Sunday, June 8, 2014
It was just a little over a year ago that I was first introduced to Country Music Artist Amy Rose---and even then I knew that she was something special. She is one of those individuals that what you see is definitely what you get---and her fans are responding to her in a big way.
Now with 2014 in full swing she releases her new single "Country Crazy" on Amazon.com and iTunes, and as expected it is true Amy Rose through and through. I got a chance to talk with her just hours before the official release of the single, and when asked about what this musical ride has been like she told me this: "To describe it honestly it feels like such a dream. I want people to just pinch me so I can wake me up, because a lot of this seems so surreal." It is definitely real, and the awards she is winning for her talent as well as the music lovers she is entertaining is proof of that. "I am so happy that I can walk around everyday with an open mind and heart and do what I like to do, and that's sing."
The new single "Country Crazy" gives you a story of a woman who can exist in all areas of the world, but at her core is a country girl just waiting to break free. That is definitely Amy. "I think a lot of people can relate to the way that I am," she told me. "That is the way I portray myself in my music." When she got into the business that was one thing she knew would never change. "I just wanted to be me and be true to myself." And it is that truth that is resonating with fans and critics alike.
Get the single "Country Crazy" through your favorite online retailer. Stay in touch with all things Amy Rose at www.amyrosemusic.com.
The New York Times may have said it best when it called Kenny Lattimore the "Modern Soul Man", and though it's been a decade since his last solo project not much has changed.
The man who is known for sultry love songs that will stimulate your mind and give the guys something to recite to that special lady is back with new music and sharing all that he is with all of us. His single FIND A WAY delivers not only the melodic rhythms that you come to expect but a message of what it means to truly get to a woman and be who she wants her man to be.
The past couple of years he has literally been around the world and back again, meeting his fans, sharing his music and his talents on stage and showing us all what it means to live life on purpose. Getting this interview with Lattimore was not only an honor for me but something that I knew lovers of music would enjoy as well as individuals looking for an example of what is possible for them in relationships and in life. In this man we see an example of both.
In one of the most insightful conversations I've had Kenny Lattimore takes us into the depths of who he is and strives to be and what he hopes for all of us as well.
LATTIMORE ON HIS PURPOSE:
"I really feel that my musical purpose has been to speak to the hearts of women and the minds of men. It's been about my own personal journey, the way we approach communication and approach life. As I learn things and experience things I am able to put it in my music. I'm careful to give something for the ladies and not leave out my male listeners. I want the men to know that there is strength in wanting to know and understand women."
LATTIMORE ON BEING TRUE TO YOURSELF:
"One of the most difficult things was knowing my purpose when it wasn't popular. Knowing my musical purpose was more than what was sometimes expected I had to keep rolling and stay true to myself, not allowing anyone to deter me. As I have matured I have been able to embrace it more. There's no getting around this simple fact: God calls you to a purpose."
"Music is a platform of communication. I had strong ideals about love and what love should be, but I wasn't always sure how I wanted to translate that fully. I had to get comfortable. As you live you get better."
"As an artist there is a certain sense of vulnerability that we have to accept. Everything you want to do is not always going to translate. Your purpose can't be to fulfill myself. It has to be to give to others. That's what I have been working on over the years."
LATTIMORE ON HIS GREATEST PASSION:
"I would have to say that my greatest passion is mentoring and giving information. As a mentor you become very protective of people. That is one of the reasons I started the KL Foundation. It includes mentoring, education and the arts. Through the platform I have I am able to talk freely about the things I am passionate about."
"I appreciate you even when I have been trying to figure it out. The fans believed that whatever I did I would continue to come with a certain quality. For me it is about being able to build a legacy that is reputable and respected."
LATTIMORE ON STAYING TRUE TO THE PURPOSE:
"It's tough when the world is going in a particular direction and you may feel as though you are out there by yourself. The important thing is making decisions that let you know you are doing the right thing. It might not be easy. It takes the consistently to understand who you are and be strong in that. Embrace where you are suppose to go. There is a tremendous blessing in embracing your purpose."
