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GFM Spotlight Interview: Avery*Sunshine Talks Music & Marriage “Twenty Sixty Four”

Monday, April 17th, 2017

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: Twice.

GFM: Twice?!

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.

About DJKKC

Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.

From the GFM Archives (’14): GFM Spotlight Interview – Noel Gourdin Talks Creative Freedom and Collabos on His New Album

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

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.

 

About DJKKC

Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.

From the GFM Archives (’15): GFM Spotlight Interview: Kenny Lattimore Talks New Album, Love, and the Integrity of His Music and Brand

Monday, April 10th, 2017

kenny lattimore

The smooth and soulful Kenny Lattimore spoke with Grown Folks Music at length about his new album, Anatomy of A Love Song, fighting to keep his music and brand alive amidst the new climate of the industry, who he is as an artist today, and the blessing of his signature song “For You”. Read and enjoy.

GFM: You’ve got a new project and the title of the project is intriguing to me. Why did you call it Anatomy Of A Love Song?

KL: I thought about the anatomy… the inner workings of the body… the heart. When I think of the heart of a love song I think of it being the lyric. Then, all of the other components that allow us to physically experience in our anatomy what I think a love song would be is the veins… the muscle… everything (else)… is the music and all of its components. Whether it’s the drumbeat, to the keyboards and the strings and every voice and everything that makes it sound the way it does.

When I thought about the collection of songs, I kept thinking I knew love songs had to be in the title, but I wanted it to be about the components and the makings of that. I was talking to a buddy of mine and he said, ‘Have you ever thought of the word anatomy?’ We were just throwing things out there. I said, ‘Anatomy would be perfect.’ I think that describes what I want the listener to think about. These are the components: great lyrics, great music. Those are the main components of a song. So, a love song has to have those stories in it that make you think about the highs and lows too– not just one dimension. I wanted the album to be the highs and lows, and then the music I wanted to remind me of the things that I loved like the sounds of Philly International and the sounds or Marvin Gaye or Donny Hathaway. Even on “Love Me Back” there’s an old-school, analog, kind of drum sound that we’re using that’s a feel-good kind of drum sound to me that takes me into my past. Then, using the Bobby Womack “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” [reference]… all those little nuances are parts of that that I wanted to convey to every listeners.

GFM: Speaking of the stories and the different sides of love story telling that you present on this album, it had me wondering when listening to the album who writes for you. Like I said, you tell different stories and [present] different sides of love with the tracks on this album, but there’s something about your delivery that it really sounds like you’re singing from a personal place– from the heart as well.

My question is who writes for you? If you weren’t the songwriter, when you sat down to start this project were there some buzz words, or some themes, or some things that you really let the songwriters know that you wanted to convey or were songs sent to you?

KL: That’s a good question. You know it’s very interesting. One of the ways that I’ve tried to stay relevant regarding the industry is to surround myself with people who already know my brand and if they’re kinda familiar then they’re young. So, I had an array of mature men and women who knew my brand who were like, ‘okay’, and then I also had young, 25 year olds– when I think of “Love Me Back” even– but they had grown up on my music. They were familiar with it, so they kept me in an authentic place. I can get a song from anywhere, but if I relate to it, then I think I can tell the story. If it’s real to me I think I can tell the story well. I invite different people to come in, because sometimes having a variety of people working and writing pushes you into areas where you thought maybe you’d never go. It also challenges you to be better at whatever you thought you were doing, because if you give them the space to be honest in with you I think that you get a better result out of it.

The longer story is that I had fallen out of love with the music industry and recording in particular.

GFM: Talk about that. Why is that?

KL: I think it’s because I lived through the golden age of the recording industry. I lived through the era where people wanted you to be an individual and wanted you to be amazing. Then, somewhere in the new millennium people wanted me to sound like somebody else. [They] wanted me to be like somebody else and imitate and I couldn’t quite do that. So then I started feeling like, ‘Well, there’s not really any space for me here anymore.’ I can sing in church and be very satisfied. I can go do a gospel album or whatever. But, I’m not one of those artist that’s gonna say, ‘Oh I’m leaving R&B for gospel.’ That wasn’t it. It was really just like, ‘Hmm let me do something that I know is real and that is authentic in me.’ Through the process I raised my son and sang in the church. Occasionally I’d get out. You might see me on an awards show or you might see me guest appearing at something and then I’d kinda go on back home.

