When asked about her favorite episode of Soul Train, 24 year-old Reesa Renee can’t really say since she was too young to remember the show that enjoyed its height of popularity before she was even born. But, Reesa has a pretty good idea what Soul Train represented and says that it influences who she is as an artist.
“I came in on the ‘remember whens’ of Soul Train,” she says. “I love the history with it, though, and just about all the dancing parts, too. It reminds me of my parents, and represents the effect music is supposed to have on someone. It’s a good ‘ole music feel that I’ve studied and strive to bring back and mesh with more of the modern sounds.”
A native of Washington D.C., Reesa Renee launched her music career less than two years ago after a successful run of multiple wins at the famous Apollo Theatre in New York. Now poised to enjoy a whirlwind of fanfare as she prepares for the August release of her debut album Reelease, Reesa talks to SoulTrain.com about what Jill Scott says about her music, how she has been inspired by the late Chuck Brown, and how music transformed her life.
SoulTrain.com: Reesa, thank you for taking time to talk to SoulTrain.com. You are a new artist whom many of our readers are hearing about for the first time. How would you describe your style and brand of music to them?
Reesa Renee: Thank you as well for the opportunity and the platform to be able to share my story and my music which is funky, with a “feel good” vibe. It can be felt. It’s young. It’s “hip,” but its roots are firmly saturated in music’s history. My best way to sum up my vibe would be a rustic voice, an old-school musical feel meshed with N.E.R.D’s energy!
I am from an area with musical pioneers and hometown heroes who’ve paved the way such as Chuck Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Wale! Chocolate City has a lot of passion, a lot of heart on top a percussion driven feel that can’t be ignored. I’m more than happy to join this list of creatives as I present my music.
SoulTrain.com: Tell us first about your new music.
Reesa Renee: I am working very diligently with a team of dedicated creatives to wrap up my first project entitled Reelease. I have never been more excited to share! It’s funny, I actually wrote my album’s first single “Got Me Loose” about three years ago and it ironically is the first song I ever wrote. Long story short, I took the song to my brother, P Kay, and he loved it, worked some music around it and honestly we’ve been making music together ever since.
My discovery of music and writing became a much-needed outlet for years of internal emotions and it is such a blessing to be able to have a producer like my brother beside me. We really complete each other musically in terms of transcribing a particular mood. My album documents this fusion along with the discovery of my voice both lyrically and personally. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my career and musical awakening.
SoulTrain.com: You’ve had a seemingly quick rise to the public’s attention after winning at the Apollo, but you had a journey that wasn’t so straight and narrow, right? Tell us a little about your journey to where you are now.
Reesa Renee: I did, and that entire Apollo experience was awesome and it certainly changed my perspective. Up until that point, I had simply been following a gut feeling with my pursuit in music. I knew it felt good. I knew I was on the right track, but Apollo really solidified it. It was the, “This is real, and really possible,” moment for me.
Music was my savior. We had a connection, something I’d never experienced before. I was known to get into a bit of trouble before pursuing music and I had gone through a handful of events here and there that resulted in my inability to express myself properly. I had a big issue controlling my emotions. A very short fuse. And, because of that, I was a bit alienated. I think it hurt me, mostly because it diminished the opportunity of having a mentor, which at that time, I probably really needed. No one was really willing to take a chance with me because I was so fiery and unpredictable.
Throughout it all, though, I’d always journal. As a kid, I always felt one day I would have the opportunity to share my story. I honestly never thought music would be the bridge. God has his ways though (laughs).
SoulTrain.com: Sounds like you persevered through some trying times. As a new solo artist, who are some of the artists that have been influences on your style and music choices?
Reesa Renee: Oh, the list is never ending and gets longer as the hours pass! I am a student and genuine music lover. It’s all about inspiration and it’s exchange, you know? On the top of my “inspired by” list is certainly Ms. Jill Scott! My aunt got me her very first project, Who is Jill Scott?, when I was 13 years-old and I’ve been in love ever since. Her talent is immeasurable – from the album to the stage to behind the camera – she truly inspires!
The Godfather of GoGo, Chuck Brown, is a huge inspiration for my live performances. The way that man could rock an audience, no matter the culture, creed, color—whatever– he would consistently tear the house down! I still strive for that amount of audience participation and love what Chuck put into his productions. He defined for me what the feel of music is and also bridged a gap by pulling the world into our DC culture.
On a hometown level, Wale has inspired me, too. I respect his grind, seeing what he came from to where he is now. He shows me and others that we can make an impact and we can build, and where supporting one another can take you.
SoulTrain.com: Who are some of the artists you’ve worked with that have pushed you most musically?
Reesa Renee: I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Jill Scott at the BET Awards last year. It was crazy because it happened two days after she responded to a video of me performing that I had sent to her via Twitter. Although we’ve never been in the same space creating together I still feel she gave me the best advice that I carry with me in my career. I had asked her what she thought about the video and she replied “feels good. [I found that] interesting. Like [Erykah] Badu says: “Only ask how it makes people feel. Never what they think.”
That has pushed me to be better and not necessarily care too heavily as to what people think. Music is a thoughtless art, or is best as a thoughtless art. Not everyone wants to think when experiencing a sound. They want to dance, laugh, smile, cry, and ultimately feel. I strive to create [a feeling] in every song I write.
SoulTrain.com: Ten years from now, what would you like to be doing musically?
Reesa Renee: I’m honestly so focused on my present goal I can’t even think of 10 years from now. If you would’ve asked me a year ago that I’d see the successes I have so far I don’t even think I could’ve thought this up! (laughs)
SoulTrain.com: What do you have planned for us in the coming months?
Reesa Renee: The biggest thing I have planned is the release of my first project Reelease! I also have some shows lined up in DC, Atlanta, and New York, so coming to a city near you very soon!
SoulTrain.com: What do you want to leave behind musically as your legacy to the industry?
I want to leave behind a warm heart and good music! Music is a universal language language. It is an outlet and an obsolete form of expression. I live to continue to share my message, my story, and life’s inspirations through melody so that my listeners, too, may reach a releasing point in their lives where they follow their hearts and fulfill their dreams.
-Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a longtime music writer based in Maryland. Visit her on KhadijahOnline.com.