For Art’s Sake

For Art’s Sake

The LA Art Show, LA’s largest and longest-running art fair, returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center on February 15–19 to kick off the city’s 2023 art season. Guided by the leadership of LA Art Show producer & director Kassandra Voyagis, the 28th edition promises a larger global presence and more ambitious programming than ever before. LA Art Show will donate 15% of all ticket proceeds to support the life-saving work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®.

The LA Art Show 2023 includes the exciting return of the European Pavilion; the debut of the Japanese Pavilion featuring 6 galleries from Japan; and more South Korean artists and galleries than ever before in testament to the country’s thriving arts scene.

This year’s fair will inspire important social dialogue with work from Ukrainian artist-turned refugee Denis Sarazhin, stranded due to the war but able to secure accommodations in the U.S. following a generous GoFundMe campaign, and is now transmuting the chaos and uncertainty of his unraveling life into paintings of wild transformation. TRANSformation by MRG Fine Art in partnership with Zero Two 20 promises to be a thought-provoking exhibition, creating an open platform for talent of diverse backgrounds, addressing a foundational transformation inherent in the evolutionary process of both artists and society alike.

Featuring 9 art institutions, the Fair’s non-commercial program and cultural anchor, DIVERSEartLA –  curated by Marisa Caichiolo – returns with an ambitious agenda, addressing the global climate crisis. As part of this, MOLAA will present work from iconic Ecofeminist Judy Baca and AMA will present one of Mexico’s most prominent photographers, Alfredo De Stefano.  Please visit www.LAArtShow.com to learn more and purchase tickets.

Quintessential LA Experience

Quintessential LA Experience

Suddenly being back in the Arts District after a two year hiatus, as Bob Dylan once said, “Things have changed”.  Retail store, Warby Parker is gone. Hammer and Spear, gone. The Pie Hole will be closing September 17th. It’s an area hard hit by the pandemic. When the invitation to visit the Mulholland Room Hideaway arrived—we dashed. Located on the 2nd floor of the building that houses the Pali Wine Co., a building that feels like something about of a Raymond Chandler novel, the 2nd floor entrance is simply a small note on a door. The Mulholland Room Hideway was founded by actor Walton Goggins and cinematic cameraman Matthew Alper, the location has been described as a “love letter to LA.” The occasion? To sip their distilled Gin, Vodka and Whiskey, called, yes, Mulholland. This was a unique Los Angeles event; the name alone for those that know their LA history is that William Mulholland, a civil engineer that imported water into Los Angeles in the early 1900s. Mulholland Drive is a 21 mile excursion on the crest of a mountain that goes from Hollywood to to the ocean. It ihas been the subject of many a film, and it is home to many celebrities. It is distinctly a Los Angeles  road that separates the valley from Los Angeles with beautiful vistas of the Hollywood Sign, downtown and the San Fernando Valley. But tonight, we are here to sip and drink, have conversations and watch the slow descent of the summer sun on downtown Los Angeles. And while a PR event, here is the good news—everyone involved turns out to be beautiful, kind and appreciative. And here’s the even better news—the booze is great!

“At Mulholland, our mission is to create artisanal spirits that reflect and celebrate the diversity and vibrancy of our great city. We’ve traveled the entire country in search of the finest spirits available. We are working with master distillers to bring those spirits here for all to enjoy. This is our Spirit of Los Angeles™. You can find our 100 proof American Whiskey, our 96 proof New World Gin and 86 proof 100% Corn Vodka throughout California.”

To learn more about Mulholland Distilled products: https://www.mulhollanddistilling.com

Actor Walter Goggins (left) and cinematographer Matthew Alper

A Beginner’s Guide to Pot

A Beginner’s Guide to Pot

There is a smell rampant in Los Angeles—it fills the air with a sweet, earthy, herbal and periodically “skunky” smell. It is the smell of Marijuana running through the airstreams of Los Angeles. It all began in November 2016, when the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64) was approved and what was once illegal became legal — and it also became big business. Today, it is reported that there are thousands of unlicensed dispensaries and over 200 licensed. It is with this brief knowledge that we decided to ask an expert about pot. We turned to Geza Frey, Jr. for some answers:

During the lockdown and afterwards, as an industry how as the pot trade fared?

