God & Music
Who Is Adrianne Archie?
A Few Minutes With Adrianne Archie
Christopher Priest: Louisville, huh? My family is from Kentucky, my
mother was raised in Louisville, down the block from a loudmouthed kid
named Casius Clay. I’d frankly be shocked if we weren’t somehow related.
I don’t hear even a hint of an accent in your singing or talking,
though, so now I’m suspicious.
Adrianne Archie: You must have never heard me speak before! My KY accent is HEAVY!!!!!!!
Priest: How does a black girl from Louisville break into the music business?
AD: Opportunity met Preparation and now "we" have broken into the music business, somewhat, although we know more than we think! Finally I would say patience and timing! I have two wonderful gentlemen—Mr. Joel Goodwin, my producer, and Mr. Carlis Phillips—whom I love and trust have my best interests in mind.
Priest: Talk a little about your support team. It's fairly unusual to find friends who will sacrifice and work for little or nothing because they believe in the work and they believe in you. This has got to be a major responsibility for you, in that your pursuit involves not only your well being but the well being of those who have entrusted their efforts, time and money in you.
AD: Joel, Carlis, and my very close life-long friends- Monique, Crystal, Jason and Candice have been my support team. Because we all have a craving for ministry and music, everyone listed above, through Soul LinQ Productions, are able to do what they do best— whether it be production, writing—Joel, production, graphics, writing, management— Carlis, singing backup, selling product, making phone calls and having fun—Monique, Crystal and Jason— everyone is operating in the gifts that God has given them. When an individual is given the opportunity to do what they do best in a community of people who have the same goals and agenda, anything wonderful can happen, especially when Jesus is exalted!
Priest: I’m going to answer my own question, “How come I’ve never heard of you? I mean, how is that possible?” Answer: I’m old. At 45, I’m guessing I’m at least old enough to be your father or, say, the creepy guy at the subway shop. So, that explains me. Neil (one of the associate editors here) is closer to your age (whatever that might be), and he played HTHAELHH for his youth ministry group—and they already knew it. So, we’re late. We’re, like, three years late, so I suppose I owe you an apology.
I can’t begin to imagine how a work of this magnitude could be out there and I not know about it. Are you signed to a label, independent by choice, or maybe stuck in a bad deal? I mean, how is it possible that you’re not one of the biggest names in music?
AD: We are an independent production company that put together HTHAELHH never knowing that it would eventually reach as many people as it has. We never even thought people would like it like "that!" We were just hookin' up writing songs about life and enjoying each others’ company. Because we are independent—low-budget, from scratch, still working day jobs to pay the bills and spread "The Gospel"—right now it's difficult to get the marketing dollars that are needed to get the word out. HTHAELHH came out in 2004!!
Because it exceeded our expectations, we know that we could continue to promote this album at least another 3-4 years! I am not one of the biggest names because ultimately, MONEY and EXPERIENCE Talk! I am patient! In time, all things will be revealed. Plus, I trust God with my life and our business!
Priest: Making albums is a lost art. Most people don’t make albums anymore, they cut CDs. They take a bunch of tracks and throw them together, hoping one or more of the songs will be a "hit." Old school was, you created a complete statement. Records you just dropped the needle and didn’t have to move until it was time to flip the thing over.
HTHAELHH is crafted in the old school vein, in the sense it's actually *crafted.* It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has a consistency and a variety at once, and you really can just hit PLAY and let it go. Talk about the craft going into the album, about your influences and about how you went about crafting this work.
AD: JOEL GOODWIN, is all I can say! HE IS A GENIUS!!! Only in the past three years, have I been introduced to EVERYONE and every album you mentioned above because of the creativity, the soul, the diversity, and genius of JOEL GOODWIN! Plus he's a 70's baby! He's the producer, if I didn't say that, and because as a young girl (I'm only 26 and was 23 when I recorded this album) living in a Pentecostal household until I moved out to go to college, that "secular" music was FORBIDDEN!!!!! You risked being sacrificed before God if you even thought about bringing it in the home. LOL!
