It’s MJ Monday Y’all!
It’s MJ Monday Y’all!
Full disclosure: we stumbled upon the young queen Eryn Allen Kane, but a good discovery is a good discovery… even if it is by surprise. Turns out Ms. Kane wasn’t hiding under a rock, but rocking out… in plain sight. When we spoke with her she’d just dropped her new EP, Aviary: Act 1. The Spike Lee Joint Chi-Raq, in which she has a part, was set to open in theaters and his royal badness Prince had already taken her on as his protege’. Wow! Read below and enjoy.
GFM: For many of the Grown Folks this is an introduction to you. Tell us how your musical journey as an artist began.
EAK: I started going to a church called Conant Gardens on the East side of Detroit with my family. That’s where I joined the choir and developed a little bit of a voice for myself. I was always kind of shy though, so I never took any solos. I just loved being a part of the choir and learning my part and where I sit in the choir.
I went to a performing arts school in Detroit called Detroit School of the Arts. I was a vocal major there. I was also a part of Mosaic Youth Theatre. They do this whole tour thing with kids from a bunch of different magnet schools around Detroit.
Then I went to college at Columbia, and because I had a terrible development deal in Detroit that kind of went bad I breached contract. I wasn’t able to do any music. [So] I majored in acting in college. I went to Columbia for theatre performance. I think it was my junior year [when] I went to go live with my dad in Australia. I wasn’t really doing any music at the time. When I went out there I had a lot of peace of mind and was able to sit down and find my voice again and write a bunch of songs. I came back and showed them to manager and it all started there. We started recording stuff and my first song, “Hollow” was released in 2013 and Prince was checking that out. Somehow he got his hands on it. I released a song two years later and he heard that. Then I was on “Baltimore” and now I’m here [laughs]. That’s an abbreviated version but that’s what happened… yeah.
GFM: Since you mentioned that, can we talk about how Prince came calling and what your experience was? Could you believe it? You had a collaboration so soon in your career with the legend.
EAK: No, I actually freaked out a little bit. In 2013 when I first released that song it was an acappella song and I kinda thought that it really wasn’t gonna do much. I just wanted to put it out because it meant something to me. I was like, ‘Yeah, acappella songs… who has acappella songs?’ Then, I saw all these people commenting on my YouTube [channel saying], ‘The Purple One sent me here.’ I was like, ‘Who are they talking about? They’re not talking about Prince.’ I looked it up and it was definitely Prince. [Prince had previously tweeted about the song] I had just gotten out of the shower and I screamed for five minutes straight into my towel. I couldn’t believe that it was happening and that he had noticed me even. A couple years earlier, I was in the nose bleed seats at one of his concerts at the United Center in Chicago, so I never imagined him actually paying me any attention. We were supposed to link back then and we just couldn’t because of certain circumstances.
But, flash forward. I guess he just kept his eye on me even when I wasn’t releasing anything. Two years later when I came out with “Have Mercy” he noticed that. A couple days after I released that song he invited me to come out and do “Baltimore” with him. I got to the studio and I was just like , ‘Robbie [her manager] I can’t do this. This is gonna be the end of me. What if mess up?’ But, I ended up doing pretty well so that was good [laughs].
GFM: Going back a bit to what you said about being a theatre major and studying acting– you also are in Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq. How did that come about and how was the experience?
EAK: That’s kind of a crazy story too. Right after I performed on stage with Prince in Baltimore at the arena I walked off stage and my manager said, ‘Check your email.’ I checked my email and it was Spike’s assistant saying, ‘Spike really wants to speak with Eryn. He’s heard her song. He wants to speak with her about this thing he’s doing.’ I was like, ‘What! This is too much! Let me go home and take a seat for a second. I don’t know what’s happening [laughs].’ Turns out he wanted me to music for the film initially and I met with him in Chicago [during] pre production. He talked to me about doing music for the film and how he liked “Have Mercy”. He wanted to put something like that in film. I told him, ‘Sure,’ but then he found out that I acted so then he was like, ‘Wait. Why I don’t I just write you into the script?’ I said, ‘Sounds good to me [laughs].’ He ended up writing me into the script and I ended up being not a main character, but a principal character. It was a great experience. He is the best. He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. It was an awesome, awesome time. It was only a couple of months. It was a really short production time, but it was cool. I enjoyed it. It was different. I’d never been in a movie before.