During the lockdown sales soared. The industry was booming and if you needed a job, the cannabis industry was the place for you. Cannabis workers weee labeled essential in the state of California. Since then, sales have slowed a bit and I know that a lot of brands/ dispensaries are in the red these last two quarters.

Where is the greatest concentration of dispensaries?

The Greater Los Angeles area but as cities and states begin to legalize and adopt cannabis, more and more dispensaries are opening. Some of my favorites are in DTLA, Venice, and Fairfax/ Melrose.

What determines price? There seem to be endless kinds of pot?

Indoor flower is the highest quality and most potent

Outdoor is more affordable and less potent

Indoor typically hits higher price points vs outdoor

There are also edibles, concentrates, oils, topicals and more.

What is the good stuff?

Everyone has their preferences and reacts differently to each strain. I love me a good indoor indica dominant strain in the Glue or OG family rolled in a leaf wrap with a glass tip. It’s my version of the canna-cigar

If you are a beginner, what would you recommend?

For beginners I would recommend starting with CDB products and than moving up to 1:1 CBD + THC and than go from there. There are a ton of options it’s best to start small and gradually build up a tolerance/ find out what strains you like the most.

What is the law regarding driving under the influence of pot?

If it is determined that you are driving well high on cannabis you can potentially get a DUI or DWI

https://amp.sacbee.com/news/california/article232688547.html

Do they have statistics on the people buying as in age, etc?

This article breaks down some mind blowing stats when it comes to cannabis sales and who is buying (in the legal market)

https://financesonline.com/cannabis-industry-statistics/#recreational-usage

Geza Frey, Jr. is a multi-talented artist that specializes in sneakers, fashion, cannabis, tech, sports, and lifestyle. He has worked both in front of the camera and behind the scenes in various global marketing campaigns over the last eight years.

Tomorrowisntpromised.us

SmashBox Brings on the Art

SmashBox Brings on the Art

Last week at the luxurious photo studio compound in Culver City, Smashbox Cosmetics presented a unique artistic event to celebrate the pilot of their inaugural Open Studios Program that drew a fascinating crowd.

The four-week incubator provided artists with premium resources to create, along with a physical studio to develop and showcase their work. The artists were also offered mentorship from Smashbox veterans, including the brand’s founder, Davis Factor, and Global Lead Pro Artist Lori Taylor Davis, on photography, branding, design, and makeup in science and practice.
 
The program culminated in a group show on the evening of the 31st, unveiling three new projects from artists Uzumaki Cepeda, who creates faux-fur environments designed as safe havens for communities of color;  Randijah Simmons, a photographer, and co-founder of community creative studio The Babe Cave LA, and Gabriela Ruiz, a mixed media artist who works with vibrant color palettes to explore ideas of self, home, and environment.
 
 

Ready for the Oscars?

Ready for the Oscars?

The 94th Oscar event is this Sunday. Coming out of the static that was the pandemic, the Oscars this year will surely be something different. Will it work, will it engage and audience that has been dwindling? Will Packer will produce the event. With three  hosts, Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes the event will be held at the often-used Dolby Theater in Hollywood. But what about the Oscars, this crazy race to hold the golden man, the winners, losers, the gowns and tuxedos? The big picture, the Best Picture Award will likely go to CODA—a great, unpretentious movie with a happy ending. The spoiler could be the thoroughly complex, Drive My Car, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s film about love, sex, celebrity, theater and betrayal all told primarily through words. The Power of the Dog, also a great movie with a complex storyline may be just a little too complex, although it is hinted that Jame Campion could win the coveted Oscar, much to the chagrin of that old tired Sam Elliott. Passing on actors and actresses, the other moment of joy will be when Summer of Soul wins the best documentary award. Questlove! Other minor but important nominations are best score—Dune, for sure; No Time to Die (was there any competition?) But lastly, a word about Dune and art direction. A big category in terms of creating the environment of a movie—Dune was especially remarkable for its art direction, taking us to a space that that felt oddly felt new, which is hard in this category (space).

