This is an interview I did some while ago with Samantha Hollins, AKA Ghetto Songbird.~ Possibly the most awesome female rocker around today! Ghetto Songbird speaks about her experiences and how they have motivated her to more forward with a vengance! Includes original and extended interview.
Hello- This is Ghetto Songbird, singer, songwriter, Rock n Roll guitarist.
I started at the age of twelve writing poetry and soon evolved into writing songs. I wanted my songs to be heard so I decided that I needed to start doing talent shows and go out and sing. I would use beats like hip hop beats and add my own words because I didn’t have my own music at the time. Eventually I started playing the guitar around 2001, just for fun. I didn’t have any thoughts of going out and playing the guitar in public, but my brother set me up with my first gig when I was just one month into playing the guitar with a local poet from Philly, Terrell Allen. Next thing I know, I got my first gig and it spiralled from there. I was still reluctant to play my guitar in public so I added a guitarist to play shows with me around the Philadelphia area as well as the New York area and eventually I came into my own. I started playing my own songs on my guitar and singing all over the United States at famous clubs such as the CBGB’s, The Bitter End, Whiskey A Go Go. I’ve played at the Apollo Theatre, I’ve played on BT 106 and Park- a cable music show that played videos, and am the first and probably only rocker on that show. Now I’m just trying to spread my wings and take flight to different countries and playing down here in London.
As a black woman from the ghetto, what drew you to rock music? My mother’s record collection drew me to rock music. In my household there were no genres just good music. She had me listening to Prince, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Santana, Mandrill, P-Funk, The Bar-Kay's & If Black Sabbath came on the radio she did not turn. My mom dressed like a hippy punk rocker. From her fashion to her album collection I soaked it all up drenching myself in diversity. My mom hung with a lot of legendary bands living up the street from the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia.
I mean her story of seeing Jimi Hendrix live replayed in my head and I remembered when she was getting all glammed up to go to see Prince live for the Purple Rain tour. She definitely implanted rock-n-roll in my soul.
Who do you admire who’s made it through in the music world? Jimmy Hendrix of course, Prince, Nina Simone, B Funk...
Can you describe in greater detail why you admire Hendrix, Prince, Simone & P-Funk: I admire and respect the doors that these artist opened for me. With the things I go through today sometimes I have to tell myself shut up it's not that bad compared to what they went through. My hope is to make them proud by not emulating them, but by being true to the artist I am. Their innovative styles link, uplifting song stories and truth to who they are is what drew me to their work. My admiration is full of gratitude.
How do you view Tina Turner? Tina Turner is mentioned in one of my songs entitled "Electricladybyrd" because her strength and boldness to be as tough as the guys yet a sultry woman on and off stage is like a jewel of motivation I carry with me.
What type of material do you write? I find myself writing more sorts of social conscious music because I grew up in North Philly which was pretty much the ghetto of Philadelphia and I would look out my window and see so much drama going on. I kinda absorbed it through writing my songs and playing my guitar as a Rock N Roll singer/songwriter guitarist.
What has been the most challenging thing in your career so far? The hardest thing is a simple thing, being a woman doing rock music and being a black woman doing rock music. The genre is not truly open to us and it’s a struggle trying to get ahead and not being sabotaged, not being turned down and told that I can’t do it.
What personal qualities have you had to work on to undertake this challenging career? The personal qualities I have to work on daily is patience, endurance and tough skin. With all the rejection I get on a regular basis, even with a solid 15 years of experience with a professional résumé, sometimes I just need a break. It becomes too much with the constant sexism and racism that means people do not want to book me for what I know I'm qualified for. Honestly I use to doubt myself with all the no's I would get while other bands were moving forward and getting booked. My band would get rave reviews, standing ovations and still not get bigger gigs. After a while I saw what it was and didn't want to do music anymore. I was getting hate emails for being a woman/black woman playing an electric guitar upon the genre of rock music. I would even get my sound tampered with to make me sound horrible.