GFM: Let’s talk about your new EP– Aviary: Act 1. I read in the personal note that you wrote to your followers on Instagram that the songs about losing love to depression, about being forgotten because of you are, family loss, suicide, being a woman, being judged as woman, never giving up despite any of these things and about loving yourself. Can you talk about that and talk about the project?
EAK: The songs that I make… I word them in a way that the listener can interpret them. Whatever story they have of their own they can relate to it. It’s kind of funny, because a lot of people have stamped these songs as love songs… as me writing songs to lovers. But really, “Have Mercy” was written after I saw a news report about this terrible thing happening to a little kid on the South Side [of Chicago] and I went to the basement and wrote that song. It was about the world being a very cruel place. People still thought that was a love song. “Slipping” is about a friend of mine who struggled with depression and knowing that you can’t really do anything to help them but you still love them. It’s a love song of sorts I guess, but it’s not something I wrote with the intention of, ‘This is my boyfriend and I’m writing a song about an ex.’ It wasn’t like that.
The EP… all these songs I wrote in different times of my life. “Piano Song” has something to do with me losing a loved one who tried really, really hard in his life to just be the best person that he could be and he still was taken from us. It’s interesting to see how everyone else interprets the songs. I don’t ever want to impose my back story on these songs, just because I like for people to write to me. I’ve gotten emails from people about how it affected them in this way and it made them think of their mother, or it made them thing of a situation with caring for people. I’d rather just leave my story for me, and have them create their own stories to my songs. It’s all over the map. I made these songs for partly my healing, but also to encourage people and things like that. I’m really bad at talking about my music [laughs], but that’s the gist of it. They’re all songs that I feel like everyone can take part in. We can all kind of share a similar story through at least one or two or three of my songs.
GFM: You called Act 1 an appetizer. Is Act 2 a completely different flavor? Or, is it more of the same, just bigger?
EAK: It’s bigger and it’s still soul music. With this last project I noticed there were a lot of slower songs. There’s still slow songs on this next one, but it’s a little bit more of a variety. There are more songs. It’s a little bit more meaty I guess than the first EP. Not that the first isn’t meaty. The second is still showcasing my vocal abilities and [ability] to arrange and the whole choral thing. There’s a few big, big songs on there that I’m really excited to share with people.
GFM: You’ve already worked with “The Purple One” and been in a movie with a huge director, but what’s the biggest thing you could dream up for your career?
EAK: I know this sounds really cliché, but I’d like to make some sort of impact and some sort of difference in this world even beyond my music. I feel like music gives you that platform and once you have that platform you have the ability to change things. I’m really excited to be able to change certain things. Whether it’s about the music industry or whether it’s about me taking on certain activist roles. I think that it’s our responsibility as artists to lead the way in some of these areas. That’s what I’m most excited about. Other than that, just making timeless music– music people that can learn from and really be a part of an experience with my music. I’m excited for that part of it and being a role model and such.
GFM: What’s your definition of Grown Folks Music?
EAK: It’s something that I’ve heard my mom and father say a million times [laughs]. Grown folks music is legendary. Grown folks music doesn’t get old, and it’s not just something that grown folks listen or that grown folks are just a part of solely. It’s music that I grew up on. It’s music that really speaks to you. It’s not temporary at all. It’s speaks to you. It’s not talking about twerkin’ or anything that is very temporary or trendy. It’s something that you can grow old listening to. You can listen to it fifty years ago. You can listen to it fifty years from now.
Aviary: Act 1– EP is out NOW. Get it at iTunes.