The whole process was kinda funky for a minute. Carvin Haggins, one of my buddies that produced three songs on the album said to me, ‘ You know what Kenny, we need your voice in the industry.’ I was like, ‘Oh, okay Carvin, that’s nice. You need my voice in the industry. That’s flattering and everything, but what am I supposed to sound like in 2015? What does Kenny Lattimore sound like in 2015? If I’m sitting up here struggling now [and] trying to figure out whether my identity means anything to this industry, what am I supposed to sound like in 2015?’ He said, ‘Come to my house. Just chill out and I want you to just stay and get in a space. I’m gonna play some songs for you and let’s just try some things.’ The first song that we recorded was a song called “Find A Way” that’s on the album. Then we recorded another song called “What Must I Do”. Then we did another one called “You Have My Heart”, and it started sounding familiar like, ‘This is starting to sound like a project.’

I recorded those songs back in 2010 or ’11… somewhere around there. I sat on them for a minute because then I was like, ‘Now what? Do I have enough material? This has gotta be some really good stuff, because I cannot come back out after falling out of love with this industry and just put anything out.’ So, I went out and I did focus groups. I let people listen to the demos. I said, ‘Do you think this is worthy of me singing? Do you think this is something you would buy?’ We, as artists, can become very self indulgent at times and make albums for ourselves. But, I knew that if I was gonna come back out and if God was gonna give me the platform to actually connect to people again from a recording, I wanted to make sure that it was going to connect and that it was a conversation and not just a personal statement.

GFM: You said that you recorded these [songs] some four or five years ago… some of the songs on the album. Am I correct that between that time and now you’ve had an album? Am I wrong about that, or just a few singles?

KL: I put out two singles. I never put an album out. What happened was we were gathering the material and I had a record distribution deal through Capitol and EMI. I was going to put out an album, called Back To Cool. The “Find The Way” single initially came out, which was in 2012, [and] because I’ve been in the industry a long time I was watching and I was going, ‘Umph. You guys aren’t doing exactly what I thought you needed to do to take the song and deliver it to the people.’ I could tell it wasn’t gonna happen. And I said, ‘Well, we could go back and we could try this thing again.’ I didn’t know what we were going to do. Then, Universal came in and they bought EMI in the whole process of me examining whether I even wanted to stay with the company. It just became a whole thing and I just started feeling like, ‘Nope, it’s not time.’ It wasn’t time and I stopped the album from coming out.

I took all of those songs [and] they are on Anatomy Of A Love Song… plus more songs. Because the quality of what I had just recorded… I had done a song with Lalah Hathaway. I’d done stuff with Kelly Price and Shanice and had these great producers. I was like, ‘There is no way I’m going to put this album out and let you all just…’ Not that it’s a person that’s responsible for that.

GFM: Right, but watch it die… I know what you mean… watch it die. Watch it [be] shelved and die. I know what you’re talking about.

KL: Exactly, I was like, ‘Nope, I’m not gonna allow that to happen.’ I’d rather it die because people didn’t like it once it came out [laughs].

GFM: But they have to hear it first, and it wasn’t going to make it.

KL: Exactly, so I just took it all back and did another deal. I ended up over at eOne, which was also very difficult for me, because it was the first time that I was truly with what I would call an independent company. Even though I was at Capitol/EMI, I think that in the back of my head I was still feeling like, ‘But it’s CAPITOL. It’s a major label and they’re gonna have their reps and their reps are gonna do this for me and people are gonna do that for me.’ And when I got to eOne I was like, ‘Okay look, I understand I’ve got control of my brand. I understand as a businessman what it is and what it’s not.’ I really feel like I understand where my fans are. When I say ‘what it’s not’, I mean the industry’s changed.

