Interview 6 June 2002
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Hi Delilah, how you doing?
Mr. Ashley... I can't begin to admit my supreme delight at having this opportunity. Thanks for the love. I'm just fine, this is my first album of many to come, God willing. Good to see you've enjoyed it.
You grew up in Leesville Louisiana. Tell me about your childhood, your background, what Leesville was like and what it had to offer.
To Leesville... weeping willows, pinetrees, swingsets, dirt roads, traintracks, stop signs, and a whole lotta sun... cool nights, hot nights, friendly people parked on their front porch, washin' cars, barbques, loud music,
dominoes and spades. (card game) It's a beautiful world; a fishbowl unique to itself. The thought of home keeps me humble and rooted by it's love.
I'm grounded by the thought of my memories and am grateful for my life today. Leesville is my foundation... it's my family, my spirit, it's my sensitivity, it's the stride in my step the move of my hips. I am it's woman, southern to the core.
Anything musically happening there!
Musically, my home was filled with soul. Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Al Green, The O'Jays, Chi-lites, FourTops. I knew at a very young age that I had this thing inside me; a love... a sheer passion
for music and singing. I used to play "make-up" songs with my girlfriend Pookie in the backyard. I am a firm believer that your earliest memories of things you liked to do are probably who you are and supposed to be.
Leesville offered me the right to be a superstar on that backporch...to dream.
At what point did you move away - college?
I moved away to college when hip-hop was young and alternative soul had just begun to sprout. Groups like Digable Planets and SpearHead were pioneers of sort. I wasn't altogether appreciative but a friend persistently warned me of their power.
What did you do at college - music?
At L.S.U. (Louisiana State University) I studied English and German with a minor in French, but wrote music throughout. My parents weren't convinced that a music major was the way to go, so my options were law or medicine. I chose law because of my writing abilities. International law, and though I love it's syntax and gutteral sounds, I can barely speak German. My mother is from Paris so my French is okay (nothing to brag about).
What were you doing around this time.
Basically, I wrote a lot of music when I should have been studying and it didn't help that I worked full-time at a lil' Ma & Pop record store (Paradise Records). I was completely distracted by the music, but I wasn't
convinced of my destiny. I was convinced that my parents warnings were right. I felt like I was blowing in the wind - a reed moving back and forth... side to side. I remember those feelings clearly and then everything stopped. I lost a friend who died suddenly and I was rocked, my world upside down. We were so young and I was so confused. I recalled her telling me that one day she would see me onstage wowing the world.
At what point were you aware that music was going to be your profession.
I prayed hard to God to please send me a sign; if I should be here, I promised, I would concentrate on my studies. Months later, out of nowhere, I attended a concert at the HOUSE OF BLUES (concert venue) where I met Ladybug of Digable Planets and before I knew it I was in New York. I left everything... I knew it was right.
A 1995 meeting with Ladybug of Digible Planets was important. Tell me about how this influenced your career path, what you thought would happen, whatdid happen and why it didn't fully succeed.
My music life with LadyBug was shortlived but the opportunities it presented were a major blessing. I met FUNKNSTUFF (Steve williams, John Adams, and Pat Smyth) my production team, through our connection. I owe alot to her. She is my favorite MC of all time and I would love to work with her again. The world needs to hear her voice. Paths cross in life for a reason and yet people swim in different streams. We move together and we move apart, love and respect remain throughout.
But you decided to stay in New York yes, what happened then. The birth of Funknstuff?
Specific to FUNKNSTUFF, it had been several months after LadyBig and I had severed ties that I was given a suggestion to go to NELL'S (local club) by a co-worker to check out a waiting tables job. After making conversation with a woman that was performing that evening, I was told that the Digable Planets band was backing her up. I stayed for the show...later for the tables. I mustered the courage to introduce myself and
they said that they had heard some rumblings about a girl LadyBug had flown to New York. The rest is history.
How did all that come together , tell me about the individuals, and what they were doing and how it all fell together.
Delilah Harris and FUNKNSTUFF began work in the summer of 96'. again, Steve williams, John Adams, and Pat Smyth make-up our production team in addition to Carl Carter (bass, and also played with the Digable Planets) and Ed "Norton" Goldson (guitar). Musically, it's a perfect combination. I couldn't be more blessed. We weave in and out of one another and it's a beautiful thing. Our debut album "BigHeaded Girl" is a combination of demos and our attempts at being "radio - friendly"... to our extent, at the request of labels. Majors passed on our project so we decided to compile the music, start our own Independent label, PaperNotes Records, and release the CD ourselves.
You've been together now for 5 or 6 years. What has been done in that
period, both individually and collectively.
Our sound is who we are and music is particular to the lyrics and melodies that I provide and the tracks that FUNKNSTUFF create. As we know it might very well be a different band if integral members were removed or switched around. Everybody brings such an important piece to the puzzle. I am incredibly blessed that we've been brought together. there are no coincidences in life. It's all for a reason. "BigHeaded Girl" is a culmination of our love for music (all types) and our perspective on life as we have ndividually experienced it.
It's a commentary on love and life and loss that leaves the listener feeling uplifted - "feel good music" All
the fellas have been playing with Sade', JT Taylor (Kool & the Gang), Sheryl Crow just to name a few during this time period. they're all great musicians in their own right and I'm just too blessed.