Listen to: “Have Mercy”
Ladies and gentlemen. What a year. A year full of tears, celebration, reflection, inspiration but always with the overbearing sense of loss never too far away. Honestly, it could be no other way, (this ever-present sense of loss) because when someone means something, the world, to you it could be no other way. So we all grieve this loss in our own way. To some April 21st is the for others every day in some way is April 21st. So, here we are… and what I would say is everyone has the right and should choose to express the right to deal with the loss of Prince in the way that they deem fit for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
Grammy award-winning multi-platinum selling R&B songstress LeToya Luckett unveils her new single and visual “Used To”. “Used To” serves as the second installment of a three-part mini movie series from LeToya’s highly anticipated third studio album Back 2 Life, which will be available on May 12 via Entertainment One Music and is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.
Luckett states “’Used To’ is one of my favorite records because of its confident ‘in your face’ lyrics. There’s nothing more attractive than a woman who’s humble, but knows what she can bring to the table.” The Grammy winner continues, “I wanted the video to possess that same quality. It shows the ‘bounce back’ from the disappointment of a relationship gone wrong, but it also showcases the vulnerability of a woman who allowed herself to Love. ”
Luckett ended her seven-year hiatus from music with the release of the title track and lead single “Back 2 Life,” which was produced by Joseph “Jo Blaq” Macklin and YBZ as well as it received rave reviews from media and fans. The accompanying video was the first installment of the mini movie series and featured actor Thomas Q. Jones (“Being Mary Jane”). The 13 track LP features rapper Ludacris and production by Grammy award-winning hit makers Andre Harris, Warryn Campbell and newcomer Anthony Saunders among others. Back 2 Life will be available on all digital platforms and retail stores on May 12.
Avery*Sunshine’s girlfriend-next-door personality and down-to-earth demeanor is just as refreshing as her musicianship. She talked with Grown Folks Music about how her recent marriage to her long-time creative partner, Dana “Big Dane” Johnson, is the biggest inspiration for her new album, Twenty Sixty Four and she talked about performing for music legends Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson. Read below and enjoy.
GFM: You have a new album coming. But, before we talk about that we’ve gotta talk about some super exciting things that have happened since the last album. You performed for the Queen of Soul [Aretha Franklin] at her birthday party?
AS: Yes, Honey. She sent a personal email to either my booking agent or my manager. She said, “Look, I want Avery to come perform for my birthday party.” So, I did. She invited me back again the same year for her Christmas party in Detroit.
GFM: Wow. I’m from Detroit, so that’s special.
AS: We love Detroit. We especially love Chene Park and it’s right on the water. Oh my God.
GFM: Before you agreed to say ‘yes’, did you do a silent scream into the pillow [laughs]?
AS: Honey, it wasn’t a silent a scream… all of Atlanta heard it. First of all, I was like, ‘So wait a minute. She wants what now? She wants me to come? Are you sure it’s Aretha? It wasn’t Daretha Jackson or something like that– not Aretha Franklin?’ You know we’ve been told that she’s very, very particular about what she likes. So, for me watching her growing up she was everything to me. [To see] her sit down and play the piano and sing… she wasn’t just doing that… she was writing her music too. Any cover that she did she ripped it so bad and blew it up. Everything she touches happens turns to gold… everything… literally. To meet her and have the opportunity not to just perform for her because she was at an event, [but to be] invited by her is huge.
GFM: It doesn’t stop there. You got to perform for another Detroit legend– Mr. Smokey Robinson. How did that come about? How were you invited to perform at his Hall of Fame tribute?
AS: A friend of mine and my husband Mr. Adam Blackstone, who is Justin Timberlake’s music director along with so many other people– he’s amazing– he called us. He said, ‘Look. I’m in charge of doing a Smokey Robinson tribute. I think you guys need to come and you need to do this.’ [We said] ‘Of course will do it!’ [It was] me, Eric Roberson, Bilal, Robert Glasper and Michelle Williams. I did two tunes. I think I did “Cruisin'” and I can’t remember the other one, but I literally felt like I was floating. To walk out on the stage and look out into the audience and you see all the people, but somehow everybody pales when you look over to right and there’s a box seat and Smokey Robinson is sitting next to Berry Gordy… watching you perform some of his songs.
