Thursday, 26 September 2013

Interview: MCX Showcase Part 3 ft Timotha Lanae

The Minneapolis born Soul/ Jazz/ RnB Singer Songwriter, Musical Theatre Artist, Dancer and Actress is coming all the way from the States to appear as a part of our September showcase series appearing in both Manchester and London alongside a stellar line up of talent. We recently grabbed some time with her in between her various engagements including backing being vocalist for Alexander O’Neal and appearing as the lead in Hello Dolly. She is a very busy lady with all of her many talents and has a back catalogue of performance that reflects that. We wanted to get to know more about what makes the songstresses tick and what got her started…  

CC: What’s your first memory of singing?
TL: There’s a story that my mom tells me that I would always hum in the crib when I was a baby. The humming baby (laughs). There was an older woman who told my Mom ‘Oh she is going to be very musical’ and my Mom really didn’t think it was anything special, she thought all babies hummed! So that’s the first memory that I was told about with regard to me singing. But I remember as a little girl I would always go up to my Fathers office and he had tapes and all of that, I would listen to them and just sing along. I’m not even sure how old I was then, maybe five years old?  I’ve always loved to sing and always loved to just spend hours listening to music. Its ben something that’s been in me and I cant get rid of it.

CC: Who are some of your biggest influences music wise?
TL: There are so many! I would have to start with the foundation, which to me is soul music. So soul singers like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Aretha Franklin. Like I really admire Aretha as a vocalist even though I have a very different style of singing to her whereas I would say that Al Green and Marvin Gaye, the music they made was more about the feeling of it, for me anyway. When you listened to the actual music and the chords it was such a groove and it just kind of pulled at your heart you know. Those are the people I would listen to and be like ‘Oooo that’s some soul right there!’

Then coming more to growing up and what I listened to that inspired me, even Sade funnily enough, my father loved Sade and so he had a lot of her CD’s so I would listen to her. I would listen to Maxwell, his first Album ‘Urban Hang Suite’, when I first heard that I was in Junior High and I had to do some kind of report on poems and such like and I chose Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite because I reasoned that music can be poetry and the teacher allowed me to do my project on that album (laughs). So I kind of went through and interpreted the songs and wrote about what I felt the writer was saying when they wrote this music. Yeah so that’s music that influenced me when I was growing up and getting older and starting to really sing at like aged fourteen/ fifteen and listening to that type of music. I love Jill Scott and Erykah Badu and when I was much much younger with Aaliyah releasing her first album (Age Aint Nothin But A Number) which was produced by R.Kelly with a really soulful feel and had those Isley Brothers influences coming through which is another group I love. But I felt like that album really influenced me too. I could go on and on.

CC: You perform on stage in the theatre, you are a playwright, a dancer and singer songwriter; how do you go about juggling all of your passions?
TL: Right now I have a rehearsal in about two hours; I’m also the lead in ‘Hello Dolly’ (Musical made famous with Barbara Streisand, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford in the film version in 1969). Then I have a rehearsal for a show for my own album at a festival; here in town coming up. Then I am leaving that rehearsal to go to another one for a show where I am singing with Alexander O’Neal. Tomorrow I have a commercial I am doing for a television thing coming up. So its kind of like this is a time period where I am truly being tested in juggling all of the disciplines that I am apart of which. The only way to approach it is to try and take of yourself. I wake up early in the morning and I do a devotion because my spirituality and my beliefs are really important to me. So I do a devotion to ground myself and have time to just kind of gather myself and get spiritual guidance. Then I just start with the day. You know how it is, you have to stay busy if you want to grow and be abreast of everything that’s going on. But in about three weeks of so I will have a little bit of down time.

CC: How did you go about the songwriting process for you album RED? 
TL: It’s funny because each song came to be in a different way. I’d say for me, sometimes something will just inspire me, but its funny that a lot of the songs I feel like I wrote them whilst I was driving in the car. I just would sing and hum melodies and then grab my phone and record it on there, and then I would go to the studio and develop it further. But then with the song ‘Talking to Myself’ that was a gain in the car and I was truly talking to myself out loud about a situation that I had, a love situation, then when I got to the studio with my producer Ben Obi sometime later and he was saying ‘well we need one more song, what can we write about?’ And I couldn’t think of anything so he asked me about what’s been going on in my life and I said ‘well the other day I was just talking to myself’ and he was like ‘that’s a song right there!’ So then he pulled out his guitar and played the different chord changes that came to him and then I just started singing over them and that’s where the melody just came from (sings a snippet). So life experience plays a huge role in it for me. A lot of writing happens in the car but also in my room, you know sitting on the bed and I’ll just pull out a pen and paper. Just keep it old school, I like to just write and feel the words come through my hands.
CC: Describe one of your favorite performances so far?
TL: I mean with this I really have to decide what type of performance would I pick. Is it musical theatre or performing songs from my album and so on? It’s difficult to choose so I’ll choose one from each. With Musical Theatre I did this show called ‘Respect; a Musical Journey of Woman’ which was a very special one for me. We sang songs from the early 1900’s all the way up to present day. The songs were used to tell a story of woman’s journey and in-between there were different monologues that we would do. Like I did a monologue where I appeared as Rosa Parks and then I sang ‘God Bless the Child’ by Billie Holiday and I’d say for me in theatre, doing that show (which we did numerous times) every time I would get to that section of the show, speaking about history here for us (In America) as Rosa Park’s was such a significant figure in the civil rights movement, so for me being able to channel her and speaking on her journey and then right after that monologue having to speak on Billie Holiday who also is such an important figure in music and the evolution of music; especially for female singers. Every single time that section of the show came around it felt like the audience was just moved. There would be silence for a moment when I would end the section and the audience would just erupt! It was such a pay off to know that what I was feeling and what I was channeling – that they as an audience got it. So I would say that that was powerful each and every night I performed that. And I did that for show for like nine months, eight shows a week! It just never got old. For me that was powerful to me in theatre.

