3 quick questions . . .
with Kandia Crazy Horse
Kandia Crazy Horse is perhaps more known as a music journalist than as a Americana/country singer. With the recent release of her debut disc, Stampede, she is hoping to change that as she now explores the music industry from the other side.
Here are the 3 quick questions asked of Crazy Horse:
1. Do you remember when you first decided you were going to make “singer” your career choice and if you can remember your first paid performance can you describe it?
Crazy Horse: I first decided to sing in public and slightly later as a professional country&western/Americana artist, when my Virginia-born Afro-Native mother walked on (Native American term for dying) after a sorrowful battle with pancreatic cancer. My original concept for Stampede stemmed from her, my Georgia aunts, and a very important and legendary group of music people who had created postwar, New South-rooted sounds – including Johnny Cash, Arthur Lee of Love, Jim Dickinson and those behind Capricorn Records.
My intent was to write all the songs for this memento mori-type song cycle to be entitled Stampede but I was never going to sing on it nor become a real recording artist. Inspired by some of my fellow riders in the city I began to work with Shakira’s Cuban musical director, Albert Menendez. Although I have played and been paid for gigs at Pianos, Mercury Lounge, and the New LA Folk Festival’s run at the Sidewalk Café, it was more important that I first went to sing at the Central Harlem church of Harlem Renaissance poet laureate Countee Cullen’s pastor father, who was a part of the African American Great Migration of the 20th century to the North, like my maternal family from Staunton, Virginia, who crisscrossed the Mason-Dixon Line over decades.
Deep inside, whatever my Nashville and Laurel Canyon aspirations were, I knew had to make peace with my Christian kin, my ancestors, and my complex heritage by spending a few months sitting in the Amen Corner, and singing all the Spirituals of how we got over in the Americas – from ring shouts to Afrolachian song-catching and field hollers to Stax “country soul” era gospel crossovers.
It was very good for me in eliminating any lingering self-doubt and nerves about becoming an artist, though I was raised more in my Georgian Baptist preacher grandaddy Rev’s “hollerin’ church” wherein the congregation fainted and shouted in tongues – for what higher audience is there than the Great Spirit?
2. You have been on the other side—a writer in the audience—listening with a critical ear. How has this influenced your thinking and/or your actual performances onstage and/or in the studio?
Crazy Horse: Possessing lots of cultural and quotidian interests from armchair discography to African drumming to surfing and hunting across America for vintage Gretsch White Falcons, my rockcrit back-pages are probably the least important element in the briar-patch that influences me and my music. Yes, I have an extremely expert ear, but the most vital part of my previous career was getting to meet and befriend Grammy-winning record producers, their staffers and visit legendary studios.
Performance just comes naturally from the Red Clay Source. I come from a vast South Georgia family replete with many preachers and some porch pickers; they conjure through me when I hit the stage (minus the handmade liquor), and I know never to question it. This same Spirit imbued my rock-write career. All I can say is on a more mundane plane, I spent enough years since I first encountered the Black Crowes at age 18 gaining the equivalent of a master class in singing and stagecraft from my fellow Georgia-bred California lover Chris Robinson.
After my years and tears away from the Deep South growing up all over Africa, Robinson was the singing and speaking avatar of my primary creative influence. There’s a direct inner root line from Rev. through Laurel Canyon transplants like Stephen Stills and Gene Clark to Chris and what creation I spawn now.
3. What’s next for you?
Crazy Horse: I am in the Los Angeles area doing pre-production for my next release, Canyons, with guitarists Ben Peeler and Ben Reddell. Open to all the Universe has to offer me, not studying too hard on what will happen this year or so – but will be playing South-By Southwest in March for the first time as part of the Grand Ole Echo in Austin country cavalcade. I hope to sing with my heroes Kris Kristofferson and Stevie Nicks . . . perhaps at the Ryman!
So there you have it, guys and dolls, 3 quick answers from former rock journalist turned singer-songwriter Kandia Crazy Horse. As per usual, hopefully, you found these 3 quick questions entertaining and interesting.
(Images courtesy of Kandia Crazy Horse and MusicNewsNashville)