As a group how has your 'sound' come together and evolved. It's very much individual but very much 'current'.
It's real funny, FUNKNSTUFF's three members all have similar but different taste in music. Steve loves anything thats different and weird from hip-hop to Jazz, John tends to lean more to tradional R&B but loves everything from Funk to Jazz, and Pat is kinda of in the middle. He can swing with anything that Steve's feelin' and then swing with anything John's feelin', yet he's got that funky weird thang going on. Then drop me in the middle of the mix and things just bubble. they're always trying to fuse different genres together but still trying to keep it current. They'll use some African bush beat under a hip-hop beat and play classical chords over
the top with maybe a latin bass line. that's just the way they think and when I hear it it makes me go deep within myself to create a melody that fits while still keeping the lyrics true to me.
You've been gigging around New York throughout I assume - what else.
We are currently making use of college radio which has been integral to delivering this piece to the masses. In addition, we've done quite well with amazon.com and cdbaby.com. It's so important to independent
music that these avenues exist. Playing New York venues, as well gives us the opportunity to reach an extremely diverse audience. People are responding quite well. Thanks to the Izzy Bar, Fez, S.O.B.'s, Shine,
Joe's Pub, Nemo music conference in Boston and Brooklyn Academy of Music (B.A.M.) for supporting our "give it to the people" campaign. It's amazing. People are really hungry for good stuff... real music, contrary to popular belief.
Who are your influences, and who do you like out there right now. Tell me about the writing process and how all that comes together, and what you draw on
As for my influences and my writing process, I leave it in Gods hands and am proud to have been chosen to be a vessel for this particular art form. He has created a woman that is moved by certain beauty and circumstances and given her the ability to translate musically. My writing process is simple. It comes to me. I write in pieces, usually with a melody and then fuse them.
I appreciate artists that are creating a new sphere or color for the phenomena music. If music has a core then Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Hank Williams Jr., Whitany Houston, The Kinks,
Billie Holliday, and Jill Scott are some of the collective colors that create it's body. It's important that music is fresh and new because then it grows. It should constantly be evolving not revolving. It's far
too meaningful an element of life to remain stagnant. I guess that's why a lot of major labels pass on us.
The album was concluded in Mid 2001, tell us about getting that together, and the finished product. What's happened since, how's it gone down. What about the 'Big headed' tag
What about overseas - in the UK CafedeSoul picked up on 'Lessons in Life'.
Anything else going down.
The title for the album came from my father. It's a term of endearment "come here you ole' BigHeaded Girl". It's totally southern... and all love.
speaking of love... Cafe' de soul, Tony Horn and soulin' magazine, and Barry King at solarradio.com, Maurice Bottomley have been absolutely supportive in the UK. As well, Scott Galloway (Urban Network), david
Mitchell (Urban Network), Toi Moore (Billboard), Gale Mitchell (Billboard), Micheal Paoletta (Billboard), Earnest Hardy (LA Weekly), and Cynthia Jorden (Alexandria Towntalk) here in the US have been in our corner from the beginning and it's wonderful.
Cafe' de Soul will be distributing the CD in the UK and Europe and it feels like we're on our way. I am so proud and look forward to coming for a visit to blow you guys up. The live show is spectacular if I must
say so myself. I mean really!
You're getting some good reviews, any interest from the majors?
We haven't received any interest from the majors -- yet! there's alot of great independent music out right now IE: Adam Falcon, Ledeci, N'dambi.
Papernotes - who else is involved? Artist wise is it just you? Anybody else we should be looking out for.
Right now Delilah Harris and PaperNotes Records are promoting "BigHeaded Girl" simple and sweet... if not slow but sweet. We're in the process of working on a maxi-single to be released at the end of the summer as
a segue into the next CD. Look out for it!
As an aside tell me about Sistafactory, there's quite a bit of similarity it seems between what they do and who were interested in.
Check out sistafactory.com for some amazing stuff. I love that site. It's run by a wonderful woman named Sara Hill who is an artist in her own right. Throughout New York her organization puts on showcases of
fabulous unsigned and independent artist. From Sandra St. Victor to Nona Hendricks. they concentrate on the female artist that's doing different things with the music. They are about to venture into Philly (Philadelphia
and bring the New York artist into the Philly neo-soul scene of Jill Scott, The Roots, Musiq, Common etc.
What's happening in the immediate future. I heard you're putting something down with Soulfire (might be Daptone I can't remember!). If that's right what's that all about, those guys are pretty tight.
The soulfire kids I play around with are based here in the US. They do Funk and Funk 45's. Hot to death!!! Jeff@soulfirerecords.com. I'm not sure if they are the same guys but you should no doubt check them out.
You coming to the UK maybe?
We surely hope so if things real kick off over there through the Cafe' de Soul thang, we have to come and represent.
Anything you'd like to add.
Michael one question: what's your favorite cut
Do whatcha gotta do
Two questions: describe the CD to me in four words
A Lounging Get Down
Three questions: can I sunbathe on your roof when I come to the UK!
Yes but come on in out of the rain!
ThankyouThankyouThankyou you're the best cat! Look us up if you pass
through New York this year.
deedla 2 ONE.