 

Tips to Keep Your Skin Healthy and Hydrated

Tips to Keep Your Skin Healthy and Hydrated

 

Getting hydrated and plump skin can be hard to achieve, especially if you live in a place with a hot and dry climate. Dr. Caren Campbell, a dermatologist in California, stated that residents living in places with hot and dry climates are more likely to suffer from dry and dehydrated skin. Due to the lack of water in the air, the natural moisturizing components on your skin evaporate at a faster rate than normal. Recognizing the impact of the climate on your skin, you need to hydrate regularly to keep your skin healthy and glowing. Here’s what you need to do:

Maintain a regular skincare routine

You may not be able to control the climate in your area but you can still provide the best conditions for your skin by practicing a regular skincare routine. Though this may sound like a lot of commitment, a proper skincare routine for dry skin can be completed in just three steps. First, you need to cleanse your skin from irritants and dirt using a cleanser. Next, you can address dullness and dehydration by applying a moisturizing treatment at least twice a day. Then before heading out, you must protect your skin against environmental aggressors by applying sunscreen all overexposed areas.

Apply a hydrating serum for an added boost

On extra hot and dry days, you can apply hydrating serums to complement your regular skincare routine. Many people prefer serums since they contain high concentrations of ingredients for maximum efficiency. So, if dry skin is your concern, you can apply serums with humectants before you put on moisturizer. An example of this ingredient is glycerin/glycerol, a moisturizing component that naturally occurs in the body. Another kind of humectant is urea, an organic compound that is part of your skin’s natural moisturizing factor. Thus, applying serums with humectants on extra hot and dry days can help in restoring your skin’s natural hydration levels.

Keep yourself hydrated from within

Aside from following a moisturizing skincare routine, you need to maintain your body’s natural hydration levels by drinking lots of water. After all, your skin contains 64% water, so you need to consume enough of it to maintain optimal health. In fact, our article on the bad habits that affect your skin emphasizes that dehydration can actually lead to dryness and even breakouts. Aside from drinking about eight glasses per day, you also need to avoid drinking sugary beverages and coffee, which can make you urinate faster. On top of that, limit your alcohol consumption because it causes your body to remove fluids from your blood, making you dehydrated at a faster rate.

Use a humidifier at home or in your office

Finally, you can improve the air quality in your own space during extreme weather conditions by utilizing a humidifier. These appliances produce and disperse water vapor that adds more moisture to the air. Since your environment can affect your skin’s health, humidifiers can ease irritation and dryness caused by poor air quality. You can even opt to purchase humidifiers that emit cool mists to further balance the environmental conditions in your home. To illustrate, evaporative humidifiers contain a fan that evenly distributes the cool humidity across a room. You can also alleviate dryness by using an impeller humidifier, which has a rotating disc that releases mist into the air. Whichever option you opt for, a humidifier should make it easier to maintain your skin health.

You can keep your skin healthy and hydrated by caring for it, both inside and out. Following a proper skincare routine, adding a hydrating serum, drinking enough water, and using a humidifier are good practices that can boost the hydration levels of your skin. Stick to these tips and, before you know it, you’ll have hydrated skin all day long.

