I had the pleasure of recently chatting with Kindred The Family Soul (Aja Graydon and Fatin Dantzler) on the eve of their latest release A Couple Friends which was released on June 10th. The conversation documented below was as inspirational as their music…

GFM: Which way do you prefer to work on your songwriting?

Fatin: I think what we’ve learned is that we can’t force it. But, I do believe we work better sometimes when we’re up against a deadline, you know when we have to get in there and get to work. You know it’s like they say about writing… the hardest part is sitting down to write. When we sit down to write it just happens, sometimes we do a whole lot of dancing around [asking] “When are we going to sit down and write.” not being able to find the time to write, but once you sit down to be creative you find that things come to you. Sometimes it’s that dance around when are you going to be creative that stops you from being creative. That’s what I meant when I said we started the record and we stopped… it wasn’t so much that we weren’t inspired or couldn’t have written anything, we just weren’t in the studio. We weren’t working on music, but once we got back in the studio that’s when it started to happen. It started to pour out and we found that rhythm… it’s just a blessing I guess to always have that ability around.

GFM:How did the song “Everybody’s Hustlin” come about?

Aja: Well my husband can speak to the hook, because he wrote the hook to that song. He wrote the hook one night he was in the studio and I wasn’t there. He brought the hook back and said “I worked on this tonight” and he was like “What do you think?” For me musically I thought it was kinda slick. It had that 70’s laid back real slick vibe, like people sitting around talking about life kind of thing. So when I thought about the whole idea everybody’s hustlin’ just to get by I think I really was thinking about that whole feeling of insignificance that you feel sometimes when you listen to some music, where the basically make you feel if you ain’t got a million dollars you ain’t done nothing. So yes that whole experience was the inspiration behind that. You know it’s like you have to consistently tell yourself that what you come to the table with is valuable even if you’re not a mogul. My husband was a lot more descriptive about how he feels on his verse, he speaks so much more eloquently within his lyrics about struggles and how people are able to move forward. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone sing the word uninsured until now.

Fatin: That came from… I was actually reading a story on a sister who had these two jobs in Florida or something and said she couldn’t get insured and all these different things and these are the things that are happening in everybody’s lives. This is the reality right now that people are doing everything within their power to maintain their lifestyles and the music that they listen to does not celebrate them, does not give them any hope that things are going to be ok, that things are alright and that you should be rewarded for the sacrifices that they make and the work that they do and that you should feel good about yourself. I mean we’re all doing that… what’s that saying, fake it til you make it? People put those smiles on when they have a lot of pain all underneath them. You know it was that kind of thing that we were trying to express and get out there to the audience.

GFM: Tell us a little bit about “Lovin’ the Night”… it really captures the essence of Philly Soul were you going for that intentionally or did it happen in an organic way?

Aja: So we gotta tell the story… we were working with Vidal Davis on a completely different song which for lack of a better word was Hip-Hop driven. Fatin and I were kinda whining and complaining about the song. We liked it but we were kinda like we don’t know if this is for our folks. I mean is this for our fans or are they going to be like blown or what. Vidal was like “I’ve started on this other track but it’s really not done.” All he had was the guitar and bass, no drums. Just a little guitar riff and the bass. So we were like “Let’s write something to it.” So we wrote basically the whole record to that. We even cut the vocals to that. If felt so good that after that Vidal went back and finished the track. We just kept building on it and building on it. We brought in some horns and brought in Jamar who’s done strings for Jill Scott and us and some other folks… most of our older string arrangements were done by Larry Gold. It’s just a really special record and we are really hyped that you even liked it because it spoke to us before you even heard it in the state that it’s in now.

GFM: The new project is entitled A Couple Friends tell us about the inspiration behind that title

Aja: The thing is there’s a connection there between who we are, how we presented ourselves and how we’ve progressed over the years whereas this is my friend. I’ve been everywhere with him, he knows everything about me as well as all I know about him. There’s a level of comfort and relaxation that no matter what we’ve done, no matter what happens… at the end of the day it’s just me and him: a couple of friends. But, also we’ve developed a relationship with our fans over the years that really mimics being someone’s couple friends you know those people you invite over for spades or that come over for the cookout or that couple when you have a little relationship problem someone you can bounce that issue off of… that relationship that keeps you motivated, yours might be struggling a little bit. I think all of those things kinda encompass our relationship a little bit with many of our fans. Those who are couples and those who are not… you know my husband said something quite profound; as you were talking about that song “Lovin’ The Night” and the song’s period, you know it was put together by a couple of friends and this entire project has been put together by a couple friends. I mean our producer friends who have been working with us since Surrender To Love since the very beginning supporting our career over all this time, you know they came together and gave us magic again and it came from our friends, it really did.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.