Interview By: LeLe Symone
Fluctuating stocks, a stagnant job market and doing everything to keep the bills paid….it’s safe to say that most folks are struggling to maintain personally and professionally these days. As hard as it can become, however, one of R&B’s most celebrated duos, Kindred the Family Soul, is back in the mix with some uplifting, yet authentic music that assures anyone who listens that the most important commodity—-love—-is always on tap.
Just a couple of months old, Love Has No Recession is Kindred’s fourth, and by many accounts, strongest CD, filled with songs about balancing love and life in a shaky political and economic climate and featuring the talents of Snoop Dogg, Bilal and Raheem DeVaughn, just to name a few. With a new single and video (“Authentically You”) on the verge of dropping and a successful web series (“6 Is It”) filming new episodes as they tour, Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon are most definitely two of today’s hardest-working performers, but were still gracious enough to chat with Knowshi.com about their latest masterpiece, what inspired the musical direction and how they hold it down as parents and partners.
KNOWSHI- We are loving the new CD, it’s got to be your best work yet: what’s the reception on it from fans so far?
AJA-“Wow, THAT’S what’s up! We definitely wanted to spread our wings a little bit more and we didn’t know how people were going to react, because fans hold onto what they think you’re about and they really don’t want you to veer from it sometimes, but it’s been all love.”
FATIN-“We appreciate that support. I feel that with all of the years we’ve spent in the music business, I feel that I’ve become a stronger musician and a better songwriter, having lived a little bit more, I feel more confident in our abilities as a team. As a performer, you always want to top yourself artistically, that’s what people in any profession strive to do. But some people just have an idea of what they came to know you as sounding and it’s hard for them to get past that.”
KNOWSHI-The collaborations are hot, especially the track you did with Raheem DeVaughn, “We All Will Know.” How did that merger come about and what inspired that song?
FATIN- “We’d been on stage together many times before actually getting in the studio, the whole thing thing is about working with other people is about making sure there’s the creative synergy there, a mutual respect and appreciation for what the other person brings to the table. That’s what existed between Raheem and Kindred so thankfully ,we were able to create what is a natural and organic-feeling record. We always held him in high regard in terms of his socio-political thoughts, ideas and concepts, so we knew that he would be able to bring what we had been looking for up to the table, and we’re really grateful that it worked.
KNOWSHI-It’s powerful and you all should send it to the President Obama re-election campaign, no doubt. What about the title, and was it a purposeful move to make the CD about social issues as well as relationships?
FATIN-“We were going to title it ‘The Great Recession’ to describe the times we were living in and to put our music in a time capsule of sorts for further in the future, and the only reason we didn’t was because it felt dark and people want to see the light at the end of the tunnel and not be preached to, so we wanted to focus the uplift as well. If you think about it, none of are really losing anything tangible, we still have our family and the opportunity to love and that doesn’t cost you anything. Your job might be in jeopardy, but you still have the love you feel in your heart, and that can be the strength that will get you through.”
AJA-“We will always be telling stories that are relevant to folks. We’ll always do our best to put out what’s quality and what touches people. We feel like our story is everyone else’s story as well, so we attempt to be fearless in this thing and be cognizant of the messages we share.”
KNOWSHI- So you want to be a mouthpiece for today’s generation?
FATIN- “We’re from the generation that grew up with hip-hop music and rebellion to a certain degree, taking things seriously during the 80s, you know, the crack epidemic and Reaganomics. Now, we’ve elected a Black President and so many changes have affected us as a nation. Back in the 60s and 70s, it was young people at the forefront of these movements, affecting change and revolution. Our young people today are not serious or thinking the same way because the music—I hate to say it—is not in any way celebrating thought and acknowledging that there are serious matters at hand. That’s what people look for to enlighten themselves, and they don’t have that. And anyway we can do so, we definitely need to support the cause.”
KNOWSHI-Well, to see you all juggle your music, marriage AND a big family is such an inspiration: is it a struggle? How do you handle it all?
AJA- “The show (which can be seen at their website, kindredthefamilysoul.com) is a gift to our fans: they really want to know how our life works (the couple have six children together: two sons, 12-years-old and 20 months old, and four girls who are 9, 7 and 3 ½, two being a set of twins). A lot of relief comes with it because people see that it’s not too different from how they run their families, except that we do music.”
FATIN-“The feedback is always overwhelmingly positive, we try to give that unique window into our life realistically. It’s a documentary for us to see our lives and our progress and evolution as a family, so it’s beneficial in a lot of different ways. We’re pondering taking it off the internet (for a network), but we’re always about trying to make sure it comes from a pure place and to not take into unfamiliar territory. We’re doing it all one step at a time.”
KNOWSHI- You certainly have it down to a science, what keeps you sane Aja?
AJA-“I was just telling my mother the other day that I try to keep myself from getting too excitable and that I don’t sweat the small stuff, I just let it go. The kids keep me moving and active, it’s about keeping them happy and me staying comfortable. I have a long way to go before I get to any pre-baby weight, but I’m accepting of whatever form I’m working with. I’m only 33, so I like to look young and sophisticated, but I’m always going to be comfortable—if I have to lie down and have 2 people zip me into something, I just can’t do it! (laughs)”
KNOWSHI-I heard that. How do you make it gel in the studio together? And are you comfortable being compared with another legendary husband-and-wife duo, Ashford & Simpson?
FATIN-“ There’s no formula: sometimes we’ll get the music, someone comes up with the idea, they sing it to the other person, then the next person comes in what they hear…..usually, what you hear us sing are the verses we’ve written, but not always. It’s like being on a b-ball court, knowing that you both can take the shot, but you trust the other person enough to just be the passer. It’s the same concept when we write songs, we’re trying to help our team win.”
AJA-“The comparison to them obviously comes from what we have in common, marriage and music, but we shy away from any comparisons from a professional standpoint. They are such legends, and I feel for her situation (Mr. Ashford passed away from cancer in Sep.), being with the man for so long and to have him gone from her is such a heartbreaking thing to have to go through. She’s a spiritual woman and has enough people around who will help her through it, but that was a 40 year marriage and career, we’re not there yet.”
KNOWSHI-Well, you’re carving your own legacies and it can only blossom from there. Before we wrap it up, is being independent still good for Kindred, especially at this new label?
FATIN- “Working with Purpose has been nothing but a positive experience, they’ve had our best interests at heart, believed in what we were trying to do and had the dedication to the project in order for us to be successful. We created the best possible music we could with the budget we had to work with and I think it worked to our benefit, because it took all of the commerce out of things and allowed us to be more creative. It was like, how can we make it sound—I hate to say it like this—the best that it can with ‘nothing,’ because if we can do great stuff with ‘nothing’, then they’ll know we can bring it and can make it happen with anything. That’s what our people have been doing since the beginning of time: we were given the scraps, but whatever we got, we turned it into something that’s beautiful and special that people appreciate and hold dear. And that’s what we try to do with our music.”