Getting Back

Getting Back

Recently, the world was treated to nearly eight hours to of a kind of Beatlemania—in the form of Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back.  Whilenot for everyone, it will appeal to  those interested in the Beatles as a group, and as personalties. It is as Peter Jackson said, a “documentary about a documentary.” It lived in a previous life was “Let it Be”, a documentary by Michael Lindsay-Hogg back in 1970. In that documentary, one was left with a bad feeling—they would break up months after filming, yes, there was animosity and they didn’t like each other for a long time. This documentary makes it clear that none of those things are  quite true. Yes, they break up, yes, there were some bad feelings in the end, but that is expected as this is nothing less than a love story about a group of friends who came together to make music, and changed the world.
Here is the review:
At once sad, poignant, nerve-wracking and compelling, it is really a love story and yes it ends in divorce. The Lennon-McCartney connection was intense—they read each other, conspired to reach the heights of silliness, waste time and when the moment came, to turn it out. Harrison fought for his rightful place, he was up against giants, but he managed—and—his songs were just as good—Lennon was funny and clever in ways we hadn’t been shown before. Yoko, oye—while not a nuisance, she was a huge distraction. She sat there for hours and you wondered why she didn’t have better things to do. McCartney, astrology can explain him— A Gemini with Virgo rising—music just flows from this man and what is evident is, he loves it. Gifted with a voice that could be soothing to do raunchy without strain, to watch as he evolves some of his classic songs, was a gift unto itself, and I think we can safely say, the man never looked better. But back to Lennon—a much better guitar player than expected—in one scene, he suddenly plays the theme from the classic film, The Third Man—brilliant. And then there is Ringo—beautifully tailored, always good natured, more witness though as always his drumming is a thing of perfection. Billy Preston arrives just in time to add another layer to the music and a much needed so-called fifth Beatle position to keep them on their toes.
What was the conclusion? They evolved, they became individuals who wanted to play their own music—their break-up was inevitable, though so sad. Unknown hero—Glyn Johns, who would go on to produce every great act in music. In the studio, his choices, his advice is always spot on. And as for George Martin? His debonair looks were about all he could offer as this was a striped down version of the Beatles—not the musically complex version that he so helped to create.
Sad. John Lennon assassinated. George Harrison dies of cancer as does Linda Eastman. One is reminded of the fragile nature of friendship, of collaborations, of creating something from nothing, of time. Odd that after nearly eight hours, you are left wanting a little more—what happened after the rooftop?
See the Movie, See the Fashions

See the Movie, See the Fashions

LOS ANGELES, NOVEMBER 2021 Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) and United Artists Releasing have partnered with the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising for a limited time House of Gucci exhibit at the FIDM Museum from November 23 – December 4, 2021 (10AM – 5PM PT).

House of Gucci is inspired by the shocking true story of the family behind the Italian fashion empire. When Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel the family legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately… murder.

Presenting an exclusive mix of never-before-seen House of Gucci photography, film footage, and costumes curated by costume designer Janty Yates, this exhibition offers audiences an immersive experience and backstage access to director Ridley Scott’s upcoming crime drama starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, with Salma Hayek and Al Pacino.

With exhibition curation and creative direction led by Melina Matsoukas’ De La Revolución, in conjunction with MGM and United Artists Releasing, we invite you to explore the world of the House of Gucci through exclusive new film stills, unit photography shot during film production, behind-the-scenes photography and cast portraits shot by photographer Cuba Tornado Scott.

“Making this film has been an extraordinarily rewarding experience, and this exhibition serves as an extension and showcase of the terrific work by my remarkable team of artists,” said Ridley Scott.

FIDM will be hosting a series of activities around the House of Gucci exhibit for their past, present and future students and the exhibit will be open to all students of FIDM and the community.

House of Gucci is only in theaters this Thanksgiving.

FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
919 Grand Ave. Suite 425Los Angeles, CA 90015

www.welcometothehouseofgucci.com

https://www.unitedartistsreleasing.com/house-of-gucci/

https://www.facebook.com/HouseOfGucciMovie

https://twitter.com/houseofguccimov

https://www.instagram.com/houseofguccimovie/

https://www.tiktok.com/@houseofguccimovie

Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s
HOUSE OF GUCCI
A Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film
Photo credit: Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc
© 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sketches of Spain Pt. 1

Sketches of Spain Pt. 1

It was a crazy idea.

Travel the length of Spain from the South to the North in a very hot August.

What is clear is that travel in the year 2021 was not like any other year—we’re not just talking the masks, the social distance, the lessened crowds, but the fact that flight took a strange turn, and not for the better.

We leave Los Angeles, on a bright August day. The airport feels usual, there are cars and crowds, kisses and waves, people coming and going. Security is as it always is, and the casual glance at the flight board suddenly registers a delay. We are to head to Dallas and catch a flight to Madrid, all in the span of 45 minutes.