LATTIMORE ON YOUR DREAM:
"Despise not the day of small beginnings. That is what I say to people who are trying to figure it out. God delights when we start. We sometimes think everything has to be lined up a certain way. Even when you don't understand your purpose you can discover it and walk in it."
Stay in touch with Kenny Lattimore on his website www.kennylattimore.com, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kennylattimore and on his Facebook fan page.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
In writing about her good friend Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey said this: “I never met a woman who was more completely herself… She fully in habits and owns every space of herself with no pretense and no false modesty. She has a certain way of being in this world.”
And I would have to say that the world agrees. There are few individuals who is more quoted, adored and inspiring as Ms. Angelou. Whether you are talking about her work as an author, poet, activist or director, she has lived a life of passion and purpose and shown us by example how we can do the same.
When I knew I wanted to feature Ms. Angelou in Conversations Magazine I reached out for an interview. It was a long-shot, but one I thought worthy of taking in order to spend some time with the living legend. Though my request was not granted I was able to do something just as rewarding: get a few words to share with with our readers as well as conversations with two women who know her best. Marcia Ann Gillespie and Rosa Johnson Butler were two of the co-authors of the book MAYA ANGELOU: A Glorious Celebration. I was able to speak with them not just about the book but the woman that they wrote about.
Marcia, thank you for taking out the time to talk with us. Before we get into your project involving the life of Maya Angelou, tell our readers about who you are.
I am an African American woman, who takes great joy and pride in my ancestry and in being part of this extraordinary tribe of survivors and achievers, dreamers and believers. I was born and raised in a village on Long Island New York amidst a Black community made up mainly of folk from the south, North Carolina in particular. The youngest of two daughters born into a family of strivers and activists, I was constantly being reminded to do well in school, encouraged to read and to ask questions, to use my mind.
What role did your parents have in the way you evolved as a person?
My folks were people of deep faith who always strove to live the song. Both were natural leaders: My mom headed the PTA and served on the town's board of education. My father headed the local civic association and his local Masonic lodge. Both were active in the NAACP and engaged in civil rights. And although my father had little formal education, he was determined that we were going to get the educational opportunities that he'd been denied. From them I learned the importance of standing up for the things you believe in. They were my role models and my heroes who always encouraged me to dream and to go for my dreams, to take pride in myself, and believe in myself, and to live in the world.
I had the great fortune of coming of age in the midst of the modern civil rights movement and to be a foot soldier in the struggle, taking part in protests, marches and rallies. I went to college (Lake Forest College) on scholarships in 1962, majored in American studies and planned to go to grad school after working for a couple of years to save money. When I graduated in 1966 I was hired as a researcher at Time Inc in New York City and discovered that I loved working on books and magazines.
Many know you from your years with Essence Magazine. Tell us about how that developed.
In 1970 I was working on a Black history book and fired up about the need for more books and magazines that told our story when Essence magazine was launched.
I never imagined that one year later I would be the editor in chief. It was likely a fairy tale come true. For the rest of the decade I served as the editor and turned what had been a floundering publication into the fastest growing magazine in America. But far more important every day I was working to celebrate, inspire and inform Black women, helping to sing our song. When I decided to leave Essence after the magazine's 10th anniversary I did so knowing that it was and would be an enduring success and now it was time for me to test my wings.
I moved to Jamaica in the West Indies and lived and worked there for several years. When I returned to the States I became more involved with the Women's Movement and became a contributing editor at Ms. magazine writing a regular column, then the magazine's executive editor and later the editor in chief. In 2002 I stepped down as Ms magazine's editor in chief, after ten years in that capacity. Now I've started a new phase as a full time writer.
Your friendship with Dr. Angelou has spanned many years. Why did you think it was the time now to put together a tribute of her life now?
