Grammy Nominee alt-urban artist and social philanthropist premiers her new song "Choose me"
arolyn Malachi combines Jazz, Hip Hop, Spoken Word, and lots of imagination. Dubbed "sweet songstree" by BET, the independent,
Grammy nominated artist and great-granddaughter of pianist John Malachi counts Yasii Bey (formely Mos Def), Radiohead, and Sarah Vaughan among her greatest influences.
She released Revenge of the Smart Chicks in 2008 and Revenge of the Smart Chicks II in 2009. Both albums revealed the inner workings of Smart Chicks which Carolyn Malachi defines as "decidedly authentic women." Her 2012 release, the "Lions, Fires & Squares" EP, earned a 2011 Best
Urban / Alternative Performance GRAMMY award nomination for the single, "Orion." ' (Carolyn Malachi, Press Kit, 2013: 5).
photo and make up by Yulia Rock
(click on photos to see full size)
here are you from? What are your roots?
Thank you for this interview, FabEgo!
I am a proud, fifth-generation Washingtonian. I grew up in Brookland, a neighborhood in northeast DC. Having also lived in Baltimore, I have grown to discover and appreciate how vastly different people who live so closely together can be.
How old were you when you discovered your talent? What lead to become a musician?
My parents enrolled me in drama, ballet, modern, and Taratibu (South African gumboot) dance classes as early as seven years of age. Dancing, I enjoyed, but I always found myself paying more attention to the music than the choreography - or my cues. The Arts grabbed me and pulled me in. I also played basketball in high school. There was always something going on, and I was often away from home. My mother told me to write about it all. Naturally, those reports became my journals. I can see now that those journals, which directly reported on the world as I saw it, formed the foundation for my poetry and songwriting.
What were you doing before you started performing?
Books and basketball - I was a student athlete at Shepherd University. One of my scholarships required me to produce campus activities that addressed social change issues. I produced music-focused fashion shows and cultural events which empowered the student body and the surrounding Shepherdstown, Wva. community to affect change or engage in dialogue about the issue at hand. As a Communications minor I had access to the school's Mac lab, and I used that access to produce music to support my lyrics. I also found my way into the music department, after hours. Ha! After a few years of private time at the lab and in the piano recital hall, I started to ask, "What do I do with all of this music and this ability to use music to gather the people?"
What inspires you to write music? How do you write your songs, in what kind of mood, environment and where you usually write your lyrics?
I do most of my writing in my head, and I do my best writing in cars, on treadmills and with deadlines. Adrenaline works for me. Being outside of my comfort zone is magic. I like to take in the world and fully understand what is happening before I report on it. For someone who secretly likes to know everything, writing sometimes requires the courage to admit confusion and identify the source of my discomfort.
Your music is so spiritual and peaceful, do you achieve it through meditation?
Maybe; this peace is new. I used to rush and force things. I learned to trust God, so I expect miracles. Life and music flow differently, now.
Do you have a dream place where you would love to perform one day?
Well, I wanted to perform at the Apollo, and we did in April. The show sold out! After the concert, an elder said that hers was a spiritual experience. I want to deliver ethereal moments like that to the people. Performing on a sold-out world tour, reaching audiences in emerging markets, and achieving ubiquitous play (streaming services, radio stations, grocery stores, gas stations, coffee shops, etc) are priorities.
How do you pick the outfits for your performance? Do you have a stylist or particular designer that you admire or to work one day with?
These days, I style myself. Comfort, color, and caution-to-the-wind are general styling tips I hold dear. Krystalrae is one label with which I connect. Much like my journals, the pieces are direct reports. They state that each of us is unique and our individual perspectives hold value in the world.
Who are your main supporters in your life?
My family and my team are brilliant, amazing gifts. They support me. I listen to them. We challenge each other, we respect each other, and we are tethered to the belief that music always has and will continue to affect change, personal and social.
What moves you? What is your life motto?
I come from a family, a people, that survived many struggles. Remaining true to my own journey honors theirs. My great-grandmother was fond of quoting Paul Laurence Dunbar's "Keep a-plugging Away," and with every success, my father tells me to "keep pushing." A life motto? Well, simply put, it is "onward and upward."
Tell us about your new song "Choose Me"
"Choose Me" is a direct report on what it feels like to crave love and acceptance. Imagine two people, two would-be lovers, walking toward each other on an empty beach. Tension builds with each step. Things look good from a distance; they each wonder what the other person will think of them up close. Strong women are often the last chosen. We invest time and energy into our relationships. Sometimes we shy away from love because we dread poor ROI. The lyrics of the song are painted with bold colors and muted tones, suggesting the desire and trepidation, and reflecting my personal experience as a black woman in America.