It does take a least half an hour for the plane to leave the ground and touchdown in the sweltering heat of Dallas, Texas. The stewardess erroneously mentioned that people with connecting flights would be given priority—not sure. We slowly make our way out and as it turns out, and head to another terminal. Running through the airport we are accompanied with fellow passengers who are also attempting to make their connection. We arrive at the gate. It is seven minutes after the departure time—they are gone. American Airlines.

Dallas. American provides us with hotel lodging and a voucher for a driver to get us to the near town of Irving, Texas. We drive past the George Bush Turnpike—we really are e in Texas.

A pleasant enough hotel in the middle of nowhere, we make plans for the next day as we will not be leaving for Spain till 5.

Dallas. The first stop is the site of the Kennedy assassination. An event we have seen over and over in films, documentaries, resurrected every November 22. It is a tourist attraction, no not widely visited at this time, be it the heat, the Covid.

There are x’s in the street, we are told put there by conspiracy theorists indicating that Lee Harvey Oswald could not be the lone killer. In Dallas, nearly everyone we ran into called him the “accused assassin”. They have their doubts. It’s a sad, quite a boring little stretch of road that changed history.

Madrid. Spain

Its 6:00 and time for drinks at El Corte Inglés, Spain largest department store with a rooftop experience similar to the one found in Century City.

This experience is wild though. It is prime time, people are happy finally out of their houses, enjoying the view, the cocktails, and the company. It is popular. Find a chair in the outside ring is impossible. People jockey, watchful of movements to din that moment to claim the space. People are casual, leisurely in their drinking and time—it’s simply too pleasant to leave.

Madrid. A city of a thousand dances, mostly flamenco. A thousand hotels, parks and restaurants—it’s a big city. We found great comfort in H10 Villa de la Reina, hotel situated in the middle of the city on the Grand Via. Luxurious and even glamorous the hotel has an old-world charm combined with modern amenities—and, you walk out the door into the hustle and bustle of a Madrid Summer day ready to shop, visit the museums and play.

Art. At the Palacio de Gaviria, Ta 19th-century palace located on Calle Arenal, a stone’s throw from Puerta del Sol, is showing an exhibit about gay life in Madrid in the 1920s. The art is great, the exhibition, which seems thorough does not contain one word in English. No matter, the “international language of love” was being spoken at the Boyberry bar, right behind the El Corte Inglés, which turns out to be, the bohemian Lavapiés neighborhood. A small bar, the Boyberry is what is known as a cruising/darkroom bar. It works like this: buy a drink from a very friendly waiters, and head to the literal dark corners, which are cruising areas, glory holes (don’t ask) and a labyrinth of rooms that lead essentially to nowhere. A staircase takes one down, into the depths where men silently mingle, adjusting to the darkness in search of something. The ads, of course, promise a pride of young lions, full-haired muscle boys, shirtless, eager to engage, Maybe. It is the time of Covid, social distancing and such. No asking for vaccination records in the dark here. We move on.

What does become apparent about Spain and frankly about most of Europe is that they LOVE their cafes. A large portion of time is spent in these outdoor cafés, or terraza. Maybe its the Summer Wind, the ever-rising temperature (it hit 100 degree Fahrenheit quite often) on cobbled stone streets, but the umbrellas are unleashed, the tables set and the people arrive. So many asked if Covid was an issue (in the States) and yes, but the great news is that Spain was diligent in its keeping the masks on, not allowing crowds of large sizes to gather.  Was it different? Did Europe, Spain feel different? Yes, the crowds were not as intense; the ferries between Spain and Morocco was not working; for the most parts hotels were ample (except in the seaside resorts).

We’re in Pioneer Plaza, one of the most famous sights in downtown. Named after the pioneers that founded Dallas in 1841, the plaza, with its bronze sculptures, is one of the most-visited tourist spots in the city.

The bronze, life-like bulls built in the ’90s to honor the cattle drivers who passed through Dallas on the Shawnee Trail in the mid-1800s. No bull.

The Metropolis Building located in Gran Vía and Alcalá Street, 2014

The fantastic exhibit that had so little information that even now you cannot find out much about it.