Performing my solo material, I would say any time I have performed and not had to think about what I am doing. I am not thinking so to speak, I am truly just feeling the music and the energy of the audience? Any time that happens when I’m on stage as myself and not as a character performing, its literally the best feeling ever. You get that feeling of ‘oh I got through to them, just as me, Timotha’

CC: If you could collaborate with any other artist dead or alive, who would if be and why?
TL: Let me see. I think if I had to pick, I’m going to go to the wish list. This artist has passed on but I feel like our voices would blend, our whole vibe would blend, Marvin Gaye. I feel like he had such tenderness to his writing and to his singing. But then he was so deep! 

When he wrote ‘What’s going on’ and those types of songs during that era (I’ve been learning more about him lately) and discovered he really had to fight to get those records put out on Motown records. No one at the label wanted to release it and felt it to be such a political move and look what we wouldn’t have had if that had been blocked. So I feel for so many reasons I would choose him. There are so many artists now that I respect and would love to work with and I could real off a list but from the wish list Marvin Gaye has to be the only choice as our voices would just blend beautifully and we could have so much fun writing together and working out harmonies, so I definitely wish that could be possible.

CC: What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
TL: I would say the best piece of advice I’ve been given, was given by someone who isn’t even a performer. It was actually given by my Mom. As I explained to you earlier how my day is so busy, well she said this a long time ago, years even, but she still reminds me of it now. So her advice to me was ‘to enjoy right now. Don’t get so busy preparing for what you have to do that you miss living’.  So I think of that a lot. Even if I’m in rehearsals, I enjoy those rehearsals; I have learnt to be present in the rehearsal. Don’t get stuck thinking about ‘well after this rehearsal I have to go to this next rehearsal’. So I would say to just enjoy, no matter how busy you get, just enjoy the experiences you are having so that you can remember them. Live in it so that you remember it. Nothing like a mothers wisdom!

CC: What advice would you give to aspiring singer/ songwriters? 
TL: Nowadays things are so sped up. You know you can just throw a video up on YouTube and your good to go so I would say hone your craft! Know the foundations. Like I am saying Marvin Gaye as choice for me and I wasn’t alive when Marvin Gaye was doing his thing, when Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald were setting standards, but you need to know the history. Know music history, know where things came from, know the foundation so that you can grow from that building block and come out better for the future.

I would also say go out and get a mentor. You know, someone who has really done it and been out there. My vocal coach is Gwen Matthews, she’s been in the business for years and done all kinds of stuff – worked with Stevie Wonder and countless others. She gives me advice and guides me. Shows me various aspects of what’s important through her own knowledge base.

So get a mentor, know your history, research and understand this business you are trying to get into. Understand the people who came before you. Take it seriously. Look at it as if your are researching for a class or something you are invested in. Sometimes I fell like I hear people and they are all ‘I’m in the arts and its just fun, it shouldn’t be work’ etc. and I know this is really hard work. In some ways it should be harder work than someone in a corporation because you’re more of an entrepreneur. So I think if people approach it more as if it is a business, as if it’s a craft that you need to hone. If you approach it seriously then you are going to be that much better and the people that you are making music for are going to see that. They will appreciate it more.

CC: What was the last track you listened to?
TL: I was previously listening to some old school Robin Thicke in my car. The Album is ‘The Evolution of Robin Thicke’. The song I had on was ‘Teach U a Lesson’.

CC: What’s your preference: Download, cd, tape or Vinyl? 
TL: I think I’m more of a CD girl. I like to have the CD, look at the artwork, read the thank you notes, liner notes and all of that stuff. I like to have the physical copy. I’m old school like that.

CC: Describe your perfect day?
TL: It would be a day where I was on no ones schedule but mine first of all let’s say that! (Laughs) Where I could just wake up, do my devotion. Go and have breakfast with my Mom and Dad, just spend some time with them. Through all of this when I am in the car I’m listening to music. After that go and hit a BBQ at my sister’s house with lots of family there. Maybe there’s a live band performing! Lets say it was Marvin Gaye performing there live (laughs). When I leave the BBQ I go and hang out with a special someone. Listen to music, cuddle and maybe watch a movie or something. I am so simple and music is always a part of my day but family is really important to me, God’s important and also relationships. I would just want to spend the day around the people I love. So that’s what I am going to say my perfect day would be, getting to spend that time with the people who are important to me with a little bit of music infused in there too.

We had a wonderful time talking with Timotha and could have continued chatting away and hearing all of her stories. She is a very captivating speaker and really brings you in to the story by painting visuals of her memories for you. I feel her music is that way too. The album ‘Red’ is magnificent and showcases her beautifully. A highly recommended listen. We are very excited to hear her live.

See you all at the Showcase J

Article By: Claire Cripps

No comments:

Post a Comment