BeBe Confidentials: Rahsaan Patterson by BeBe Sweetbriar

Rahsaan Patterson : “The Kid’ of old emotes new shades of “bleu”

Time sure flies when you are busy influencing the music world and leaving deep footprints in the sand as you go along your journey. That is in fact the case with child star (The Kid on “Kids Incorporated”) turned vocalist/songwriter/performer Rahsaan Patterson who has created a trademark style that distinctively separates him from the rest. Even though compared with legendary singers Stevie Wonder and Prince, Patterson is indeed a few layers deeper than just a mere emulation of greats who have a musical path before him. With five studio and one Holiday album under his belt over the past 15 years,

Rahsaan has independently forged ahead through the obstacles often faced by openly-gay performers to independently produce a collection of music that has distinctively created his own style to be emulated by future musicians. Sharing his talents with other respected artists such as Shanice, Lalah Hathaway, Brandy, to name a few, continues to sprinkle a little bit of Rahsaan in the sound  of others. In preparation for a San Francisco engagement at Yoshi’s SF, Rahsaan took me on his journey from the days of being just ‘The Kid’ to the man of critical acclaim.

BEBE:  I was looking back at your time as “The Kid” on the show “Kids Incorporated” back in the 80s, and I thought we could really call the show the urban version of the Mickey Mouse Club (both laugh).

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Very much so.

BEBE: It produced or spring boarded the careers of so many performers such as yourself like Fergie, Shanice, Martika  and even Mario Lopez. 

RAHSAAN PATTERSON: Yeah, and it was pre-GLEE.

BEBE:  Did you think that your time on the show would lead to a singing career?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  I didn’t necessarily expect it initially. By the time I was 12, I think, I began to think I could make a career in music and performing. Initially I had no intentions of pursuing a career in music. It just happened that I had received a phone call while I was in New York from a consultant for the TV show Kids Incorporated, who happened to be Chip Fields, Kim Fields (“Facts of Life”) mom. And, she flew me out like the day after she called.

BEBE:  Were you tinkering with writing music at an early age?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Not at all. I was just singing in church in New York, and going to school. That was pretty much it.

BEBE:  Doing what regular folks do, huh?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Yeah (laughs a little)! Just chillin’ and being a kid. If it hadn’t been for my grandmother, and my dad, and my older sister, who all influenced and pushed me, to sing as a child, I would have never necessarily known that I had  gift sing.

BEBE: Well, when people throw your name out there in the music world, there is an automatic comparison to Stevie Wonder and Prince. But, I’d like to know who were your personal musical influences?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Well, definitely Stevie and Prince, and Donny Hathaway, Chaka Khan, Sarah Vaughn, Mica Paris, those have been my main influences. Michael Jackson, too. 

BEBE:  You want to pull out some lesser known names (we both laugh).

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Right! Basically all the legends, you know? All the true artistic pioneers. As a child I was not only influenced by their singing, but also by their communication through their art, and their individual styles.

BEBE:  I know you are friends with Grammy-nominated recording artist Ledisi, one of the San Francisco Bay Area jewels, and when she brings up your name and speaks about you, she says one of your artistic strengths is your uninhibited approach to your music. Agree or disagree?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  I would definitely agree with that. It basically harkens back to those artists I named earlier and their honest communication through their songs, and their spirit and really revealing themselves in who they were. Those are always the artists that speak most to me, the ones who are really mavericks and have no shame in displaying who they really are, not only their triumphs but (also) their pains.

BEBE:  The people that you named are not only good in their vocal styles and the presentation of their music, they are also great lyricists. They have a good way of communicating feelings through words.

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  and, there are tons of great singers out there, but to me, there is a major difference between those who don’t just sing songs, but write their lives. They write songs about spirit, and God, and the struggles with all that.

BEBE:  As a live performer, getting to the presentation of one’s music, you’ve sold out many venues including your B.B. King Blues Club date, and this comes without having mainstream push. So, what would you say it is about your live performances that captivates the audience so that they become  major fans and followers?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Well, I give them myself, and I don’t look at what I do on stage, per se, as a performance or an act. People are used to going to shows to be entertained and getting a stage character from people.

BEBE:  A fabrication is what I call it.

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Yeah, to an extent (laughing). And that’s not to take away from the aspect of what a lot of performers are great at. Because people do go to those to get that, to be taken out of the everyday realm of life. When I’m on stage, I give them whatever mood I’m in. If I’m insecure, if I’m happy, if I’m sad, if I’m cocky, they can get all of that within an hour and fifteen minutes. It is something they can relate to, and there’s strength in that. Not only is there strength in people going to see a Beyonce who is like perfect from the beginning to the end. But, I think sometimes people can appreciate flaws in human beings. I think that is one of the things I do when I perform.

