A few weeks back I went to the intimidatingly cool record release party for Solange’s boutique label compilation, Saint Heron. The album is a hand-picked selection of textured, atmospheric singles from R&B and electronic up-and-comers like Jhene Aiko, Kelela and Sampha. One of those up-and-comers is Jade De LaFleur.
Jade has one of those voices that sounds like it was made for a slightly scratchy record player and a smokey room. After sharpening her vocal chops in the R&B girl group Sophia Fresh and working as a backup singer for Solange, De LaFleur is doing her own thing now, and that means making moody, down-tempo tunes with a minimalist flair. I called up Jade to chat about her upcoming EP, Jaded, Saint Heron, and why she said New York “introduced her to reality.”
Can you start off by talking about how you started making music?
I’ve been making music for a while. This project that’s about to come out, Jaded, I’ve been working on since the summer of 2011. But I’ve been doing music all my life. I’ve been singing forever, I grew up singing in church. My mom’s a gospel singer, and I worked with Sophia Fresh for a very long time. Then that situation brought me to L.A., and we worked with Clive Davis at J Records and Underdog Entertainment. That’s where I met my good friend James Faunterloy, and a lot of producers and writers that I work with, and learned from. After I left the group, I worked with Solange as her singer, and I toured with her for two and a half, three years. After that is when I decided to move to New York, and the move New York is what started the tone for the project.
Your sound in Sophia Fresh is very different from your sound now. How do you think you’ve evolved as an artist since then?
In every way. In every way that life happens: mentally, physically. Like through relationships that you have or that you lose. Everything has influenced where I am now as opposed to where I was then in Sophia Fresh.
What inspired you to go out on your own and start a solo project?
Music has really always been the only thing that I get joy from, that makes me feel good. So after I finished the tour with Solange, I was just in L.A., and I was thinking that there was definitely something for me here, in New York. So I decided to move here, and that’s when I came upon certain situations and circumstances, and I really just evolved into the artist that I am now.
On your website you credit New York with “introducing you to reality.” Was there anything specific that happened to you when you moved here?
Yeah, when I moved I was going through so many other things at the same time. I had just gone through a really, really bad break-up of a relationship that I was in for like, five years. And, every girl knows, when you go through a break-up you need your friends. You need your friends to take your mind off it, and you need yourself to face the facts and get through it. But at that time, I was moving here and I didn’t have my friends, and I didn’t have a job. I didn’t really have people here to support me. I mean, financially, physically, everything. There were a few people that I had known, aquaintences, and even now those relationships have flourished. But when I was first here, I had so many experiences that just seemed like a reminder of a dark place and what I was going through. Jaded came about because I started to write down things that people would say to me, or situations that I was in—things that would stick out to me through this period.
I still have my days and I’m definitely in a different place now. But at that time, just going through so many things, I would say that darker side is where the project came from. And that’s why I say New York introduced me to reality. Because before, where I grew up in Louisiana, my parents worked really hard to give me a really good life, and I’m so appreciative. But at the same time, there were a lot of things on the other spectrum of life that I hadn’t seen or dealt with until I moved to New York and was on my own. Because in New York you got to make it work. That’s just the way it is.
So growing up right outside of New Orleans, how would you say that’s influenced your sound?
Growing up there, there’s always a sense of truth to me, a soul within the music. And that comes from blues and jazz, any style of music that you hear. Even drums and percussion, the way that second line influences music in New Orleans. And that’s in me always, and I use some of those influences in a lot of my projects, because that’s what helps me to tell the story the way I want to tell it. But for this project, I didn’t specifically box myself into any type of music or genre, I really just wanted to tell stories and share experiences. I want to make sure people can identify with the subjects I’m going to write about, but each story and each song has a different mood.
Let’s talk a little bit about the Saint Heron compilation. How did that come about?
Well, Solange and I are friends, and we work together. We were just having fun one night at a party here in New York, and we were just chillin, listening to music like we usually do, and she heard Jaded. And when it came on, she instantly liked it, and we played it again. I mean, I felt great about it, ’cause she was with it from the beginning. So that’s how it came about. And Solange was working on putting the project together, and she felt like they worked well together, so here I am.
What was the inspiration behind Jaded.?
Jaded was just where I was at that time. Like I was saying before, I didn’t know if what I was going through was a dream or if it was real because I was in a place where I had never been before, and I was experiencing things that I never thought I would. I was just learning, letting myself go through things, but definitely in a darker place. That’s where it came from; it was just the truth of what I was going through at that time.
And what was your process like writing and recording Jaded?
Each song was different. I worked very closely with some good friends of mine, the Page Brothers, and they did a lot of the production on the project. Sometimes we would be together and I would tell them what I wanted, or we would play around with melodies and tracks. Sometimes I would already know what I wanted to hear, and I would get together with musicians and we would play everything live. But it’s different every time.
So what’s up next for you?
Jaded is coming out super-sonic soon. I’ve been doing some shows with that, and I’m going to be doing more shows with the Saint Heron project. I just can’t wait to keep moving forward. I’m still recording too.
So do you feel like sometime in the future you’ll have to move again to have another burst of inspiration?
You know what? I love it here. It’s sounds so cliché, ’cause everyone always talks about the energy here, but it’s so true. There’s so many figures and facets of life that you can see just from walking down a block anywhere in New York. So I don’t have any plans to move. But something could change for a project and it may not be a move somewhere. This time it was, because it affected so much of my life at that time, but you never know.