If all you beautiful readers out there haven't yet noticed, I have some of the most amazing friends in the world. Comedians, actors, drag artists, poets, writers of all genres, organizers, lovers (a couple of haters...but I love them too), and musicians. The interview that I am publishing today is with another Minnesota ex-pat living in New York City (we have our own social group in NYC called Minne-Apple in the Big Apple...kookers!). Jamila Andersono aka Calliope Muse is a fierce actor, musician, and friend. Check out her new single, Kryptonite on iTunes! And thank you Jamila for this awesome interview. WERQ!!!!!
1. I met your gorgeous self probably seven or eight years ago in Minneapolis. At the time, you had the Minneapolis Theater scene by the throat. Now adays, you seem to be focusing more on music than theater. Why the change?
YOU'RE GORGEOUS! Thanks for the props! I have to say I was pretty happy with my acting career and didn't really plan to change. I've always been a “singer” but I certainly had no aspirations to be in the music biz at the time. Then an opportunity was presented to me that seemed like a real shot so I switched gears. I ain't no dummy – even though I thought I had my plans the Universe gave me the chance to do something on another level so I knew I had to go for it. I happened to catch the eye of a producer while waiting for a Minneapolis city bus one day and eventually he and I had crossed paths again and he revealed that he was a producer with his own label and studio and had earned a Grammy as a musician, etc... I don't want to go to far into this because it turned out to be kind of sour for me in the end. But I managed to have a short career as a Rock singer with my own band and did some minor touring, local gigs, oddly to NASCAR races and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Eventually my single charted Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 21 consecutive weeks and peaked at #15. So despite the fact that the whole thing crashed and burned, I still have that. I fearfully went back to acting and was really touched by how well received I was upon my return. Rohan Preston even wrote a cool article about it in the Star Tribune. After the drama with the music, I was happy to try and forget about it and really wanted to move on and get back to my acting roots. But ha ha, once again, when we think we know the grand plan for our lives... Much to my surprise, music fell in my lap again about 2 years later when I got a wild hair up my ass and moved to New York. I hope I don't sound arrogant saying that it just fell into my lap – it's just that it was truly not on my radar in either situation. I came to New York with little planned just looking to live in a place I always wanted to be and possibly up my acting game but I met an amazing person who, after swapping stories days after we met, turned out to be a Grammy-nominated producer and former Hip Hop star. NICE. Yes, I sang rock music but that was the more unfamiliar lane... I grew up on Soul, R&B and Hip Hop so I was excited at the shot of sing over his tracks. Eventually, he let me hear some of his stuff and I was more than SOLD. I wanted in!! But I knew it wasn't going to be just that easy. So I made a bootleg demo on my laptop with one of his beats and emailed it to him. After waiting for an excruciating week and creating various ways to ask if he'd listened to it yet, he finally responded “I couldn't stop playing it. I played it over and over.” We knew we had made some dope shit together. I demoed another and another... but the first demo lit the fire. That was how my current single came about. He also named me 'Muse' because he felt inspired by what I was creating with his beats and wanted to create even more, which he would, when I was around. And I feel equally as inspired by him so it is a match made in heaven. Now, don't get me wrong, just because I didn't actively seek this career, I still love it. I'm hungry for it and equally as dedicated to it as I am my acting. I think it was something I ran from for a long time, being the daughter of a singer/musician. Sometimes the Universe has to show you who you are supposed to be; sometimes we get in our own way thinking we know what we are supposed to do but as an artist you must be open to using your gifts wherever and wherever they are called upon. That being said, I used my gift to write a song about my hoo-ha. Let's discuss a bit later.
2. You just dropped a new single, Kryptonite, under the name of Calliope Muse featuring Chedda Bang. Tell me about how you decide to use the stage name Calliope Muse.