BEBE:  To bring up Yoshi’s in San Francisco , where you will be performing Friday, June 22, and places like B.B. King’s Blues Club, those are intimate venues. So do you think in places like those where they are set up for an intimate interaction between the performer and the audience are best suited for the crowd to feel your vibe? 

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Oh, absolutely! It’s so up close and personal that it pretty much makes me comfortable to give them me. It’s kind like them in my house.

BEBE:  I was just going to say that it was probably like the days when you used to perform before your family (laughs).

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  (laughing along) Exactly! And similarly the support that comes along with that family setting is very much present in those intimate settings. I’ve had the support of the people who have come to see me over the years, they feel like family. I find that special.

BEBE:  Your first couple of albums you put out there were on the MCA label, which was a major label. But when you left them you started your own independent label after album two.

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  I did. MCA actually folded as a label, and certain artists were moved over to Geffen, and I was not one of those artists. But I was fortunate enough to receive the masters of my album “After Hours” (Patterson’s third album) which I recorded while at MCA. So with that I started the label, and it was difficult, but I was able to get the record out to certain markets and in the stores and that was a blessing.

BEBE:  I know you don’t define yourself as a gay artist, eventhough you are an openly gay performer. That is apart of who you are, but not all of who you are. But I have interviewed many gay artists, such as yourself, who like you have a quality in their writing and delivery of song that is right up there with the mainstream artists;however, just the fact that there is that word “gay” attached to them, mainstream labels seem to have a hard time figuring out what to do with them. Do you find that to be true?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Um, particularly in the black (music) realm,yes! That just goes back to the issues that we as a black people (with the gay issue). When you compare this to the mainstream on the Pop side with white (gay) artists,it’s entirely a different story, an entirely different acceptance. It’s unfortunate, but I can’t let that stop me from doing what I was brought here to do.

BEBE:  Now your current CD that you released last year (2011) is entitled “Bleuphoria”. Where does the name of the album come from or mean?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  That title came to me like in 2005. While I was in Paris I was filming things around Paris, and when I got back I started to put together my little iMovie short, I wanted t o have a production company name to put in front of the movie title, and Bleuphoria came to me. I then had to learn the significance of the word to me and why it came to me. In the course of doing that from 2005 to the time of releasing the album, I discovered it pertains mostly to the world. If you look at the Earth from outer space, it’s like a big blue ball. And, in that world is not only the water represented by the blue, but the blue that can be kind of melancholy, somber darkness representing all the tragedies that occur on this planet. But at the same time, it is all we have and it’s a beautiful life regardless of people’s struggles. Then the love represented in the album, manifests itself in tones of blue. The blue represents  that bliss and euphoria that came with it (love). 

BEBE:  On this collection represented by “Bleuphoria”, you work and perform with some serious music industry hitters. You have Shanice, Jody Watley, Tata Vega, Faith Evans, Lalah Hathaway, and the legendary Andre Crouch, another San Francisco Bay Area talent. Working with all these people to put the album together must have been a magical experience.

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:   It was absolutely magical! When I created this record, I kept envisioning that I wanted to not only display my capabilities as an artist, but I wanted to homage to the artists and singers that I love and respect. So, with that, I just had to let it come into my consciousness, and then fate just put everything into play. I didn’t have to reach out these artists management, it all just fell into place. It was all quite divine.

BEBE:  As I listened to “Bleuphoria” in totality, I picked up all the variables in the music. With all those people involved with you on this project, there are a lot of different styles represented. There is many different styles that you represent on this CD. Nowadays artists are more inclined top put out singles rather than produce an entire album. And many artists I’ve spoken to say that is because the buying habits of the public has changed. Then I wonder, well what came first in this change. Did the buying habits actually lead the way in the way artists release music, or has the lackluster music lead the way in how people buy music? I tend to believe it is the latter. There was a period where albums did not contain  variance in the songs contained within. They all sounded the same. So why would I spend the album money when the 8 to 10 songs just sounded like one big, long single?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  And even when they put out they call an “album” , you would tend to like only two or three.

BEBE:  So, it is really nice when I hear collections like yours on “Bleuphoria” that rally appeals to all of my senses, my jazz, my gospel, my r&b, my funk….all of that. I get a taste of all of that with “Bleuphoria”.

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  I really do appreciate that. You know all of my albums have been quite varied in styles. And, the common thread in each album has been my approach to lyricism, the way that sing and deliver with my emotions, and for me, I find it important to display the different facets of who I am.

BEBE: You’ve already released two singles off the CD, “Easier Said Than Done” and “6 AM”with the latter one charting on the Billboard R&B Chart. Are their plans to release a third?

