Grown Folks Music had the pleasure to speak with multi-talented singer, songwriter, and actress SUCH about her third studio album Wide Nose Full Lips, and why she describes this album as her unapologetic love letter to being black.

Wide Nose Full Lips

GFM: Wide Nose Full Lips which drops on August 16, is your third studio album, and your lead song “Before Dark” has really taken off across the radio and internet. I’ve had the chance to listen to the album and I absolutely love it. It’s sultry, funky, and soulful. Your lyrics are so expressive and direct that it feels like you’re having a conversation with your listener. Explain how the concept for this album come about?

SUCH: Over the past few years I feel like I’ve really fallen in love with myself and gotten more comfortable in my skin. Not just who I am as a vocalist or a musician or a songwriter, but also as a black woman. I think for this album I really wanted to flip the script on what beauty is. When I was little, I’m Haitian American, I just remember I had a family member who would always tell me, because I have a wide nose, “You should really try to like squeeze your nose to make it a little more pointy because your nose is too wide.”

I think as a kid you internalize that stuff even though I never really thought about it, I just started to feel like I was not beautiful for whatever reason. Or hearing, ‘Oh don’t go out in the sun too long, you don’t want to get too dark.’ Just certain things like that that stays with you. So for me, coming into my own and being more comfortable in my skin is embracing all that is me, wide nose, full lips. And also, this is like my unapologetic love letter to being black and all that is black for black people, black boys, black women, black men, and little black girls.

I know that the script is changing, you can see that with movies like Black Panther and shows like Insecure, where we’re seeing more of ourselves on the screen in media. I think we need as much reinforcement as possible because stuff is deep-rooted and deep-seated and I think that if I can be one more person to remind us that we are beautiful just as we are with our wide nose and those full lips, let that be our standard of beauty instead of it being just a stereotype.

I think another inspiration for this album is around the time when police brutality felt like it was picking up with Michael Brown and Philando Castile. I remember when they were talking about Philando Castile and the police officer that killed him had described him as somebody with a wide set nose. And I’m like, that’s everybody! Like, what? I feel like it came from a place of that. Of falling in love with myself and wanting there to be another reinforcement of why we’re beautiful. I think it’s apparent throughout the album in which there’s just more ease and comfort as I’ve learned more about myself, as I’ve learned to accept myself just as I am and love it and love every single thing about it.

Someone to Save Our Lives

GFM: You spoke about police brutality, and I know you’re very active when it comes to social issues. Your song “Melanin” featuring Kerrie Joy, hits on some serious truths when it comes to us as black people like how we need to recognize our own greatness. Tell us about your collaboration with Kerrie Joy and how that song came about.

S: Kerrie is amazing. That’s my girl. I wish I could say ‘This is my formula. I do A, B and C’ but the reality is every song is birthed super organically and in different ways. For “Melanin”, it’s actually a song that I wrote in a dream. Now how I write my songs in dreams, they’re not like I dream, and in my dream, I’m writing a song. That’s not how it is.

With this song, I remember it clearly. I was walking down the street in my dream and I passed a storefront that had the door open and the song “Melanin” was piping through it; I could hear it. But it was just the melody, there were no words. That’s all I heard. So I woke up and I grabbed my phone because I always have my phone near me because I use the voice memo, and I just started to sing ‘Someone to save our lives, our lives.’

Kerrie is absolutely a social activist and just an amazing person. We’ve had wonderful deep conversations and I just was like wow, I feel like she needs to get on this. When she sent me the first draft I heard it and I literally started crying because I was like “I need this! I need this song!” She’s a performance poet and there are not enough good things that I can say about her.

I feel like there has been this narrative of how we have no control over our destiny, that we need somebody to come and swoop in, that we have no say. Even when you feel like you have no power, lean on your ancestors, lean on the people that came before you to remind you just how powerful we are. The wealth that exists in us, the strength, the power, and the resilience, I mean it’s unbelievable. We stand on the backs of giants. It’s incredible. We are not alone, and we don’t have to do this thing alone. We’ve got each other and we have our ancestors. This song is just a reminder to let us remember that we are not powerless that we have a say, that we can do great things. And there are examples upon examples.