About the name, I touched on it a little bit in that previous question/answer... I was named Muse because of the effect I have on my producer, artistically. I like to be creative, share ideas and collaborate and think outside of the box so I think that can get people's creative juices flowing too. I had heard something like that before and just laughed it off and took it as harmless flirtation but this time I saw I really did have a positive effect on other musicians/artists whenever I was in the studio (not to toot my own horn, this is what I was TOLD – and I'm not sure that is the case with acting, ha ha). But we all know there is a huge band named Muse so I had to find a twist to the name so I could keep the name that meant something to me and not get sued. I did some reading about the Greek Muses and learned about Calliope, who is the wisest and eldest of the Muses and carried a writing tablet and whatnot. I knew that was me. So hence, Calliope Muse. I also changed my name when I had the Rock band to “J”- no one called me by my name. The reason I change my name is because I feel that when I'm on stage as a singer I am another person in a way. Calliope Muse has a character of her own and taking on that personality is important to me and allows me to see the full vision for my music. Calliope is a side of me, not a made up character... In other words, Calliope says and does things the regular me wouldn't get away with.... Calliope is my more confident, street smart side. She has stories of her own to tell.
3. The song Kryptonite is the SHIT (and available via iTunes for $.99). In the song, you own the power of your sexuality (and let me tell you I know more than one woman back home that has been hoping and praying that you will take a dip into the coochie pool)....talk to me about working as a female hip-hop artist, that is a fierce feminist, in a musical genre where the commercial side of the genre (versus some of the independent and amazing political hip hop artists) that is not known for its feminist politics or its valuation of women.
First, THANK YOU. I have to side with the gay men on the topic of coochie, so my apologies ladies, it's not going to happen but I am very flattered nonetheless (and am rather curious about who is on this list!) I should probably leave some mystique for PR purposes but I'm not really about bullshitting. Much love and respect though, always. Moving on. Yes, Kryptonite is my retort to all of those ego-maniacal men who feel that their penis is so amazing it should be wearing a cape - I playfully call him “Captain Save-a-Hoe”. You know, the guy who thinks he's gonna whip you into submission with his awesome cock? Yeah. This is to that guy. “You think you're Superman? Not tonight. You heard 'em right, they call me Kryptonite.” The truth is, after some noteworthy feedback, it turns out I have some “skills” of my own and I got sick of hearing all that talk when I was the one coming out on top – pun intended. I know that isn't exactly “meaningful” in the literal sense but I believe that a lot of women are taught to be submissive, to “take it” in many areas of life. Sex is very related to power. For obviously sexual reasons, but also for self-esteem, self-empowerment reasons I believe it is important for a woman to feel sensually and sexually powerful. She may CHOOSE to play the submissive roll but she owns her body and her choices and her libido. Does that make me a feminist? I don't know. I am the kind of woman who enjoys chivalry but I ain't no punk, no what I mean? I love a gentleman but I am very capable. You'll learn a lot about how I feel as a woman when my full album is released. I go in on some subjects that will have you testifyin'... Which maybe is a good segue into the next part of your question. I don't know if I can define myself as a Hip-Hop artist by way of my part because I don't consider myself a rapper by any means. That shit is hard. But I do kind of blur the line a little (when you hear Kryptonite you'll get it) and I have authentic Hip-Hop tracks so my music will be played on Hip-Hop stations. But I really do care that people know I don't call myself a rapper. The whole point of who Calliope Muse is is to speak for a woman that I feel isn't really being represented in main stream Hip-Hop. I do not see myself in any of these women whose records get played 1000 times a day on every station. I buy my purse from the same place I buy my floor cleaner and I really do not care for wearing high heels, even though I can and will rock those bitches. But like, where is the regular but still super fly chick? She's down-to-earth but not “neo-soul”. She's strong and sexy but not raunchy. She is feminine but looks amazing in jeans, a t-shirt and some Chucks. Everyone is so over-the-top and caricatured right now - who can keep up with that? How is that real and how does anyone really relate? So my music and style is about that chick who is your trusted friend, the cool big sister – she is real, the girl in your hood but she still shines like a star and holds her own in the world whether she's got a dollar in her pocket or not.
4. You are beloved by queer men and you have spoken proudly, to me, of the acceptance you have seen from your producers towards queer folks...talk to me a bit about your work with the queer community...and a bit about why you are writing a song, as you told me, for your gays.