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  Well, a couple of months ago we released “Crazy (Baby)” that has Faith Evans and Shanice featured on it, and it has garnered quite a bit of  attention across the nation. To be an independent artist and be able to say that you had three singles (off one album) is monumental. That’s pretty rare. We’ve actually filmed a DVD of a live concert which will be released in October of this year (2012) to hopefully coincide with another single release from the album to help push and support the DVD. And the fourth single release idea is “I Only Have Eyes For You”.

BEBE:  I really love your rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You”. It makes me think of how Luther Vandross used to take familiar and popular songs released  previously by other celebrat4ed artist, and he would make the song his own, to the point that we would even forget who originally recorded it! You have done that with this one.

RAHSAAN PATTERSON:  My main goal was to maintain the ambiance of the song, maintain the integrity of the song, and give people a feeling of the beauty of the lyric. There is not a whole lot of stuff happening. There’s the music and the lyric with the harmonies and stuff. I wanted the listener to capture the space of the song. But at the same time update it to 2012. 

BEBE:  I  think that sums up Rahsaan Patterson as an artist right there….paying attention the beauty of the lyric and the melodies with emphasis in the right spot to allow the audience, the listener, to capture that space.

Rahsaan Patterson brings his vocal talents and wonderful lyricism to San Francisco for a one night two-show engagement at Yoshi’s SF this Friday, June 22. www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco.

Additional performance dates:  June 23, El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles with Sy Smith

July 14, Carter Barron Amphiheatre, Washington, DC

For more on Rahsaan Patterson, check out his website www.not-of-this-world.com.

 

 

BeBe Confidentials: Rose Royce by BeBe Sweetbriar

Rose Royce’s front man Kenny Copeland keeps Wishing on a Star

 

It was not surprising to discover that the original name of the band we’ve come to know and love as Rose Royce was Total Concept Unlimited. And even though the name changed, Rose Royce remained a total concept, the total package able to produce a great list of hit songs covering the dance genre with “Car Wash”, “Makes You Feel Like Dancin’”, and “Do Your Dance”, the pop genre with “Ooh Boy” and  “Wishing On A Star”, and R&B ballads with “I’m Going Down” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” over the course of 4 years. As the name Rose Royce indicates, the band brought a type of class to the soul/funk of the 70s. With many of there hits being covered by other notable artists in their own right, some people of the generations over the past 20 years may not even be aware that Rose Royce created these songs covered by Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera and more. Though the line up of band members has changed over the years, original founding member Kenny Copeland still apart of Rose Royce spoke with me as he and the band prepared for their upcoming San Francisco appearance at Yoshi’s SF to chat about how commercialization of the bands music as helped keep them relevant over the years, how their music speaks internationally to the community at large, and how producing their current live album shows people they are more than ballads band.

BEBE:  As I was thinking about your upcoming gig at Yoshi’s SF this week, and I thought of the intimacy the venue provides any entertainer there with the audience, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the stage would accommodate based on the fact that the size (number of band mates) is so large (gets a laugh out of Copeland).

KENNY COPELAND:  You know that’s true. I spoke to Michael Cooper (from the San Francisco Bay Area) of Confunkshun and I told him that we would be playing at Yoshi’s, and he said, yeah, the space is a little small but that we should be able to manage. We have about the same size group as Confunkshun who have played Yoshi’s, of course.

BEBE:  I was just putting my thinking cap on, and saying to myself ‘are they gonna fit on that stage?’

KENNY COPELAND: ( after another laugh) And we’re not small guys either! That’s for sure.

BEBE:  Well, I know you are a band in every sense of the word since you guys play real instruments and don’t utilize any digital type system like many groups these days use, and thus the importance of a real good sound system, which Yoshi’s has, is heightened.

KENNY COPLEAND:  We are strictly from the old school.

BEBE:  That’s so good to hear and see because you just don’t get that that much these days. Every one seems to be a fabricated version of a band and vocals nowadays. I miss, and I am sure I speak for many people, we miss the true and honest voices and instruments from days of old.

KENNY COPELAND:  Yeah, well that’s where it originated from. When we did the “Car Wash” LP (album) which was a double album set, that pretty much drove me crazy because it literally took us six to seven months to do the album. We were just worn out because every little scene (from the movie Car Wash) that we recorded for was using all real instruments.

BEBE: (breaking in) And in addition to that, unlike how most soundtracks or movie tracks are done after the film is completed, you guys actually made and recorded the music for “Car Wash” movie as the scenes were being shot, if I’m not mistaken?

KENNY COPELAND:  Absolutely! We were on the set as they were shooting so that we could get a feel for what the scene needed music-wise. So, we were there from day one. We just wanted to make sure that it had the proper music, and we also wanted to make sure we had good songs in case the movie didn’t hit we still had a good album. But fortunately, both of them were great.

BEBE:  With “Car Wash” producing 3 R&B and Pop hit singles (“Car Wash”, “I Wanna Get Next You”, and “I’m Going Down”) for you guys, wouldn’t say that that album put Rose Royce on the map, so to speak?