People are quick to tell you what you’re not gonna sell or that R&B doesn’t sell as much as it used to. Nothing really sells as much as it used to. To some people it’s a negative attitude towards the industry. But, then there are glimmers of hope like Kem being gold. Then I go, ‘Wait a minute [laughs].’ Kem is getting some airplay and all, but he’s not getting the airplay like some of these other mainstream stars who are [also] not selling as well. But there’s a connection that’s happening with this man and his audience that no one can put a price on that. He nurtured that audience for years. Even when he didn’t want to be on the road performing he stayed there and he was consistent. He connected with those people and then they’re going for the ride and the rest is history. That’s all I want. I just want a shot to connect to my audience, because I know they’re there, but they don’t always get serviced with me. That’s what I saw happening with “Find A Way”. I asked [people] ‘Do y’all know I have a new single out? [They said] No. No. No.’ [I saw that] They [Capitol Records] haven’t found my audience. They don’t know where they are.

GFM: Kudos to you for even… I don’t know what kind of lawyer you had to even be able to get your album back… to get your songs back. That’s a major victory in [and of] itself… to get it back then bring it out.

You mentioned a few key things in your conversation and one of them is knowing your brand and what’s best for your brand. You kept mentioning your brand. There’s been many years now between your first album and Anatomy Of A Love Song. My question is kinda related to your brand. Who is Kenny Lattimore as an artist? Who are you?

KL: Kenny Lattimore is an inspirational artist. He really thrives on this thing called love and relationships. But, through the years the brand has really developed a greater understanding and knowledge of what true relationship is and what authenticity really is. The brand has gone through transitions where it once was the single man searching for idealistic love– to the married man who had found it– to the divorced man who had to figure out whether he actually believed that it still existed. Because I had spent so many years building on this thing called love, it had to be greater than even my own personal experience. It really had to be a spiritual thing for me where I understood that love was sacrifice. It was forgiveness. It was a lot more characteristics that were deeper than what we a lot of times associate with love. Love in this day in age has been reduced to really sex. The word is overly used so much.

I also understand that my brand is pretty clean cut. Its sophisticated. It’s classy. I think a lot of these things I’m accepting because this is how I’ve been identified in the marketplace. So, I think I’ve accepted my perception because it hasn’t been negative. If somebody came up and said your perception is that you are… something and it wasn’t me I’d have to say, ‘Okay, okay wait a minute. I need to change that about my brand.’ I love when people refer to the classy and consistent and all of that kind of stuff. I appreciate those words because those are things that I do wanna be associated with.

I think of my mother. I think of my mother raising me. [She is a] Howard University grad [and] psychologist. She used to take me out and volunteer for the NAACP and The 100 Black Women. She wanted me to always understand who I was as a man… who my people were as being an African American man. My mother… who wanted me to be traveled, who rooted for the underdog (and) who was just inspired by people who dreamed and had vision. All of those components and all of those things that are part me, I’m able to give them to my son.

So when I think about my brand again, I think of an integral man. Not a perfect man, but a man that has integrity and character so that whatever I do, when I leave this Earth I wanna make sure that it has inspired somebody towards greatness and wholeness.

GFM: Very good. Back to the album… I hear some female voices on a few of the tracks. Who have you collaborated with for the album?

KL: We have a duet with Lalah Hathaway that I absolutely love because the sound and the production of that particular song is reminiscent of her dad. She was just the perfect person to bring that song to life. It’s called “Nothing Like You”. There’s another song called “Back To Cool”, which is from the original album that Kelly Price is singing on. She’s a phenomenal singer. Towards the end of the song she has an acappella run that’s just killer. Shanice, who is my good friend– when I say that I mean in Hollywood, in this industry, there are few true people that I would say, ‘Oh yeah this is really my friend,’ but Flex and Shanice are great friends. She’s appeared on some projects that I’ve had in the past. I was very happy to have her singing on a song called “Still Good”. Actually, there’s a gospel rapper on “Still Good” named Da Truth. I believe it’s his first mainstream record ever. The reason why he was the perfect candidate for that was because he went through something in his personal life. So, authentically he lived out the song so he had something to say. He very freely gave of himself on the record.

GFM: How much money would you have if you had a dollar for every time someone mentions “For You” and their wedding? Does it still make you feel good to hear the stories come through about that song?

