#musicjourney

Tricks & Music Treats #BOO! 

I admit...Halloween may be my favorite holiday. Then again, is it really a holiday? (hmmm)  I love seeing children and adults don costumes of their favorite characters, spooky monsters, mysterious wonders or simply people they aspire to be for one night.  I love to pass out candy to all of the trick-or-treaters and watch their eyes grow big when they see my generosity.  I love how the fall colors become the backdrop to creative and sometimes scary,  and sometimes not so scary fun. I've always enjoyed Halloween since I was little, and while I no longer trick-or-treat with my kids because they've outgrown a parent accompanying them (that's not cool, mom!), I still love to decorate our front porch and celebrate the day by wearing something simple to commemorate the moment. Ultimately, I love to have fun and laugh.  And BOY do we need to laugh these days.  I don't want to forget how to be silly.  I don't want to get so caught up in my life or music that I can't take moments to enjoy the simple things.  I know many don't celebrate Halloween, but I do hope we still keep "tricks" up our sleeves and take moments to "treat" ourselves.  I can't pass out candy to all who are reading this, but I can provide "music treats" by sharing my music and performing for you at upcoming shows!  Will you be there?  I surely hope you mark your calendars because the next two months are filled with music treats...no tricks about it!

New Plans = A New Journey? #hmmm 

The picture you see above was taken during my very first photo shoot  in the spring of 2010 when I decided to venture into becoming an independent artist. My cousin (Christopher Questel) did the photo shoot in a scenic woods area in Virginia.  We really had no clear expectation of how the photos would ultimately be used, except I knew I needed to plan accordingly and have photos on hand as I was preparing to complete my very first EP/CD Starting Over.  I knew that my new plans would mean a different and new journey not only in my professional life, but also my personal life.  At the same time, I had NO idea my plans would land me where I am today- a touring and recording international singer/songwriter who owns a music production company and an artist coaching/development service...WHAT?!  Wow...what a difference a plan makes?  I am thankful for having that "planner" gene.  I am definitely a planner- it keeps me on task, focused and hopeful.  I am in the midst of preparing some new plans both professionally and personally.  However, the journey remains one that is full of enlightenment, joy and overall faith.  So, new plans don't necessarily mean a new journey for me at this time.  But, I believe I will be adding some unique adventures to the current journey.  I pray that each of you continue to follow me along this journey...there are some exciting new plans in the works and I can't wait to share when the time is right.  In the meantime, I would love to hear from you, your plans, your journey and anything you're excited to share!  Feel free to respond to this and future emails or simply visit my public Facebook page KenyaMJ Music and send a message to my inbox or comment on a post.  Let's share our new plans and journeys with one another!  
 

Today's a special day! #readwhy 

Everyday has a special quality to it and should be celebrated (yes, I believe in daily small celebrations!).  However, today is particularly special for me because as of this morning my co-host Dr. William E. Smith and I published our 20th episode of our new podcast "Making Money in the Music Business"! Venturing into doing a weekly podcast has been such a wonderful learning experience...and extremely cathartic.  Being able to share advice on how to be more successful as an independent musician has pushed me to look further into my own business practices as well as reflect on why I am doing music. Discussing music business matters and hearing my co-host provide insight on new strategies to be more successful in the music industry has inspired me both personally and professionally.  I am honored to share this platform with him and to provide a service to other artists.  To celebrate the big 20th episode, we have compiled 20 ways to make money as a musician.  In addition to sharing tips, we include personal experiences and challenges.  Our 19th episode was particularly personal because we discussed knowing your self worth- WOO-EEE!!  That was a big topic to tackle, but we've received great feedback on how helpful it was to hear the discussion.  Please help me celebrate 20 weeks of doing something I truly love in addition to performing, which is providing a weekly podcast full of great information and experiences in music. You'll definitely learn more about me as an artist, entrepreneur and person! Click here to listen

