Artist to Artist: Sandra St. Victor’s Daughters of Soul—Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

Daughters of Soul 2015Rock ’n soul warrior woman Sandra St. Victor is on a mission; but first, she must maneuver through the dizzying maze that is NYC traffic. “Are we at 109th or 110th? Just let me off at the corner,” she tells her driver as we chat via phone about her latest project, a documentary film, concert series, and album featuring the Daughters of Soul. Comprised of Lalah Hathaway, Indira Khan, Syleena Johnson, Lisa Simone, Kori Withers, and Sylvette “Phunne”Stone, St. Victor shared that this supergroup of soul superstars came together almost by accident. “I just wanted to do some shows with friends of mine who were cool and, at that time, I didn’t think were getting enough light.”

The rest is history. The original incarnation of Daughters of Soul—which has also included powerhouses Nona Hendryx, Leah McCrae, Joyce Kennedy, and of course, Sandra St. Victor herself as what she calls the “essence of the spirit of soul”—lit up stages all over Europe and Asia for nearly 5 years. Each of the daughters pays tribute to her legendary musical parent—Donny Hathaway, Chaka Khan, Syl Johnson, Nina Simone, Bill Withers, and Sly Stone and Cynthia Robinson, respectively—while showcasing her own undeniable talent.

Sandra St. VictorSt. Victor said she was inspired to document the Daughters of Soul experience largely due to the stories the women shared on the road and during performances. “These sisters grew up in a house full of soul, literally of legends. When they sat down together, you could see that they were even surprised that they had such similar experiences and stories. It was clear to me that it needed to be documented. [These women] are all super talented, and they also have to struggle with that name. I’m just trying to get the story out there.”

To that end, the original Mack Diva launched an ambitious PledgeMusic campaign to support the Daughters of Soul tour and live album (the Dutch Film Commission is producing the actual documentary). With awards ranging from digital downloads of the album and film, to Skype calls and movie dates with various members of the group, VIP concert experiences, and so much more, those who contribute to the campaign are sure to score some pretty sweet swag as a token of appreciation for their support. Most importantly, however, the donations will help bring the Daughters of Soul experience to life on stage; the concert tour is pivotal to the documentary and without it, there is no need for camera crews or production schedules, which are already in the planning stages.

As she wound her way through New York City, Sandra St. Victor intimated to me that a very special producer would be on hand for the soundtrack, which will feature the daughters’ renditions of some of their parents’ classics—but with a twist, as well as new tracks. “You want to sing along with Kori Withers singing ‘Ain’t No Sunshine.’ But we’re gonna have her do it with another artist who brings another flavor. The shows will be interesting collaborations, and of course the daughters themselves are really great songwriters and we really want to get that out there. So they’ll also be doing songs of their own on the shows and the soundtrack, and one or two songs as a group that we’ll write with the producer.”

I asked St. Victor how she decided which daughters would be part of the group; after all, there are several musical icons whose daughters have followed in their parents’ footsteps to establish themselves as creative forces in their own right. She admitted that tons of letters and press kits had “crossed her desk” over the years, but selecting the members of the group was a relatively organic process. “With Syleena, her dad Syl Johnson’s joint ‘Is It Because I’m Black’ represents exactly what we’re talking about. Do I have to say why [I chose] Sly Stone’s daughter? And of course Bill Withers! Their daughters, clearly, are trying to make inroads into the community with their music as well. I listen to their lyrics—I go there with them so that they know where I’m coming from and what I’m about, so we are on the same page. These particular women have a certain essence that I think, together, tells a story that needs to be told right now.”

With the cultural and political climate we’re living in now, St. Victor posited that the kind of socially-critical and thought-provoking soul music the daughters’ parents’ wrote and performed is even more crucial than ever before. “I just think right now is so key to shed some real light on artists stepping up and taking some responsibility like we did in the ‘70s, like we did in the ‘60s. I was there to watch as a kid how artists were at the forefront of a movement, and these sisters can be part of that because of who they are by DNA, what they stand for by DNA, and their music also representing that particular essence.” She pointed to the fact that hip-hop artists like Taleb Kweli are using their voices and platform to speak to a number of urgent issues, but that kind of activism is not as visible within soul and R&B. Daughters of Soul is poised to bridge that gap. “We don’t have a Donny Hathaway, we don’t have a Gil Scott-Heron. D’Angelo put out [Black Messiah], but we need more of that. This is that!”

St. Victor’s vision for the Daughters of Soul documentary is that it will premiere in theaters and then make its way to streaming services like Netflix, and DVD and Blu-Ray. This, of course, will be contingent upon how well the documentary performs on the festival circuit, which is often an important testing ground and can influence whether a film is picked up for distribution (and by whom) and how many screens it ultimately winds up on (and in which markets). And in an age where reality programming and some prime time TV shows are widely criticized for portraying black women in the worst possible light, St. Victor promised that she would not allow any parts of the documentary to devolve into a “weave-snatching show.”“That’s not what we came from, and that’s absolutely not where we’re going,”she said, adamantly. “The whole point is to have documented on the big screen, and perhaps on the small screen, sisters who get along, work together, create something positive and beautiful, and it never has to go into a place of competition and ego.”

Say that, sister Sandra.

To learn more about the Daughters of Soul and to support their crowdfunding campaign, visit their official website. You can also follow the Daughters of Soul on Facebook, and keep up with Sandra St. Victor on Facebook as well.

—Rhonda Nicole

Rhonda Nicole is the Managing Editor for SoulTrain.com, a soul singer/songwriter, music journalist, blogger, and curator of the BohemeRockstar Music Blog (IG @BohemeRockstar), splitting her time between the Bay Area and LA. Download her EP Nuda Veritas on CDBaby and iTunes, keep up with her new music at soundcloud.com/rhonda-nicole, follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @wildhoneyrock, and dig her musical musings at rhondanicole.com.

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