Thursday, October 8, 2009

Solo in the City

"Whenever I’m asked to define today’s Honey girl, my quick, canned response is: “We’re more Solange, than Beyonce.” Now don’t get me wrong, Honey hearts Queen Bey (the supernova keeps us perpetually entertained and inspired) but we tend to identify with the 23-year-old rebel — the adventurous, outspoken, risk-embracing, cuss-you-out-if-you-even-try-to-diss-her-sis, outrageous-ensemble-rocking singer/songwriter. And the list goes on:

Her fashion-forward ‘fits send us into fits of envy (and reckless shopping sprees).
During our photo shoot, she insisted on climbing into an abandoned shopping cart (in sparkly leggings and a Gordon Gartrell-esque top).
Even though the sun called it quits, she refused to leave until the last shot was perfect. (There was no way she was bouncing before rocking the vintage Christian Dior party frock!)
Her playlist had us jamming (and Googling names of the bands we didn’t recognize like the beguiling Grizzly Bear, of Montreal, Chairlift, and Theophilus London).
She was actually amused (and slightly interested) when she detected the pungent smell of “mixed greens” wafting from someone’s bag…

Let’s just start with the question that’s on everyone’s minds: the big chop. We fell in love with the cut right away. We wanted to shoot you before the cut, but we were really excited when we saw it because we could really get fashion-y.
I guess you just go through different phases in your life. I was pretty much at the point where I needed the change and I needed to focus my energy on more productive arenas. I was putting too much into my appearance and I needed to make this about growth and going to the next stage of my life. I felt like I was being distracted by something as simple as hair. I’ve always been really fearless about change. I’ve cut my hair the same way when I was 16 and again when I was 18. This was my third time.

Obviously, it’s a different reaction with you because of who you are, but have you found that you’re received differently by the general public than you are with the long hair? How does the outside world treat you?
The first picture of me when I cut it off — I had no idea that there was any photography going on. I was looking like someone taking their kid to school at 7 o’clock in the morning in jeans and a top and no makeup on, no earrings, no nothing. That reaction was very harsh, very negative. I think it was the initial thought of change in someone that freaked everyone out. As a society we equate beauty with the images that have been placed in front of us since we were little kids. Every Disney movie, every fairy tale, every pop star typically has a certain aesthetic and look. I think that anytime we see something different, it freaks us out. The more people warmed up to it, and they saw more images of me with it and dressed up with my earrings and a little something, something on my face, I think then people were more willing to conform and accept it. Now, it’s interesting how the first day I had it, I had nothing but negative, evil, cruel things in my inbox and then yesterday [after Oprah aired] I had 300,000 people saying ‘Oh my God, you looked amazing, so beautiful, and you made us proud.’ People were able to hear my reasoning, which is good and bad because we should be able to just express ourselves.

Let’s talk about the Honey shoot, you coming in and seeing all those crazy clothes that you fell in love with. How was your experience shooting with us?

It was amazing. You guys had the best energy of a shoot to me — I was just talking about it last night on Twitter. I really admire and study and respect the brilliance of fashion. I don’t live, breathe, eat, drink and depend on fashion to be more than what it is. I think when you have that frame of mind you really can go there. You really have no resignations about putting looks together that are just fun and fearless and that’s what you guys provided and allowed me to do so I was really happy.

Good. Who’s closet would you raid if you had the chance to do it?

Probably Björk. It would be a tie between her and Grace [Jones], but I think I’d have to go with Björk because over the years there have been so many different phases and extremes and color. I am a person who loves color and I think it’s the most beautiful backdrop for life.

You talked a little bit about your stages for fashion and philosophy but what would
you say this stage is in your style evolution? What are you looking toward for spring 2010?

I think right now, I’m learning how to incorporate completely different extremes as to my last record, it was just like an overstimulation of extremes, which I love. Now, I’m learning how to have one more simple extreme or one more statement extreme, and learning how to blend those together. But you probably will still see me rocking animal print as I did the other day. Someone cracked up laughing and was like ‘Where the hell do you think you’re going with flannel, leopard and stripes?’ I was like ‘I’m going to tackle my day.’

Your album is critically acclaimed and I’m wondering how much you care about what the critics think. What kind of sales expectations, if any, did you have? Are you happy with the album?

I mostly feel proud that I literally, everyday, come in contact with somebody who was affected by my music because it was so personal and honest. I can’t even explain to you how many people are like, ‘I have a “T.O.N.Y.”’ I’ve had people tell me they used “I Decided” in their wedding. Those are the moments where I feel really proud that I followed my heart and made something that I was really proud of instead of conforming to expectations. There were definitely fights along the way about not getting the radio or video support, but I would much rather be in a marketplace full of really smart, intellectual, and cultured young people who I can grow with. I feel like I can have a longer lasting and less gimmicky and for-the-moment response. It makes me feel very secure in my career, because I know I make music that may not matter to an astounding number of people, but the people that it does matter to are more like me. They have the same interest as me. They are people who want to be exposed to different things. I feel really good being in that space. It was never my intention to have this huge commercial success because otherwise, I would have made other kinds of records. I know how to write pop [and radio] records. I’ve written them for other people. But that isn’t the music that inspires me. It isn’t the music that I feel good about performing or that makes me want to get up and push every morning and be in 10,000 cities in one month promoting. I think people are the ones to put expectations on you. I never really put expectations on myself. I know that it’s a business and the record label has to make a profit from it. I understand that side of things, but at the end of the day it was always my goal to do exactly what I was able to do. That makes me feel really good.

Now, you have your new album.

Yes, I’m working on it now. I’m assuming you’re going in a new direction or at least evolving with your sound.I am definitely evolving. The interesting thing about my record is that I did it so long ago. I started writing and experimenting with that sound when I moved to Idaho. It took a few years before it actually came out. By that time I still loved it. It was definitely a concept record. I was really inspired by the ’60s and ’70s sound, mixed with electronic sounds and how to mash those together. With this record I am experimenting more with a really interesting mix of music. My describing it probably sounds crazy but I’m kind of working with tribal, Native American drums and mashing them with weird ’80s and blues. I have been exposed to so many different great forms of music. It’s definitely going to be an experimental album. I’m working with so many great people on this record, so many different bands and musicians.

Can you name a few of them?

I’ve been working with Kevin Barnes from of Montreal, an incredible band. I’m about six songs in and maybe four of them will make it. I’m still establishing the sound, but what I’m really focusing on is doing everything independently. I’ve been A&R-ing the project and staying on top of the budgets. I’ve been producing myself, and learning the backside of making the record financially because I didn’t do as much of that the last record. I really want to be in a place where I feel no pressure with my record sales. I really just want to have the experimental space to make a record that if 30,000 people like it, I’ll feel really proud — even more than the last one.

Five words to describe yourself?
Water, blood, melanin, bones, and ... vajajay.

Five words that the public would use to describe you?
The general perception is that I am crazy, maybe? That I am attention-seeking. But I think everyone can say that I’m smart. At least I think I come across smart. I don’t really know (laughs) because I don’t really care.

What is your favorite hangover cure?
I’m typically one of those people who’s never hung over. I really try to be responsible with my drinking. I just kind of deal with it.

Would you describe yourself as a rebel?

I think we covered all of the bases. Thank you so much! Let us know about the album.
Of course. Thank you so much for all of the support and representing black women in a more diverse way. Ya’ll do a great job of that.

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