Maritri and I go way back and bonded over some girl stuff but then that respect elevated once I heard her sing. I mean, I’m all for supporting my artistic friends but she literally turned me into a groupie. And I’m okay with it. I always say, if I fall on my head and wake up singing, give me her voice.
When you begin a story, what comes first to you (dialogue, imagery, etc)?
it is usually taken from life’s experiences so it comes from those experiences… but a word can trigger it, or something visual. the story /song usually starts with some event that happens. there was a time that the writing was far more general… now it seems that it is all very personal and close to the surface. there was a big shift between truth and fiction for me. often words trigger emotions and one word may go through my mind for weeks . slowly, the first line comes together. i believe that the first line has to make you want the rest of the story. songs are a 3 minute and twenty three second format in which to tell an entire story. the music and lyric most often come together. the music falls into the format and the words fall in after that.
What is the process like getting something from your head to the page?
it used to be a mad scramble to almost channel it. i started as a pianist at 2 and a half so it was very easy to write music and lyrics at the same time. playing guitar, and especially writing on it, has slowed me down and forced me to really think about prosody and placement of words over notes.
What is the biggest difficulty in achieving that goal of having something on the page?
just doing it as often as possible.writing music is far easier than the lyrics. i almost have to be in the midst of living them for that to happen. luckily there is at least a little something going on in my life on most days…
After you’ve started, when do you edit?
oddly enough, the edits generally come during the performance of the song. it is one thing to put it to paper and hear it in my studio but in front of an audience, emphasis occurs on different words sometimes because of where the audience is and what they are feeling or registering as feeling on their faces.
If you write fictional things, do you do research?
- no more fiction here. only the truth. i have learned that my experiences are far more universal than i once thought. the details are often different but the circumstances are often the same.
If so, what kind and how hard do you rely on facts?
i used to write vague everyman songs and now i write completely personal heart on sleeve type stuff.
Explain your editing process.
the editing occurs on stage as i sing the song and figure out prosody. the words always make sense on the paper but singing them over music is a whole different animal.
Do you expose your “in progress” writing to other people? Why or why not?
i do, subconsciously just to see if it works and often how it works and how effective it is. i often perform songs that are not completely finished. the lyrics often come and the story firms up.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
write something every day and be a voracious reader.
What kind of mediums do you use to get your writing out there the public?
i perform and sell cds as well as electronic downloads. we have a couple of videos out right now too.
How often do you edit a piece once it’s “done”?
until it is finished. and even then the notes often change, runs get added in, sometimes pace goes from fast to slow . and sometimes just one word gets changed and really brings out the meaning of the rest of the song.
What do you think is the biggest misconception of writing or being a writer?
that is is easy. everyone has stories but the gift is in the telling.
How do you feel about offering other writers feedback on their writing if asked?
i am always down to help in any way i can. i also realize that people have different processes for writing. it is possible to modify some suggestions and make them work for you.
How has your writing evolved from the beginning? 10 years ago? Last year?
- it is more honest and deeper feeling. the fear of being exposed has retreated. now i simply don’t care what people think of my truths… because they are just that. truths.
i was born and raised in southern california,graduated from fisk university in nashville with a degree in biology. while there, i was a jubilee singer and toured extensively.i then went to howard university and studied composition and jazz and got a second bachelors and a masters.i moved to new york with my band hue, a trio of violin, piano and cello.there were three of us and we all sang and played. for years, i sang and played piano and wrote songs about love and life. couple of years ago, i picked up a guitar and fell in love and continue to write songs about love , life and now angst as well. it sort of lends itself to the guitar. last year, i picked up the cello and again, fell in love.
being a musician has allowed me to perform with and open for many amazing folks and i feel blessed to have known them as well as share the stage with them. barbra streisand, vinx, the five blind boys of alabama, v. jeffery smith of the family stand, corey glover of living color, the indigo girls,me’shell n’dege o’cello,vernon reid, ntsikelelo cekwana, sekou sundiata ,andy milne, simone and mary j. blige …just to name a few.
i now work primarily with the soulfolk experience, consisting of me, david pilgrim and v. jeffery smith. we have just released our first collection of songs on itunes and amazon. my previous cd , enter redemption, is available on maritri.net through paypal.Tweet
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