How comes you changed your mind and kept going? Just when I decided to let music go it called me back, it always calls me back. I had to re-evaluate why I love writing, singing, playing instruments and entertaining. I had to learn how to take this gift as it comes. I had to be inventive by carving my own space. Traveling has helped me find my audience. From 2005-2008 I produced a music & arts festival called ‘Wingdom Fest,’ for artists that were underdogs like myself. Now I have many creative outlets, but there is nothing like Rockin' with my Roxsploitation band (Ronin Ali on drums & Chris Nelson on double keys). My band has been a profound source of strength. They have been through so much with me and still bless me with their wings of support. I have a few mentors including Cazzé, a phenomenal Philly poet who was the first to take my under his wings and show me tough love while helping me grow as an artist. Docta Shock came into my life early on in my career giving me so much wisdom about being in the music business. He's also a wonderful photographer who taught me how to present myself during photo shoots. Rosa Lee Brooks summoned me at a time when I needed someone to push my musicianship. Jamming with her brother who I call Uncle James and so many established musicians who played with legends was like college and boot camp all in one. The fact that she wrote and recorded with Jimi Hendrix blew my mind, but she was the star before him and she has the knack that help cultivate me into an entertainer. She also helped me record my first EP "Alley Of The Earth" 2002 in Los Angeles, CA. These three mentors kept it real with me and help the layers of my skin become immune to the B.S!
How have you acquired such a positive approach to life? I was never the popular girl in school. I was the quiet and shy girl that most people couldn't understand. I didn't have many friends growing up so I got used to being alone and going within myself. That's how I learned to play piano and guitar by ear. I love tapping into that peaceful sanctuary inside myself. It allows me to be creative without the loud disruptions of competition. When in that place it's about pure self-healing through the arts.
Can you speak a little more about your motivation? When I got into my local music industry in Philadelphia once again I faced being on the outside looking in. At the time I was the only black girl with an electric guitar Rockin' out. I was too soulful for the rock scene and too rocked out for the soul scene. No matter how many open mics I played having the audience on their feet, I had to come to the realization that I was not going to be booked for the progressive gigs. It hurt at first, but it sent me back inside myself like that little girl from North Philly who didn't quite fit in. I was lucky to have met amazingly talented women who would invite me to perform at their events. I learned how to be grateful for any opportunity I was able to acquire and looking at the positive side of each situation. I don't care if I have to play in intimate cafes for the rest of my career, no one is going to stop me from doing what I love. I look forward to mentoring young girls to hold tight to their dreams no matter what.
You seem to have a love of children. Please speak more about this. Working with children along this journey has taught me how to just enjoy what I do and not take it so serious. Children are so free spirited and I got that energy back. Even if I only connect with one person sharing my message of peace, love, perseverance and light, that keeps me humble and grounded.
How do you manage to balance family and career? Being the mother of three children under the age of six has also given me the balance I need as a, ‘career driven stay at home mom.’ Before family I woke up thinking about me, my music, and shows like there was nothing else. Now when I'm not out gigging I'm able to channel that creative force into their talents to help cultivate someone else's dreams besides mine. I love mentoring children for that reason. It would drive me insane to wake up every day focused on just myself. I love exchanging artsy vibes with others. That is also the beauty of being married to my drummer/percussionist- he's a solo artist as well. Sometimes I need a break from myself, so I get lost in his music as his support system.
So music is one of the cornerstones of your family? We are all writers, musicians, singers, artist and entertainers from my youngest to us the parents. Home life keeps me inspired even when I'm not doing music business. I could never get jaded with that type of aura flowing around me, even on days when I don't have much time for myself. It's a huge sacrifice that is the ying and yang I need to feed my journey. It quiets my soul like meditation. I have to keep my Wingdom sacred so I can recharge like healing stones each time I fly back to my music business.
Finally, what’s your ultimate ambition? It used to be to be a signed artist, but now it’s just to get in my mode wherever and whenever, just delivering the message that was sent to me.
Performance an Album Review
Performance an Album Review
Jaz McKenzie~ The Word Magician! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org