With that being said, when I went to college I gravitated toward the gift that I believe God placed in artists such as D'Angelo ( I love everything about his work, "Please come back!"), Lauryn Hill (the name says it all), Erykah Badu, The Roots (my dream concert would be to sing my music with The Roots Crew as the band, bump what you heard they are gifted!!) and Jill Scott! In 1999 They were all new to me! They are still new to me! That is "REAL" music to me! I believe God created ALL music, now what you do with it or how you behave when listening to music is your business, feel me! (smile) However, those individuals through Joel are my biggest influences! The stacking of vocals and painting a picture with words, the time, the quality, the creativity, all of it! I just spread the Gospel with mine! That's all!
Priest: Either that’s the best computer modeling I’ve ever heard, or there’s some breathing individuals playing instruments, especially that brother on the keys.
AD: Joel did it ALL!! God put so much in him!! He was created to breathe and birth REAL MUSIC! He listens to it all! Plus everything on the album he did on the [Roland] XP80!!! Just a lil'old keyboard! He's...stupid! :)
Focus: I understand where my gift came from and who my songs belong to.
Priest: One of my biggest struggles, back when I was trying to do what
you do, was definitions. Record labels love definitions. I was too
unconventional for Gospel labels and too religious for secular labels,
both types gave me heat about defining myself. The recording industry,
of course, loves divisions and frowns on artists who tend to defy easy
classification. This is all about what rack to put the CD into in the
store. But it is counterintuitive to art to say, “Only record THESE
kinds of songs because you are THIS kind of artist.”
Forgive the cliché, here, but do you define yourself as a ‘Gospel” artist? Do labels attempt to define you that way?
AD: Our music is TRUE Neo-Soul and R&B Jazz, just with Gospel Lyrics! I understand where my gift came from and who my songs belong to, feel me! Most times, online and in stores, we are placed with the R&B/Soul cats. That's fine with us! Just as long as the WORD and the word is getting out! The lyrics I wrote are 100% biblical! The sound of our music is NOT gospel and anyone who listens could tell that because of who our influences are. We are an independent label and make our own money so that we can maintain creative control! I'd rather make the money we make now than to have someone tell me that I have to sing music they want me to sing or have someone tell Joel to play his music the way they want it! We call that a "sell-out in our camp!" LOL!
Priest: My general thought about the Gospel industry is that it’s much more of a business than a ministry, thus it is a business that profits off of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. These are things I have problems with right away. Where are you at on the business in general, on being an independent artist versus being signed to a major label?
AD: Everyone that has played a major role in the music industry that we have spoken with has told us, "You're doing it the right way, being independent!" They tell us to work hard, make our own money and make it work for us. So, praise God, we have had no bad deals and through experience can discern who is wasting our time!
When I began to sing semi-professionally, I backed up Carlis, my partner, who at the time had a R & B duo named Klientel! Once I paid my dues they asked me if I wanted to sing gospel and they supported that!
They had already been in the face of people in the music industry in general, promoted and sold an album and did some touring. So, in the beginning, it was a blessing to have him around because he looked at people as "people!" I have a degree in business and, in all business, I understand the bottom line is the bottom-line! That dollar! So as far as business is concerned, I never separated the two, Gospel Music Industry/Music Industry and to this day I am glad that I have not! God has been merciful to me! Knowledge is power and I know this!! I was also protected by Carlis in Soul LinQ Productions because of the experiences they had!
Now with ministry and the Word, that comes first and foremost! Peoples’ lives are transformed through and by the Word and their life experiences. Ministry to me is not just the singing, it's what I say when I am calling radio stations, how I greet people when they say hi if they know me, how I treat my family and how I treat the people working with me! It's all ministry!
God has blessed me to still work a day job while doing music and we ain't makin' a lot of money at all! Being independent, with the money we have made, we use to fuel what we have until God sees fit to bless us even more. Right now we are faithful with what we have. People in business are what they are.
