As another woman in her early 40s whose been in the industry for 20 years, I wanted to thank you for sharing your Instagram post about the Grammys.
Your career has been a beacon of light for so many from the beginning, with your launch stating it clearly that you were “not the average girl,” and that you’ve had such a luminous presence in the industry while keeping your authenticity intact (not an easy feat!) has been meaningful to folks like me even further outside the fringes of the power mandala of the music business.
I was so inspired by what you and Donnie were up to in the early days that I moved back home from Boston to Atlanta to be further informed by those waters. By the time I made it there, the scene you all birthed (at least it appeared that way from afar) had already started to dissipate, but I’m still glad I made the move because that’s when/where I met my wife whose now been with me for 15 years! Your light brought me true love! Isn’t that cool how light can do that?!
As a proud fat, black, queer, woman, I’ve very much been an outsider in the professionally politically incorrect industry you talked about. For years A&R folks would scout me and choose to leave me on the shelf saying they didn’t know how to market me. It made me deeply insecure and made me feel like something was fundamentally wrong with my music, which over time evolved into me coming to fear there was something fundamentally wrong with me.
I was literally invisible in the world I felt I was born to inhabit, and that was a rough blow. As a result, I’ve been doing it all by myself for all these years, learning as much as I could just to keep the music going. As a result, I got seen as a person who could do the work an artist needs done, but I’ve never been fully seen as the artist herself. I didn’t get a label release until I was tapped to run the label (small but culturally important label out of New Orleans called Louisiana Red Hot Records). I didn’t get a real engineer/producer with industry credentials until I was over 40, and now, after 9 releases, I’ve finally just gotten my first industry level review!
It’s often been a lonely road allowing my music to remain a cry among dreams with so little encouragement. I really thought I was crazy, and when folks who see me live inevitably say time and again “why haven’t I heard of you?” no one seems to have the stomach to hear the real truth about why, so they make up their own stories.
It’s been lonely, but it’s also been rich and empowering, and I now even can experience it as a luxury. Having never been a darling of an industry that can try to break and bend you into an packaged product means I get to really speak my truth, and the only barriers to that are dictated by my own personal growth and development.
I found it connective to see you admit to having had some of the same feelings and experiences I’ve been fielding, in spite of your beautiful, rewarding(!) career, and just wanted to share some words in solidarity and support. I also wanted to share with you my new record, in particular, a song called “Beauty Beyond Reason,” which I wrote when I first moved back home after shortly after hearing you for the first time. It’s a song I wrote for someone else, but lately I’ve been singing it for myself.
Keep your head up and keep embracing the light inside you that has been so meaningful to others in ways you may never have imagined. You’ve inspired me to actually cast my Grammy vote this year, something I don’t always do for reasons you’ve already spoken!
Good luck and no matter what, keep your beautiful broken heart alive and pumping your truth and love!
In response to India.Arie’s Instagram post on 12/14/2019.