Perceptions are not always based in reality, and nobody knows this better than I. With the release of my sophomore album, SoL-AngeL & The Hadley Street Dreams (Music World Entertainment/Geffen Records), I am ready to have every listener step into my very personal field of dreams, minus the preconceived notions.
When you look up the word biography, the Webster dictionary defines this as a written history of someone's life. Well, I figured no one would be able to tell this story better than I could, which is why this won't be a traditional artist bio.
My life as a performer started very early on. Classically trained in ballet, jazz, tap and modern dance, I stepped in, unexpectedly, as a back up dancer when a Destiny's Child dancer suddenly had to leave the tour. This position gave me the opportunity to travel all across the World to places such as Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa and Mexico. It was then I developed a deep sense of culture, style, and artistic influences.
At the age of 16, I released my debut album, Solo Star, on Columbia Records. This album was a creative turning point for me; a melting pot of different genres and sounds including R&B, Reggae, Alternative, and even Country. My first single "Feeling You," featuring Noreaga, was a Reggaeton/Dancehall inspired song. This was always the vision I had for the record despite my label's own reservations. Although I had all of the big-wig producers on board (The Neptunes, Timbaland, Rockwielder, and the Underdogs), I struggled to find one sound of my own. However, I found a new love for writing which I was able to showcase on Kelly Rowland's debut solo album, Simply Deep, shortly after.
Tapping into an old passion, acting was next on the radar for me. I was ready to soak up any great opportunity I could get and when I was selected to play the daughter of Cedric the Entertainer and Vanessa Williams in Johnson Family Vacation I signed on.
It was shortly after wrapping production on Johnson Family Vacation that I, at the age of 17, signed on for the biggest and greatest accomplishment of my life - Marriage and motherhood. I spent the next few years of my life focusing on family life by moving to the countryside of Idaho. The life experience in itself there was more than enough inspiration I needed as a writer and it was then that I started exploring the idea for sharing my writing with other artists and projects. I had the opportunity to work with all three of the ladies of Destiny's Child, as solo artists and collectively together as a group. I even got a chance to write the lyrics for the holiday campaign for superstore Wal-Mart.
My latest work for the ladies includes co-writing Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied" and "Upgrade You" off of her B'Day album, Kelly's "Love" off of her second album, Ms. Kelly and Michelle Williams' latest first single "We Break the Dawn" off of her forthcoming CD, Unexpected, before getting back to making my own music for my second project.
I made my last acting appearance to date on the cult film series, Bring It On: All Or Nothing, which had the biggest 1st week of sales in the history of straight-to-DVD releases - selling over 750,000 copies. Although it was quite the accomplishment, it was time for me to express myself creatively in the true sense of where I was in my life. I decided this would be the last time I would attach myself to something because of an opportunity instead of an artistic expression.
This was the birth of SoL-AngeL & the Hadley St. Dreams.
My father once brought me to this piece of land in downtown Houston.... He said he was building a compound there for his record label along with a studio for me to write and record my music. When I looked at this city block all I could see was this empty lot with an old plantation home in a homeless and drug infested area, but he had a vision and a dream that he held onto and made into reality. This location is now the headquarters for a project he started in the spare bedroom of my childhood home. The name of the street is Hadley St. and this is indeed where I started the making of my album. It was an eye opener and an evolution for me as an artist. I felt the bravery in making music that inspired me and started to pull out my old records of Shuggie Otis, Marvin Gaye, and Otis Redding - artists that had messages and melodies that spoke to me. I experimented with the Soul of that type of music by adding subtle electronic influences I picked up along the way from traveling and spending so much time in London and France. I decided lyrically that I would tell my story, with hopes to inspire and most importantly spare no punches in holding back.
If I had to describe the sound of my record, I would like to think that it is as if The Supremes, The Marvelettes, Dusty Springfield and Minnie Riperton were to make the music they did in the 60's and 70's now with a modern touch.
I reached out to producers I felt like could capture this sound right on, but it definitely didn't come without a lot of persistency. Because of my past associations and ties people tend to cast me away easily. It was so important to actually play the music for these producers and not go the traditional way. I reached out numerous times through managers and agents but it wasn't until the producers actually heard my new music that they wanted to be apart of it, and I understood that.
I ran into Cee-Lo in a club and begged him to come and listen to the album in the car after the club, and from there he was on board. We wrote and recorded "T.O.N.Y" and "Sandcastle Disco" that next week. Producer Jack Slash who produced three (3) songs on the album ("T.O.N.Y.," "Would've Been The One," and an "Ode to Marvin"), captured the sound I envisioned right on.
By the end of the project, all of the producers and artist I had ever dreamed of working with such as Q-Tip, Pharrell, Raphael Saadiq, Boards of Canada and Mark Ronson contributed to the album. When I got a call saying the legendary Lamont Dozier would take the time out to write with little old me I was ecstatic beyond words. He is probably the single most influential person that worked on this album!
When hearing this album, I hope the listener is taken back to a time when music was melodic, sweet, and soulful. When music was less provocative and came from a place of inspiration and storytelling. I hope to have followers with an intelligent ear and that are willing to take risk.
On "God Given Name" I start the record saying: Get me out of this box I feel so claustrophobic in here, leave your labels, leave with no vision, hear my voice and feel with your ears and that's exactly what I hope to achieve with the listeners of this album.
Hadley is a long long road to travel, and this is just the beginning for me.