Priest: And how did you get on iTunes? The iTunes robot recommended you to me based on my buying patterns. Don’t know if that’s good or bad, considering my patterns are all over the place. I was going to buy a couple of tracks but couldn’t decide and ended up, for maybe the first time in two decades, buying an entire album of an artist I wasn’t familiar with.
AD: YEAH!!!! Thank you very much for your support! Again, Knowledge is power man! We try to set good example for young people here in Louisville trying to "do music." There is so much talent here, but people do soooooo much talking! We make it happen to the best of our knowledge and the grace of God. The company that we use for packaging placed us on iTunes. It's a package anyone interested in making music can buy! We did and business is great through digital distribution and online stores!
Priest: A lot of Gospel artists tend to water down their message in order to widen their audience. This often results in tunes like Kirk Franklin’s “Revolution,” which, while certainly well-produced, lacks focus: I don’t know what he’s singing about. For a guy like me, that comes across as intellectual cowardice: I mean, at least be about something. I understood the intent of Nu Nation—and applaud it. But we shouldn’t have to act like we’re embarrassed to be who we are. How do you maintain the integrity of the music without compromising the integrity of your testimony?
AD: I can't speak on any other artist but I can only speak about AD! That's what the guys told me to do when I recorded the album. All I knew was Jesus but I GOT SOUL too, baby!!
God has done tooooo much for me to be a punk about Him! I know where I was in my life and I know where I am now and I know who gets all the glory! Real music awakens you, not confuses you! Guess that's why I am not monetarily filthy rich! LOL! God's got me covered! I didn't write thinking about what other people would say! I just wrote about my life's experiences. I PUSH MYSELF, TAKE IT, ALWAYS ON TIME, come on now!
Priest: Let's talk about singing. In and of itself, singing had, for a long time, become second or even third place to the production and the hype. A lot of top talent and top-selling talent out there really didn’t have the kind of chops you need to not embarrass yourself on a street corner. The acoustic pieces on HTHAELHH are likely among the bravest, you standing there belting out “Praise Evolution” and “Why Not Take A Chance.” A real woman with an actual pulse. A wonderful voice. Soaring, compelling, honest.
AD: Praise God! I love to sing! I always hated seeing people soaring with awful voices, all over the TV, radio and commercials! LOL! We'd be like "What in the World!" I just do what I know! I have never had training, and some may be able to tell but I don't care! I can get it! But, until then, God gifted me and I work it the best I know how!
Priest: “Push Myself” nearly brings me to tears. There are times when I’m just tired. Times I just want to move into the UnaBomber cabin in the woods and call it a night. What we do takes enormous self-motivation. I work with people who I have to practically beg to do what they are supposed to and who need constant validation, encouragement and mommying. “Push Myself” is an anthem to the weary. Are you preaching to yourself, there?
AD: One word! Yep! I was writing about my being to-up and tired right before I wrote that song! Then, I just wrote what I heard when Joel presented the track! God gave it to me! No more pity-parties!
Priest: On our PraiseNet sampler, I started with “What A Fellowship,” which, if I were your A&R guy, I’d release as the lead single. There’s such genius there, yet such simplicity, perhaps the most accessible thing on your CD. Do you worry about being too complex?
AD: No, I didn't think about that type of thing when we created the album, honestly! Although, What A Fellowship did become our first single because I figured most gospel music listeners would be familiar with it, my mom would enjoy it (ha ha) and the kids would bounce to it! But we made that decision months after the album came out! We just prayed over it and put it out! As we continued to grow in this industry we began to think about that type of thing. THAT IS WHY IT'S HARD TO PUT OUT THIS NEXT JOINT! I don't want to think about that stuff because I think it could potentially take away from the ministry! But so far, I'm straight!
Priest: Neil wants to know where “Welcome” came from. It’s just the last thing I expected to hear at the start of an album. It’s funny, it’s fun, it really does make me feel welcome. A lot of music these days makes me feel old because I can’t understand it. A lot of Gospel music is quite hostile and omits the simple elements of hope and love. “Welcome” offers both. Both things people are in desperate need for these days.