KL. It’s amazing. Like just last week it was great… I was up at Essence Magazine and I ended up singing it for someone… priceless. There’s no way that I could have ever imagined that the song would’ve touched people the way it did and that they would use it in their weddings like they use it. It’s quite an honor, because I always tell people, ‘That means you’re never gonna forget me.’ They go, “No, we don’t.’ I’m just joking, but they’re like, ‘Noooo, we’re never gonna forget you.’ Whether the relationship lasted or not. I’m flattered… tremendously flattered. The last celebrity wedding that I did was for Carmelo Anthony and Lala. The reason why I’m bringing that up is [because] she was in high school [when the song came out]. She said, ‘I heard that song and I said, this is going to be my wedding song.’ I went and sang it for her as she came down the aisle. That was her fantasy and it came true. It’s interesting how a really great song can live on. A great love song can live on and touch generations because love never goes out of style. It just comes back. If you’re ten and then and ten or fifteen years later you’re falling in love and you’re getting married [then] you’re listening to those songs again and they become significant all over again.

GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?

KL: Music that has substance. Music that stands the test of time. Grown Folks Music is sexy. It’s fun. When I think of grown, I think of people who have lived life and lived well. The music has to reflect that. Whether it’s the pain or whether it’s the celebration of life– whatever that is– I think that it has to authentically have truth in it and experience. When I think of “For You”, and when I think of the words of that song, they’re so in depth and so clear that you have to experience all those things to really identify. Grown Folks Music is like that to me.

Kenny Lattimore’s new album, Anatomy Of A Love Song is out RIGHT NOW. Get it at iTunes.

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About DJKKC

Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.

From the GFM Archives (’15): GFM Spotlight Interview: Jazmine Sullivan Talks about Her Album Reality Show, Reality TV & Validation from Music Legends

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

exclusive-jazmine-sullivans-reality-show-fears-singer-talks-about-third-album-during-intimate-listening-session

Grown Folks Music recently caught up with Jazmine Sullivan. We talked about her new album, Reality Show, whether or not she’d participate in a reality show, the love she’s been shown from masters like Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder and what she hopes to convey through her music. Read below and enjoy.

GFM: About your new album, Reality Show you said in an interview, “Reality Show for me is a perfect time capsule of modern society and even shows how I’ve been affected by this culture,” “From my language, to the choice of beats, for the most part it’s very ‘now.’ I’ll probably look back on it and say ‘WTF was I thinking?’ Hopefully we all do. Hopefully from here, we’ll grow into greater human beings and years later can look back at Reality Show as the soundtrack to the way we were.”

Is Reality Show your What’s Going On album? Talk about the things you address on this album that are specific to today’s culture and how it has affected you.

JS: The album is entitled Reality Show and it’s entitled that because I watch a lot of reality TV ’cause that’s pretty much all that’s offered on TV now. I remember a time when there wasn’t any reality tv and now that’s all there is. I watch all of them and I’m affected by it. “Mascara” was one of the songs that was inspired by just being on Instagram– on social media– seeing the beautiful video girls and looking at their lives. Once I started looking at everybody’s pages I started seeing that it was very similar. Carbon copy cutouts of lifestyle down to the poses to the type of clothes they wear. Everything was kinda pretty much the same and I thought that’s something that I would want to talk about and want to document. When I was writing the song, I really wasn’t trying to give my view on that situation. I really consider myself just like a reporter. I want people to listen to the song, listen to the lyrics and then come up with their own thoughts about it– their own views. I love that people are having conversations about the matter. And different people are coming up with different things, but I love that about it.

GFM: I know you did a few web episodes in conjunction with the release of the album, but would you ever participate in a reality show?

JS: Now that I don’t know [laughs]. I love to watch it. I love to watch the drama for the most part, but I don’t know if I would wanna put my entire life out there. I’m really private. I feel like I share a lot, because I do write all of the songs on all my albums. I share a lot about my own personal life. For the camera… [following me] everywhere? I don’t know about that [laughs]. I’m not sure.

GFM: Now we see a lot of artists who are on reality TV because they feel it is a necessary part of building his or her brand. Do you sometimes feel like you have to do additional things for your brand and that sometimes people are more concerned with your personal life or your image as opposed to just your talent?

