Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Onita Boone: Won in a Million

Onita Boone
Onita Boone Onita Boone

Having come to European mainstream attention last year after prestigiously winning the Dutch/German TV singing contest âThe Winner isâ¦â (the prize being a million Euros!), Cologne-based, New York-raised soul singer/songwriter Onita Boone this month launches her career in the UK with the release of her critically-acclaimed debut album âOnitaâ.

Indeed, primarily produced by internationally-successful German hitmaker Mousse T. (Tom Jones/Roachford/ Bootsy Collins) while also featuring co-production input from Cool Millionâs Rob Hardt, âOnitaâ - many of whose tracks impressively boast real string and horn sections - finds the five-octave-ranged Ms. Boone delivering a dramatic cover of James Brownâs âThis Is A Manâs Worldâ alongside vocally-flawless renditions of Oleta Adamsâ âGet Hereâ and Rufus & Chaka Khanâs âAinât Nobodyâ on a 14-track set that also finds her simultaneously exploring a diverse range of soul-rooted styles on a collection of well-crafted, original songs. Whose moods range from the finger-clickinâ modern soul vibe of âIâll Carry Youâ and the Sixties-tinged âSugarfreeâ to the hypnotic neo-soul of âI Knowâ; while additionally taking in lite jazz (âJoinedâ); Seventies-style Philly-soul (âI Donât Wannaâ), bluesy folk-soul â25 To Lifeâ; and punchy, horn-laden funk (âWhoâs Crying Nowâ; âLet The Funk Come Outâ) along the way.

Born and raised in the upstate community of Newburgh, New York, Onita (whose name means âstrong windâ) initially learnt her craft in church - singing her first solo at age three, writing her first song at eight, and recording her first song at nine! Meanwhile, beginning her career proper by featuring in numerous well-known Broadway and Off-Broadway productions (including âMama, I Want To Singâ, âYour Arms Too Short to Box with Godâ and âThe Blacker The Berry The Sweeter The Juiceâ), she would later prestigiously go on to sing background for an illustrious list of global superstars including Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, George Michael and Patti LaBelle while simultaneously writing for such internationally-acclaimed black music icons as Mary J. Blige, En Vogue and Jamaican reggae legend Dennis Brown.

Nevertheless, recognition as an artist in her own right would not arrive until, having lived in Germany since 1997, Onita would in 2012 enter - and win - aforementioned televised singing competition âThe Winner isâ¦â. The ultimate result of which would be her current record-deal with Universal Music, Germany and the ensuing release of her aforementioned debut album⦠Which in turn pretty much brings us back to where we started!

⦠Cue an instantly-personable and talkative Ms. Boone on the line to âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a brightânâbreezy introductory chat.

PETE: Your highly soulful debut album has been praised for its musical diversityâ¦

ONITA: âWell, with me being one of those singers who has a lot of sides to them, because my taste in music is so diverse I hate to be pigeonholed into just one THING. I mean, I love funk, I love soul, I love easy-listening, I love rock - you know, I love it ALL, even COUNTRY! And so the last thing I want is for someone to say âWell, youâre this kind of artist so you canât do that type of MUSICâ... Which is why for my album I basically just wanted to project all my sides without favouring one in particular.â

PETE: âOnitaâ has also been acclaimed for its âmatureâ lyricsâ¦

ONITA: âWell, thatâs because I think thereâs a PLACE for that. I mean Iâm not a teenybopper and I donât kinda speak bubblegum-and-Oreos to people. So because I tend to speak in a more mature language myself, I wanted the album to REFLECT that. Because I do think the mature audience is an audience thatâs sort of FORGOTTEN these days - unless youâre talking things like easy-listening or jazz - when the truth is that there ARE enthusiasts over the age of 40 who go just as hard as the kids when it comes to their love of urban music or R&B or funk or soul⦠So yeah, I did definitely want to sorta represent music that we in that particular age-group could RELATE to.â

PETE: The albumâs Supervising Producer (and occasional co-writer) is internationally-successful German producer-cum-DJ Mousse T. of Tom Jones/Roachford/Bootsy Collins fameâ¦

ONITA: âI actually met him through the television show that I did - and won - called âThe Winner Isâ¦â. You know, because he was fronting the show as the head jurist it somehow just seemed like a natural sort of progression for us to do a RECORD together. And so, while I had actually written some of the songs a while ago, what I think he brought to the table was fresh ears and a fresh TAKE. Because, with him being a DJ with his finger on the pulse of what people like to listen to today, heâs definitely brought that sort of look and that sort of PERSPECTIVE to it. Plus I do think heâs a bit more diverse than people give him CREDIT for. I mean, heâs a piano player, he loves soul, heâs got an extensive record collection... So yeah, I guess you can say he and I working together was a really cool and natural musical marriage!â

PETE: Can you fill me in on your early musical-theatre background in Broadway/Off-Broadway productions?

ONITA: âWell, the very first audition I went to was âMama, I Want To Singâ - and I got the part the very same DAY! You know, to my amazement they all stood up and did all this cheering and picked me right then and THERE⦠So, with that being my first experience, from there it just went on and on and ON! As a matter of fact, the reason I now live in GERMANY is as a result of an Off-Broadway show called âAretha Queen Of Soulâ, in which I played Mahalia JACKSON! You know, my move here did initially come from me being selected to be in the show during its run at the St. Pauli Theatre in Hamburg... So yeah, Iâve basically travelled EVERYWHERE doing Broadway productions - everything from âA Midsummer Nightâs Dreamâ to âDreamgirlsâ!â

The album âOnitaâ is out now through The Winner isâ¦/Universal Music Group

Read more from this fascinating interview with Onita Boone in our spring print issue, in all good retailers now or click below to order from the B&S shop.

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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