On the occasion of her new EP, Dreamseeker, Goapele explains how she honed her sound, the responsibility of music under the Trump administration, and her evolution as an artist.
On Friday (May 19), Goapele released her new EP, Dreamseeker. The 10-track record is complex and multidimensional, which provides a cultural analysis that calls for social change and activism, and a personal narrative of unconditional love and wisdom.
The songstress has been implementing this technique since her now classic 2001 debut Closer, which title track has over 6 million Spotify streams and been sampled by everyone from Drake to YG. Since then she has released four full-length albums, collaborated with artists like Snoop Dogg, E-40, Eric Benét, Soulive, and Jeff Bhasker, landed high-profile syncs in Sparkle, Honey and 90210, partnered with Aids Healthcare Foundation in 2017, launched a lifestyle product line titled Dreamseeker, and starred in a short film entitled Where Is Beauty.
Dreamseeker finds the singer reconnecting with her “original self,” blending soul, R&B, funk, and even some Hip-Hop for a raw callback to her roots as an artist. We caught up with Goapele to discuss the process behind creating the new EP, the role music plays in the Trump presidency and the importance of self care.
Your name means “move forward” in Setswana; how is Dreamseeker a step forward in your music career?
It’s me getting back to my roots while also bringing together elements of soul, Hip-Hop, R&B. I’m working on videos for the songs…And I guess [Dreamseeker] is also a personal perspective of where I feel we’re at politically as a country. And feeling like it’s really time to come together and think about what we stand for and what we’re not going to fall for anymore.
I really just wanted to touch on the different sides of what it’s like being a woman and being a human these days. To give people something to vibe to and just reconnect with my fans that originally supported my music and plant some seeds with the next generation of people that music could speak to.
I love the idea of having a message in your music. Under the Trump administration do you think music has to speak to people?
I think it’s important to reflect our lives, and for us to feel uplifted in moments where we’re struggling. That’s one of the things I love about art and music, how it can affect people emotionally and mood wise. You don’t even have to understand the language and what the lyrics are to have that connection.
I think that energy and intention are important now. I think it’s important to talk about what’s going on. And, I think it’s equally as important to do music that just makes people feel good, too. People are looking for something real and it’s about tapping into an emotion and sharing it.
“[Dreamseeker] is also a personal perspective of where I feel we’re at politically as a country. And feeling like it’s really time to come together and think about what we stand for and what we’re not going to fall for anymore.”
That’s the importance of messages in music. And as a Black woman your music, at least for some, it forces to really engage with your identity, practice self care, and understand Black womanhood and sisterhood. Do you think all musicians have a responsibility when it comes to speaking on social issues?
I used to think that, but I think about the music that moves me. Every type of music. Music doesn’t have to be deep to move me. And I love a lyrical song, but honestly what lifts me up at different points is like everything under the sun. And I feel like there is a place for everybody, there are so many different kinds of people out there. There’s never going to be just one kind of thing that will speak to everybody. And I think also, if we just try and be positive all the time or preachy or even overthink what effect this is going to have every time you’re creating something it’s so intimidating. It’s too heavy [laughter].
One of the things for me is just trying to be open when I’m in the studio. What you put out there will have an effect and you have to be ready for it, there’s room for so many things out there.
You have put so much out there. How long have you been working on this EP?
Honestly, I spent a couple years on and off. Because it was going in different directions. I was building a larger body of work and then trimmed it down to these songs first just because it felt right. And I wanted to live with each song and feel like, “does this move me, does this have a purpose now?” I didn’t really want any extra that didn’t need to be out there.
You’re doing all of this on top of being a mom. How does your daughter feel about your career and your music?
I think it’s interesting for her. Because there’s the “me” at home and picking her up from school and our day-to-day life, and then there’s me working and I work really odd hours…I think it’s exciting for her and kind of strange sometimes when she sees how people react to me sometimes.
But she’s a very creative person in her own element, so it’s interesting to watch that develop. I hear her singing and she’s getting into acting, you know, I just try to balance it out with other things. She’s thriving at school and taking karate and kinda balancing so it’s not putting too much pressure or importance on being an entertainer, it’s a passion and a hobby like everything else. And then whatever she does she chooses it herself, and it’s all good. I feel like that’s how my parents raised me. You do your best and be true to yourself and it’s okay, we’ll be open to whatever you do. So we just try to normalize everything.
“People of color and African-Americans, the road has been paved for us. There’s room for us to show our diversity, we don’t have to all be one way.”
Well, anyone that knows you knows that you’ve been creating music that’s quintessentially you from the jump. Take me through your creative process.
I would say, sometimes I already have an idea. Every now and then I’ll already have lyrics, the melody, and the bassline in my head that I’ve just been developing. And I might sit with a producer or musician to fully turn it into a song. And then sometimes I get into the studio with a producer, and a lot of times they’ll start playing chords and just finding a melody that is moving….I’ll try not to overthink too much, at least in the beginning of the process. And before I put anything out there I ask myself “does this feel like a real reflection of me?” And am I echoing some truth about myself?
But each song is a long process, some songs I’ve lived with for years and some songs that are really made up almost in moments.
If you could describe Dreamseeker in three words, what would they be?
I would say: whimsical, powerful, and sensual.
Is there anyone currently in R&B and Hip-Hop that you really admire? People that are contributing to the culture and not taking away from it?
I think there are so many! Honestly there are so many artists right now that I think are really dope. People of color and African-Americans, the road has been paved for us. There’s room for us to show our diversity, we don’t have to all be one way.
I listen to Anderson .Paak a lot, I think he’s making great music. Frank Ocean. Sampha. Lianne La Havas. I mean there are just so many great people and great songwriters out there with edge, doing their thing. It’s been lighting a fire under me to put more out there! Especially in this time of craziness it’s time to rise up and show out in every kind of way!
Yes! And you know I can’t talk to you without asking you who’s in your top five. Dead or alive. No specific order.
Nas, Common, Dock-B, Big Sean, and Kendrick. I love Hip-Hop and I’ve been loving Hip-Hop since I was a kid, so five is very difficult for me. Like if you ask me on another day I might have to switch those out [laughs].
“And before I put anything out there I ask myself “does this feel like a real reflection of me?” And am I echoing some truth about myself?”
What else do you have lined up for the rest of the year?
Well, Dreamseeker is also a lifestyle line that I started so I’ve been doing a small release of some jackets I designed, and body products. I’m working with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and targeting different cities, specifically to bring women of color together and for us to open up a discussion and talk about what’s really going on, relationships, self love, complexion, stigmas, women’s health stuff…I was involved with this independent short film called Where’s Beauty? so I want to do more film stuff. And then doing a lot of shows, being in the studio, collaborating with different artists, and being a mom!
All of this work that you’re doing, how do you practice self care?
I think some parts are as simple as listening to your body and paying attention. Whether it’s making sure you’re eating food that makes you feel good afterwards and drinking water. That kind of basic stuff that’s kind of easy to miss sometimes, especially when you’re a woman that’s on the go a lot.
Excercising. Figuring out how to get enough rest and a moment to yourself, get calm and breathe when possible, and support people. Be around people that make you feel good.