Who's got my back? #knowyourtribe 

For the past several years I've deliberately looked deeply into my life, desires, dreams and hopes.  Its been a self discovery like no other and I am grateful for having the space and mindset to constantly reflect on my life. However, one thing I haven't spent as much time doing is digging deep into understanding who exactly is on my "team" personally.  Being an artist and meeting a variety of people daily are blessings.  At the same time, you have to be extremely careful discerning other people's energies and what you will allow into your personal space.  I have found that it is critical to keep an energy that is in alignment with mine when it comes to creating and nurturing relationships. You may be familiar with a popular term "my tribe."  Your "tribe" consists of those who have your back and support you at the level that not only meets where you are, but also elevates you.  Your tribe wants the very best for you and you want the same for them. Currently, I have over 25K followers across social media platforms.  This can create a sort of "false" positive.  Not all 25K followers are a part of my tribe...and that's okay.  That is way too many energies to manage!  Those who are in my tribe are people like you who have literally followed my music journey from the very moment I decided to take this crazy leap.  Those who have supported me while building a family, becoming a wife, and going through the many ups and downs of life all while uplifting, encouraging, teaching and showing amazing love and support are my tribe.  I'm grateful for each of you who take the time to read my weekly emails, social media posts, various special announcements, buy my music and attend my shows.  I will continue to nurture my tribe the best I can.  In the meantime, be sure to know who is on YOUR team and who truly has your back.  #KnowYourTribe...it will make a huge difference as you journey in life!   
 

Regroup...Recoup! #Odeto2016 

Planes, trains and chasing dreams!!  That seemed to become my mantra in 2015.  Man, oh man, oh MAN!  This past year was clearly one of the most remarkable years of my life on every single level.  Many of you reading this know me as "artist" Kenya and have most likely witnessed this incredible music journey this past year.  I'm so immensely thankful for the incredible opportunity to share music.  I love everything about music and to be able to create it, collaborate with others and share it with the public surpasses the amazing feeling I thought music could bring.  I believe in the power of music- its healing, its beauty and its vastness.  I really could go on and on...

But... (yup, there's a "but") along with every triumph comes trials and God knows I am not exempt from this concept.  I have never been this pushed in my life. From every angle, something was happening that caused anxiety, doubts, fears, worries, questions, and MORE anxiety, doubts, fears, worries, and questions!  Pursuing my passion for music definitely caused other aspects of my life to get challenged in some ways that I expected, but in some ways that I truly underestimated.  Learning about the music business, touring, and how to navigate the minutia of branding, marketing, promotions, royalties, development, etc.  MY GOD!!!  I was in HEAVY learning mode and I must thank my incredible mentors and team members for their support, education, listening ears and supportive conversations.

The most challenging aspect of this year musically for me was producing my own USA concert tour.  Oh...JE- SUS!!!!  That right there ain't for punks, PERIOD!!  I've never been more challenged in the space of music.  I was my own road manager, booking agent, roadie, event planner, concert promoter...oh, and let's not forget, I was the ARTIST!!  So rehearsals with different bands/musicians as well as performing new material was more than a notion.  Don't get me wrong, I have been blessed to perform with some of the BEST musicians out there and each musician was a pure delight to work with, but even with the best intent, challenges arise.  Thankfully, the challenges musically weren't an issue.  Logistics and the "cray cray" of putting shows together in 7 different cities in a limited amount of time was what typically caused anxiety and exhaustion.  Still, every show was amazing!  Like literally, the stage and I had a BALL!!  And then to perform abroad in the UK and the Netherlands....my goodness....that was magical.  I admit, part of the magic was that I was relieved of the many roles and hats previously worn during the USA tour due to having a promoter and my producer assisted with all of the logistics.  I was able to settle much more in my "artist" role and that was God's gift at the end of the arduous tour journey.

