Archive for August, 2015


What a nice bag……

The things you used to own, now they own you – Fight club

At a dinner a couple months ago, a friend of mine told me of clothing drive for a family that had lost their house in a fire. I shook my head at the thought of losing my possessions and felt a deep empathy for the family. What they could be going through at the time, having to piece their entire lives back together. When I got home later that night, I walked around my studio with a box putting things in there that I felt I could part with. I then opened the closet and saw an almost endless row of shirts, all different colors and jeans and pants of all different designs. I started to grab a shirt and remove it from it’s hanger, but I’d then hang it back up. I’d justify reasons for keeping a shirt or jeans saying, “I’m going to wear this soon..” or “This has sentimental value…” I’d sigh and glance at my small messenger and ask myself, “How did I get so attached to my things?”

All my life I have been consumed with two things: Stuff and space. How many things I can accumulate and how much space I can have to store the stuff. Maybe this comes from growing up poor. Not saying that we were on the churches door step with a sign that said, “Please help,” but my family definitely did not have the most up to date things all the time. I would see class mates with fancy clothes, the newest video games, the most popular sneakers and I would just want. I would stare at them and want what they have. I didn’t bother asking my mother if she could buy me the newest air Jordan’s or the jeans with with the cool pockets. She didn’t have it. My Mom was too busy worried about the basic things like keeping the lights on, buying food, and making sure we were taken care of. All the other things were superfluous and flash. Besides, I knew what she say anyway, “When you grow up and start making money, you can buy whatever you want.” And I did. That’s where the problem started.

Whenever you give a kid who grew up with not a lot, something, he or she is bound to go crazy. It doesn’t matter if you are an athlete making crazy millions of dollars or college graduate that has landed a good job, when you are finally making money, you can do whatever you want and get whatever you want. You finally have access to the things you were denied. Growing up, my friends and I would always says, “We ain’t never had shit.” And when I started making money, I was going to make up for lost time.

To be able to afford the things you finally want is a feeling that I cannot describe. All throughout life I felt as if I was on the outside looking, wanting to dress like the fancy people, wanting to be them, wanting to raise myself out of my situation. So I started shopping and buying whatever I wanted. Shirts, shoes, jeans, electronics, movies, music, and everything else. I was happy, look at the stuff I got! I came up! I remember being 16, 17 darn near lusting after the Super Gun, a video game system that plays actual arcade  boards. I wanted it, but it was sooo expensive. So when I finally bought it years later, I was so excited. I would never forget how I felt. It was like I achieved something.

What started as an enjoyment of my success started to become a problem. When I opened my closet I had at least 30 Oxford or twill collar shirts, T-Shirts spilling out of my drawers, and at least 15 pairs of pants and jeans. Come on now, who needs 15 pairs of pants? That didn’t count the new clothes still in the bags around my place. The crazy thing is, I wore about 25% of my clothes. I knew something had to change.

Recently, I started modeling for an independent bag and apparel company named Christensen Bags. As payment for one of the photo shoots, I was given a beautiful small leather messenger bag. When I first got the bag I thought, how am I going to fit all my stuff in here? The messenger bag I was carrying at the time held my laptop, an adapter, a notebook, a folder of papers, screwdriver and a note pad. How was I to manage?

The morning that I first used the new bag, I only carried my laptop and two notebooks, stuff that I needed for that day. At first I thought I would need all the other stuff. “Well what if I came a across a situation that I needed by notepad? My AC adapter? My screwdriver?” But I didn’t, and it felt good to only carry around stuff that I needed. I liked that the bag was minimalist; it only afforded me space to carry what I needed at that time.  I then started thinking about the bag as metaphor for change in my life.

My ex girlfriend would always tell me, “Remove things from your life that don’t serve you.” I thought about her telling me that as I carried around the bag and I knew I wanted to “de-clutter” my life (I used a different term, but we will keep PG). So I went to my closet, started going through all my clothes, picked out each piece and ask myself, “Would I wear this again?” If I would, I kept it on the rack. If I didn’t, it would go into the pile. Now I wish I could tell you it was easy and that I cleared out my closet, but I didn’t. LOL. But I started.