Lady Blackbird sings

Lady Blackbird sings

 

Every once in a while, someone brings to music a voice, a sound, a note or a chord that is different. Enter Lady Blackbird, who back in 2020, brought to the ears of the world, the song, Blackbird. A composition written and sung by Nina Simone, Lady Blackbird delivered a vocal that on first impression, felt like Nina Simone was alive and well.

The LA-based artist, who formally was known as Marley Munroe has re-invented herself, and we like it. That song and now an album, Black Acid Soul, and to our delight she joins Vintage Trouble for a night at the Ford Theater on Thursday, September 16th. For tickets head here. 

If you are fan of jazz, of crazy orchestrations that sound like the soundtrack of a dark, smoky night in a Southside joint, with vocals that may instill a permanent awe of the human voice, join the lady who Gilles Peterson has labelled the “the Grace Jones of Jazz” for a night of music.

From a published biography:

Lady Blackbird didn’t mean to soundtrack a revolution. But last spring, that’s exactly what she did. On 27th May 2020 the Los Angeles-based singer Marley Munroe released her debut single.

“It’s a brave soul indeed who not only tackles one of Nina Simone’s starkest tunes, ‘Blackbird’, but also calls herself Lady Blackbird into the bargain,” noted Blues and Soul at the time. “The original is a stripped-down chant with claps and hand drums, a field hollering protest song that will darken the skies of anyone’s heart. Lady Blackbird has the same urgent grace as Simone and she really takes what is an essentially acapella song and adds her own powerful magic and spirit to
proceedings… There’s an unmatched regality throughout, proving Lady Blackbird is an incisive and adroit singer. She channels the agony and thick despair on the lyrics, too.”

Simone released ‘Blackbird’ in 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights struggle. Almost six decades later, the killing of George Floyd, two days before the release of Lady Blackbird’s version, gave this new rendition a coincidental but no less stark, awful yet uplifting power.

“There was so much emotion there,” Lady Blackbird reflects now of a recording she and her Grammy-nominated producer Chris Seefried had laid down in the legendary Studio B (aka Prince’s room) in LA’s Sunset Sound. Jazz, she agrees, has protest in its DNA.

“Ultimately, I’m in this to entertain, not to be any sort of leader. That’s a huge responsibility that’s so deep within itself. I want to entertain and push people’s buttons. But having that platform, having people willing to listen to you and your music, that’s a responsibility – and one of using that opportunity to share your views.”

As it happens, in actual fact they’d recorded ‘Blackbird’ a few months previously.

“And unfortunately, and disgustingly, it did ring so fucking true last spring,” she continues with a hint of the soulful fierceness that, on stage, makes Lady Blackbird a wonder to behold. “It’s always been one of my favourite songs of hers. I’d listen to ‘Blackbird’ on repeat on my headphones for hours at a time, just feeling it, getting into the bones of it. “I could picture myself singing it onstage – I often do that, close my eyes and imagine me interpreting certain songs on stage. And I thought: this song has to be done.”

Lady Blackbird isn’t the Nina Simone of the Black Lives Matter era (she certainly wouldn’t call herself that). But she is the talent, and the force-of-nature, and the talk-walking personality, that Gilles Peterson has dubbed “the Grace Jones of jazz” – an accolade reinforced by the remixes of recent single ‘Collage’ by jazz and house heavyweights Bruise, Greg Foat and KDA.

And she’s the woman who can flex in other areas, too, as seen in the jaw-dropping version of Tom Petty’s ‘Angel Dream’ that she performed at the virtual Birthday Bash held last October in tribute to what would have been the late musician’s 70th birthday.

We can also just call her the best new voice of 2021, a transcendent performer of songs old and new, an artist whose approach, outlook and vibe is summed up in the title of her stunning forthcoming debut album.

Black Acid Soul.

Minimal yet rich, classic yet timely, the album connects backwards to Miles Davis (his pianist, Deron Johnson, plays Steinway Baby Grand, Mellotron and Casio Synth throughout) and forwards to Pete Tong (he made the Bruise mix of ‘Collage’ his Number Two Essential Selection tune of 2020) and, yes, Victoria Beckham – Matthew Herbert’s remix of second single ‘Beware The Stranger’ soundtracked the designer’s Spring/Summer 2020 Fashion show.