Beyond the music, my "me" was challenged...learning how to create boundaries, reinventing "privacy", negotiating relationships, and taking that big ole mirror and staring deep into the reflection was so overwhelming some days that only a box of Kleenex could offer support.  I have had to re-evaluate my values and beliefs yet AGAIN.  I gained so much, but also lost a whole HECK of a lot!  The gains were mostly positive, but, boy...those losses.  They were tremendous and I've had to rebuild how I approach my life.  I'm in the midst of rebuilding, regrouping, and recuperating; I thank God for His everlasting grace and His constant love that he offers at every moment and every step along the way.  I not only survived the trials, I approached and met each conflict head on.  No, I didn't win every battle, but I didn't avoid the battle.

And so, I feel incredibly clear and certain.  I know that I am living in my purpose, on purpose, and with purpose!  No question about it.  So many lessons received and now I'm feeling very ready to regroup and improve both professionally and personally.  But, this will require much more stillness and recuperation.  I have a family that needs me more than ever, I have a new artist development service, Creating Crimson, that is waiting patiently to be fully launched, and believe it or not, I have more music to be released and more shows to perform.  I will be intentional in making this a more paced year, but the horizons are growing even higher and there are even more amazing opportunities waiting at the door.  I'm simply making sure my head and soul are in order so that when that door opens, I embrace all that is being offered in a healthy and productive manner.

I initially thought, "Kenya, things can't get any better musically  than it was in 2015"...but, not true.  As long as God is in charge, He's saying "Child, PLEASE!  This is just the beginning.  Fasten your seat belt and let's GO!"  With God as the ring leader, I'm confident in His hands.  They're the best hands to hold. :-)

Whose hands are you holding?  What is your next move?  Is it your truth or someone else's?  Have you taken the time to get still enough to make a plan of action?  Please take a moment first to be clear.  Regroup.  Be still.  Listen.  Plan.  Love.  Have faith. Recoup. Begin. LIVE!!

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2016 and I look forward to hearing your stories as I share mine.  

Love, light, & abundance! #NewYearNewHorizons2016

 

Life's a Shift...and then you LIVE #Odeto2015 

It is 9:19pm on New Year's Eve...I'm on my couch with the fireplace lit, hubby by my side watching basketball on TV, kids in the basement with their friends playing, and I'm in ultimate chill mode waiting for 2015 to make Her grand appearance!  So thankful to be in this place, right here, right now....

As I reflect on 2014, so many things come to mind.  This past year clearly exceeded my expectations on every level.  Musically and personally there were so many shifts I often felt as though I was in a maze simply trying to find that "straight line" to the prize at the end.  With each shift, I was reminded that these shifts are happening not to make me confused or frustrated.  They weren't there to keep me from reaching goals.  They were there to push me to live and journey in a different way than I had perceived to be true.  I've learned to trust shift.  I've learned that as long as I'm living my life authentically, the shifts are happening as a way to create a more fruitful life.  My humanness cannot navigate life on its own.  Our souls are our truest compasses; we must surrender and trust the direction they are trying to take us.  So many times, I've sat and been like "OMG!  Doing all of this is just too much!"  And then, a shift appears that allows me to fulfill whatever it is that feels overwhelming.  Whether it be needing a sitter so I can have time to work on my music, or needing more time to complete my "to-do" list (or at least to get 75% of it done!), or simply needing a moment of stillness so I can regroup...some how, some way, a window opens every time the door closes.

I have learned that life is a continuum of shifts that calls us to increase our awareness of who we are and how we must live.  The shifts are not barricades.  They are vehicles to push us to live life with deeper meaning.  We are not blind to the shifts, even though we try to be.  The big "D" word...DENIAL!  And we often see the shift and go bury ourselves in something that has nothing to do with where our soul is trying to push us.  Facing conflict, pushing through tough relationships, overcoming fears...these are all shifts that are trying to improve who we are.  

Six years ago, one of the most significant shifts presented itself in front of me.  It was this shift that pushed me to re-evaluate everything in my life.  My entire value/belief system was being challenged and it was affecting my ability to engage fully in my personal relationships, my family, and myself.  I finally surrendered...and ever since, I've learned it is essential that we heed to the call of "shift".  If we are to live our best lives, we must accept change and be willing to show up no matter how overwhelming the change may be.  This doesn't simply mean we must "be strong"...in fact, sometimes we have to allow our weaknesses to prevail so that we can learn more about who we are and where are true strengths exist. 