I've known Dr. Maya Angelou and called her friend for more than 35 years, since she reached out to me when I was a fledgling editor in chief at Essence. But I never expected or planned to write a book about her. Dr. Richard Long, one of my collaborators on this project, was the one who came up with the idea of doing a scrapbook with Rosa Johnson Butler (Dr A's niece and archivist) using some of the photos from her archives. I was asked to join the party after their original idea didn't quite pan out.
Although I've known Dr Angelou for a very long time and spent many many wonderful days in her company and home I had no idea that she was such a great pack rat who kept hundreds of photos, and all drafts of her many works, as well as so many other things from her journey. I spent several days in North Carolina exploring and marveling at this treasure trove and in the midst of it I realized that instead of a scrapbook we needed to do a full biography celebrating the extraordinary woman and her remarkable life. I immediately began reading and rereading everything she had written, the interviews she's given over the years, and many of the articles and profiles that have been written about her. I also drew on the many, many conversations that we have shared in the past and continued to share as I worked on the manuscript. And then for the next eight months I wrote and rewrote the book.
In the midst of writing the book and after I'd completed the manuscript Rosa Johnson Butler, Janet Hill, the editor of this book, and I also spent days over many months going over every photo, culling and editing. Once we made our final selects Rosa sorted through the rights and permission, tracking down and reaching out to the many photographers whose work we wanted to use. I then began to work on the captions, often spending hours with Dr. Angelou discussing each photo and invariably getting wonderful anecdotes from her, many of which I incorporated in the final draft of the book.
It took several years to get this book completed, more than originally anticipated: computer crashes, personal emergencies and other life complications, as well as the challenge of getting all the permissions from so many different people and organizations. At times I'm sure we all despaired ever getting through it all, but the one person who kept faith was our editor.
When all was said and done last year, I suggested that we time the publication to coincide with Dr. Angelou's 80th birthday and everyone agreed. In retrospect I think the all the delays we experienced along the way was really in divine order. This book was written to honor and celebrate Maya Angelou life and work. Publishing it to coincide with this milestone birthday was a perfect bouquet from us to her. Thanks to Rosa and Richard who asked Oprah to write the forward made even sweeter by her heartfelt contribution.
I was on pins and needles waiting for the book to come out because I so wanted Maya to be pleased and other than looking at the photos she had refused to read the manuscript, saying that she wanted to wait until it was in print. More than anything I wanted her to be pleased. To my relief and delight she told me it was "beautiful" and that she loved the writing, the photos, the design. We sat in her kitchen one day and she paid me the ultimate compliment of reading passages of the book that she particularly loved back to me. I was in tears.
One of things that I have learned from her life is the need to take advantage of the opportunities we are given. What are some of the lessons you have learned from her?
You ask what are some of the lessons I've learned from Maya Angelou? I hardly know where to begin there are so many. I hope I've learned to become more gracious, thankful and giving from her example. She is one of the most thoughtful people I know. I've learned to be a better friend from her because she constantly emphasizes the importance of caring for our friendships. I've learned to laugh at myself more and to be more of a risk taker because time and time again I've watched her step out on faith and heard her laugh about her own missteps and foibles. I've learned to be a better listener from her and that sometimes silence is the best response because when you are in her company you are always aware that she is constantly listening to things said and unspoken. She listens with her entire being and she remembers everything.
Although I don't share her gift of total recall, I most certainly do try to follow her example and have discovered so much about myself and others as a result. I've learned the value of sweet speech from her. I've listened closely as she's challenged and/or corrected someone with carefully chosen words that bring honey not hurt. And I am always reminded of the importance of doing ones personal and professional homework by watching how disciplined she is in her pursuit of information, in how hard she works at her writing, in her quest for greater self understanding and spiritual growth.
Can you share with our readers how she felt when you all presented the project?
