I first heard of QueenEarth while out eating lunch. As I was taking off my scarf to be seated my waitress kindly clued me in to not only the soup of the day, but to a semi-local lady who was back for a bit and would be anointing with an acoustic set. I was happy to hear the news and took my time savoring the succulent singing of QueenEarth.
From the first sound that came though the speakers, I was calmly comforted and consoled. Hearing QueenEarth was like having a musical hug. What I listened to was like a lullaby – her sound is smooth and serene, she plays from a pleasingly peaceful place. Her delivery is delightful, and also diverse.
Self-described as “acoustic/soul/hip hop,” QueenEarth is multi-talented. She can play a tranquil track, but she also has a fierce flow. Aside from her varied voice, she also plays guitar and can also break out a beat box. Clearly she is capable, and she’s also kind enough to collaborate and share her talents to teach others.
QueenEarth put out a solo EP entitled “Introducing…QueenEarth,” and is working on an upcoming full-length debut. She’s also mulling over a mix-tape. Whatever she does, it’s eloquent and empathetic, listenable and likable. This Queen can certainly count on me being in her royal court! You can see her for yourself February 29th at the Bohemian Coffee House and March 17th at the Terra Cafe in Baltimore.
Sara Fincham: You were part of an improv group – has that been helpful to your live performances? Do you pre-plan your shows at all, set-lists, or do you still have a very improv approach?
QueenEarth: Improv was very helpful as a stepping stone for my performance art. I was super shy, in certain situations, all through high school. Improv got me on stage and shook off some of those nerves, opening doors for me to beatbox, rap, and eventually sing and play my guitar in front of an audience. For a long time, I never pre planned my shows. I was performing solo, so I just figured it out as the crowd responded or played whatever songs I felt like playing.
Now, I’m more likely to play songs together, like high energy 90s hip hop medleys, or love songs in the same keys back to back. However, when I play with a band, I try to be organized. My guys always feel better if they can predict different parts of a set list. In addition, when I know what I’m going to play, I can also rehearse better.
SF: Did you learn anything from working in radio, being a dj, that you still apply to your work today? Was that an enjoyable experience for you?
QE: I think radio helped me to get used to the sound of my voice! It is strange to hear yourself through head phones. As a recording artist, I’m learning that my level of comfort is always reflected in my vocal performance. It takes hours and hours and years to be comfortable singing, let alone singing under pressure when you are recording and/or people are listening.
I loved, LOVED having a radio show. I like to play music and I also require a little bit of alone time. Being in the booth was so much fun. I got to 100% plan my show, from topic to song selection. I had guests sometimes but I felt very independent and I was able to channel my creativity with a pretty awesome outlet! I’d love to do radio again.
SF: What do you think accounts for your diverse musical taste and ability? Can you pinpoint particular things, or is it just a mash-up of memories and musical moments?
QE: I had a diverse upbringing. My neighborhood was multi ethnic and my parents sent me to an awesome high school. I remember getting into Dave Matthews and Blues’ Traveler in middle school. One of my friends had an older sibling who brought home great music from his college and that’s how I got into alternative. I also got into Parliament. I don’t know how that happened but I was obsessed with George Clinton. I found out, later, that my mom rode in a limo with him.
High school was punk/ska, Sublime, No Doubt and when I came home, I’d listen to a ton of Wu-Tang, Mase, and No Limit! College was Craig David, UK Garage, The Roots and Jay-Z. Overall, I got to meet people from different walks of life, people who had different customs, eating habits, musical tastes etc. I think I am drawn to new people and new experiences.
My musical ability is hard to pinpoint. I’ve always enjoyed music. I like to make noise. At some point, I wanted to create all of the pieces of the songs that I was into. I wanted to sing them, beatbox them, rap them etc. As far as playing, I’m more into performing, than guitar work. For example, I’d rather sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” than play it, but who knows? I’ve been doing some fast paced rock strumming lately. I’m always open to new direction.
SF: When did you begin beat boxing? And how do you learn and improve at something like that – with guitar, for instance, you can take lessons or get books or DVDs to teach you – how did your beat boxing begin and how do you get better?
QE: I knew I was beatboxing when my cousin stopped me during LL Cool J “Around the Way Girl.” I think I was 6ish. Again, I like to make noise. To be honest though, I probably watched Biz Markie do it in a movie and copied it. I don’t remember when I started, I just remember realizing that I was doing it. No lessons or DVDs for beatboxing for me. At least I don’t know of any. I’ve given lessons for beatboxing, to groups of elementary and middle schoolers.
In Baltimore, I know a ton of beatboxing cats. Chuck the Maddox and Shodekeh make my beatboxing look like I picked it up at the Dollar Store. Getting better? Listening to music always helps me to improve. There are three basic sounds that I make (hat, snare, bass) and I can work on making those sounds in different patterns to make beats. I also add bass tones in my throat. It sounds complicated, but just like singing, breathing is very important. Here and here are old school video of me and LOVE the poet at an old open mic in Baltimore.
SF: When you moved to Maryland was it hard for you to get immersed in the music scene there, or did you be sure to seek it out and get involved? Is music a part of your life every day?
QE: I came to Maryland to get my Masters and because I had a feeling that the music/arts scene was dope. I don’t know where the idea came from. I had no reason to think that, but something brought me here. I feel like I was involved when I first got here, and then I got really busy with school and my job.
I got really depressed when I stopped inviting music into my life. To make the longest story short, I took a leap of faith and decided to pursue my music full time. Baltimore has blessed me with so many supporters, fans, friends etc. I was gifted a PA by 30+ friends and artists in the community. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do, literally. After every gig, when I’m wrapping up my cables, I’m always thankful and I will never forget it.
SF: You appreciate all kinds of creative communication. I really enjoy poetry slams. How powerful can the spoken word be, and do you do anything different when writing song lyrics as opposed to poetry? Who is your favorite poet?
QE: I am often mistaken for a poet. I have friends in the poetry scene and music and poetry intersect in many venues and in many recording studios. Poetry is huge in this town. HUGE!
The spoken word is very powerful, and at one time, that is what I did. I moved into songwriting because I love singing and musical composition. With songs, there is more structure and rhythm, but that does not take away from the powerful impact of a well written composition, no matter the form. I do not have a favorite poet. I have a bunch of favorite songwriters though – Robin Thicke, Craig David, and Jason Mraz, to name a few.
SF: How has music helped you, and you are already helping people with your music and lessons, etc, I know, but how do you hope your music helps people?
QE: Music has helped me tremendously. I cannot imagine going back to a life where music wasn’t part of my daily actions. It’s one thing to think about it and feel it constantly, but it only hurts more when I cannot DO it. Writer’s block, a sore throat, my occasional asthma, all of those things can prevent me from singing, creating, composing. I used to take my voice for granted because I never NEEDED it. There are many days where singing pays my bills. There are days when I don’t want to play my guitar and I can sing out my emotions, or vice versa.
Music has been a gift and a blessing. Ultimately, it has given me a channel for my creativity. I hope people use my music to feel good. I want people to listen to me on road trips, when they feel sad, when they’re cooking. I hope my words and melodies touch people. I may never have any children, but the greatest gift I can leave is my music. It never has to die. I want people to see how happy it has made me, how making it a part of my life has been the biggest factor in my happiness.
SF: I know you teach, but what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
QE: I think that music is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. That doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard. It doesn’t mean that I don’t push myself. I’ve learned that I like to have fun and explore my creativity. There is never any pressure to do that. Naturally, I will learn more and get better with practice. I don’t try to get intimidated by thinking about what I want to do. I make sure I am working, or playing, in that direction, one day at a time.