By SPECIWOMEN Photography RUBY ROSE
"All of my work is about my experience as a woman, as a person of color, and the constant tensions of my existence."
Who are you?
I am a 24 year old artist from Harlem. I am obsessed with the sunset and the moon and how easily the world can manifest beauty despite the constant violence. My goal with all this work is to hopefully curate a space where my audience is invited to see the beauty in the shattered concrete conversations I am starting, perhaps even see themselves as miraculous. I have an album coming out in three weeks and I am currently running around like a chicken with its head cut off preparing everything for all of you. So prepare them ears & hearts - Something Melancholy, November 15th.
What drew you to music?
I joined orchestra when I was in middle school so I could have something to do with my best friend after school. I played cello for years but never got quite good at it. I didn’t pick up music again until Sophomore year of college when I joined the NYU gospel choir and realized that I could in fact sing. Senior year when it came down to the curation of my thesis show for the theatre department, I wrote a piece called In the Chrysalis and it was a culmination of a series of poems and songs written from group improvisations. It was an interesting marriage, poetry and music. I had been doing poetry for 10 years and suddenly melody was an option, it all kind of made sense. From the quiet to the word, from the word to the song, somewhat of a natural progression eh?
Do you remember the moment you decided that this was the path for you?
I have known nothing else. I’ve been writing since before I knew the language well enough to know what I was saying. I am always following the words, poetry was first and it led me to music, I cannot wait to see where this exploration of communication and sound takes me.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations as a musician?
Nina Simone, Frida Kahlo, Jimi Hendrix, Ella Fitzgerald, Solange, James Blake, Kimbra, Little Dragon, Alabama Shakes, Chance the Rapper, Kendrick. The list goes on. My friends inspire me to be louder and bigger and to give less attention to sense and more attention to the moment. Learning everyday from the natural rhythms of New York and the way I can hear my heart beating in noise canceling headphones with such ease. All of it is alive and keeps me so.
As a woman, how have your experiences shaped your sound?
All of my work is about my experience as a woman, as a person of color, and the constant tensions of my existence. Navigating visibility and confidence in a world that spends most of its time demeaning my very being makes for lots of riotous conversation in my work. It doesn’t shape the sound, it is the sound.
If you could collab with three people in the near future, who would they be and why?
- Kendrick Lamar - He manages to critique and celebrate and acknowledge the black experience in a cohesive way that I appreciate. I think an afternoon of improvisation with one another would surely conjure some necessary ancestral conversations.
- Solange - A Seat at the Table is absolutely everything. I am in awe of its creation and have been obsessed with her aesthetic for years.
- Anohni - Her entire career is a poem. I love the way she utilizes her voice and her lyricism is unparalleled.
Talk to me about the first song you’ve ever written.
Chasing is a very convoluted love story. I wrote this song while reading Stolen Tomorrows by Steven Levenkron. It is a compilation of case studies analyzing childhood sexual abuse and its effect on adult women. Three of the stories presented in this book stood out to me as excruciatingly terrifying and I felt the need to give life to the very confusing sentiments presented. As a survivor of sexual abuse, I began to see so much of myself reflected in these women and the behaviours that enslaved them to their victimhood. This song was sort of a proclamation to the acknowledgment of the abuse and the full life that can be led afterwards. The lyrics are a reflection of survivors everywhere, and can be easily digested by anyone who has ever been in a tumultuous relationship.
Where does performing bring you? (As in, what do you feel when you perform)
I lend every single part of my body to the work. I feel very ancestrally connected when I sing, especially during improvisations. Performance brings me to this place of simultaneous mourning and celebration. It’s like my body can tell that this breath I am still allowed to experience, surely is a miracle. I can’t perform without reckoning with all the tragedies and deaths that led to my arrival to the stage, let alone my existence in this world.
What in music acts as the best outlet for you?
I don't think anything is better than anything else, my voice is simply the only instrument I know how to utilize so far. I look forward to spending lots of time navigating the piano and cello in the coming years. I think it is incredibly important to find oneself constantly in conversation with the possibility of "knowing" and then taking the necessary steps toward actually acquiring said knowledge.
Name 5 songs that always keep you going.
There are so many, but lately these are my most played. I know you said 5 but I had to give you 6 :)
Don’t let me be Misunderstood - Nina Simone
Choose Me - James Blake
What Sarah Said - Death Cab for Cutie
Waltz me to the Grave - Kimbra
Sound & Color - Alabama Shakes
Cranes in the Sky - Solange