GFM: It’s a huge honor. It’s a huge responsibility. It’s just huge. Period.
AS: Yes. So much so that the night before me, my husband, Eric Roberson, Eric’s Family, and Michelle Williams went on a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We were in back looking at some of Michael Jackson’s clothes from when he was with the Jackson 5, some of Sam Cooke’s things [and] a lot of the memorabilia that they have there. I was watching Eric Roberson’s parents in there with Eric having this moment. I called my mom and I said, ‘Look, I’m about to put you on the next thing smokin’ you can get here for this show. I want you to experience this moment with me, ’cause this is one of the biggest moments of my career.’ Because Smokey Robinson was and is so a prolific writer it means so much. Listen, to sing his music and he’s not there is an honor, but to sing it specifically for him… I needed my mother there for that. I flew my daughter in as well, so they were able to share that experience with me. It was amazing.
One of the things that was amazing… I call it a “knighting”… I felt like I had been knighted. It was when I met Berry Gordy backstage. We actually have a picture that Eric Roberson took and sent to me of Berry Gordy holding my hand in his hands and looking at me. I don’t even remember if he said any words. But, it was what he did not say and the way he looked at me that let me know, ‘You’re doing the right thing. Just keep going.’ You’re talking about huge… [it was] magnanimous… gargantuan… any huge superlative you can think of… it was that.
GFM: You mentioned your husband so last, but not least that’s another thing [that’s happened]. I’s married now!
AS: I’s married! I’s married! His proposal was so funny. It wasn’t a proposal. I guess you can propose to somebody what you’re gonna do right? So he proposed to me, ‘We’re gonna get married.’ We said we would never, ever, ever marry, because we were both divorced. I said, ‘I’ll never get married again.’ He said, ‘Me either. We are good.’ I said, We need to slap five on that.’ He said, ‘That’s right! We ain’t doin’ it!’
Then January 2016 he called me on the phone and said, ‘Listen, we’re gonna get married in 2016.’ I said, ‘Say What?!” So, all of the trash I talked had gone out of the window. Of course I was super, duper, duper, duper excited. My prayer to God was, ‘God, if you would just give me ’til 2064 I’ll be so grateful and so honored and so blessed. Give me ’til 2064 with this amazing man. I’ll be 89. He’ll be 91. I’ll say my prayers every night. I’ll do what I’m supposed to do. I won’t talk about anybody ever again. I’ll be good. I’m gonna work out everyday. I’m going to do everything I’m supposed to do, alright? Just give me that.’
GFM: That’s a great segue to the new album, Twenty Sixty Four. The title track– as you just mentioned– is the story in song form about your relationship with your husband. You say what you just said to me about asking God to give you until 2016. In the song you talk about letting go of the steering wheel and in the past you’ve talked about letting your creative process just unfold and take shape naturally as well. But, how hard was that to do as it pertains to the relationship?
AS: Hard. Girl, I’m still working on that [laughs]and he’s so amazing. My sweet husband… he has to walk me through it. When I tell you God sent exactly what I needed… my husband doesn’t raise his voice. My husband is so sweet and kind and tender. I get that gentle nudge when I’m going too far to the left so I’m always working on it. It was definitely hard. Coming out of my previous marriage I was like, ‘I’m not doing this. I can do bad by myself. I’m an independent woman. I went to Spelman College. I don’t need no man and blah, blah, blah.’ Having to unlearn all of that stuff and reprogram myself– that stuff is hard– especially when you have children. You don’t want to not make a move and something fall apart because of what you feel like you could’ve done and should’ve done.
