After taking such a long break from music, what inspired you to come back, and why with this album?
I came back to this country in Oct. of 2000. I’d been traveling the world, making my living as a performer. But I was lost. I'd hit rock bottom with poor, self-destructive choices. My mother had to pull me out of Guyana, South America, and bring me home.
Even though I had performed at Lincoln Center and many of the major stages in Europe, when I came home without a pot, a penny or clothes to put on my back, the shame devastated my already damaged spirit.
So I did the only thing I could at that time: I decided to play it safe. I recreated myself, putting the performer inside me aside. I began a career in education, and did what it took to make money and survive in America. In the process I became more and more fearful of living my dream: music.
Through every open window, in every church on any given Sunday, I heard voices from the soul that could lift you up beyond the clouds and set you down in a field of hope. And I cringed. My achievements became nothing. I buried my desire to sing, to perform, to step on a stage and be the guiding light
However you can't hide from who you are. Step by step, guided by the Source, Oldumare, Allah, God or whatever name you choose to call that something bigger than us, I began to try and sing again.
I remember the night it all came to a head. I think it was in 2006 I went to hear Carrie Jackson sing at Trumpets, which is a jazz club in Montclair, New Jersey. I was mesmerized by her ability to tell a story without all of the runs that you hear in top 40 songs. She told the story and a light bulb went off.
I guess you can say I began to stalk her! I went to her concerts. I made a very strong connection to a wonderful pianist, Lou Rainone, who was working with her. I sent him an email and set up a session to jam with them. I was so scared that I was crying on the train going from Newark, NJ into New York. When I got to his studio my music was all disorganized, but I had music. Because even though I didn’t have a penny to my name somehow I'd held on to my sheet music.
Well, I sang a song. I think it was "Black Coffee". When I was finished he just looked at me and said, "I thought you said you couldn't sing and then you come in here and take the roof off!”
So it's taken me from that moment until now to have the confidence and to perform again and record a CD. I want my authentic self back. I want to tour Europe. I want to work in Jazz festivals. I’ve invested every dime that I don't have in the realization that I was born to perform.
Carrie Jackson was instrumental in helping me to get my chops back. She started a Jazz Vocal Collective that gave me a safe place to sing. It has been a very long road with numerous pitfalls, and I'm still climbing over obstacles, tortured with self-doubt, but I'm being reborn again and again, everyday, as I get closer to my ultimate goal.
Why now? Why not?
How did you choose the songs for the CD?
First, I wanted to choose songs that I've sung many, many, many times live. I wanted songs I was familiar and intimate with inside and out, so I didn’t have to think about the music so much, and I could just “let it flow” from the heart. And I chose to include three songs by my favorite song / songwriter / producer / arranger Carmen Lundy.
"You don't know what love is" has special meaning for me. It's not about “romantic" love. it's about choosing what you were born to do without having the tools or the knowledge to do it. It’s about faith in yourself and in life.
In working on this song a spontaneous spoken word literally jumped out of my mouth. I knew it was a sign of support for my path, and a beautiful reflection on all music that swings.
Each song has a story behind it. The lyrics have depth. Each song reflects and tugs on the heart regardless of one’s social, emotional, religious, or economical background. We’re all the same. We’re all people.