KENNY COPELAND:  Absolutely! That was the one.

BEBE:  So wit that being said, why didn’t Rose Royce do more soundtracks? Were there any opportunities to do other film scores that you passed up?

KENNY COPELAND:   You know it was really funny, because our particular producer at the time was Norman Whitfield (Motown producer of Edwin Starr’s “War”, Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes” and the Temptations’ “Papa was a Rolling Stone”), and he pretty much got us fresh off the streets. We didn’t know too much about anything in the music business. So, we relied on his judgment. And I think the “Car Wash” album took so much out of him and me, we didn’t want to do another one anytime soon after. But, I think the opportunity did come up again, but nothing ever got off the ground. I would have loved to do another soundtrack, and especially made a hit, but Norman just did not want to do it.

BEBE:  Well we, the public, are sure sad that you didn’t make another movie soundtrack album, because we are still enjoying the music from “Car Wash”, and actually, music from the first three of Rose Royce’s albums because they produced so many good hits (including “Do Your Dance”, “Ooh Boy”, “Wishing on a Star”, I’m In Love (And I Love The Feeling)”, and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”). Hits that my and today’s generation are so familiar with, because you guys have done so well with having other artists cover your songs to keep them fresh,  such as Madonna (“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”), Mary J. Blige (“I’m Going Down”), Christina Aguilera (“Car Wash”), The Cover Girls and Teena Marie(“Wishing On A Star”), and the list goes on and on.

KENNY COPELAND:  And Beyonce’ did a version of “Wishing On A Star”.

BEBE:  And, in another ten years, somebody else is going to pick them up to cover them. That, to me, says a lot about the quality of the songs. The songs stand up on their own and still have relevance today.

KENNY COPELAND:  That was Norman’s (Whitfield) goal. He said ‘we don’t to record a song that is good this year, and then the next year nobody knows about it’. We wanted to do quality songs that last for years, and years,and years. That was his goal,we followed it, and it definitely came true.

BEBE: The people who made covers really didn’t stray too far from the original arrangements.

KENNY COPELAND:  You are absolutely right on that. And, I admire that. I really liked Mary J. Blige’s version of “I’m Going Down”.

BEBE:  I even liked Madonna’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” (which appeared on two of her album releases in 1984 and 1995). She really stayed true to your original song, and that was a real big ballad hit for her.

KENNY COPELAND:  It’s always an honor for these types of artists to record our songs. I welcome it.

BEBE:  You know Rose Royce was a big part of my growing up, and I know I partied my butt off over the years to your songs, and it was funny recalling back then how many people thought Rose Royce was the name of your lead female singer, Gwen Dickey. We didn’t know it was the name of a group. That was similar to how many people thought Blondie was the name of Debbie Harry.

KENNY COPELAND:  We did face that problem. It took us a long time to rectify. One of the reasons why it happened initially was when Gwen Dickey joined the group, she was in some management  contract, so we had to giver her another name. Norman decided to call her Rose Norwalt until she got out of the contract. But by that time, Gwen’s name of Rose had already established something with the public, and we spent a lot of time undoing that.

BEBE:  As we talked about artists covering our music, I also thought about how much of your music has appeared in commercials, TV shows and in movies as background filler (non-soundtrack).  I know some artists are opposed to the commercialization of their music like you’ve done. They even go as far as saying artists that do what you have done are “selling out”. What are your thoughts on the subject of commercialization music?

KENNY COPELAND:  Just as I said earlier, I welcome that because the bottom line is when your music is exposed  in that manner, all it does is give recognition to the people who made the music. I can’t see how anyone could not embrace that! I don’t what problems other artists have with it (commercialization), but I assure your Rose Royce will not have any problem with it. They can play it from now to doomsday, I don’t care.

BEBE:  Exactly, because your original recordings can be heard on the radio today, and I think it is because of the continual exposure that the commercialization of the music brings to your music generation after generation.

KENNY COPELAND:  I have no complaints!

BEBE:  Moving on to another subject, I know that Rose Royce is aware that you have a gay fan base because you have played at Gay Pride’s and other gay specific events over the years. What is it, do you think, about the Rose Royce sound and music that attracts your gay audience?

KENNY COPELAND:  I think that the songs that we made, we’ve always kept them on a universal feeling. Everybody can relate the music whether you are gay or not gay. Our songs lyrics can apply to anybody, it does matter who you are, what creed or color you are. I think the gay community embraces that. And when I sing “I Want to Get Next You”, I don’t care if it’s a gay couple or not, I get right up in their face as if I was singing it to a girl or anyone else. There is no loss of quality because it is all about love. It’s a love song. Everybody can relate. That’s my feeling.