But, in being in a relationship with someone you just can’t do everything. You can’t. I went and got the top of my ear pierced– the cartilage part– and I didn’t tell him about it. When I got home he was so sweet. He said, ‘Well you didn’t mention to me that you even wanted to do that.’ I said, ‘Well you know I don’t have to. [laughs]’ It just got crazy and it got ugly. Something in me calmed. I was like, ‘You know what. I get it. I get it.’ It was not that I couldn’t do it. But, the idea that we’re in a relationship together [means] it just would’ve been nice to say, ‘Hey Honey, I think I want to get my ear pierced. What do you think about it?’ Not that I wouldn’t have done it had he said, ‘Nah, I don’t really like it.’ But just being aware enough with this other person that you’re sharing your life with enough to run stuff by them. Running it by them says, ‘I care about what you think, which means I care about you.’ That is not something that I was really sensitive to before meeting Dana. It’s like listen, ‘This is what I wanna do, [so] I’m going to go ahead to do it. I know I can’t depend on you anyhow. You might disappoint me, so I’m going to do what I wanna do.’ Again, unlearning that and reprogramming myself has taken a lot. God sent me exactly who I needed. [A man] who gives me guidance and love in such and gentle and tender way. I always say, ‘You’re such a sweet man.’ He hates when I say that. We do need that. I want my man to be strong, but I want him to be sweet too and tender to me.
GFM: You’ve worked together creatively for years now. What does adding the marriage layer bring to the artistry now?
AS: I feel like we were always destined to be together and whether we acknowledged or not, [we] already felt like we married. It really it was just a matter of saying it and putting some rings on. Even before it was romantic there was this connection, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I’m confident that he would say the same thing. It was just something different. The first time that we spent together musically we sat up all night and he introduced me to iTunes. We listened to any and everything. It was the most amazing experience. It was easy. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take work to do this, but 98 percent of our business and our romantic relationship– it just works. It’s just easy. That’s not something that we’ve even been programmed to think is possible. Stuff is supposed to be hard. I just don’t believe everything has to be hard. Everything doesn’t have to be a fight.
GFM: I’m glad that’s your testimony, ’cause it gives the rest of us some encouragement. I’m glad that you’ve pressed the easy button in your relationship instead of travailing so hard, so I’m glad that’s your testimony.
AS: Girl, we’re always coming up the rough side of the mountain. [We say] ‘Ooh, you know that’s how men are.’ I don’t know about all that. I don’t know if I buy into that anymore… I don’t. It’s not just because we got married last year. Our whole relationship has been that–for how every long we’ve known each other. It’s not new… it’s been that way.
GFM: One song that I think is fun and I think should be a single, not that you asked me, is the “Ice Cream Song”.
AS: I think it should be a single too. One reason why is because it’s our unofficial wedding song. We just did the Captial Jazz Cruise to Cuba. Kenny Lattimore was one of the performers on the boat. He came to my show and I noticed him. I said, “Kenny, I got married and I meant that I wasn’t going to sing “For You”. When his song came out if you were a musician, singer, pianist or whatever– you were singing “For You” at weddings. They didn’t have nothing else but “For You”– that was it. We’re going to march in on “For You”. We’re going to process and recess on “For You”. So, I was like, ‘I’m not singing anybody else’s song when I get married. I’m going to write a song for my husband.’ Dana and I were in the studio getting this album–Twenty Sixty Four— together and I picked up his guitar. I don’t play guitar at all, but I figured out these four little chords. All I could think of is, “I’d give up ice cream just for you. I’d sell my bags and give away my shoes. I’d give you my happy and take your blues. There ain’t no telling what I’d do.” That’s really how I feel about him. Now thank God, he has not asked me to give up ice cream or my bags or my shoes, but I would. I would… but he hasn’t asked me.
GFM: What’s your definition of Grown Folks Music?
AS: Experienced music.
Avery Sunshine’s new album, Twenty Sixty Four drops April 21. Get it at iTunes.
Grown Folks Music caught up with one of our faves, R&B/Soul artist Noel Gourdin, to talk about creative control and collaborations on his new album, City Heart, Southern Soul. Get it now at iTunes and Amazon.
Check out the video for his first single, “Heaven Knows” above, and listen to the interview below.