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“I have been gifted to write, sing and perform so if I didn’t do those things, it wouldn’t be right. I wouldn’t be responsible. I am excited about the gift God has given me to be able to express life in music in ways that listeners can relate to and, because of the music, can have their lives changed. Forward looking, my goals are to share the gospel with others outside of my race, outside of my city, outside of this nation in a way that has never been done before: by focusing on healthy/balanced living. I teach and share Luke 10:27, the greatest commandment.”

This is a very different album,

a very different woman. I’m sure a lot has changed in the six years since Adrianne Archie’s quiet earthquake, He That Hath An Ear Let Him Hear, arrived in Indy distribution channels. We didn’t discover it, here, until three years later, when the iTunes robot offered it as a suggestion based on stuff we were listening to. The robot was right. For at least six years, now, Adrianne Archie has been a lot like this exclusive restaurant in a trendy part of town. No sign out front, no advertising in the papers. If you didn’t know what Elaine’s was, you’d never know it even existed. Or that getting a table at Elaine’s is a lot like winning the lottery.

Well, anybody can buy Adrianne Archie’s albums—HTHAELHH, Warm Winter and now Heart Soul Mind & Strength. But she seems to be well known among people who know who she is, people who can find the restaurant among the row of undistinguished buildings on the street. Her writing and singing is so strong, the music she creates with collaborator Joel (pronounced like Superman’s father, Jor-El) Goodwin is so moving, I can’t imagine why she’s so darned… regular.

If Archie is stuck up, she hides it well. If she’s mean or nasty, she keeps that completely private. For someone with what seems to be rather unlimited potential, she comes across as amazingly unpretentious; a Kentucky school teacher who does the rock star thing on the weekends.

HSMS replaces the adolescent joviality of HTHAE with maturity and discipline. I’m not entirely happy with that. I’ve so enjoyed not only her music but the gift of being able to place that music in context of the person, but I’m stuck in AD 2004 or so. Here, she’s in a different place. Joel is in a different place, alternatively channeling Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Quincy Jones by way of Greg Phillinganes, Andre 3000 née Will.i.am, and longtime Def Leppard producer "Mutt" Lange. It’s an eclectic Stone Soup of pop styles given form by Goodwin’s keen sense of storytelling, with Archie breathing life into Goodwin’s wonderful compositions.

HSMS is not an album a record label would allow new artists to make. Though dominated by Jill Scott Badu Ndegéocello earth tones, the CD does not fit comfortably in a particular section of the store. This is, in the end, the reckless rebellion of the independent artist: to be creative and worry about the numbers later. Archie is betting her audience has a wider musical palette than most labels give them credit for, or, that they at least know how to hit the skip button. The success of groups like Outkast, The Black Eyed Peas, and the Fugees before them rather puts the lie to the notion artists must remain in their box. HSMS sounds like Adrianne Archie’s coming out (of the box) party, her Songs In The Key Of Life. Which is great if you’re Stevie Wonder, already a well-established star when he mud-wrestled Berry Gordy into releasing Songs. Tougher to do if you’re still telling people your name.

Priest: Well, all I really care about: do you still love me?

AD: Ha! You’re so crazy! OF COURSE!!!

Priest: You’re right, btw. I did put this on repeat.

AD: Glad to hear that! I was recording that song and others while I was alone in the studio, getting that kind of “feeling” hoping others would do the same.

Priest: The album is amazing. Why aren’t you huge? How is it even possible you’re talking to some feeb with a website like me?

AD: Uhhhh dunno! (cheeses- shrugs shoulders- tilts head to the left) Could be several things. However, all things in God’s time, I assume. You’re great so I am grateful for the opportunity to share with you.

Priest: I finally saw a video of you in action. You’re pretty aggressive onstage. In the HTHAELHH vignettes and in email you come across much more playful and cuddly. On HSMS you’re tougher and more demanding. Onstage you look like you’re about to throw something at the audience. Which is it?

AD: I try to share every time like it’s my last time. So I assume that would make me more “passionate” on stage about the message that I am sharing. Like, people’s lives REALLY depend on what I am saying and singing. Some might call it aggressive, especially for a lady. But I guess, I go hard! (smile)

Priest: Some church folk gave me grief about my chastising Beyoncé and Lil’ Wayne. I realize as a recording artist, it’s a little dicey to criticize other performers, but I’d really like your two cents about this. How do you view your responsibility, as a role model, when you step onstage? I’ll assume people hold you to impossible moral standards—do you hold you to impossible moral standards?

AD: Well, first off let me say I believe it is the responsibility of parents to guard their children from these types of influences. Example; The Chipmunks- The Squeekquel, a movie for children, used Beyonce's song, "Single Ladies" as one of the featured songs in the movie. My goddaughter loved the movie and ended up singing the song after hearing it repeatedly. Now, do I believe it is Beyoncé’s responsibility to make sure children are not exposed to their art …not so much. Of course she is a role model but she is also a “brand,” a “product” whose art is used by many other giant companies to make money. I don’t believe the artists you mentioned above set out to intentionally be bad role models for children who look up to them, but I believe morals and values begin at home. My goddaughter had to be corrected by her parents to know that she shouldn’t sing the words to that song. The artists receive image awards for their art and contribution to our world. Whether those contributions are totally negative or positive are up for debate, but I don’t blame them. Children don’t have the money to buy the records. Parents buy records for children. So I don’t believe their sales would plummet at all. The parents have to guide their children. That’s the bottom line with me.

Now for me, I profess Christianity. I profess being a gospel artist. What I do on stage doesn’t mean a thing! It’s all about the life I live off stage! What happens on stage, to me, is a direct reflection of who I am and what I am about. Unfortunately, in gospel music, some artists begin their “acting careers” on stage. I am totally dependent on the Spirit of God to direct me and guide me in my life. “Adrianne” is a wreck but with God I can be a good role model and encourage children, youth and adults to be the best people they can be. On stage I am very transparent. (hope you are in the audience one day, you’d see). I believe that is what has set me apart. I have no clichés and don’t try to pull emotions out of people just for a thrill or a shout. I sing and keep it real about life. I am responsible to be the best disciple I can be. I rely on Christ totally. So no I don’t hold me to “impossible” moral standards. I have friends that help hold me accountable and Christ’s Spirit to guide me, but at any given moment I could mess it all up. I need God just as much as the next person. I think if people were more honest about their need for God the church, church-world wouldn’t be so shocked when they do mess up and the world wouldn’t point and say, “see, we told you so!” We will mess up, ya know. I pray and need help everyday.

Priest: How was the tour through Kentucky/Ohio?

AD: It’s been pretty Cool. Of course we have other places lined up beyond the region but those places have been quite awesome!

Priest: Are you still on the road? I’m so jealous. I wanna close up the house and just hang with you folks. I’ll be, like, the Old Roadie With The Bad Back.

AD: I have been off for March but am back on April through the end of the year. If you hung with us, you would have soooooo much fun! We are very laid back and do a ton of laughing!! We’d ride you out but you’d live and the tour would end and you wouldn’t wanna’ go home! Anytime, just let us know!

[Editor’s Note: Priest may take her up on that—if only for a weekend or something]

Christopher J. Priest
4 April 2010