Its 11 tracks have a sound, feeling and attitude that speak of Lady Blackbird’s deep experiences in music, stretching all the way back to infancy.

“I don’t ever remember not singing,” she says, recalling performances in church and at fairs from the age of five. “It’s what I knew how to do, and I don’t want to do anything else.”

By her early teens, Lady Blackbird was travelling to and from Nashville. She was signed to a Christian label but the only music that resulted was some work with rock/rap group DC Talk. After they split, she worked with former member TobyMac, appearing on his first four solo albums and touring together.

“But I realized that that whole Christian world, which my parents tried to place me in, was so goddam far from who I was. I did not want to do Christian music, I didn’t believe anything of what they did, and I quit the tour.”

A wise young soul already at the age of 16, she then found herself “in limbo, because I was in this contract till I was 18”.

Once legally an adult and free, she based herself out of New York while flying to and from sessions in LA. She was working with Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Sam Watters, Louis Biancaniello, Tricky Stewart and The Heavyweights. A production deal led to a record deal with LA Reid’s Epic. But creative differences led to her parting ways with the label.

So, the deal ended “and it was back to the drawing board and working with different people”. One of those was artistturned-writer-and-producer Seefried, who’d been Grammy-nominated for his work on the debut album by Andra Day (soon to be seen as Billie Holiday in biopic The United States Vs. Billie Holiday).

On meeting Lady Blackbird, he recalls thinking: “Wow, I’m working with the best new vocalists there are – Andra and Lady Blackbird are two of the greatest singers on the planet.”

From Lady Blackbird’s point-of-view, “I fucking loved his shit!” she hoots, relieved to have finally found a musical partner who got her. “Chris listened to me, asking, was I feeling this vibe, or that vibe? He was able to dig inside what I was feeling. Next thing you know, he had some amazing sounds worked out. We really just connected.”

They took their time, working in Seefried’s LA studio, feeling out the bespoke musical path that would work with the fiercely individual performer. Finally, in hitting on the idea of stripping everything back, “we cracked the code”.

“I’d written a song, ‘Nobody’s Sweetheart’, a jazz ballad kind of thing, and asked her to do a vocal,” explains Seefried. “I laid the tune on her – and it’s quite a complicated piece of music – then I played it again. And she goes: ‘OK, I got it.’ And in two takes she nailed it, live. It’s a real natural genius kind of thing to have that kind of musicality intuitively.

That song, when he began playing it to people, stopped them in their tracks. “In fact, when I played it to my therapist, he started crying.”

“When you break a therapist, that’s when you know you’re winning!” Lady Blackbird laughs.

A sad, elegantly simple tune, ‘Nobody’s Sweetheart’ was, too, a pathfinder song, and also the first one they recorded (with, ultimately, on the finished album, a beautiful trumpet solo from the great New Orleans virtuoso, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews). After working on big pop bangers, this was the motherlode. After going all out, they were going all in, deeply in, getting out of the way and letting shine the voice of Lady Blackbird.

For the singer, a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, that approach, however, didn’t – couldn’t – diminish her onstage persona. “I loved my over-the-top costumes and all this elaborate shit on stage. Chris convinced me we could be jazz and still keep that attitude.”

Suffice it to say that, when Seefried played ‘Nobody’s Sweetheart’ to Ross Allen – the British label exec, DJ and crate-digger who’s signed Lady Blackbird to his new imprint Foundation Music – he was astounded.

“I also showed him this picture of her, this radical woman on stage, and it was from the back, wearing this incredible dress and Pattie LaBelle headgear. Ross was like: ‘She sings like that and looks like that? Fucking hell!’”

“Yeah, it was my ass!” she shouts, delighted. “Ass out, always!”

You can hear that personality in ‘Collage’. An instant earworm which she inhabits in multiple colours, it’s Lady Blackbird’s take on the “fucking quirky” James Gang original, a soulful psych-rock deep cut from 1969.