My theme for 2015 is "paradigm shifter".  Now that I value the beauty of "shifting", I realize that I must grow into the next level of me.  I don't consider myself very traditional...but, I am very methodical.  Meaning, I like to challenge norms, but I like to do so with order.  As I embark on an extremely unfamiliar journey of releasing a brand new full length album/CD in a way I've never done, I see clearly it will not be simple.  In fact, as an independent artist, I will have to not only think outside of the box, but I may have to get under, over, to the left, to the right, and do cartwheels everywhere BUT near that box!  This will not be easy...but it will be necessary and fundamental in chasing the many dreams I have...another shift!  

I will continue to seek physical and mental wellness for this is the foundation of who I am.  But, I feel another level coming my way...one that is way more demanding, but also way more rewarding and enriching.  I encourage you to accept life's shift and be willing to ride the tide and LIVE!  You will feel crazy, you will feel overwhelmed, and you will feel like "huh?"...and that's exactly where you should be- that is the attention your spirit is trying to get.  I don't know your next moves, but your soul does.  Try to get still so that you can receive the lesson.  Take a deep breath in....deep breath out....shift...and LIVE!

Happy New Year!  Enjoy the many blessings 2015 will have to offer you:-) 

Going Braless... 

Got your attention, eh!  Let me explain....

This weekend I went to a lakefront/beach area in Union Pier, Michigan to celebrate one of my girlfriend's birthday with friends.  While I was only able to stay one night, this one night was enough to open my eyes to yet another "a-ha" moment in my life.  I was intending to stay the entire weekend, but my life has been so busy I don't know if I'm coming or going.  I literally haven't been home for the weekend in almost a month and will be gone every weekend in August except for the last one.  To say the least....I'm pooped!!

When I arrived in Michigan, we were scheduled to go to a get together that included a bonfire on the beach.  I was very excited to hit the beach in the evening and see an actual bonfire in addition to meeting new people.  I had planned to wear something simple; white linen pants and a tank top with sandals.  Nothing major.  But, one of my friends was trying on the cutest sundresses and jumpers.  She had one particular jumper that was to die for!  So cute!!  I made her aware of my excitement and she offered to let me wear it that evening.  I was like, "Really?....great!"  And so, I went to my hotel room, changed out of my shorts and top, put on my strapless bra because the jumper had spaghetti straps, and put on the jumper.  I admit...I loved it, but that dang black bra kept showing.  Well, my creative self managed to pin here and there to create a sort of halter with the straps so you couldn't see the bra.  Ta-da!  All ready!

I returned to my girlfriends' room and they all applauded the outfit, but one friend said, "What did you do?  Did you pin it or something?"  I answered, "Yeah, because my bra keeps showing."  My friend then said, "Why are you wearing a bra?  Just go braless!"  I then looked at her like she had lost her mind and said, "Look, these 'girls' can't go braless!"  Then, all of my other girlfriends chimed in and said, "Yes you can!!  You totally can!"  Of course, I continued to look like, "whaaa...?"  But, then I thought about it....

I've been on a serious healthy transformation changing my workout and diet (for life) and have managed to lose 17lbs so far, so I did admit, I suppose my "girls" are  slightly smaller; I suppose I may be able to get away with it.   Then, I thought, I've NEVER gone braless public EVER!!!  And especially not for a social function where people are actually going to be talking to me all night.  Smh...nope.  This won't work.  But, my friends continued to push me and I removed my bra.  To my surprise, it actually looked good.  Like...really good.  Like...I absolutely shouldn't wear this bra that I now have in my hand.  Like...I'm for real going to do this?!? (cue dramatic music....)