AD: Hi, Neil! I can't remember where it came from! The writing process for HTHAELHH was to let Joel's music speak to me! Then the words would just come!
On XM [digital subscriber satellite radio] they play it like it's a single but really, really, really, it was never meant to be! Then people get mad because it's just a interlude! Ha! We did record it at 4 am! We were pumped! Then made it the opening song because it was funky and could sum up our style!
Priest: Throughout the CD, you seem to have little regard for people walking in and out while you’re recording, which gave the CD a home-made quality. I’m assuming some of the talkback stuff was edited back in after the fact.
AD: We "Welcomed" the people as if they had just walked into the studio! We wanted them to believe that they had experienced recording this album with us and that they played a major part in our creative process.
We used Pro Tools but we left all of the talking, laughing breathing, noises, laughing and grit in the album and on most of the vocal tracks. Our intentions were to make the listener feel like they were the ones walking in and out of the studio. Also, Cats front like they don't mess up, or like they can sing a song the same way every time cause they anointed or whatever! Especially with Gospel music. You mess up and goof off! So do I, I just don't delete it! That's what made HTHAELHH cool! Soul music had that type of stuff in it a loooonnnngggg time ago!
Youth For Christ: On the road with AD and friends.
Priest: I’m probably a little hard to please, musically. I want to be
thrilled. I want to be absolutely thrilled, not just by chops—although
chops are fun—but by audacity. By having the audacity to do that thing,
to say that thing, to play it that way. I’m going to mention Bob Dylan
and lose everybody for a minute, but that’s what made artists like Dylan
artists: audacity. I mean, that voice: what the heck was John Hammond
(Columbia’s A&R guy) thinking?
I look at Macy Gray in much the same way. There’s fairly little that is convenient about her work, and her Daisy Duck vocal style is so odd it becomes ingratiating. Her lyrical content isn’t as strong as Dylan’s, but she has audacity to spare.
I don’t own a single Jill Scott album, and I think I’ve only played Floetry once or twice—though I like them very much. I’m assuming Scott, Floetry, India.Arie are influences for your work, but I’m also hearing bassist MeShelle Ndege O’Cello, whose 1993 classic Plantation Lullabies was the very model of audacity (and, possibly, the forerunner of what we now call Neo-Soul). I’m hearing Dianne Reeves and Nina Simone. Hearing all of them and then none of them as your own voice emerges and defines itself.
AD: Well, as I mentioned above, D'Angelo-Audacity, The Roots Crew-Audacity- Jill Scott-Audacity- Ella Fitzgerald- Audacity! Remember I had no choice to come up with my own music and style because, up until about [age] 20, I was too scared too listen to anything else and be influenced by it musically! I was asleep (and unfortunately still am) on gospel choirs, groups, teams! These individuals’ music influenced me vocally while writing and recording HTHAELHH. Gospel music gave me my boldness to say and sing like "I don't care what you think about how this comes out!" Take it like it is boo and love it!! (I'm nuts! HA!)
Priest: Can you sit in a room with people and play your own CD? I never could. I’d put it on and leave the room. Or I’d send people home with it. It was too hard to hear the mistakes and missed opportunities. If you’re playing your CD for somebody, who are you hearing? And, are you having a good time or are you feeling self-conscious?
AD: Yes, my friends don't give me a choice! I watch their expressions though. I made myself get used to hearing myself by recording myself for years in the upstairs closet of my bedroom at my moms’ on a karoke machine! Then, when I got in the studio, I was used to what I sounded like! I like it! I have a good time when I listen to me! Now, lately, I study what I do because if I don't Joel will honestly and constructively critique the mess out of what I do! He doesn't believe in singing from your heart! His favorite words are "almost, almost, do it again!"
Priest: HTHAELHH is fun. It’s just so much fun. It’s like hanging out in my bass player’s basement making up stuff. There’s a great deal of joy there. That is, for me, the most audacious part about the work: how utterly un-self-conscious it is. There’s no point where you apologize for your faith. There’s no point where you start preaching and condemning. There’s no point where you come across as 85% more unimpressed with yourself.
