The meaning of Goapele‘s name, “to move forward” fits her gazelle like style. Every time we hear her enchanting vocals, ours souls start to flow. After 16 years, we still dig her instant classic “Closer,” which has racked up over 7 million Spotify streams. Her latest project, Dreamseeker arouses what should be and what already is, with conscious lyricism and soothing, yet stimulating soundscapes.
ThisisRnB’s Rocki recently spoke with the Bay Area beauty about the Dreamseeker EP. “It takes all different elements to make us whole,” says Goapele. “Just because it’s challenging times, doesn’t mean we can’t also feel good in moments and have fun. I also feel like music is more than just something to bump in a club. It should speak to all aspects of our lives.”
In addition to discussing her new music, working with BJ The Chicago Kid, and how motherhood inspires her, the songstress talked to us about her recent trip to South Africa with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “We’re trying to figure out what is going on, how can we get the awareness out there, how can we get rid of the stigma around HIV and AIDS, so more people can get treated and know their status,” said Goapele.
The multidimensional artist is a positive inspiration for us all. Check out the full interview below.
TIRNB: I’m digging Dreamseeker. Tell me the inspiration behind it and your state of mind while you were working on it.
GOAPELE: I feel like it’s a vibe and a tone that speaks to now and what I’ve been going through. Everything from love and relationship songs like what I did with BJ [The Chicago Kid] on “Stay”—kind of ode to ’90s R&B, to how I feel about being a mother and just wanting my own daughter to feel empowered and permission to shine with the light you’re born with. And “Stand” which speaks to the political climate and how challenging it is right now and how apparent racism and injustice is. We have to fix as individuals, what we stand for. I wanted to reflect on all of those themes and also include things like “$ecret” that’s more sensual.
Music is a universal language, like you said, it’s more than just something to bump in the club. It’s something that you internalize, it’s something that helps you through your daily struggles, something that helps you celebrate. I’ve always loved how you blend sensual and serious.
I feel like the balance is so important to me in my daily life and I want to reflect that in the music. As women sometimes, publicly as entertainers we can come off as one dimensional and just have permission to be one type of way. We’re so complex.
What was your creative process while recording Dreamseeker? Was it song by song, or over an extended period of time?
It was over a period of time.”Stand” is probably what I lived with the most because I originally wrote it a few years ago and then it came back to me before I kicked off this project. A lot of the other songs were written after I finished Strong as Glass. I just wanted to get more into my natural vibe and felt like musically, things have come full circle. I wanted to take advantage of, that R&B and soul music is interpreted in so many different ways right now; it’s kind of like wide open. So these are snapshots over the past couple years.
At the end, when I was done and I was trying to come up with a title and wanted to work around being a ‘dreamseeker,’ then I did the three interludes. I really wanted it to flow together as one body of work, which is challenging for me sometimes. ‘Cause I’m like, I want to say this and then I want this vibe. Somehow it needs to all come together. I want you to be able to put it on and leave it. Towards the end is when it came together like that.
Is that partly why you hooked up with your longtime collaborators Mike Tiger, Errol Cooney and Bedrock?
Yeah, I’ve worked with Mike Tiger since the beginning, since Closer, and he’s been on every project in some form. I just always enjoy working with him creatively. Errol Cooney is a phenomenal guitar player who I’ve been working with just as long. I’ve been collaborating with Bedrock since Change It All. I definitely wanted it to feel like you were getting some of the classic Bay area sound because it’s my roots.
I love how you have evolved physically and musically. How do you feel you have evolved as an artist since Closer came out in 2001?
I just have more comfort settling into myself now. There’s more self-acceptance and I’m still seeking new dreams, so that’s a part of me that’s still evolving. But I feel like my dreams are bigger because I laid the foundation and got to meet some of my goals. It was a little scarier in the beginning because I had never put out music before. I mean honestly, each time I put out a project it’s a little bit scary, but I can trust myself a little bit more in the studio. It gets a little less scary each time. You’re vulnerable when you’re making a song and I always want to have an emotional connection so people can feel it when they hear it. I’m just getting more used to taking leaps of faith.
I definitely got that old school ’90s vibe from “Stay.” How was it working with BJ The Chicago Kid?
It was great. We’ve known each other for a while. I felt like it was a natural collaboration, which was nice, it didn’t feel forced at all. He has a great voice, but he also has a great approach to songwriting. He’s really talented so he kind of came right in with the energy and we finished it. He has a big vision, I’m glad he’s getting out there internationally.
Aside from the greats of the past, is there anyone from the younger / newer generation of artists today that inspire you and your music?
I’m getting more into the international world and wanting to do more shows in other countries. I have family in South Africa, so I collaborated with an artist that is from South Africa, who is huge on the continent. We did a couple songs on his last album and that’s been great new energy. And I’ve been collaborating with a couple up and coming really talented rappers out of the Bay area. There’s a few more collaborations on the way, which I’ve been enjoying because it’s nice to get to work with other artists, it takes some pressure off when you have that synergy and can come up with something together.
I love when artists are multi-dimensional, I admire how you see that your platform, your artistry, is for more than just the music. Tell me about going to South Africa.
I went with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. It was awesome going to the motherland. I had been with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation for the past year in the U.S., going to different cities with Raheem DeVaughn, and having these roundtable discussions with women of color because the statistics are just crazy and rising for young women of color in the U.S. and we’re trying to figure out what is going on, how can we get the awareness out there, how can we get rid of the stigma around HIV and AIDS, so more people can get treated and know their status.
I’ve always to wanted to go back to South Africa and do some AIDS work. The statistics in South Africa are even worse, as far as young women and young men. Even with some people being born with HIV from their parents and not knowing it. Also, just opening up the discussion on sexual health and being able to talk about it because it’s kind of taboo. It was heavy, but it was also really inspiring and refreshing to meet with new people who were open to being honest. To get to decide different than their parents had and connect with each other in a different way. And with the recent history coming out of the Apartheid system it feels like 2017, but some of the issues can also feel like 1980. After the movement, what happens? What happens when there’s still economic disparity and still internalized oppression?
I know that had special meaning for you since your dad is from South Africa.
Yeah, my dad is, and about 98% of that side of my family still lives there. My aunt came along to a couple things and some of my cousins came and hung out. I also did a video with Cassper Nyovest, the South African rapper I was talking about earlier and got to see Cape Town for the first time, and it was so gorgeous. It was nice to see a different landscape, it just really broadened my perspective.
I love the pictures you share of your daughter on Instagram; she is adorable. I have a 14-year-old daughter and as mother, I feel what you’re saying as far as we need to pass on empowering them as a black young women in today’s world. Your song, “Power” is for her. How old is she? and how does she inspire your music?
Thank you, she’s 10. For me that song, when I heard the music, I wanted to write about unconditional love and she has really shown me about unconditional love and how to be there for someone who is looking at you for an introduction into the world. How do you get to be ready with even less issues—if that’s possible. So you don’t have to grow into self-love, and knowing that you’re all right from the start. When I watch my friends with their kids, there’s a lot of conscious parenting going on. These kids are just on fire!
Tell us about your Dreamseeker lifestyle products.
I’m inspired by fashion and visuals. So I started with a jacket that I designed, it was limited edition, and then I did some aromatherapy body products. I’ll be putting out more limited edition pieces that speaks to my lifestyle.
-Interview by Raquelle Harris
Follow Goapele on social media for her upcoming tour dates. Dreamseeker is available on all digital outlets.