve are amazing producers and it was a pleasure working with all of them. Everyone is from here (Toronto) and we’ve had a long history of working together. It was about time that I put out a project and let people know about their music, not just mine. We’re letting people know that we have some amazing producers out here.
Catchagroove: There seems to be a lot of talent coming out of Toronto?
Ayah: It is Definitely and the people are really supportive out here, not necessarily the industry but the people. Everyone is doing their thing and starting to branch out, we all support each other.
Catchagroove: Are you going on tour for this project?
Ayah: There’s no tour set right now, we’re doing some dates in Toronto, Pittsburgh and New York. We’re trying to put something together but we don’t have any dates confirmed.
Catchagroove: What is the first single from 4:15?
Ayah: The first single is “Might not be”, which is out right now. It was the bridge between the mixtape and the album. I believe it is on the mixtape and people have known it for awhile. We have a video out for it and it’s directed by Slakah the Beatchild.
Catchagroove: What is your favorite song on the album?
Ayah: All the songs are special to me because they’re mine but the one that strikes a chord in my heart is “Who are we”. Have you heard the album?
Catchagroove: Yes I have.
Ayah: Did you let it ride out to the bonus track?
Catchagroove: I didn’t realize there was a bonus after “Believe”. I will definitely check that out.
Ayah: (Laughs) Check that out when you get a chance, that’s also one of my favorites. You’ll understand when you hear it. It’s very telling to who I am as a person.
Catchagroove: Does 4:15 mean that you’re a nocturnal person?
Ayah: Definitely. 4:15 was the time when a lot of this album was created. I was either up working on music or just dreaming about it or just going through whatever in my head. Plus 4:15 for me is I’m definitely at home, my glasses are off, my make-up is off, I’m wearing my sweats, working on music and just chillin’. It’s a very honest time I think. It’s about striving to be who you are when you’re by yourselfin the middle of the night, whenever. That’s ideal for me.
Catchagroove: Well I’m glad to see that you followed up your mixtape with a new project. I want to thank you for hanging out today and good luck with the record. I like it a lot.