Dreams Don’t Have Expiration Dates

GFM: Not long ago you posted some encouraging words on Facebook that said “Your dreams don’t have an expiration date. Let no one make you feel like you’re running out of time. Don’t give up.” Then you went on to relate how people called you crazy for quitting your job as a registered nurse at the age of 26 to pursue your singing career. Who helped you to stay encouraged and to keep believing in your dreams as an artist?

S: I feel like so many people. One of my favorite things to do is if there’s an artist that I like or if I love their music, I like to find out about their stories. What are some of the things that they went through? How did they discover their gift? It’s always so encouraging to me because I’m like, ‘Yo, if they can do it, I can do it’ So when I think about Toni Morrison, the fact that she wrote her first book at 40, if she had listened to people who were like ‘No, you’re getting a little too old,’ then we wouldn’t have experienced her this way.

I think we’ve all been given a gift. When we realize that it’s time for us to share that gift with others, can you imagine if we were like ‘nope, we can only discover our gift at the age of 15 or 16?’ It makes no sense! As we grow and as we learn we discover more of who we are and in ways in which we’re able to give back. So I feel like it’s always encouraging to hear other people’s stories of what they decided to do or people who once they have clarity on what they’re supposed to be doing, they just go do it.

I’ve Lived

GFM: That is so true because some of the most famous people didn’t achieve fame or success until much later in their lives. Some people don’t realize their purpose until later. It happens, but it’s never too late.

S: No it isn’t. And the thing is, you live for a reason. What I may have come up with at fifteen is not what I’m coming up with right now. I’ve lived. And with that comes experience and things you can draw from. So this whole notion that you’re running out of time, it really doesn’t make sense because all the time you’ve lived is only going to help fuel whatever you decide to do, whatever your calling is. It’s only going to help tell that story even better.

“I Have an Epiphany”

GFM: You did a beautiful cover of “Ordinary People” by John Legend. What was it about this song that moved you to cover it and to include it on your album?  

S: Yes, this is the first time I’m including a cover on my album. My manager and I, we always talk about who is a good person to cover and I’ve always been intrigued by covering people of the opposite gender to see what I could do differently. So my manager was like ‘I have an epiphany! I think you should cover “Ordinary People”!’ And I’m thinking ‘Yo, “Ordinary People” is an amazing song. What could I possibly do not better, but even to add something different?’ So I was at a loss because I feel John Legend did his thing. But after I revisited it, I was like what if I made it stripped down, made it more neo soulish and add some strings and just sing it. So I did it and afterward, it was really beautiful and poignant.

For A Reason

GFM: The next song I want to touch on is “For a Reason”. It is such a moving and personal song, and as I listened to it I could picture you sitting down with your son having this conversation with him. Why was it so important for you to put these empowering affirmations from mother to child into a song?

S: That’s a good question. It was important for me to let my kid know that he is good. That he is ultimately good and I am here as his guide. I am not him. I think a lot of times as parents we just want our kids to do what we want them to do. And so we try to make them just follow our instructions but then wonder when they become adults why they don’t trust themselves, why they don’t take initiative.

So, I wanted to write a song in which I wanted to empower him to trust his gut and to trust himself. It’s not suddenly going to happen when he turns eighteen that he trusts that he can make good decisions. It’s throughout his life. And I can just remind him that he’s here for a reason no matter what anybody else says. [I want] for him to know that his life has a purpose. You’re not an accident. You are here.

And I think about also all of the moms who may have had their kids under varying circumstances in which people are like ‘That was a mistake’ or whatever else, I don’t believe anyone was a mistake. I just don’t. You have a purpose. And you are light, shine your light no matter what anyone else says.

Also, at some point, I’m not always going to be with my son and I need him to be able to trust himself, even if it means him not doing what I would want him to do. Because there comes that point where he has to make the best decision for himself. And when he comes to that point, I want him to be able to have the confidence and be empowered that he will make the best choice for himself. And that’s what that song is about.

I wrote it [“For A Reason”] on his first day of kindergarten. First off, I was all excited about him starting kindergarten, like yaaass, he’s in kindergarten, he’s in a really good program, etc. So I brought him to school and I was wondering why all these other parents were crying like I don’t know what’s wrong with them, they should be excited (laughter)!