This is now where my a-ha moment comes into existence.  While I'm definitely not a conservative person, I do consider myself a bit more on the reserved side.  I am liberal in my thinking, but I am just now beginning to accept parts of myself and personality that simply don't fit in these perfect boxes society quickly creates for each of us.  Choosing to do music full time and leave my very established PAYING career in health care and education was my first major move toward being more of myself.  It was one of the best decisions I've ever made and ever since, I have constantly had to get "uncomfortable."  I feel like I've had to start my life over in so many ways.  I am overwhelmed with the level of positive change that has happened to me and just when I feel like, "Okay, that's enough change Kenya" BOOM!  Some more change comes my way!

This is a very vulnerable life season for me both professionally and personally.  I have entered into so many new things that I feel like my learning curve is insane!  Owning my own business, being an independent artist, moving up and through a music industry that is so complex that I can't begin to gather all of my words and thoughts, meeting new people that I would otherwise never have the opportunity to meet, being the parent of a pre-teen, watching and taking care of aging parents, navigating relationships and deciding which ones to hold on to and which ones to let go.  These are all incredibly challenging tasks, but they are a must as I continue to journey and be me.  

I am having to do things that I thought I would NEVER do...both positive and negative.  I am having to get so uncomfortable that sometimes I don't even know who this person is.  But, the moment I grab the discomfort by it's throat, it reveals a newness that not only makes me stronger, but it also makes me more whole and more of who I am meant to be in this lifetime.

Going braless was a first, and not only was I completely fine, I actually felt very comfortable and relaxed...and that outfit was HOT!  My femininity felt uplifted, I stood taller, I felt free.  Free to be exactly who I am.

I continue to face a lot of shifts in front of me.  Some of them I'm really looking forward to; others, not so much.  I am trying to keep fear at bay...but, realize its okay to feel fear.  I simply can't surrender to or act in response to fear.   In this day and age of social media and it being a literal function of my career as an artist, so much can be misinterpreted from the outside.  Of course, I'm in promotional mode as an artist, and branding is crucial.  I want to be authentic, but I also must retain a sense of privacy.  I simply want to be me.  And me has and will continue to create specific boundaries so I can feel free within my privacy.

But, going braless has taught me that when it comes to me doing the things I need to do for me, I simply must go.  I must keep edging myself closer to that authentic space that is going to ultimately provide the peace, joy and Divinity that is purposed for me.  I'm thankful for God working in these very quiet and subtle ways to remind us that we have power.  However small or big, we have it.  He grants it to us, and we must use it to become more of who we're designed to be.  

When's the last time you went "braless"?  Or do you keep making yourself constrained to ideals that have nothing to do with your truth?  Take a minute and reflect...you'd be surprised at the level of freedom that awaits you!

Love & light,

Kenya

 

I Am #BlackGirlsRock 

Last night I performed my last public big show for 2013.  I have a few private smaller shows and one small gig (open to public); but as far as selling tickets, doing promotions, having a full 4 piece band, etc nothing further is planned until 2014.  The insanity of preparing for a show often makes it hard to sit still "in the moment"...but the pure joy and magic of performing pushes you to want to stay in the place where all you have IS the moment.  During last night's show, I performed new covers that I rearranged into new styles/vibes.  I wanted to explore some songs that I've always loved, but never performed.  I'm still growing as a songwriter and while I have new original material in the works, its not ready for the public; so, I have to reach into the box of songs that already exist.  Thankfully, I loooove music and so its very easy for me to find material to rearrange.  However, doing a rock rearrangement, or putting a lil' hip hop twist or a reggae sway aren't spaces I usually go.  The jazz space is my comfort zone and for this last show I wanted to leave my comfort zone and try something new.  

How did it all turn out?...AMAZING!  Now, don't get me wrong, every performance/show has it's glitches, missed notes, forgotten lyrics and simply things that could be better...but, that is normal.  That is expected.  That is what it is.  The amazing part is that the energy was alive, the audience was engaged and participated, and I ENJOYED the moment.  Enjoying the moment is huge when you perform.  If you're not enjoying yourself it can feel miserable being in front of a ton of people feeling like you're doing some type of masquerade.  When you can truly show up, for me it is much like flying.  Its probably the closest I will get to feeling "high" and I will take it any day.