What I realized is that all this stuff that I accumulated didn’t make me happy or validate me. I didn’t need to have things to make me feel as if I made it. The kind of validation that I was looking for had to come from inside, and when I found it, I felt good, very good. I finally shredded the insecurities I had about growing up poor and have moved on. Now if I buy a piece of clothing, electronics, or shoes, it is to replace something. I have a rule now: One in, one out. And sometimes it’s one in, two out. I am not buying things just to buy them. Besides, I have a new collecting hobby: My savings account. I want to see how much money I can save.

The day of the clothing drive, I dropped off nearly a quarter of my clothes. Another family needed them more than I did. I watched the clothes get put in bins for the family to be shipped away, and I didn’t have any attachment. I just smiled.




Diggin’ in the crates…

I wanted to take a quick break from talking about my new book, “All We Really Need Is Love” and bring you an interview from my favorite singer of all time, Sade. I like how she is so down to earth and does not need to put on the superstar thing. Sade knows she is amazing, but she doesn’t wear it on her sleeve. When think of love songs and music that brings emotion, Sade def comes up, which was important in writing “All We Really Need Is Love.” Check out the interview.

Interview: Sade

Michael A. Gonzales reaches into his archives for an interview with the singer from 1992

In the fall of 1992, I received a call from the Epic Records press department in New York City. They asked me if I’d like to write a bio for superstar singer Sade. Like most of the young men I’d known in the ‘80s – from soul boys to b-boys – I’d fallen in love with Sade upon the release of her multiplatinum first albumDiamond Life in 1984.

“Of course,” I replied, her pretty face and haunting voice drifting through my mind. Along with her constant mates Stuart Matthewman (guitars and sax), Andrew Hale (keyboards) and Paul S. Denman (bass), this would be the group’s first album since 1988’s Stronger Than Pride. Indeed, the world was waiting. The following week, Perry escorted me to Sade’s midtown hotel suite overlooking 6th Avenue. As beautifully sweet as she was wickedly talented, Sade was the anti-diva Diva.


I’m a little nervous.

[laughs] You’re nervous? I’ve never been so nervous in my life. I guess we should start off talking about the new album, Love Deluxe.

Have you heard it?

Yes, I have. Can you talk a little about you and the band working on this album after not being in the studio for a few years?

Well, first of all it’s good that we stopped and didn’t try to make another one off the back of the previous album. You get some perspective on why you’re making a record. But we pretty much approached the album in the way that we always do.

Which is?

I collect ideas. I collect ideas in my head all the time. The things that most depress you are often the things that you write about.

Do you keep a notebook or diary?

Yeah, I have a little notebook, but I’m always losing it as well; mislaying it. Something will come over me and I’ll suddenly realize I hadn’t seen it lately.

How long have you had it?

About six years. I travel with it and sometimes I look around and can’t find it. I try to write so that it is indecipherable. It can be embarrassing when people go through your private thoughts. Some of the things I write down, they’ll never be on a record. Sometimes the songs don’t come from my lyrics. Maybe Stuart [Matthewman] or Andrew [Hale] will come from a bassline and then we build on that. It depends on each song, really, how it comes to be.

How long does that formulation of ideas take?

We were working on Love Deluxe for about four months, physically making it. Some of the songs on here are things I wanted to write about a long time ago. One in particular was “Like a Tattoo.” That song is about a man who has been in Vietnam, but it’s not really about Vietnam. It’s about war and killing somebody. I met a guy in a bar in New York years ago. It was an Irish bar on 14th Street. The song was my interpretation of what he told me. I tried to write it before, but it didn’t quite work out. I’ve been writing songs since I was a child.

We don’t always agree, but I always get my way.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your music?

