After a wildly successful debut season of VERSES & FLOW, LEXUS decided to extend the season by visiting three different cities, kicking off in Chicago, with Philadelphia and Dallas to follow. In each city, a spoken word audition/competition was held, as well as a live performance. In Philadelphia, singer/songwriter GOAPELE was the featured performer. We caught up with the Bay Area native to discuss the experience, her connection to spoken word and her current album Break of Dawn.
LA: Just like the Bay area, Philadelphia is known for being a hotbed for spoken word artists, with some of the best artists hailing from that city. How did spoken word influence you while growing up in Oakland?
G: My first public performance was at a spoken word event. I attended them with spoken word artist Asha Bandele, and was blown away by the creativity and the passion of the poets. Being around them helped me see the need for substantial lyrics, and I made sure I did that with all of my music. There was a [non-profit] festival called Living Word in San Francisco--I went there a lot. It was great seeing communities blend, with the mixture of spoken word and live music.
Which comes first for you while composing... the lyrics, or the music?
Oh, it's always a combination of both with me. A lot of times, when it comes to writing lyrics and melody, it will start as a journal entry that I turn into lyrics and create music around them. And then sometimes, I just write lyrics to tracks.
By all accounts, the Verses & Flow Live event in Philly was very successful. What stood out for you about the night?
Philly has always been such a rich place for music. I've been back here on and off for years, attending the Black Lily Festival, where I met composer James Poyser and performed alongside such great artists as Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Jazzyfatnastees, Floetry and others. So it was great to get back here and be a part of Verses & Flow Live. The crowd was full of quality and beauty.
Which leads me to my next question: Artists say that the energy of a live audience is what makes performing so special. How does the feedback you receive from a live performance affect the decisions you make with your music? Or, does it?
Oh, definitely. A live audience makes a huge difference for an artist. The instant feedback and the energy that they provide is invaluable. Now, don't get me wrong--for me, making music is personal. I can't focus on what an audience might say or how they may react while making the actual music. I go by what I'm feeling at the time and let that flow. When putting a show together, however, I do try to pick and choose songs for my set list that have received the greatest feedback from my fans. I try and select the songs that I'm sure they will like.
Your newest album was originally entitled Milk & Honey, and was since changed to Break of Dawn. What prompted the title change, and what about this album are you most proud?
Milk & Honey was the working title of the album, and I felt like it worked because it was tangible and sensible. It literally means "bountifulness." But ultimately, Break of Dawn was more open, inspiring, and symbolic of the overall project, which conveys so many different feelings. There's love and loss, the journey of coming into one's self--Break of Dawn fits all of that because it's an open title, and speaks of what can come in the future.
As for the album itself, I really wanted to record something that I could sit back and enjoy. I wanted every song to feel right, and true, and genuine. All of the songs on there are all 'me,' and are close to my heart and represent my style well. I had a lot of fun recording this record.
Goapele is currently performing all across the country, with upcoming appearances at the City of Lights Jazz R&B Festival in Las Vegas, NV in April and an engagement at Yoshi's in San Francisco in May. She will also be starring in the feature film Sparkle this August. For more information about the singer/songwriter and links to buy Break of Dawn, head on over to Goapele.com.