With hits like “Tennessee,” “People Everyday,” and “Mr. Wendal,” the group Arrested Development brought positive, uplifting, afro-centric hip-hop to the foreground.
Now, one of the members of the two-time Grammy Award-winning group is creating a new chapter for herself in the music industry. With the name that means “Life”, singer, songwriter, and dance guru Eshe is stepping out on her own away from the group and breathing life into a solo career of her own. The Atlanta native says she also has several projects up her sleeve: “I have a lot of film and TV projects I’m working on, mentoring, and writing a book. I have my hands in a lot of things.”
Soultrain.com caught up with the songstress to discuss life after Arrested Development and her view on the music industry.
Soul Train: Where has Arrested Development been?
Eshe: The group did disband in 1994, but then we got back together in 1998 or so, so we started releasing records overseas. The market over there was more open to the type of music we did, and here the music had just changed so much. None of the major labels were interested in hearing the conscious music for the masses. So, we just took the more underground route. We’ve had hits overseas. Our last album, we were on the charts, right between Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga. There was a lot of success overseas. The industry has changed so much; it’s nothing like it was like when we first started. A lot of artists that you don’t see, they are touring overseas and are doing their thing, and that’s how they make their living. As far as the group goes now, Speech is the only original member, and they have a lot of new members. People have to watch Unsung to get that whole story! (laughs)
Soul Train: Do you still perform with Arrested Development?
Eshe: Actually as of February, it was my last tour with them. I will still do special performances and TV appearances with them. We just shot the show Unsung, so that should air during the new season. There’s no bad blood or anything, I have just been in the group for over 25 years and it was just time for me to step out and spread my wings and do something different. There are so many things that I want to do; I have a 9 year old and she has always traveled on the road with me since she was 2 months old. She’s heavily into gymnastics and wants to go to the Olympics one day, so I want to help her pursue what she wants to do. My most important job is being a mother, then after that God and family. So I’ll still cut a rug with them on special occasions.
Soul Train: How do you juggle motherhood and a hectic career?
Eshe: It’s very hard, with a lot of prayer (laughs). I have a great support system. My mother is a huge help. She goes on the road with me, too, and so when I’m performing she’s watching my daughter. You have to have a great support system. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed, but I have real conversations with my daughter. I ask her how she’s feeling, what she needs from me at that moment. I want her to always say that her mommy has been there. I have never missed anything that she’s done. I would go on the road, and if she had a gymnastics meet, I would say I need to get back and meet ya’ll later. She has to see my face, and that’s so important to me. She comes first. I’m so grateful to have such an amazing mom. When you have kids, you have to be un-selfish. Any decision I make affects her. But seriously, a lot of prayer (laughs)! That’s real.
Soul Train: Speaking on things that you want to accomplish, you released a single not too long ago. What is the song “Love Sick” about?
Eshe: It’s a song that’s a true story. I wrote that song in 15 minutes about someone at the time that I really liked. Yet, I don’t know if this person really knew how deep my feelings were for him. So that’s what the song is about, just being love sick about someone. I was listening to a whole lot of Common’s “Into the Light,” which is one of my favorite songs of his, and that just helped to inspire me.
Soul Train: How is this song different from what you’re used to performing with Arrested Development?
Eshe: It’s funny, coming from Arrested Development and the topics that we spoke about, well I guess we did speak about love but it was more politically socially conscious type of music. So, sometimes I’d think it’d be really cool to talk about love, and so I was really excited to explore that for myself. I’m a grown woman so I deal with grown woman issues.
Soul Train: Will your album have a mixture of music, or focus just on love songs?
Eshe: You know it’s funny; I just do what I feel. I’m one of those artists that whatever comes out of me is whatever is going on in my life at the time. I’m just feeling a whole lot of love right now (laughs); I just feel love in the air. A lot of the stuff I’m writing is about love. I actually have a new song that I did with actor Omari Hardwick. He’s an amazing spoken word artist! We did a love song and it’s hot, so I can’t wait to release that.
Soul Train: Is there anyone else that you want to work with?
Eshe: I want to work with Nas actually. I would also like to work with Carlos Santana, Cee-Lo…a long list of people! But honestly, I’m just trying to release that single first, and let it do what it do. (laughs).
Soul Train: What do you think about music today and the direction it seems to be heading?
Eshe: One thing that I loved about the time that we were coming up is that music was diverse. You had so many different types of music. When you listened to the radio, you heard so many distinct voices, and nobody sounded the same. Everybody had their own style. Now days, a lot of the artists sound alike, and image wise they look alike. Labels don’t have artist development anymore. Some of the lyrics on the radio today I can’t believe I’m hearing at 3PM, whereas when we were growing up, some of the songs with explicit lyrics didn’t get airplay until after 10PM when you were supposed to be in the bed! Now, anything goes. I think it’s the corporate thing honestly; they throw all these artists on the wall and see what sticks. It’s easier to create something that doesn’t stimulate your mind, but stimulates your flesh and pulls people into it. It’s unfortunate, but I wish it was more balanced. There are some great artists out there, both R&B and hip-hop.
For more information check out Eshe’s website www.esheafrosoul.com and follow her on Twitter @Eshe2XGrammy.
Shameika Rene’ is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and writing for various websites such as Charlotte Vibe, Creative Loafing, or her own site, www.themofochronicles.com. She’s also a special guest contributor on The Social Hour on Urban Soul Radio. Follow her on Twitter @mofochronicles.