Yeah…yeah. When you make a record it’s so concrete, you know? You can’t run around and change it once it’s on vinyl. I know I don’t get angry with anyone except myself, really. I hate that I’m so hard on myself, really. I wish I could take it out on other people. It would be easier to blame somebody else, but I’m not that kind of person. So, however long it takes; sometimes the songs come really quickly, they just fall into place. Others you have to manipulate to get what you want out of them so they can say what you want them to say.

You mentioned Stuart Matthewman and Andrew Hale before, but what is your relationship like with bassist Paul Denman?

He’s a really important member of the band. We like the same kinds of music, blues and soul. But, he’s also pretty punky and rocky at the same time.

Did you ever go through a punk phase?

No, no. I mean, I was there on the edge, but I wasn’t that into it. I love what punk did for the music industry, particularly since it gave everybody different ideas of what the music business could be. It liberated the industry and gave people a lot of opportunities. Everything changed around. As for me, I was always Mrs. Soul Woman.

Who were you listening to?

The greats – Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Sly Stone. I also liked the heavier stuff as well, like Gil Scott-Heron. [pause] But, we were talking about Paul. I always do that, start talking about something else. He doesn’t put in so much when we’re composing; it’s more Andrew and Stuart. We don’t always agree, but I always get my way. It’s great being the only female in there, so… [laughs]

If I were somebody else, I’m not sure I would like Sade.

I would think after all these years, you guys must have a pretty tight relationship.

Yeah. We know what to expect from each other and how to deal with each other as well. It’s good. Sometimes we can work together without any talking, and that’s the best. Sometimes the best songs come out when you discuss them less and just let them happen. It’s almost unreal; almost magical.

What’s your favorite song on Love Deluxe?

If I had to pick one it would be “Cherish the Day,” but I don’t know why. I just like it. I think it’s really quite deep, but at the same time it’s a love song. It’s funny, most of the songs I can’t tell you if I really like them or not; it’s really hard to be objective about it. But, “Cherish the Day,” I know if I heard it on the radio I would say, “God, this is good. Who is this?” The rest of them, I don’t know. Although I’m proud of them, it was the most that we could do at that time; at that moment in time, we did our best. If I were somebody else, I’m not sure I would like Sade.

But, your songs have meant so much to so many. I’m sure people tell you that. Many love affairs have begun to a Sade album.

Yeah. It’s quite a responsibility. I’m sure a lot of people hate me because of that, they’re like, “Yeah, that bitch, Sade, I hate her.” [laughs]

I think people do think of me as this depressed person crying in my ivory tower.

What do you think the biggest misconception about you would be? Do they think you’re some kind of sad poet walking around dressed in all black?

Yeah, I think so, but that’s only because they see one level. We’re a lot of things, but when you’re singing, when you’re presenting yourself, you don’t give everything away. You don’t partially choose, “I’m going to show this, but I’m not going to show that.” But it happens that way. So, the picture someone has of you is never completely true. I think people do think of me as this depressed person crying in my ivory tower.

What I like personally when I listen to other people’s music is when the music makes you feel something. Sad, happy, makes you want to dance, makes you feel elated. Sadness in songs is positive because it brings it out of you; it brings the sadness out. It’s not that the song makes you feel sad, the sadness is already there. The song just makes you recognize it.

Do you consider yourself a romantic?

I don’t think I’ve ever really known what romance is. I’m a mixture of being really idealistic and hopeful, and really pessimistic about our future. I’ve always been like that. Because of my age, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we are going to do, how we are going to get out of this mess. I guess on a big scale, I’m a bit of a pessimist when I look at the world economically, where we are at this stage and how unbalanced everything is. But, individually, as far as people are concerned, I’m an optimist, because I believe there’s a lot of good in people. When it comes to trusting people, I have quite good instincts. I’m a bit witchy; witchy woman. [laughs] I think now, I’m less open than I used to be sometimes, because I have to protect myself.

When did you first became interested in music and thought it was something that you could do professionally?