JS: I think today especially, people want to know so much about the artist. This is like an information era, so people want to have a lot of information about people. I’m not going to say I haven’t thought about the fact that artists can get on reality TV and they are exposed to so many more people and it does help them sell records and stuff like that, so I’ve thought about it. But, I feel like what’s for me is for me and I feel like at the end of the day the music will kind of speak for itself. I choose not to do anything that I feel could compromise me. I don’t know… I just choose not to do certain things.

GFM: You said you watch a lot of reality TV. What’s your favorite reality TV show?

JS: Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta

GFM: About the album, I noticed that Ms. Gladys Knight tweeted out to her fans about your album. She said they wouldn’t be disappointed. I have a two-fold question about that. How does it make you feel that a legend is tweeting about your album and how does it make you feel that she obviously gets it? She gets where you’re going with the album, even though some of things you address on the album aren’t necessarily things her generation had to deal with?

JS: I know! That is so amazing to me. First of all I’m honored when anybody that is a legend like that even acknowledges me. I’m honored by that. But for her to understand where I’m coming from… that makes it even more… that just makes it better. The fact that my writing and my singing is able to cross genres and not only can the younger people understand certain things, but older people can [too], it makes me feel validated in what I’m doing.

GFM: Speaking of artists from other generations, who are some of your musical influences?

JS: Chaka [Khan], Aretha [Franklin], Stevie [Wonder]. Last year, a couple of months ago, maybe a month ago, I went to the radio station. I was just going to do work and then I found out as I was going [that] it was his. When I got there they were like, ‘Oh he’s here. He stayed for you.’ That was one of the best moments in my career. I did meet him when I was younger, but to meet him [now that I’m] older and have him talk about “Bust Your Windows” and say it’s a classic song… I never thought I’d hear that “Bust Your Windows” is a classic song from Stevie Wonder. He’s made so many classic songs that I listen to. I’m a fan of music period, but definitely that old, good music.

GFM: How does it feel to carry the mantle and represent Philly Soul? It has such a great legacy.

JS: I happy that I can. I’m happy that I make great music. I definitely was influenced from being in Philly and hearing it. I used to perform at this place called The Black Lily [music series at the Five Spot in Philadelphia] where Jill Scott came… Music Soulchild… Floetry… Kindred. I got a chance to study all of those great live performers very young so I’m just trying to do my thing, but it feels good though.

GFM: Since you’ve taken the time to talk with us this afternoon, we’d like to know what your definition is of Grown Folks Music.

JS: I think it’s just being honest. Being honest and sharing your heart and that’s what I try to do with my songs. Even in the stories that aren’t necessarily something that I’ve experienced, I just try to tell it in the most honest way.

GFM: What’s the one thing you want– now that you’re back making music and have and new album– what’s the one thing that you hope people get, know or associate with Jazmine Sullivan?

JS: I think that I’m just a true, genuine artist. I care about the music. I care about the voice. I care about the lyrics. I’m just trying to make good music. It’s not about anything else. It’s not about, for me, what I look like or any of the star type stuff. It’s just simply about the music. If they happen to get my music, I would really want them to listen to the lyrics. Just listen to the music. It’s just about the music.

Connect with Jazmine Sullivan

On Facebook
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About DJKKC

Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.

GFM Spotlight Interview: Leela James Talks Doing It For Love & Taking Reality TV with “A Grain of Salt”

Friday, March 31st, 2017

Grown Folks Music caught up with Leela James to talk about her sixth album, Did It For Love, available TODAY, how her musical journey has developed and her experience on reality TV. Read below and enjoy. Also, catch Leela James on tour this spring with special guest Daley.

GFM: You have a new album and you’ve done us a favor by dropping three singles ahead of the album release. I want to ask you about a couple of them. First, “Don’t Want You Back”– that seems to be telling the dude to ‘get gone and stay gone’. Then, there’s “I Remember”, and that seems to be talking about missing his love and wanting him back. Talk about those two opposite feelings that you explore.