Which brings me to this notion of "rocking"....I did my first rock rearrangement of a song and whoa....now I get why rock is such a major part of the music industry in many ways.  I felt so liberated, so free, so inspired and capable.  This is why I love that we now have this movement called "Black Girls Rock" (BGR). It is not about "rocking" out to rock music or we too can sing rock music...its about our liberation to be whomever we want to be.  Its about feeling empowered and inspired to climb whatever wall we want to climb.  Its about our greater contribution to society and how without our input, there would be a major missing link.  Its about our history as black women who were enslaved, raped, murdered, abused and many other hideous acts that have left many of us in this sisterhood riddled with fear and pain; when we grab our power back and rise despite so many obstacles that say "no you want", we are able to say "yes we will."  WE ROCK!!

I've always supported the BGR movement and felt as though I belong, but last night provided another insight.  I not only belong, I AM Black Girls Rock.  I have fears, I have doubts, but I also have insurmountable faith as well as a strong zeal to share this platform with my sister friends in whichever way that I can.

You are Black Girls Rock...its simply a matter of embracing, nurturing, and loving "her" (a.k.a. YOU).  Don't delay; she's waiting...

Love & light,
Kenya

And so it is...  

So....almost a month ago, I had the INSANE opportunity to spend the ENTIRE day with jazz artist, Gretchen Parlato, who is one of my top 3 favorite artists at a jazz workshop in California.  I hope you're reading this right...I said, one of my TOP THREE!!  And somehow I'm still alive to actually write...:-)

At this workshop, once I finished pinching myself (incessantly), I was able to engage in meaningful conversations about being an artist, how to approach artistry and most importantly, how to approach songwriting.  After several enriching exercises, we did a songwriting activity that involved free writing, reflection, improvisation and contribution of lyrical material.  After 2 pages of writing....I had to pick ONE phrase to add to a collective song we were writing.  Out of the hundreds of phrases written on my page, the phrase that kept resonating with me was a phrase I had written: "and so it is"

Ding dong! My life is right in this zone right now...I look back and say, "Whoa! How the heck did you get here?"  I've never experienced truly being in alignment with my spirit prior to pursuing music professionally.  Okay, let's not get so esoteric yet- this is the first time I'm doing something I really love to do!  Music has always been a passion of mine and I had been "cheating" on my passion.  In other words, I was doing everything under the sun BUT MY MUSIC!  And now that I am doing my music, its like God and the Universe said, "HOTDOG! She finally gets it!"

I am on a serious journey right now and often I don't really know how to put everything into words.  I want so badly to share a plethora of thoughts that keep buzzing in my mind just to give the thoughts a space to breathe instead of whirling around in my head.  Songwriting is easily a place for the thoughts to breathe...and I am currently writing for a new music project.  However, there are some thoughts I simply want to share with those who are supporting me, my music and my journey.  I pray I can continue to be a light and shine in some way, some how.  So many people inspire me beyond, and if I can provide half of such inspiration, I will do it gladly.

And so it is...Grammy consideration, McDonald's commercial, national cable tv broadcast of one of my music videos, performances...this is CRAZY!  When I was a child, I used to pretend hard!  I literally lived in my own little "fantasy island" and would sing, dance, teach, act, and so much more.  I only daydreamed about such moments that seem to be surfacing in my life.  Heck, now I haven't even dreamed this big in many ways.  Through it all, I am simply trying to live in the moment, be guided by God and my soul, trust in process, faith, presence and stay accountable to the gifts I've been given.  Also, my personal mental and physical health, my husband, children, and family are my first priorities.  Hence, I am living the life of a "juggler" as well (major balancing act!).   Still, I know that there is a bigger purpose being served and I must serve it.  No matter how uncomfortable it gets at times.  I know that when I allow myself to go in the zone of purpose, effortless flow occurs.  And so it is...

Please join me on this journey!  Share your stories and reflections.  I will listen as you have listened so graciously to me.  Ready? Set? Go!

Love & light,
Kenya
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  1. Starting Over (Reprise/Instrumental)
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