Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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N’Dea Davenport: Feelin Brand New

N'Dea Davenport
N'Dea Davenport N’dea Davenport lead singer with the Brand New Heavies The Brand New Heavies The Brand New Heavies

When N’Dea Davenport joined the Brand New Heavies in 1990 it was never meant to be a permanent position. But after releasing their brilliant self-titled debut the following year on Delicious Vinyl, a musical separation became unthinkable.

The group blow to epic proportions worldwide helping to pioneer British Funk and Acid Jazz. In 1994 though feeling the stress and in need to fulfill her solo ambitions the Grammy nominated Atlanta singer/songwriter desired time alone. Thankfully though in 2006 the band reformed with the return of Davenport to excite and delight once more. Just after finishing a mini US tour, the band start their UK tour with a huge gig in Sheppard’s Bush Empire this Wednesday. B&S' Ali Raymond was understandably excited get to talk to the legendary and beautiful N’Dea Davenport to discuss her career ups and downs, the bands new music and how she’s loving life more then ever.

It’s really exciting to see you back with the band. What’s it like to be back with the guys?

I guess you would say, really positive emotions. Not a lot of space and time has really gone by. It goes to show that the closeness doesn’t really go far when your close friends like obviously we are and also associates in music. So we have a lot of unfinished business (laughs). It’s kinda nice.

If we go back, you moved to LA at the beginning of your career, which you later traded for London in 1990 to front the band. Can you remember your first emotions when you all met for the first time?

Initially I’d heard their music more then I had heard of the band. I’d never really seen their faces, I’d never really met them. So I showed up with some crazy leopard skin coat (laughs) - crazy me. In the middle of Greenwich on a grey cold evening and it seemed a very mysterious day. I was like wow! There was a lot of anticipation I think on both parts. It was probably the same as going on a blind date. But soon after that and we got to know each other it was cool, real cool.

So you weren’t to bothered swapping the LA heat for the British weather?

I didn’t know what I was getting into see [laughs]. I wasn’t even prepared I didn’t have big enough coats. I was young and full of anticipation. Really none of us new our careers would take off like they did, and people where gonna respond to us so well.
A lot of that early quick success lead to my departure, technically because I was so unprepared. It was a whirlwind and we took off for years. So I needed to take time for me.

Let’s talk about that period. You left the band in 1994. Can you explain further why you needed time out to pursue your solo career?

Obviously initially I did have ambitions to strike it out on my own because I didn’t have a band. However I love the art of collaboration. So I kind of volunteered to work with the guys. It stared out as a featured position and evolved naturally, and progressed into a unit. So there wasn’t any time to formulate anything because it took off so fast in some respect. We weren’t just going from city to city in the UK, we were literally jumping from country to country. It was a pretty intense time. We were living in hotels, and on airplanes and tour buses. Almost 90 per cent of your life. And being young and being so impressionable it makes room for a lot of miscommunication and some frustration.

So why did you feel it was time to rejoin?

Well I think a lot of time had gone by. There was a lot of things personally that had gone on in my life. I’d lived in New York and had a property in New Orleans and so with a lot of the problems with 911, people started re-evaluating friendships and the closeness of family. So when the question was posed to me about rejoining the band it kinda made sense. I think there is a bigger picture. So as fate approached us initially it came about full circle to bring us back together.

It’s certainly hard to imagine The Brand New Heavies without you. What would you say is your biggest motivation to still make music and perform?

For the most part I think some of us are born to do all types of things and contribute. I think I was just born to be a natural court jester so to speak [laughs]. A natural entertainer. I mean I did take time out personally to do the simple things like ride my bicycle, lay my head on the ground and touch plants. Which still are so important when you are in a high pace career as music and entertainment is. The time out has provided me with the opportunity to get balance between the things I didn’t have and not mature enough to relies things I did. I have such a great perspective now, and I approach it that way. So I have so much more joy now and a sense of humor when approaching this.

What can listeners expect now The Brand New Heavies are back together?

When you break away from people and come back together, there are so many experiences that you’ve learnt in that period that you can now bring. I think our musicianship is even more developed. I know certainly I have more to bring in my writing, my production, my joys and pains. I think this time round it’s a little more intensely soulful , and I don’t mean musically soulful, just more so within our soul.

Have we got a name for the new album yet?

No, not at all. Actually we are gonna be putting out two new projects next year. One following on from ‘Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol.1’ which features collaborations with Hip-Hop mc’s.
We had a huge Hip-Hop audience when we initially stepped onto the scene. I think that was mainly due to the fact a lot of the Hip-Hop artists were sampling old records that were live records. So when they heard our sound it was so very familiar. Here we were, fellow contemporary’s which they could identify with. In some respects we really are the pioneers before people started combing Hip-Hop with live recordings. Even before The Roots, a lot of people might not be aware of that. So it’s appropriate that we take it to ‘Vol 2’, as there was a Vol 1.

Which sort of artist can we expect on Vol 2?

I can’t tell you that [laughs]. I can’t let the cat out of the bag right now. Like a film I can’t tell the whole plot of the story.

That’s definitely an exciting project to look forward to. Thank you for passing through, any last words to the readers?

I want to thank everybody for supporting the band over the years and it would be fantastic for you to share our experiences. British music has made huge contributions to music and I think The Brand New Heavies is one of those gems. I want to say thank you to all the commitment and staying true to what’s really real. It’s awesome.

Thank you


N'dea th the rest of the Heavies play the 02 Shepherds Bush Empire on Wednesday October 4th (with support from Speech Debelle). Then rest of the tour: Southampton's Soul Cellar on the 7th, Manchester's Academy 2 on the 8th and Bristol's Metropolis on the 11th.

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