I dropped him off, and then on the drive back home it’s like I saw his life flash before me. Like he’s a kindergartner, then one day he’s going to be in third grade, and one day he’s going to be in middle school, and he might get bullied, and there’s gonna be kids picking on him, and one day he’s gonna fall in love with someone and he’s going to graduate. I kid you not, I saw his whole life flash before my eyes and I went home and wrote that song.

Aretha, Jill and Fantasia

GFM: Who are some of your musical inspirations past or present?

S: Of course Aretha, the Queen of Soul, she’s incredible in so many ways. You know recently I did an Aretha tribute in Denver with three other incredible female artists. It was amazing, we did a few shows back to back and by the end of the run we were like these were all Aretha songs, it took four of us to do her songs, and do them well! This was her music. So I had even more respect when I actually had to sing her music, I was like how did she do her own shows? So much is poured into it. I feel like there is so much I can learn from Aretha.

I feel like Jill Scott is one of my musical mamas. I absolutely love Jill, the way she is a poet and a singer, and the things she does with her voice. I love, love, love Jill. Currently, I love Fantasia. When I tell you I love Fantasia… I love me some Fantasia because I feel she sings from her feet. She sings from her toes and I’m here for all of it, you hear me? All of it. She makes me feel something. You can’t just look at her and be like ‘Oh, okay, whatever.’ I love her.

“’90s R&B is My Ish!”

I would also say ’90s R&B was very influential for me because that’s where my music education began. My house burned down when I was six. And up until I was six, my dad’s a pastor, we only listened to gospel music. We did not listen to secular music at all. When the house burned down, I feel like my parents loosened up a little bit. They asked my sister what she wanted and the first thing she asked for was a boom box, and that was like the early ’90s.

So my earliest memories of that kind of music are being on her bed discovering Prince, and Michael Jackson, and Luther Vandross, and Toni Braxton, and D’Angelo. I remember my first time hearing D’Angelo and I was like, ‘This is amazing!’ Boyz II Men… ’90s R&B is my ish!’ It brings me back to being seven years old on my sister’s bed. I love Brandy, I love Monica, Aaliyah. There are just so many amazing artists to choose from.

Acting Chops

GFM: For those who may not know, you’re an actress as well. You were in the critically acclaimed Broadway play The Color Purple where you played the role of Celie, and you’ve had many television appearances. Will we see you acting again any time soon?

Shug (Ashlie-Amber Harris, left) and Celie (SuCh) begin reading Nettie’s letters in “The Color Purple.” 

S: Oh, I would love to. I would love to do theatre for sure. And I know that when it’s the right opportunity, it’ll work out. And I feel like it’s coming soon, I really do. I’m excited to act again. Acting is so cool, I feel like it’s just another way for me to be an artist and I would have never known that I could do it had I not decided to become a singer. It’s all so interwoven and intertwined and it’s really fun.

 “Present at Every Stage of the Journey

GFM:  I want to talk about your beautiful sisterlocks for a moment. How long have you been locked?

S: My locs are the same age as my son [8 years old]. I got them when I was 32 weeks pregnant with him. It was a 15-hour ordeal. I was so determined, I was like this is my Christmas present, and I’m getting this done. I probably had an inch or an inch and a half of hair when I started them.

GFM: And look at them now, they are so gorgeous! I’m a sisterlocks newbie, I’m eight months into my loc journey. I bring up locs because as you know, locs can give you newfound freedom and confidence, and they teach you patience and perseverance. Do you feel your locs have contributed to your confidence and freedom as an artist?

S: Absolutely. I think locs have taught me so much like you said patience, and that time actually goes by very quickly. I remember when I was eight months into my journey, and I would look at other women with long sisterlocks wondering “Oh my gosh, is that ever gonna be me?” And now it is! It doesn’t take that long. I think what locs have taught me to be is present. Present at every stage of the journey. I retighten my own locs and they take a long time to do. But let me tell you, I know every loc on my head, and that’s really cool.

Grown Folks Music

GFM: What is Grown Folks Music to you?

S: Probably love songs I would say. Because grown folks business deals with love songs to me. But also, I would say just maturity and an unapologetic comfort in who you are.  

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