BEBE:  Now you guys have been working band meaning you have always gone on tour and played live, as opposed to, the many groups these days that are just studio recording artists and don’t perform live, but you guys have been a working, performing band for nearly 40 years. As a matter of fact, your most recent album is a live one, right?

KENNY COPELAND: That’s right, and we have never done a live album before. We also want to do a Christmas album at some point as well. But we really wanted to get a live album out there because, you know, there are a lot of funk bands out there like the Bar Kays, Confunkshun, Kool and the Gang, and a lot of times when people come and see our (Rose Royce) show, they think it’s going to be kind of a soft show because we have a lot of ballads. But let me tell you right now, our show is so well balanced. We do top 40 type songs, our hits, we have choreography. When people see the show they say they had no idea our was what it is. They think they are going to be sitting down all the time, but we will get you on your feet.

BEBE:  Speaking of the balance of your show, you definitely have created a balance of music covering funk, pop, ballads and the like. So with that, which one of your songs is your favorite, if you have one?

KENNY COPELAND:  My favorite song, and always have been, is “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”.I like it because I like the chord progressions, and we turn it into a big show type of song, We’ve incorporated horns into it when we perform it live where we used strings in the studio, since we can’t carry those instruments along when we do shows. So, you don’t lose any of the quality of the song. When we do something live, we always want to add something extra to give the audience a treat.

Rose Royce with Kenny Copeland will be performing at Yoshi’s SF Thursday, June 21. For tickets and more information, www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco.

Following the San Francisco date, Rose Royce will play at the Anthology in San Diego on July 14.

Original lead singer Gwen Dickey will join Rose Royce overseas in Brighton,England at Concorde 2 on September 22.

Their current CD “Rose Royce Live in Hollywood” can be purchased on their website at www.rose-royce.com.

BeBe Confidentials: Sophia May by BeBe Sweetbriar

 

Sophia May:: Brings inspiration and motivation to the dance floor

 

Sometimes we come across an wonderful, talented and beautiful recording artist is is known more prominently by their voice than their name. British dance diva Sophia May is such an artist here in the States, who may go down the streets unnoticed by fans or her name unrecognized when brought up in conversation, but play any one of her three U.S. Billboard Dance Chart hits, “I Can’t Help Myself” (#1), “Another Day” (#5), or “Come Back”(#6) and you are bound to know exactly who she is. No stranger to the San Francisco audience, May is set to make her third appearance across the waters from the UK during Pride Weekend in San Francisco at JC Presents’ Catch PRIDAY FRIDAY Party at BeatBox, voted the 6th Best Sound System amongst San Francisco venues, on Friday, June 22. A versatile vocalist and songwriter who started her music career in the R&B genre, Sophia May has been constantly growing as an artist with recent collaborations with hip hop artists (Moe Roc, DJUKES, G-Unit) and reggae artists (GYPTIAN) with songs that show the depth of May’s writing skills. Her current hit released in the UK in 2011, “Take Me There”, shows this artist pushing the dub step envelope with favorable response from both radio. An constant inspiration to and motivation for urban youth in both America and Europe, May’s collaboration with Moe Roc “Believe” is a popular request of teacher’s to play at assemblies held a various elementary and middle schools because of its positive message, many times performed live by Sophia and Moe when possible. So, as you can see the depth of this artist lays beyond give us something to dance to, but includes some words for our adults of tomorrow to live by. 

BEBE:  It was interesting for me to to discover that you got your start while you really young in your teens by winning a talent contest?

SOPHIA MAY:  Yeah, yeah! (A talent contest) which my sister forced me into. I didn’t even want to do it. She forced me into it, and I won it! (laughs)

BEBE:  Now, did you win the contest with an original song of yours?

SOPHIA MAY:  Oh my gosh, what was it? It was a karaoke competition, so I know it wasn’t an original song.

BEBE:  So how and when did you get into writing your music?

SOPHIA MAY:  Well, one of the judges at the competition was James De Burgh, and he was a manager at the time. Part of the opportunities received from winning the contest was working with him. You know he is related to Chris De Burgh (“Lady In Red”). So through working with James I met and worked with many people, then when I moved to Bristol, I was approached by one of my friends with a dance track, I had been doing R&B prior to that, and he asked me to write with him. So, that’s how it started.

BEBE:  That’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?

SOPHIA MAY:  Yeah, I actually came out of my original style (R&B) to write a dance track as my first originally written song. 

BEBE:  You have done quite well with three dance hits on the Billboard charts here in the U.S., and it is interesting to me how you and so many other British female singers do so well here. I don’t know why that is?

SOPHIA MAY:  I don’t either (both laugh).