LJ: It’s two opposite feelings [but] let me be clear, it’s not necessarily about wanting the same guy or the same relationship. It’s about all of those feelings that you have when you’re in those type of situations [or] in that phase of a relationship. When the relationship has gone sour, it’s really bad and it’s no coming back from it, yeah you’re at that place of, ‘I don’t want you back. Go. Bye. I’m tired of telling you. You’re not catching the message. I don’t return your phone calls. I don’t answer your text messages. What part don’t you understand? Okay, let me get blunt. Go. I don’t want you back. I’ll never take you back.’ You gotta let them know.

Then, there’s times when you’re in a relationship and you might’ve ended it or it might have ended on its own… you’ve never know. Then you’re like, ‘Dang, what really happened because I remember when it was good and that’s what I want back.’ So, you have different emotions a lot of times when you’re in relationships. That’s what love is. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. You can’t always say how certain things are going to play themselves out. But, that’s life and a lot of times how you go about different things sometimes has to do with love. That’s why I called the album Did It For Love.

GFM: I was just about to ask about the title, Did It For Love. What is it about love and relationships that you feel makes it the long-standing theme of music?

LJ: Music makes the world go ’round and what makes music go ’round is the things that happen in life. Most of the things life is made up of is relationships and within relationships is– love. One way or the other… some kind of way. Whether it’s love between a parent and a child, or a husband and a wife. Love is the center of most human relationships. Once you get past the phase of whether you like somebody or not if they continue [to be] in your life then you love them and it goes without saying the love a person can have for their child. Again, love is at the center of human relationships. When you write a lot about particular kinds of relationships… you’re going to end up talking about love… good and bad.

GFM: This is your sixth album. Can you talk about what you feel your musical journey has been from your first release until now?

LJ: The music has grown because I’ve grown. You get an older version of the same soul… with a fresh spin a lot of times to it. That’s a good thing.

GFM: What were the pros and cons for you of doing reality television and would you do a reality show again?

LJ: Sure! With anything, you take the good and the bad. You take it with a grain of salt. I thought one of the good things is that it was able to give my audience more of an inside connection to me. There were people who didn’t even realize that I’d been out and around for a while. Clearly, the con of doing reality TV was sometimes you could be misunderstood depending on how certain things are represented [laughs]. It’s all good to me anyway because I know who I am and I know what it is. People who know me… know me. It was fine for me… like, ‘whatever’.

GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?

LJ: Music that a child under 16 maybe shouldn’t be listening to [laughs].

About DJKKC

Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.

#JodeciFridays: From the GFM Archives (’15) : Mr. Dalvin Speaks on Jodeci: Past, Present & Future, Social Media & Getting Proper Recognition as a R&B Group

Friday, March 17th, 2017

jodeci

Grown Folks Music caught up Mr. Dalvin of Jodeci and he chopped it up with us about the group’s new album, gaining new fans as a result of embracing social media, and whether or not Jodeci got its due back in the day. Read and enjoy.

GFM: I heard you say that this isn’t technically a reunion because you never broke up. Why was 2015 the right time for the brotherhood called Jodeci to put an album out?

Mr. Dalvin: I think the radio is kinda starving for what we left. Collectively as us and as four individuals. Music is like a revolving door. It was just time for great music… big harmonies and a soulful sound and love making music just to come back. Being that it’s been great music over the last two decades that we took the hiatus, it was just time for the sound of where we left off. It never really got older still. We felt it was time for a new generation… multiple times… to hear it.

GFM: Were there any concerns about what the response would be?

Mr. Dalvin: The concern was more (from) record executives that really don’t know what real R&B music is who came along the lines of new-age R&B. (They) felt like it (the music) would be a little antiquated or old, but music always stands. Music doesn’t have a shelf life. It doesn’t have an expiration date. People know good music and enjoy good music that gives you a certain type of feeling. (Music that) puts you in the mood to dance… puts you in the mood to make love… makes you happy… makes you sad (and) tugs on your emotions. That’s what real R&B does. That’s what real soul music does. It touches your soul in different kinds of ways. Jodeci was responsible for a lot of that in the early 90s and throughout.

GFM: After you decided that you were going to put an album out did you just pull songs from the vault, or did you start with a blank canvas?

