Brown Bettie in Juxtaposition
By Peppur Chambers
Vocalist. Joy Bringer.
I introduce you to my pal, Tina McDowelle.
Tina is one of those rare energies of light – think the ‘80s movie, “Cocoon” – where, if she were actually able to zip herself out of her skin, her brilliance would be akin to the shockalicious electric energy in a million-watt bug zapper. You feel me? She’s that enticing. When we are all out dancing and Tina begins to get cosmically buckwyld... I'm the one going, "Tina, No!!! Stop that!" when I think she's gone too far with her juicy gyrations. But there’s no stopping Tina’s light, thankfully. Her stimulating smile amplifies; her beautiful electric mane bobs to the beat; and her bangled cocoa arms jab into the air in punchy conjunction with her beckoning hips. When her hips make her beyond-floor-length taffeta skirt of 60s pyschedelia sweep the floor in magical rhythm, she then grabs me and with a mere touch I'm transported into her world and I too scream and laugh and gyrate with reckless abandon. That's living, that's Tina McDowelle, and that is "Juxtaposition"....the title of her debut album.
I'm extremely fortunate enough to be surrounded by several explosive, incredibly talented individuals, many of them women, where when you see them doing their art, you are like, "WTF?" And you send a champagne toast to the universe for putting you in the right place at the right time to have allowed you to witness their transformative expression. And baby, if like attracts like, then I'm aaaalllll goooood!
Since this clearly isn’t about me, Tina, I ask you:
Really, when did you know you'd better get your ass in the studio and let all of this music out?
Wow. First of all, thank you for your beautiful words. You’ve got me so emotional already. I had never sung before in my life before this album. I had always been told by family and everyone that I absolutely suck whenever I would try, and yet it was the deepest of my yearnings. But one year ago, I said I HAVE to make an album NOW. I always thought that it would be something I’d do when I got older but my spirit was literally yelling, “ NOW.” It took a lot of years, but I’ve learned to listen to that voice. I was horrified, and would fight with myself everyday, like “Who do you think you are that you can just make an album? Remember, you can’t sing.” As scary as it initially was, just the fact that I decided to go for it, felt sooo good. I felt alive for the first time in my life. We must always listen to that voice.
When I listen to the album, especially songs like “Meet Me/Spacesuits” where your voice literally makes me speechless and I have to thank God I have the use of my fingers and keyboard to communicate since no sounds except unstrung syllables are escaping from my mouth, I wonder, where did this all come from?
The beat touched me so deeply that I couldn’t wait to give birth to it through words. I wrote at least 5 different songs to it but I was never truly satisfied. Then I went in to my favorite part of the writing process where I just completely let go and I ask over and over again, “What do you want me to write?” One afternoon, while visiting my parents for Christmas, I was sitting on my old bed and it hit, “PUT ON YOUR SPACESUIT!” Everyone has their theory on what I’m talking about in the song, and please keep your interpretation, because that’s what art is all about. However, I wanted to convey that the world I live in, in my personal cosmic field, there are no judgments. Whatever path you choose, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, to be celibate or to be a whore, to be a doctor or to be a clown, Hillary or Barack, whatever! You’re all welcome where I live, we’re all one. Put on your spacesuit, your helmet (crown chakra) and let’s all shout and dance up here.
On “Let it Go”, where you kinda sound like Gwen Stefani while you ooze out, “So much is coming out of me, I’ve got to let it gooooo!”, I’m almost reminded of Devo musically. How did you get with your producer, Jeremy Hanlon of Kitchen Beats Productions (http://www.kitchenbeats.com/):
Life is so beautiful. A producer, who I was about to make the album with, but I am now currently suing because he stole money from me (long story) led me to this wonderful man. I met Jeremy (I call him J) at a concert where I was meeting up with the old producer (before he stole from me of course) Anyways, Jeremy’s band went up first and I just adored his unique beats. He was different and I adore different. Also, I could feel Jeremy’s extremely sensitive soul mixed with his authority and genius and I just knew he was someone I needed to work with. I went up to him immediately after and told him I’d like to work with him. He asked me if I’ve sung before or had anything recorded, and I was like, “…ahhh, not really, but I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” I guess he could feel my truth. Our chemistry was magical. His sensitivity and wisdom enabled him to see inside me and create music that fit my soul. Sometimes we would do two amazing songs a day. When it’s right, it just flows. Oh, the amount of laughter, freedom, love and joy that was in those recording sessions. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I’m so glad that other producer stole from me and made me go over to Jeremy. J’s amazing!
Have you heard of the group, Brazilian Girls? These are friends from NY, your style and sultriness reminds me of the lead singer, Sabina [pic left from an '06 show at NUBLU in NY] .
Yes, I have. They’re great. Their shows are so incredibly theatrical. They provide an experience. I can’t wait to do the same through my shows. I want people to leave exhausted from releasing so much emotion, yet inspired. And Sabina, wow. She’s so honest, so creative, so sexy, so different. Again, I just love different. Well, it’s not that I love different, I just love authenticity. If everyone was authentic we would see how different we all are. How beautiful would that be?!
Juxtaposition is the perfect title for your album; “Destiny” sounds European like something the band “Gus Gus” from Reykjavík, Iceland would do while “Let Us Pray” has a funk, jazz beat with melodic piano undertones like a Jill Scott cut …how did you know what you were doing was going to work?
Girl, I know nothing. I just let it come through and if it feels good I roll with it. If my hips start to move, it’s a hit!
You’re a Scorpio, grew up in West Virginia and Maryland, modeled, lived in New York, had a run with comedy, and use words like “Chakra” and “Channeling”. What (else) makes you tick?
I volunteer and teach teens at AGAPE (a spiritual center). We study everything from philosophy, art, the meaning of life/death, to politics, to Khalil Gibran. Besides dancing, it’s one of the few times I am totally immersed in the moment. They’ve given me purpose, the best gift there is. I also adore metaphysics, and am an avid astrologer.
I like the “Water My Flowers” chorus…did I hear you say something about “the crack of your ass” in the lyric?? Tina!
The ass needs love too.
What are you going to wear in your first show???
Ewwwww….something outrageous! Something that is art in itself. Something long, that I can twirl and flip over my head when I’m dancing on the ground.
Anything else you’d like to add about the birth of this project?
It took exactly nine months from start to finish, the irony. Oh, and a shout out to Natalie Taylor – Larios, Jaia Owens, and Gwen Staples. They were my make – up, styling and hair for the cd.
Also my photographers, www.GregoryStorm.com and Malik V. Booth.
They are fantastico!!!!!!!
Anything else you’d like to add about Tina’s world?
I just want to say thank you to my Mommy, Daddy and Bro, all my great girlfriends who have always supported me and made me laugh. And thank you Ivy for your love and patience. And Peppur, thank you for having this wonderful platform where artists can express themselves and be recognized. What a wonderful service you have provided.
http://www.tinamcdowellemusic.com/ or www.myspace.com/tinamcdowellemusic