BEBE:  I also remember meeting you and seeing you perform for the first time in San Francisco at a year-end party celebration produced by GLOSS Magazine (www.glossmagazine.net) where you were on the same bill with Cyndi Lauper, Lady Gaga and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child. I remember telling you when I met you that overall I thought your performance was superior to all that star power on stage. Your voice was definitely the best that evening.

SOPHIA MAY:  Aw, how sweet!

BEBE:  So much has happened with you since then. You regularly perform on the same stage as other high caliber entertainers.

SOPHIA MAY:  I’ve really been fortunate. Getting to work with so many great people and having shared some wonderful, helpful conversations with them has been great at that time, because I literally came from having a baby and changing my priorities, recording “Another Day” (#5 on Billboard’s Dance Charts) and touring. It was my first time in San Francisco and Seattle (2009), and it was all in a space of two days. Most people who are used to performing shows like this in a quick span over a long travel distance are usually prepared for this by getting the sleep they need and whatever, but I was so new to this. So, I remember being on stage in San Francisco at that show with Cyndi, Lady Gaga and Michelle, and I had a bottle of water in my hand on stage because I literally thought I was going to lose  my voice in any given moment. I had an ear infection, too. Here it is one of my biggest shows of my life, and I don’t feel well! So, for you to say that is very sweet.

BEBE:  Well, you know how it is. At the moment you don’t feel at your peek, the inner you just digs down deep and pulls it together. And apparently, you definitely did that that evening.

SOPHIA:  Yeah, that does happen sometimes.

BEBE:  But it is no surprise that you have that type of strength from within because you were a correctional officer in the UK.  Tell me how this correctional officer thing came about with you?

SOPHIA: (With some laughter explains) Well, um, I guess I’ve always wanted to work with other people, you know? My whole background has been working in drug and alcohol rehab, I don’t know. I think it comes from my Dad, because my dad as always been the youth worker type. I guess I kind of fell into it. I used to want to be on the police force, and then I decided I didn’t want to do that. Then I thought this (correctional officer) might be a good field to get into the prison environment and still do the drug rehab work while I was in there, which is what I actually did. I started as an officer but quickly changed into being a counselor. 

BEBE:  I now you try and work a lot with the at risk youth. I’m sure that comes from your correctional officer experience where you saw that first hand.

SOPHIA MAY:  Yes, the prison I worked in was for young offenders. So, after that, I worked at a college where we were given the freedom to do project wise with young people which was perfect for me because I could do music stuff with them…..I could do whatever with them to engage them. I would try to bring young people back into education that would lead to employment.

BEBE:  You know many people have said and studies have shown that music plays a big part in rehabilitating people. It gives them a creative outlet to express themselves and can grasp onto to funnel their energy into a positive way. Is that something that you experienced and worked with your young people on?

SOPHIA MAY:  Oh yes, 100%. It’s all about changing their mental aptitude so their actions and behaviors change. I like to use the same kind of experiences with younger children and disabled children as well, and do it with different groups of young people. Sixteen to eighteen is the age group I normally work with, but I’d like to catch them younger than that. And using music with disabled children is always a positive thing. I have a child myself with epilepsy. I am actually the ambassador for a project called the Music Works in London. It works with young people but centers around music, so they asked me to be the ambassador for the project.

BEBE:  Now getting to your music, your current single in the UK is “Take Me There” playing on Radio One?

SOPHIA MAY:  Yes. I have two new singles coming which I’m going to perform both of them there in San Francisco. I have one called “Let Me In”, and one called “With You”. We are in the process of getting them ready to be released. They’re really good. They are favorites of mine. They are House music, but still dance music.

BEBE:  So, we are going to have two new tracks introduced to us here in the Bay?

SOPHIA MAY:  Oh yes you are!

BEBE:  OH MY GAWDDDDDDDD! (screaming). People are going to love that!!!! You are something. That will be heck-a-cool!

SOPHIA MAY:  (Laughing thunderously) Yes, BeBe is gonna get the first listen! Or the preview interview, let’s say that.

BEBE:  Of course, I love that! Now, tell me how is it different performing in the U.S. than in your homeland in the UK?

SOPHIA MAY:  Well, I’ll be touring back in Europe as well, and looking forward to that, but America has been very good to me, and I can’t let them down.

BEBE:  And you’ve good to us. We love you, so it’s all reciprocated.

SOPHIA MAY:  Well, I’d always like to release in America first, if I can.

BEBE:  And I know you love San Francisco.

SOPHIA MAY:  I love San Francisco! This will be my third time, can you believe that, and I’e still not see everything yet.  I’ve been to Alcatraz, though. If I could choose a place in life that I could choose to take over, it would be San Francisco. I love everyone in there.

BEBE:  I ask this next question a lot of dance singles artists, and that is, is there any plans or even a desire for you to do a whole album or collection of songs?