Mr. Dalvin: Every canvas is pretty much blank until you hear the finished product. Even though it may be ideas that you come across, or old ideas that you start back up, or things that you think about. But, it’s never a finished canvas until you actually put the product out to the public. Ideas could come today or tomorrow. We could’ve started a verse maybe ten years ago and finished the song ten years later. Every thing is pretty much new until it’s a finished product.

GFM: Had Jodeci ever done any guest appearances before? How did B.o.B. get involved?

Mr. Dalvin: The song “Nobody Wins” is not really written about domestic violence, but the content of it touches on domestic violence. We had a couple of people who made a couple of versus, but the marriage didn’t quite happen. It wasn’t the quality of the verse that we were looking for. B.o.B. came… which we’d never worked with B.o.B…. he came and he just said the perfect thing that matched the idea and the concept for the song that we had. Devante wrote the song without a feature in mind, but when he (B.o.B.) came along he touched on it and made it really special.

GFM: Jodeci has embraced social media, and you guys are using it as tool to promote the project. What has surprised you the most about the social media experience since you’ve started to use it as a tool?

Mr. Dalvin: In the ’90s when Jodeci came out there was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram… (there was) no social media. In order to touch your fan base you had to do the ground work. You had to travel from state to state to state doing promotional tours (to) reach the fans and rely on radio stations and rely on any kind of avenue that you could to actually reach your fans. Now, you know you can hit a button and reach millions of people. Social media could be detrimental too. It could hurt or it could help. Now you have to almost reinvent yourself into a business model to what social media is, because it’s totally different for artists of our era or artists from back in the day. You have to really conform to what the new music business is and what the new tool is to reach your fans, which is a lot easier, but sometimes it can be dangerous as well.

GFM: What has been the upside of it… you feel… for you and the group?

Mr. Dalvin: The upside as far as Jodeci coming back is a lot of new fans don’t know who Jodeci is. They know the brand as far as the name. They don’t know the individual members… the four members in the group… but they know the brand. As Jodeci rolls out really heavily on social media, a lot of our new fans get to experience what we are today, what we were yesterday and (they) get to go back and enjoy the tree and the roots that we put down as far as R&B music. It makes it a lot more special to them learning the history of what Jodeci really is, because everybody thinks “Every Moment” is our first single. They like the single, (but) when they go back and hear (the music) they’re like, ‘Wow, that sounds like the stuff they did in the ’90s or the late ’90s.’ I think it makes it really special.

GFM: We have a couple of fan questions. The first is from Michele. Michele is responsible for what we call on our Facebook page #JodeciFridays, because she used to request Jodeci every week on Fridays. This has been going on for a couple of years now. So now we automatically post one or two songs on #JodeciFridays. Shout out to Michele. Michele’s question is, “Why wasn’t there a video made for “U&I” back in the day?”

Mr. Dalvin: Hi Michele, by the way. “U&I” was never released as a single. It was just one of the songs that fit on the album and it was never a single. Back in the day you had a budget for every single you released and the record company would agree with you what the next single was. (Concerning) “U&I”, by that time they figured (we) had two or three singles off the album and the album was pretty much at its peak as far as sales. They didn’t want to keep dumping money into an album that they felt had reached its potential peak of sales, so they’re off to either the next project or they dump money into other avenues to exploit the artist at the time.

GFM: Another fan, named Ladybird, has a question. She rides really hard for you guys. She says, “Do you ever feel as though Jodeci has been unsung or underappreciated and should have received more awards?”

Mr. Dalvin: That’s a good question. Well I could say that being biased (and) that I am a part of Jodeci. Back in the day the Grammys didn’t accept soul music, so they overlooked Jodeci in a lot of things. We were never invited to the Grammys. I think we opened the door for a lot or artists that came, because they couldn’t deny that the foundation that we laid as far as artists. Even going back before us– the Temptations and The Four tops and so on before Jodeci. The way we portrayed (R&B) music… you listened to it different and you looked at it different. We came through with jeans on, the boots and the hats and we weren’t considered R&B music. We were considered bad boys of R&B. It was kinda like, ‘Okay, we’re just a dangerous group.’ That’s like inviting NWA to the Grammys. You never would do it, because they were scared of NWA. We were unpredictable. I felt like we got shunned from a lot of things because they didn’t know what to expect from Jodeci due to the reputation of us being the bad boys of R&B, which made it special because it made us more interesting as a group. We never tried to conform or crossover. We let pop music crossover to us. We never set out to be a pop group. Having said that I think nowadays, due to social media, it’s a demand for what the original sound of this hard-core R&B comes from… and it’s Jodeci.