It seems like you make a statement by not making a statement. And, chiefly for that reason, I view the CD as a powerful evangelical tool, especially for urban girls. I think you should come up with some kind of group sales or group licensing plan.
I said, in another article, I wanted to buy 500 copies of Tonéx’s Oak Park and hand them out to the boys in the hoods around here (and, hey, was that a little nod to “California” in “Used To Do”?). I want to do precisely the same thing with HTHAELHH and hand them out to the girls. HTHAELHH reassures urban Christian teens that they’re normal. That having Christ in your life doesn’t mean you now have to be The Other. That you’re still a kid, still facing challenges, still having fun. And that having Christ in your life doesn’t make you a mutant.
Young people are terribly concerned about being accepted, about fitting in, about belonging. They are bombarded, every waking hour, with images designed and market-tested to get them to drink, have sex, and spend money without discipline. Christianity appears to run against that mainstream of thought. Your work, however, flies under the radar. It breezes past the defense perimeters and pierces the heart, which is what makes it so effective a tool.
Is that its purpose?
AD: You got it! I would always say when I was younger, geeze I wish people would just be more real because if I knew other people were feeling lost, thinking of committing suicide, wishing they were someone different, and so on, we could help each other out sooo much more! Ministry and God's purpose for us being here is so that we can be in relationship with the people around us. My next album is Heart Soul Mind and Strength (The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all of those) AND to love your neighbor as you love yourself! If we can't do that, “It's a wrap,” as we say! How can we say that we are Christians!
Again, I believe the album became so effective because I was just being AD! Nothing else mattered but what God thought about me and the wonderful thing is I knew and know He loves me because, dude, He made me!!
BTW—people that we know purchase from us directly in bulk! The cost is next to nothing! What we do to get the word out is minister all across the country, for next to NOTHING and most time for Nothing at all! We have a responsibility to use what God has given us for His glory and not our own! We understand that!
Priest: I assume success in music can be a double-edged sword: it’s nice to be appreciated, it’s nice to make a living doing what you love. But it can get out of hand, either with people hounding you for money and favors, or, worse, with you becoming a jerk. It’s like you spend years struggling for recognition and acceptance, and then you realize you can’t go to Taco Bell anymore. Or, sadder, you start believing your own hype and become this jerk.
I suppose there are reasons why God’s time doesn’t always sync up with our hopes or expectations. God’s time is, more often than not, synced up to our motives and our maturity; some doors remain closed because, frankly, if He opened them too soon, we’d become 85% more impressed with ourselves.
I know you’re investing a lot of yourself in achieving success, how are you preparing for life when God opens those doors for you?
AD: Every day God makes me know that I am NOTHING without him! I keep myself surrounded by family and friends who would never hold back on letting me know that I SUCK if I ever even "THOUGHT" about becoming a jerk! Becoming a jerk can happen to anyone (sounds like a commercial)! My friends and family help me keep it all in perspective. I'm too insecure without God!
Finally I would say the kids that I teach everyday at school make me realize that God wants to use me to do many things. I love to sing and know who controls this gift! I don't ever want to be a jerk—I want to be servant!
Priest: I suppose I can’t end an interview without the cliché question: what’s next for Adrianne Archie?
AD: For two months I will be recording the rest of HSMS but it will not be released right away because....I will be headed back to school June 19, 2007 to get my Masters in Education for Special Needs children!
God wants to use me doing this, at this time! Like teaching, singing will always be with me and this industry ain't going anywhere! This way I can reach MANY MORE young people and, trust me, they need our help because they are lost man! This is the door God opened for me at this time! I'll invite you to my party next summer! EDUCATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS!!! I have to be an example for the young people that are caught up and consumed by this music. Know I can tell them, you gotta be educated, though it may not mean going to a university, but you gotta get knowledge and understanding. I understand Lord, use me! I love you Chris!