SOPHIA MAY:  I’d love to, but you know what it is? When you do singles you work with a lot of different labels, so the difficult part is pulling all together. But I’d love to, so, eventually I’ll go with one label and do a whole album, because I think I could do it.

Sophia May will be kicking off San Francisco Pride Weekend with a performance at Catch’s PRIDAY FRIDAY at Beatbox on Friday, June 22. www.BeatboxSF.com or www.jorgechamorropresents.com.

Following San Francisco, May will be performing at the B66 Night Club in Brooklyn, NY on July 7th.

For more tour and appearance information for Sophia May visit her website at www.sophiamaymusic.com.

 

BEBE CONFIDENTIALS: Lady Miss Kier by BeBe Sweetbriar

 

LIVE Interview recording with IDINA MENZEL

A Deee-Lite-ful journey from ‘misfit’ to Lady Miss Kier

“Groove is in the hearrrrrrrt. GROOVE is in the heart!” You could not have been a club kid of the early 90s and not have heard “Groove Is In the Heart” by Deee-Lite playing through your favorite dance club’s sound system. The groove was definitely heartfelt as much for the soulful and fun vocals of lead singer, Lady Miss Kier, as it was for the beats and rhythms that acted as the chariot under her melodies. Lady Miss Kier with Deee-Lite brought us the feel good carry over vibe from the disco era with an added funk and house beat to bring us a uniqueness and freshness that gave that generation something to call its own, a new identity not yet introduced until then. Lady Miss Kier also brought us the fashion and style that with its colorful 60s retro inspiration and punk couture uniqueness accompanied nicely with the new groove. Though born Kier Kirby, Lady Miss Kier embraced and adopted her bigger than life stage persona and her uniqueness, just as the misfits of the club scene world embraced her as someone they could identify with and live through. 1990 may have been the beginning, but as her sure to bet energetic performance at this year’s San Francisco Pride festivities on the House Music Dance Stage (presented by promoter Hawthorne) June 24 will prove, we are far from playing the last groove of this club diva.

BEBE: Knowing of your stylish performance costumes, it was not surprising to learn that you once pursued a career in fashion design through study at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. But, it did lead me to wonder what drove you to leave fashion study and pursue music?

LADY MISS KIER: I was an idea person, but not good at technique. So, as my designs were unique and eye-catching, they always fell apart due to bad construction. I continued to pursue fashion, and began writing songs and lyrics as a way to relieve the stress. Then one day, my writing partner told me ‘we have too many songs to not share these live’. I was mortified, but thought perhaps if i got over my stage fright, it would draw attention to the clothes, and i could revive my failing fashion career. Once I heard the applause, I was really shocked and hooked at the same time. I then began hiring other, more talented and technically efficient people to construct my designs or design for me, such as, Zaldy Goco (client list includes Gwen Stefani, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez and Michael Jackson(This Is It Tour)), Mr. David (San Francisco icon in both fashion and drag performance), and Mr. Pearl (The corset eminence has worked with Leigh Bowery , Thierry (Manfred) Mugler, Lacroix and Gaultier). I was eventually adopted for a few years by Mugler, just like Cinderella.

BEBE: Your first album with Deee-Lite, ”World Clique”, spawning the mega hit single “Groove Is In The Heart”, has been said to have personified the club culture during that time. How so?

LADY MISS KIER: I have no idea, perhaps because it stood out as being unique. But at the same time, I cast all my friends in our music video. I had met them living their notes away from home on the dance floor. The message was positive and about my love of (Super DJ) D’miti’s (Brill) five-nights a week career as a NYC deejay.
I would drive him to the clubs, dance 8-hours until he was finished, and then drive him home. So, I suppose, who better to sing and write dance music than two people who spent most every night in clubs . I eventually was hired to be a go-go dancer by Kenny Kenny(ubiquitous and fabulous queen of New York nightlife) working in Suzanne Bartsch’s clubs (Bentley’s and the Copacabana), as well as, several others. Our way of life must have brought the authenticity to that song (“Groove Is In the Heart”).

BEBE: How much of a part did you play in creating the sound we have come to know from Deee-Lite?

LADY MISS KIER: I wrote all the lyrics and melodies, and was one-third of the production crew. D’mitri usually was playing piano or guitar as I sang the melodies, and then we both would search for (digital) samples to embellish the final productions. I was always a big fan of music, and was making little mix tapes at the age of seven (from cassette to cassette), but I never sang out loud or wrote a lyric until the age of 24.

BEBE: What was the cause of Deee-Lite’s disbandment after releasing only three albums in 4 years?