I hope that readers, especially younger readers of this book will come away more committed to pursuing their own dreams. Maya Angelou's life reminds us that the road may not always be straight, that there will be challenges, that we may stumble and occasionally lose our way, but one can pick oneself up and forge on. You have to be prepared to work at living, not simply being alive. If you find something you love, discover your talent(s) don't waste it, work at perfecting it. Respect yourself and others. Have faith in yourself and always keep faith with the higher power, the Creator of it all.
The book was released just days before her 80th birthday, her birthday being the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. What significance does the day have for you seeing that we celebrate her life and his death?
You're right, the original release of this book also coincided with the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination on April 4th which is also Maya Angelou's birthday--a bittersweet coincidence for her and for us all. These two great Americans, great human beings were friends and colleagues who shared a profound and abiding belief in the possibilities of humankind. In so many ways in her life and work, Dr Angelou has been expressing his philosophy as well as hers.
You have devoted many years of your life to sharing your love of words. What else is in the works for you in the future?
Words have so much power to inspire, transform, inform, to bring joy, love and laughter. Reading is one of my passions. I do love books. I love reading them and I'm determined to keep writing books of my own. Currently I'm working on a memoir about my life and Black life in the 1970s its called When Blacks Became Americans because this was the period when we began to really move into the mainstream of America and claim our places at the table. It was also the period when I was the editor in chief of Essence and in that capacity met and interacted with so many of the folk who were blazing new trails for us all. So its my personal story but it's also a social history which—fingers crossed—I hope will resonate for many readers.
When it comes to giving advice to others I would echo the advice Maya Angelou's mother gave to her—"just do your work".
What advice would you have for aspiring writers, actors or anyone who is looking to be a professional in the arts?
You may not ever become rich or famous, but you can be good at what you do. So take pride in your work, keep perfecting your work, but always strive to enrich your life, count your blessings, love and nurture you friends and family, build strong positive relationships and take time to notice, explore and savor the wonders of this world and of this life cause we only have this one shot at it.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Recording artist Foley of D'Life Entertainment is one of those individuals on a mission.
He is using each and every day on this earth to make his mark, and the hard work is definitely paying off. He's respected as an artist and a true promoter of his craft, and there's no sign of him slowing down any time soon.
I had the opportunity of interviewing him on his birthday this year about his journey, and during that conversation he shared some insight into what motivates him and why quitting is never an option.
FOLEY ON THE SUCCESS:
"Sometimes I kind of get caught up in the moment of what's going on, but it makes me feel as though there's a lot more to get done. When people are feeling the music you get a certain type of vibe. You just want to keep going. I am happy to reach the accomplishments I have but I keep pushing to do more."
FOLEY ON THE INTERNET:
"Getting that feedback is so important. The internet opens the doorway to a world that the music can take me into. I have had artists call me from Africa and done interviews in England. as well as gotten music on soundtracks, all thanks to being online. The internet changed the game and is only getting stronger daily."
FOLEY ON HIS BRAND:
"When people hear my name I want them to think fun. I think when I first got in the (music) game I was doing singing so I was talking from the heart. Experiences changed me. We are going through some troubling times right now, but you want to remind people that life is worth living. I've been there. I've been through those troubling times when I didn't want to be here. Through music I have changed it over to being more fun. Not only do I want people to dance, but I want them to want to live. I want to be that reminder to them that tomorrow can be a better day."
Foley told me during our conversation that it's his family that helps him to keep himself and his career in perspective. Keeping the examples of individuals that allowed their egos to lead them as a warning he told me that everyday he strives to treat people the way he wants to be treated. Because of this he is not only like by fans but respected by other artists as well. "That's definitely motivational," he says. "I feel honored by that."
Through the dark chapter of his life Foley was able to find a reason to move on. His hope for all of you is that you realize your own worth and know that regardless of what you are going through life is worth living.
For all things dealing with Foley and his company D'Life Entertainment visit http://www.dlifeentertainment.com and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/foleydlife.