I’ll never forget that night. I was in my apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. It was Oct 2006. I was a struggling artist. I paid my band by cooking them food paid for with food stamps. I had been in NYC for almost a year, hustling everyday trying to make my name known and searching for ANY opportunity to go on tour. I’d had a long day in the city for a big audition and had just gotten home, exhausted. Laying on my bed trying to shake the day off, I was listening to my voicemail when I heard her voice.
“Hi Honey, this is N’dea Davenport from the Brand New Heavies. You did a great job today. We love your voice and we would like to invite you to come on tour with The Brand New Heavies.”
I froze. I sat up straight. My eyes were huge but had gone blurry. I had to hit rewind.
“Hi Honey. This is Ndea Davenport…”
N’dea MUHFUGGN Davenport. The same singer I used to listen to and stare at her album covers and sing along with in my bathroom while I got ready to go out called my phone! And said my name! AND invited me on tour??!!! As her one and only background singer?! ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME??
I about lost my mind. I ran out to the living room to tell my roomie and the guy I was dating and I played the message for them to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. We jumped up and down, we laughed, we cried, we opened the wine…This meant I was finally going on tour! This was my dream coming true. This meant the hustle had been worthwhile.
That was where it all started
Less than a week later I was on a flight to Japan, and embarking on a journey that would show me the world many times over and change my life forever. I was so excited, but when it came to touring, I was GREEN. My “tour parents” a.k.a The Brand New Heavies had to teach me the ins and outs of road life which didn’t come easily to me. N’dea always made fun of me for leaving my stuff all over the bus. She called it “remnants.”
“Honey here’s another piece of your remnants!” I would hear it and cringe and run up to the front of the bus, apologizing and embarrassed as I collected whatever I had left behind, once again. I had no idea yet how to live out of a bag, what a “tour book” or “day sheet” was or why I was supposed to keep them. The tour manager was not pleased every redundant time I asked a question about scheduling or call times or anything he had already spent precious time putting in “the book” for us. I even remember him making a comment under his breath about “babysitting adults” when I asked for a second tour book. And every touring musician has at least one big slip-up story involving a forgotten passport or a drunken sleep-in that causes the whole band to wait for you angrily, but applaud you when you finally stumble out of the lobby wearing your biggest, darkest sun glasses and reeking of the night before. I am not excluded from that group. Ahh the lessons we learn! HAHA.
Road Life Lessons
I had no idea what an appropriate salary was for someone in my position, I learned. The necessity and beauty of hotel wake up calls and do not disturb signs, I learned. How to make per-diem stretch using hotel breakfast buffets and venue catering, I learned. The art of getting free checked bags or having a guy in the band with only one bag check one for you, I learned. Repacking a bag at the check-in counter? I learned! I learned how to party like a rock star without losing my voice. Eventually I could travel on auto pilot and get “show ready”, lashes and all, in under an hour. Damn right.
I also learned things that I am not sure I needed to learn.
For instance, road kill. Are you familiar with it? Well on the road, thats when you meet and conquer a “young tender” in a city you may or may not ever return to. Many touring folk are familiar with it. Yep. I know. Yikes. Don’t think about it 😜. I learned “please and thank you,” “bathroom” and “chicken” in several languages. I learned about cultures and countries I didn’t even know existed. October Fest and Christmas Villages in Germany. Mulled wine. Jacket Potatoes. Scotch eggs. Spaghetti Sandwiches. Croatia. I learned the best soul venues in all major cities. I learned how to read an audience and truly communicate with them. How to get them to be quiet and pay attention, and how to make them scream or get up and dance. It was the best eduction I could have ever gotten. It was the most beautiful roller-coaster ride.
So What Next?
Next, I am on a mission to return some of the great lessons I have been lucky to learn and help some up and comers get closer to their dreams. I have taken to vocal producing which means I help singers access their magic within, when in the studio. (YES we all have some 😉
I also have big dreams…
I keep imagining my thank you speech on the Grammy stage. I will thank my mum first ’cause she has believed in me and supported me, even when I stopped believing in myself.
I dream of a badass all-girl band, playing and singing to sold-out theatres and huge festival audiences full of fans who know the words to my songs and passionately sing along as loud as they can.
Honestly, just admitting that I dream of those things is a big step. I’m claiming it. So yes I’m committed to giving back and teaching and sharing, but I’m always an artist first and foremost. My newly released Irie Soul album, 11:11, is proof of that. It really feels like the start of a new era. It was a magical time writing and recording it between Copenhagen and New York and LA. Especially since we did the first 11 songs in only 11 days! And I’ll tell you a secret. We started in 2011. (shhhh-LOL😆) But it’s right on time. There is some magic attached to this record, Señor. I assure you. Please feel free to check it out here and support by purchasing if you’re so inclined.
Either way, all of this was to say, I’m so very happy to be on this journey with YOU by my side. YOU make it all mean more. I’ll be sharing stories and fun as we go and I hope you’ll participate as often as possible by hitting reply and staying in touch, and by showing up and singing along as loud as you can whenever I come to perform in your area.
Thanks for listening and making this journey worthwhile.
Your humble servant,