LADY MISS KIER:(It was) the lack of financial support or understanding from the label (Elektra). The President of the label told us himself he would not spend a dime promoting us because our videos ‘hurt his eyes’, and the sound was ‘too black and too gay”. He preferred (label mate) Natalie Cole. He just didn’t get it! If the people at the top don’t get it, then there is no chance of getting the money it costs to pay radio to play it (our music). I funded the “Dewdrops in the Garden “ tour out of my own pocket. I literally spent my last dime to pay to rehearse the musicians, book the tour bus, pay for the hotels, etc. That paid off financially for the record label, but we came home from the tour broke because the label takes 90%. Our fourth album (in 1996) was just re-releases of old remixes which the band had paid for from the first three albums.
BEBE: Deee-Lite and its sound made you become a bigger than life figure leading to you to become known as Lady Miss Kier, with your signature voice and catsuit costumes. After the disbandment of Deee-Lite, has there been a desire for you to redefine yourself over the past 16 years?

LADY MISS KIER: With each Deee-Lite album I redesigned my style quite differently from the previous one, but certain elements remained, such as a sense of humor and an obsession with color and originality. When I stepped out of the spotlight and away from the band and fame, I learned the art of toning it down to the point of being a wallflower. That went against every part of my being, but I had to (do it) for self preservation. Fame can be shallow, and the vultures it attracts can eat you alive if you are not good at spotting them, which I was not good at. After a few years of learning to engineer, record and produce on my own, I decided to take it on the road again. But, I didn’t promote the show as I was trying to test out new songs and polish up my act and musical productions. This was back in 2005, and I designed all the costumes for myself and background dancers (as with Dee-Lite). We toured the world with our disco show. Those clothes turned out to be rather influential. I started to notice several of my designs being incorporated into the mainstream whether through fashion houses or other artists. I found it very flattering, because at the time, I was unsure how it would go down. My style was so unique for 2005.

BEBE: Has the public tried to keep you trapped in your Lady Miss Kier persona?

LADY MISS KIER: Every time someone has drawn a circle around me, I can’t help but to jump out. I am aware of the misconceptions the public has of me, or what (misconceptions) corporations have promoted about me. I try and pay that stuff no mind. I like to remain a mystery, and believe very much in the sneak up and surprise attack. I’ve been a misfit since a very young kid, and misfits are always misunderstood. So, I am used to that familiar feeling.

BEBE: You have coollaborated on projects of other artists, but have yet to release a solo project; however, it is rumored that you are working on a solo album. How valid is that rumor, and when are we likely to hear a completed solo project?

LADY MISS KIER: It’s tough times in the ‘business’ of music, but not on the ‘creative’ side of music. I’m great at (generating) ideas but rotten at finishing(projects). I suppose once I create it, I get bored very easily. One of my former band mates was great at finishing things, and although I don’t miss him, I miss the ability to have someone complete things I’ve started. I’ve looked around for someone with those qualities, but I often intimidate people because of my diversity and desire to create new genres of music that are so different. It often makes others feel pulled in too many directions. I’ve come to terms with that and realize I have to complete it myself. However, because of our economy and since no one buys music anymore, there is a financial reason my music is not able to be shared. But that (situation) is temporary. I’ve recently signed a deal with Downtown Publishing who promise to push the old Deee-Lite catalog to movie soundtracks and for commercial products that are not ridiculous.

BEBE: Will we be introduced to something unexpectedly new artistically from you with the solo project?

LADY MISS KIER: Most definitely! I’ve always said the only permanent thing about me is change. I can’t remember who originally said that(smile).

BEBE: It is common knowledge of your legal battles with Sega over pirating your likeness in the creation of a video game character (Ulala). With so much concentration on the piracy of artist’s music, do you think the image piracy you’ve experienced has been overlooked, and is more prevalent than we may think?

LADY MISS KIER: They paid me $750,000 not to speak about that.

BEBE: I know you have performed many times at various gay events and clubs in San Francisco, and across the globe, over the years. How important has the role of your gay audience been in keeping Lady Miss Kier relevant?

LADY MISS KIER: I play about 50% of the time in gay clubs and the other 50% in straight clubs. Of course, most of them are mixed with both gay and straight people because I choose to play in the clubs with what I consider to have the best music policies. Music oriented clubs draw a mix crowd as opposed to pick-up meat market clubs which tend to be divided and play tacky music. From the beginning of my career I have attracted misfits, like myself, and many of them are gay. We can identify with each other. The support from the gay community has been phenomenally touching , supportive and like family . I must say, my fans are very creative , deep, socially conscious and kind. The love I receive from my fans gives me a tremendous amount of energy.

Lady Miss Kier will perform on the House Music Dance Stage on Sunday, June 24 at the Annual San Francisco Gay Pride Day Parade. www.sfpride.org.
Kier will follow up her outdoor performance with a vocal and deejay set at the GhettoDisco Pride After Party beginning at 6pm on June 24 at BeatBox. www.BeatBoxsf.com.

For more information on future Lady Miss Kier’s performance and deejay dates, check out her website at www.ladykier.com.