I wasn’t someone who had a lot of music around me when I was a child, really. I was quite deprived of music, because my mom wasn’t particularly into music. My father is totally into music and surrounds himself with music, but I didn’t grow up with him. When I got to be about 13, I started listening to pirate stations and that really did change my life, because I wasn’t that interested in the pop stations. There are more licensed stations now, but when I was growing up, there weren’t many options. When I was ten, I quite remember liking “Maggie May,” but that was it. I loved that song; I can’t remember liking anything else I heard on standard pop radio. I wasn’t really a Rod Stewart fan, but that one song…

Then, when I was 13 I discovered a pirate radio station that played all sorts of stuff: folk, rock, soul, everything. They played really good music, basically. So, that got me interested and I started collecting albums. At that time, not many girls bought records; they were just listening to the same records as their boyfriends. There was a station called Radio Caroline. The first time I listened to it I heard “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and I was like, “Wow!” In fact, that’s when I also heard “Why Can’t We Live Together” for the first time.

I was pretty much one of the lads, but I was an old soul even when I was a child.

Did you start listening to jazz at that time?

I got into that later. Or, slightly later, when I was 14 or 15 I started listening to Billie Holiday and Miles Davis; Kind of Blue andSketches of Spain. I didn’t like his more rocky stage; I wasn’t so keen on that.

Why? Because you’re a purist?

No, I wouldn’t say that, but I’m not a real jazz buff. There are just certain things that I really love and I can understand. What I could immediately grasp, I took in. I tended not to venture into the stuff that I didn’t understand.

Would you consider your own music jazz?

No, not really, but we are influenced by it. You just try to make a record that you like, that you would buy yourself. We don’t consciously say I want this song to sound like that one, but it creeps in there.

What were you like growing up?

I was pretty much one of the lads, but I was an old soul even when I was a child. I grew up on a council estate in a village. It was the epitome of the English village; our family was accepted really well. I had an older brother who was always very protective of me. My mum was a single parent, which was pretty unusual back then. Even more unusual was that she had two black kids and the village was pure white as the driven snow. But we were accepted and there were no problems, no questions or conflicts because we were different. We were no threat to anybody, but it might’ve been different if we had grown up in the city.

Were you aware then that your family was different?

I don’t think I was, you know. When we moved back from Nigeria, we didn’t have anywhere to go, so first we lived with my grandparents, and then my mom got this job as a nurse. From the first day we moved into the house, I was making friends; no one ever brought up my color. I think that children aren’t naturally racist at all. It’s more about society and culture and their parents. And the history as well. There was one kid who jumped out of the bushes once and insulted me, but I told my big brother, and the next day my brother jumped out at him.

I used to read a lot back then as well, at least up until the age of 15. Whatever book I was reading, that would become my entire life. I was so engrossed in the process of reading. Now I collect books, but I never have time to read them.


Talk a little about performing with the group.

We travel quite a bit. It’s gotten to the point now that I actually like performing. It’s heavy, just the whole experience. You have to deliver, even if you’re not ready for it.

What do you do to prep yourself?

Basically, I’m always late, so I never have time to consider the realities. Late for sound check, late to get ready… That’s my defense.

Do you remember the first time you played live?

That was with the group I started off in; I was the backing vocalist and one night we played at this little club, which was basically a pub with a DJ. People would get together there one night a week; it was outside of London and the stage was made from beer crates. Chipboard we called it. I had these stiletto heels on and when I walked up to the microphone, my shoe got stuck in one of the planks. I kept moving my foot, but it wouldn’t budge. For the first three numbers, my foot was stuck and I couldn’t move. It was good, though, because it was a distraction.

What was the name of the group?

I don’t remember really, but it was two guys from my village that I ran into when I went to see Misty in the Roots, a lovers rock band that was big in England. These guys had a band, but their singer had left. They asked if I wanted to be the singer, but I told them, “I’m not a singer. I’m just a girl who likes to party.” I told them I would try. Eventually somebody was supposed to replace me, but that never happened. I learned more during that time than at any other time in my life. They were sweet blokes, because if it wasn’t for their blind faith in me, I wouldn’t be singing.

Source: RedBull Academy