I work with men who are grown-ups, nawmean? They have gay associates/friends/family members. They are mature ethical men and respect that people are who they are and don't really give a shit who you're sleeping with. I won't say we have a rainbow flag hanging in the studio, per se, but if you are respectful of them, they are respectful of you, no matter who you are or what your background is. We do the music because we love it and if you come to us with a positive attitude and on good terms then that's all that matters - it's all about the music and nothing else. I, however, do love me some gays! I worked a lot with a theatre in Minneapolis (Pillsbury House Theatre) that addressed GLBT concerns and lifestyles in an awesome way and I began to not only become educated but formed some real friendships that allowed me to have some meaningful insight about the queer community. My love comes from recognizing the strength and courage it takes to be Out in this shitty world that does nothing but judge and persecute you if you are an “other”. I am an other - a Black woman, more specifically bi-racial so I can relate to that “we're not sure what you are but you're not like us” dynamic. I have Lupus so I have that stigma to work around as well. And you know, my mama just raised me right. Equal rights. So at any given time you may find me going off on someone in defense of the gay community. Sense of humor aside, I will check someone using hate speech in a hot minute. I take up for my friends. And let's face it, some of the most colorful, audacious humans in the world are the gays so how can you not love them! Hence my song. It's too sassy for hetero pants, if you know what I mean, so I must write it for my sassy gays – specifically the sassy gays since all gays are not the same, lesson number one. I don't wanna spill the beans but one of the lines is “Bitch, you're fierce. She ain't as cute as you.” It's going to be too fun.
5. First theater, now music, what's next in the life of Jamila Anderson aka Calliope Muse?
I am really just getting started with my career as Calliope Muse. The single is out on iTunes but we are getting a lot together as we speak so we can officially drop it. We will be shooting my music video in the next month or so, I am really excited about that. And I am collaborating in the studio with some major Hip Hop talents, like ChipFu of the Fu Schnikens who has been a blast to work with. (Some other names I can't leak yet but we will let you know if you stay plugged in to me...) So I have my work cut out for me for sure. We are releasing “Kryptonite” first on the FantoMusic Audiodrome album, which is a showcase of my producer Fantom's producing skills and the artists in our crew. This album is bananas, you'll love every track. Then we will later release my full album – total crack rock. But that is just the beginning... I am still an actor so that is always in my bag of tricks. You just never know where I'll pop up!
6. Thank you for spending some time with me! Where can folks find more information about you and your work/performances/releases?
I am on the usual social networking sites – facebook.com/calliopemusemusic and Twitter @TheRealCMuse. For a free listen to Kryptonite you can go to reverbnation.com/calliopemuse or buy it for $.99 on iTunes. Just stay tuned in with me and FantoMusic Audiodrome and we will announce important dates as they come. We really need that underground support right now because we believe this music is about the people and for the people and not the red-taped and industry bullshit. So check it out, let me know what you think.
Brandon, most patient friend of mine. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND SPACE ON YOUR DOPE BLOG!!! Love.
Calliope Muse is a real woman’s storyteller – telling tales of her life’s passions in the form of love and sexuality, frustration and anger. She fills the gap between the polished, glam R&B crooner and the over-the-top, ultra-raunchy rapstress by way of her identifiable “every-woman” style of lyrics and honest, lusty, heart-felt vocals. With Grammy-nominated, Staten Island Hip-Hop legend, FANTOM producing and supplying the dopest authentic hip-hop tracks, her music goes beyond thinking; it is about feeling and is a much-needed remedy to the redundant over-played and over-used themes and sounds of Hip-Hop and R&B of the current market. Calliope Muse is a true artist and a triple threat: Singer, Writer and Actress. She is awarded, versatile and experienced in the business of music – all while being fresh, innovative and relevant. Her latest single, “Kryptonite” (featured on the “Takers” Official Motion Picture Mixtape) will be officially releasing in the Spring of 2011 on the FANTOMUSIC AUDIODROME Album, with a self-titled debut solo album releasing soon after.
Calliope Muse – “You want this. You need this.”