Q: Hi! Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your song “Walking with the Lights Out”?
A: I call this song the adult version of “This little light of Mine” for me. You know the song we all sang in church as a kid. As kids, we have a natural light and innocence that just shines through, we believe in Santa and the Tooth fairy. As we get older, life takes its toll on our lights, some things dim it, sometimes people try to extinguish it, but if we persevere, we won’t have to walk with our lights out. I used to tell my kids, Life is difficult at best, meaning life is full of ups and downs, we must hold on to the good times to get us through the bad times. It is so amazing how brightly the smallest light can shine in the darkest of places!!!
Q: What is the main message you want to convey through this song?
A: Had to think about this one a minute, so, if you think of the song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine”, we are talking about the light of Christ that lives in us and should shine in all we do. But what happens when you don’t have that light in your life, if you don’t have that peace, if you walk around all day pretending to be happy when inside you are miserable? This song asks, if you are “Walking with the lights our”, how can it shine? And even ask in a way, do you realize you have no light to shine. When you get to that place in life where you don’t know what to do or when to turn, that is when God is waiting to hear from you, waiting for you to activate the light by reaching out to Him. He’ll rescue you, if you let Him.
Q: How would you describe your songwriting process for “Walking with the Lights Out”?
A: Accidentally inspired, as I was working on my project, I wanted it to be mostly my creation, I stayed up late writing this song because I had time in the studio the next morning. I was in the kitchen trying to figure out how I wanted to sing it and how to make it mine. I was playing the beat repeatedly, and I heard the beginning, and it sounded like “walking with the lights out.” I think I rewrote the song in about 10 minutes, and 30 minutes later, I was in the studio just letting it flow; this song wrote itself. As I was writing it, I felt like I was in a zone, the words just came to me, and every word was from my life in some aspect. I think back now and try to remember what it sounded like at first, but I can’t recall. Funny thing is, I used some of the words from the original lyrics, maybe the beat of those lyrics are out there somewhere!!
Q: Are there any personal experiences or stories that influenced the lyrics of this song?
A: After my divorce, I was depressed for a long time, I had failed financially, things were tough and I couldn’t do all I wanted to do for myself or my kids. I remember working 2 full time jobs to make ends meet and there was still a gap. I remember standing in the mall in the kiosk I was working in and praying, “Lord, if you make a way for me to work one job and pay all my bills, I’ll serve you.” He did, so here I am serving him with my life and experiences in song. That was a period in my life, my light was not shining, I can’t remember most of that year, it was just hurt and pain. I say at the end of the song “Jesus rescued me” and he truly did!!!
The death of my great-grandmother when I was 8 years old had a profound effect on me and who I became. I might have been a different person had she lived longer. My great-grandmother was my world, I did not know for years there was a world beyond my little village, I can truly say she instilled in me things I carry to this day. Small nuggets can carry you through a lifetime, she died when I was very young in elementary school, but I still remember some of her words and just her overwhelming loving presence. Maybe I would have been a different person has she lived until I was in college or high school, or maybe I am the person I am partly because of what she taught me in that short period of time.
Q: How has your background and upbringing influenced your music and songwriting style?
A: Because I grew up in a Holiness church, I couldn’t watch much TV as a child or listen to the radio, so most of the music I heard was in church. I could watch Educational TV and they always had plays and operas on the channel. So, I watched a lot of Hee Haw as a young kid; this was of course before cable, we got 3 stations ABC, NBC, and CBS on a good day. My aunts and uncles would come home, and I got to listen to all types of R & B, my youngest uncle would play Al Green as he prepared to go out, or Bobby Womack. I remember trying to sing like them. The vibe of music from the 70’s and 80’s stuck with me, and I love it to this day. People like Roberta Flack who could tell a quiet story and your imagination would run wild with the pictures in your head. But my earliest influence was probably Gospel and Country, it’s what I heard the most. I do remember watching an Opera on ETV and thinking I want to sing like the Opera starts, I’m still trying. We must have a goal in life to keep us motivated.
Q: Can you share some of your musical influences and how they have impacted your work?
A: I like a lot of artists, CeCe Winans, Yolanda Adams, Zacari Cortez, Koryn Hawthorne, Aretha Franklin, Donnie Hathaway, Al Greene, Elton John, Chris Stapleton, Rick Springfield, Prince, so many artists, and influences, but I have found myself listening to a lot of Nina Simone. She has a hauntingly beautiful voice with so many nuances. She has become one of my favorites. Her music almost says, “Be Still”, and that is what I feel like doing when I hear her sing.
I love 70/80s R&B and many of my musical influences come from that ERA. I love the effortless vibes they often have in their music. I love music that makes you think or feel, and I hope that I can communicate that with my song. I wanted to do a project that was smooth and soulful and full of feeling. Just like so many of my musical heroes.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of creating “Walking with the Lights Out”?
A: Getting up the courage and confidence to believe that you can do it. I have probably second guessed myself a million times in the past 2 years. Maybe I should have said this, done this, or maybe I should add background singers to the song, but often holding fast to your artistic vision is not easy when everyone around you has an idea of what they want you to do. Someone said to me, “sounds like a producer put you in the booth and said to sing and he took whatever you gave him”, my interpretation of that statement, “I can see, feel, and hear you in this song, your influence is everywhere. It’s hard to find a producer to collaborate with. Most of them want you to conform to their vision of you rather than enhance the vision you have for yourself.
Q: How has the reception been for “Walking with the Lights Out” since its release?
A: I think it has been good, I am gaining listeners and fans slowly but surely. The biggest problem of independent artists is publicity. So, I am working at that angle now. I have had some people who did not like it or didn’t think the music fit the voice or the song. One comment said it was too “laid back” for them. That is the point of the song, a quiet time to express yourself. I have also had people express the meaning they got out of the song, one young woman said, it helped her to keep it going, that made me smile. Sometimes it is just about not stopping, just keep going!!!
It has only been out a couple of months; I have time to make my mark with this one. I believe in myself enough for everyone and I have family and friends who support me, that has been important, having their support and encouragement.
Q: Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re excited about?
A: My EP is scheduled to drop on September 3rd; it’s complete, with eight songs, including “Walking with the Lights Out.” All Beats were by my engineer, and lyrics on 7 of the eight were written by me. I have named it Praise Evolution: One-on-One with God. This has been an evolution for me, from the 1st song to the last. I worked on this project for about 2 years, hopefully the next project won’t take so long.
I do have plans to be back in the studio next year to start work on my next project, I have lots of ideas already!!!
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians and songwriters looking to break into the industry?
A: Be authentic; no matter what you perform or where you perform, ensure that you are always represented. Find who you are and have the confidence to express yourself in your artistry. Last, love yourself, people will come to you with negative vibes so you have to love yourself enough to hold your ground, only you can express yourself.
When you are an independent artist and new, it is trial and error. There are so many opinions and people who tell you how they think you should market yourself or what your next step should be, but ultimately, you are the one taking the chance, and you must make the decisions and follow through.