There’s more inspired reinvention on the aching ‘It’ll Never Happen Again’, written by Tim Hardin and which first appeared on the folk singer’s seminal 1966 debut. Forthright as ever, Lady admits, “that was one of the ones I didn’t like at first. It wasn’t boring, I just didn’t know how to give it some power or personality at first. But then I tried it, it was a beautiful session, and it’s ended up one of my favourites on the album. It just sounds magical.”

That spirit of adventure and invention is there, too, on ‘Beware The Stranger’. It’s a rerub of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, a rare groove classic recorded by funk/gospel collective Voices of East Harlem in 1973 and co-produced by Curtis Mayfield.

“It’s a version of a version!” she laughs. “We changed the title, the gender, everything! But again, when I first heard it, I just could not hear it. Then Chris cottoned on to the choir piece at the end and suggested we build from there. It was this gothic-type sound, and we rebuilt that choir just using my voice. When we took it to a dark and dangerous place, that’s when I liked it, and when everything else just happened. Taking them down a jazz route was just about interpreting them in a way that could make them fit on a Kind of BlueLove Supreme kind of space”.

Rounding out the album are two killer cuts written by Lady Blackbird and Seefried, ‘Fix It’ and ‘Five Feet Tall’. The former is an elegant piano ballad that sounds like a Great American Songbook standard sung by a woman on the side of the angels. Her ability to nail the song in the studio in minimal takes was clearly something to behold.

“Deron had never met her before the session,” recounts Seefried, “and she was recording ‘Fix It’ in Lady Blackbird mode. And he was like: ‘Damn, she’s like artificial intelligence! She’s like an Avatar! This is unreal!’”

As for ‘Black Acid Soul’, closing the album, it speaks of both the “Jackson Pollock jams” Seefried describes in the studio and the mantric soul evocative of Hot Buttered Soul-era Isaac Hayes. Explaining how the song became the title and then, again, the vibe, Lady Blackbird says: “We used to hashtag #blackacidsoul, as our sub-genre of music. It just encompassed everything we were doing. It cemented all those ideas and genres in this made-up shit!

“And because ‘Blackbird’ is a great start to the album, because it gets dark and violent and goes somewhere spiritual, we wanted to tail the album with another expression of acid soul. So that became the title track at the end.” This is Black Acid Soul, and this is the first crucial album of 2021. Are you ready to fly with Lady Blackbird?

New Atlas of American Style

New Atlas of American Style

From the forthcoming book with Vogue entitled THE UNITED STATES OF FASHION: A NEW ATLAS OF AMERICAN STYLE which will  be publishied on September 7th.

 

An expanded look at Vogue’s February 2021 issue which launched their project, this book celebrates creators, artisans, and visionaries across the country, paying tribute to the democratization of American fashion. Organized by region and providing additional context for the designers and craftspeople featured, the book offers a wealth of new material and is presented in an entirely different way from the printed magazine. Including an introductory essay by Anna Wintour, the book also features never-before-seen photographs and anecdotes, not published in the pages of Vogue, from fashion designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte; Jeremy Scott, and Libertine; photographers Alex Webb and June Canedo; and craftspeople Ariana Boussard-Reifel and Ataumbi Metals, to name a few. The book also contains texts by esteemed writers, from Louise Erdrich’s words on Native American fashion and music editor Suzy Exposito’s account of being goth in Miami, to new ways of creating sustainable, recycled fashion.

The editors of Vogue, the ultimate authority on fashion, document the post-COVID changes happening across the fashion landscape in America. Celebrating creators, artisans, and visionaries across the country, the book pays tribute to the democratization of American fashion and the creativity and artisanship that is no longer confined to the runways of New York and Los Angeles.

FASHION HAS LONG mythologized the American West, forging certain staples—gauzy dresses, cowboy boots—from its history and lore. Today, however, a growing number of designers are reworking those old codes and points of reference, finding inspiration in sources as wonderfully varied as Montana and New Mexico’s Indigenous cultures, Hollywood, Las Vegas, and the surf in Southern California. If they have anything in common, it’s a shared spirit of free-dom and adventure, one articulated by The Elder Statesman’s Greg Chait. “We are about being free-spirited—that’s what we have in Los Angeles,” he says. “Fashion isn’t L.A.’s first language, but creativity is.”