GFM: The past is the hits. The present is the new project. What do you hope for the future? What’s the future of Jodeci?

Mr Dalvin: I can see a feature film. I can see books. I can see a lot of artists still coming from under us as far as producers. My brother had Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Ginuwine. Static Major wrote for most of Aaliyah’s stuff. I can see us producing more artists, more records, a lot of touring, a lot of dates and being seen around the world and around the country again.

Jodeci’s new album The Past, The Present, The Future is available NOW. Get it at iTunes.

Connect with Jodeci

On Facebook:
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About DJKKC

Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.

From the GFM Archives (’11): GFM Spotlight Interview: Jimmy Jam

Monday, March 13th, 2017

What can one say… it’s not very often that you get to interview one of your influences. Very grateful to the The Original 7ven’s entire team for making this happen. Jimmy Jam was incredibly gracious and insightful during our chat and I hope that you will share this interview with any and everyone you know who is a lover of music or aspiring to work in this business.

Special shout to the great folks over at Emancipation Radio for airing the interview and the wonderful show flyer pictured above.

About DJKKC

Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.

GFM Spotlight Interview: Zo! Talks SkyBreak, Artistic Freedom & Being Imported from Detroit

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Grown Folks Music caught up with one of Detroit’s favorite sons, Zo! We talked chopped it up about his current album, SkyBreak, paying tribute to his father (who passed away in December 2015) the artistic freedom that comes from being an independent artist and last but not least– we talked about the pride that comes from performing in his hometown Detroit.  Listen, enjoy and check out the trailer and screening dates below for the upcoming SkyBreak Documentary as well as additional SkyBreak tour dates.

  
Tour Dates

Saturday, March 18, 2017
St. Louis, MO
Zo! + Carmen Rodgers
(The SkyBreak Tour)
The .Zack
3224 Locust St, St. Louis, MO 63103
Doors: 7p | Show: 7:30p

Thursday, May 4, 2017
Washington, D.C.
Zo! + Carmen Rodgers
(The SkyBreak Tour)
with Aaron Abernathy w/live band Nat Turner
Tropicalia
2001 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 Doors: 7p | Show: 8p

Saturday, May 6, 2017
New York City, NY
Zo! + Carmen Rodgers
(The SkyBreak Tour)
Apollo Music Café
253 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
Doors: 10p

 Documentary Screenings

Saturday, March 12, 2017
Dallas, TX
Zo!
(SkyBreak Documentary Screening)
Sandaga 813
813 Exposition Ave, Dallas, TX 75226
Doors: 3p | Start Time: 3:30p

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Chicago, IL
Zo!
(SkyBreak Documentary Screening)
The Harold Ramis Screening Room @ The Second City
(Located on the 2nd Floor near bar “1959”)
230 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60614
Doors: 7p | Start Time: 7:30p

Thursday, March 16, 2017
Chicago, IL
Zo!
(SkyBreak Documentary Screening)
The Harold Ramis Screening Room @ The Second City
(Located on the 2nd Floor near bar “1959”)
230 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60614
Doors: 7p | Start Time: 7:30p

Sunday, March 19, 2017
Chicago, IL
Zo!
(SkyBreak Documentary Screening)
The Harold Ramis Screening Room @ The Second City
(Located on the 2nd Floor near bar “1959”)
230 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60614
Doors: 7p | Start Time: 7:30p

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Detroit, MI
Zo!
(SkyBreak Documentary Screening + Live Q&A)
*Note: This is not a performance*
Clara Stanton Jones Friends Auditorium @ Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202
Doors: 6p | Start Time: 6:30p

About DJKKC

Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.