Solange on why she needed a Black city to find her voice

Solange
H(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Billboard)

Solange Knowles has been pretty candid with her feelings in her music but in a recent interview with Billboard, the Grammy-winning artist is opening up about some subjects she has never spoken about before.

Solange also shed light on what informs her artistry, why she’s “not interested in entertainment,” and what she loves about New Orleans.

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Here are a few highlights:

Her hits hurt. 

Solange explained that her extremely personal album, A Seat at The Table, wasn’t always easy to perform. “I felt like singing “Cranes” every night in front of everyone was like throwing salt on the wounds all over again. There were things that I was trying to get away from. It was very different recording it in a room in a safe space. And I remember my voice would quiver and shake for probably the first three months of singing that song: “I tried to drink it away… I sexed it away…” All of this, every night, in a festival environment.”

Awards don’t matter. 

Solange weighed in on the controversies surrounding awards shows neglecting to recognize people of color, and said that trophies aren’t a good measure of success.

“I would like to see more diversity in all institutions, and I don’t just mean in music and art and fashion. I would like to see more people who look like me making decisions. But I certainly don’t subscribe to [awards] as the only way, best way or most important way to celebrate work. Through Saint Heron, we hope to uplift and empower and tell our story and celebrate each other every day. I am certainly not going to wait for anyone else to tell us that we’re worthy of that.”

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Her move had meaning. 

Solange was raised in Houston and spent several years in Brooklyn before planting roots in New Orleans and now we know why the move was so important to her.

“I almost felt like I was coming home because I really missed the South. I think there are certain qualities of living in the South that I really, really resonate and connect with. The sort of slowness. I feel like, rhythmically, I move at a much slower pace. I create at a much slower pace. I really like to take my time with things,” she said. “I really wanted to connect with my mother’s lineage. Her family is from New Iberia, which is about two hours away from here. My dad’s family is from Alabama. I was really curious about what having my ancestors in that type of proximity would do for me spiritually and artistically and, also, as a mother. I also wanted to live in a Black city. Houston and Brooklyn and Los Angeles are very diverse cities, but they are not where the majority of the population is black. I think it has been phenomenal just seeing Black women occupy every realm of space here in New Orleans. I wrote most of A Seat at the Table in New Iberia. I was there, off and on, for about three months. I would go up on Monday through Friday, come home on the weekends, or vice versa, depending on my son’s school schedule.”

 

She’s not into the industry. 

Despite the success of A Seat at The Table, which debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200 chart, Solange is in no rush to get back into the limelight.

“I’m clear within myself that I’m not interested in entertainment at this moment,” she tells me, leaning back on the plush rattan couch. “That might change. There might be a moment where I decide, ‘Hey, I love the game.’ For right now, I’m not [there].”