On Writing Music, The Industry's Challenges, and More!
"I've separated myself from all preconceived notions of how a woman should behave. It's about the art. Make great art...nothing else matters."
Women are killing it in the music industry, and song lovers couldn't be happier! In our column, #WomenCrushWednesday, each week, we'll feature an awesome lady whose tunes are blowing up our playlists and ask them about their musical journey.
With the release of her latest album, Coloured, this summer, Priscilla Renea solidified her position as a powerhouse vocalist and songwriter. She has written some of your favorite songs and you likely are not even aware of it. We spoke with Priscilla about how she comes up with all of these killer song ideas, what her experience has been in the industry, and everything she has coming up in a very bright future.
How did you become interested in music?
I have known I was going to do music since I was very little. My father played trumpet and both my mom and grandmother sang. I wrote my first song when I was eight years old. I flirted with alternate realities but ultimately everything in my life was music centric. School, church, friends, TV, free time… all spent consuming, playing, writing, or sharing music.
You have written some amazing songs for people. What is it like penning these tracks?
Every song I have ever written, no matter whether it turns into a rap song, an R&B song, a rock song, or a pop song -- everything I've ever written is a country song. I pull from personal experiences and pour it into every lyric. I just want to be honest and tell real stories.
Your songs are across genres. Is that any challenge for you when you are writing?
It's definitely not a challenge. My love for all genres stems from my childhood which was very nomadic because my father was in the Navy. We moved around so much that I got to experience much more of the culture, landscapes, and nuances of a myriad of places from city to country, coast to coast. I received a very well-rounded education and was involved in several extracurricular activities such as creative writing, basketball, theater, and volunteer work. All of this is present in my music because it is present in me, the creator.
What made you want to start focusing on releasing your own written and recorded songs?
I have never stopped being an artist. It's the reason I write the way that I do. Once people find out that you're good at something they tend to try and force you to do it. I had to fight hard to break in to the songwriter space. It took a long time and I served others and helped them build their dreams for 12 years. I decided it was time to be a little selfish. Especially when the artists I was writing for started telling me that I inspired them to be artists...I felt stupid for allowing others to dictate whether or not I could use my own gifts for myself. I just shut off my ears and did what I had been scared to do for years. I made 3 albums that never came out. I let them get picked apart and sold to other artists. I was afraid that if I contested that no one would work with me anymore. It wasn't until I realized that I had the power that I stopped caring, and now here we are.
Can you talk about the Spotify Secret Geniuses series that you are a part of?
Spotify Secret Genius gave me the opportunity to begin telling my story. For years, my fans from Myspace and YouTube would ask, "What ever happened to Priscilla Renea?" It used to make me so upset because I was VERY present, writing the hit songs they were singing every day, but somehow trapped behind a veil. Filming my episode, I was nervous because there are some people out there who don't want anyone to know how they abuse and mistreat the creatives that allow their businesses to flourish. If I tell people what was done to me, it would make it difficult for some to capture or lure their next victim. It was very therapeutic for me. I kept these stories for so long and I finally had the opportunity to release them and let them go. I'm very grateful for the opportunity. Plus, I've had a handful of aspiring creators tell me it changed their lives...mission accomplished.
What has been your experience as a woman in the music industry?
First off, being IN this industry is crazy period. So much snake and shark activity it will make your head spin. I have had some really disgusting things said and done to me physically by men AND women. It used to be challenging to be a 20 something, successful, young, BLACK woman and negotiating on my own behalf or having my voice actually be HEARD in meetings with nothing but middle-aged white men. Now, I don't care. I do what I want and if I can't get it from one person I will call a friend or keep asking until I get it. I've separated myself from all preconceived notions of how a woman should behave. It's about the art. Make great art...nothing else matters.
Tell us a little bit about your recent LP, Coloured. What was the production experience like?
Coloured is a gumbo of Pop Music, Dirt Road Country western and Urban Culture mixed together with a keen sense of world topics, the millennial perspective and idea stimulating concepts both musically and lyrically. I went to Nashville on a hunch that maybe a country vibe was more my speed than big Pop smashes or straight up R&B. My friend and co-writer Brett James allowed us to camp out in his studio barn for around 2 months. With the help of Clay Bradley (grandson to William Owen Bradley), we were able to easily navigate the Nashville songwriter scene and secure sessions with some of the most decorated and respected writers and musicians in the music industry. We had a blast, wrote over 40 songs. (Nashville style, work tapes). With no idea what the end result would be, and with the question lingering behind everyone's smiles: "So…. you're a black woman attempting to make a country record?", we just trusted the songs. We knew that at the very least, the songs were there.
Have you got any favorite tracks from the release?
"Denim" is definitely my favorite song. I wrote it with Jesse "Corparal" Wilson, Curtis "Sauce" Wilson and my husband Ray. "You got arms like denim / I feel so good in em / Love the way you feel up against my skin / When the morning comes put em on again." There's nothing more timeless than true love and a perfect pair of jeans. I always get lost during the last few bars of the song. I uploaded an acoustic version on Instagram and the reaction was so strong I might record a full version for my YouTube.
What is coming up next for you?
I'm going on tour! I have three dates in September with Eryn Allen Kane then in January I'll be direct support for The Wood Brothers. These are two amazing acts with very different fan bases, so I'm really excited to visit new cities and expand my audience. I want my music to touch as many people as possible – white, black, purple, green…my demographic is human. You can find all my tour dates at http://priscilla-renea.com
Rachel A.G. Gilman is a writer, a former radio producer, and probably the girl wearing the Kinks shirt. She is the creator of The Rational Creature and suggests you check it out. Also visit her website for more.
Have an artist we should profile? Send a pitch email to Rachel.
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