Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Portia Monique: Soul Music's Next Top Model

Portia Monique
Portia Monique Portia Monique Portia Monique Portia Monique

âMusic is in me. Iâve been singing since I could talk, quite honestly. I was told when I was about 3 I started running around the house singing and acting like a maniac Portia Monique laughs as she recalls her first memories of singing.

Born in Hawaii, the aspiring soul songstress later moved to Seattle, where she would eventually pursue her music career. With a new album, âNobody Graceâ produced by Oli Lazarus and Reel People, Portia Monique is set for big things in 2015 âMusic is in my family but Iâm the only one that I know of who is working towards it taking to the next levelâ she continues. âMy dad was always playing keyboard and piano. He was a genius with that. My uncles were DJâs and producers and they loved music. My mum could hold a note tooâ. Surrounded by music from an early age, Ms Monique had an eclectic mix of influences âMy goodness, my influences were Sade, Anita Baker, Simply Red, Sting, BeBe and CeCe Winans I listened to a lot of contemporary jazz, just music in general that takes your mind to another level, that takes your mind on an escapadeâ. Her own musical escapade really began when she hooked up with Reel People Musicâs Oli Lazarus. âHe came across my website in 2011. He liked what he heard and just shot me an interest email asking if I was interesting in collaborating so I said âletâs hear what you haveâ. They sent me tracks that resonated with me and I wrote to them. I sent them back and they liked what they heard and the musical family started, the musical union with Reel People began.â

Lazarus, however, wasnât the first producer to spot her potential âThereâs a website called were independent artists submit their music to get it critiqued by industry heads. I submitted music and it was heard by Rodney Jerkins and Midi Mafia and I got some comments from them. It was pretty positive (feedback). I had a song that I did with a Seattle producer named Illquint, it was called âget to know youâ. They said they liked the groove, and elements of the songs so it was all positiveâ.

That critique also helped her develop her skill as a song writer âI write alone and then I bring it to the attention of the producers, in this case it was Oli and Toni Economides. Although I do like writing with others I usually get deeper in my zone when I start alone even just for the initial shell (of the song). I always carried a tape recorder everywhere - I went for lyrical topics, melodies or even a beat. I still have a big box of my cassette tapes that I recorded on. âAs of right now, it is not (a physical album), it will be released on the 27th (Oct 2014) digitallyâ Portia explains about her impending release.â Right now thereâs not a hard copy but who knows, depending on demand it could possibly happen. This album is really good so itâd be great to get physical copies pressed up. Iâll have to chat more with the head honcho about itâ. In addition to her on her own music, Monique also collaborated with her label mates, The Layabouts and German house producer Ralf Gum âWhen I met Oli Lazarus, he introduced me to the layabouts and then we did the song âDo Betterâ and a few others like âColours of loveâ It would be great to collaborate with more people, more producers and get any kind of sound that brings out goodness because I love music so I do anything I can to bring that outâ.

Her self titled album, âPortia Moniqueâ is a mix of soul, funk, jazz tinged house grooves that is weaved together with her flawless vocals, but on âWhoâ Portia brings serious attitude to a song about nosey people. (Laughs) âThat was a freestyle, that part where Iâm speaking. I didnât get to revamp it or anything. Oli was digging it, and I said âdude, really! Can I re-write it, can I add a little more grace to it!â but he liked it. Itâs just about nosey people in general and even sometimes I can be nosey so who knows it could be about me too! Itâs about people that are in your business that shouldnât beâ.

One thing that fans may be curious about is Portiaâs hair. Those trademark fabulous braids could give any style conscientious diva a run for her money âThe hair is crazy, itâs about 48 inches long, maybe 50 now that itâs growing out. Itâs extensions and I braid it in myself. I took me 2 days to do my own hair. Iâm used to it now, I only leave it in for 2 or 3 months and then I have to treat my natural hair and then I redo itâ.

Like many up-coming singers, Portia tried the talent show route but decided it wasnât for her âI tried American Idol, X Factor, things of that sort ⦠the Apollo Theatre talent show⦠a long time ago, back before I started pursuing my solo career extra hard like Iâm doing now. But I feel like the universe gives you messages and felt like it wasnât meant for me to make it that way. I think my calling is going to be hard work and being in the right place at the right time. Itâs not going to be a talent show that will get me there.â

Constantly evolving as an artist, Monique has also used every opportunity to develop as a live performer âI was in South East Africa and Asia for about a year. I toured Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. It was great. It was a time in my life where I was meant to work on my stage presence for my live shows when it comes to this album. You want to make sure youâre on point as a live performer. I feel like the universe brought me to that place specifically to get me ready for the future. The funny thing is, when I was out there I wasnât singing my own music. I was doing covers - I was part of a cover band. But I did my own music in Africa. I took that experience as training for the future. Itâs tough because if youâre a creative person and you like to write and sing your own stuff, you want people to hear your musicâ.

Hopefully weâll get to see Portia bring her music to a UK live stage soon âUK and Europe is definitely in the forecast. Especially with the album coming out it would only be right to do some shows because the team I worked with on the album are based in the UK so it would only be right to do some shows thereâ.

Self titled album âPortia Monique" and single "Nobody Grace" are out on Reel People Music
Words Karen Lawler

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