On August 24th at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, singer & songwriter, Alana Belle will narrate her story through music in a production entitled En Chantant Des Chasons. I recently had the chance to chop it up, trade notes, exchange samples, and even collaborate with Ms. Belle and decided to share our conversation.

K: Who is Alana Belle?

AB: Child of God. Woman. Mother. Daughter. Artist. Lover. I would hope that at the end of my days people would say I’m a lover. A lover of life, human beings, sound. All aspects of my life inform my creative process. The sound I’m creating is rooted in R&B, but definitely has a world vibe.

K: On Saturday you’ll be hosting and performing in your inaugural [solo] show. Can you elaborate on the concept behind En Chantant Des Chasons and perhaps give us an idea of what we can expect?

AB: The title comes from the tune C’est Si Bon, performed by Eartha Kitt. En Chantant De Chanson is a lyric in the song that means “singing songs” which is exactly what I do! I wanted to tell my story, the story of how I got to where I am now as an artist. I recognized that I couldn’t tell my story without telling the story of those who came before me. How could I get on stage and not honor Teena Marie, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu? Each artist I chose to sing played an important part in my development as a musician. It was only right that I dedicate myself to learning their music and to then put it on stage.

With ECDC I really wanted to focus on performance. Even before recording solo material, I felt crafting my specific art of performance was necessary. Back in the day, people performed before they recorded anything. I took notes and am following suit. I wanted to put up a show that is focused solely on the music and performance. No drinks or food. Just the music. Which ultimately makes my job harder, but this is why you do this work. I want to tell stories through my voice, through the arrangements, through the lighting, through the wardrobe changes. Yes, there are a few! Ultimately, I wanted to create a beautiful moment that people will remember.

K: What do you hope the crowd takes away from your performance?

AB: My greatest desire is that at any point in performance the audience is moved emotionally. That’s what drives me to create and I want people to share in that emotion with me. I would also want the audience to have an understanding of my great respect for those musicians that came before me- I am honored to sing the songs of great musicians. I will also be premiering an original composition that I wrote with a collaborator, Marcus Trader.  I hope that the song creates an honest desire in the audience to want more music from me.

K: You cite Eartha Kitt, Sade, Erykah Badu, as influences. Who are some of your contemporaries who inspire you creatively?

AB: Quadron is impeccable. I admire the fact that they’ve taken the time to create a sound. It’s not just a bunch of records put together, they have a cohesive (and sublime) sound. Music is so much about groove and they’ve got an undeniable groove. It’s like clothing. When it comes to music, Quadron’s got style. Kendrick Lamar actually inspires me as a singer. No rapper has ever done that for me. I am inspired by his cadence. It makes me think about how I can phrase things differently as a singer and what that would do to the emotion behind the lyric. But honestly, living in Seattle, there are so many artists that inspire me whether it be through their fearlessness, musicianship, or work ethic. Porter Ray has so many records that are great it’s ridiculous. I’ve been blessed to work with Sarah Jones on her FOA project and she inspired me to not just sing and write, but to also be the boss.

My bandmates inspire me. Andrew Imanaka, Kevin Lavitt, Greg Meredith, Chris Patin are all fantastic musicians in their own right.  I couldn’t have dreamed of better musicians to play with. But at the end of the day, my biggest inspiration has always been and will always be love. Love will never go out of style.

K: Your ear for music is impeccable! You sourced the Leon Ware sample that was used for “Prolly” on Porter Ray’s BLK GLD and I’ve found some of your [dope] mixes online. How did you acquire such a fine musical palate? Have you ever considered producing?





AB: Well, that I get from my Daddy! Hands down! Anyone who knows me, knows that music is pumping through my veins. My father should have been a musician, but he is the purist lover of music I know. The first song I can remember hearing was Capim by The Manhattan Transfer. My father and I are a day apart so I think it’s safe to say I got it honestly. I owe my love for Marvin, LeRoy Hutson, Teena Marie, Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, Gary Bartz, Gino Vanelli, Tower of Power, Michael Franks, to my dad. And trust, the list could go on for days! But I must say my mother introduced me to Burt Bacharach, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Another person who I can cite as helping to inform my musical taste, would be an old boss. She used to work for Rolling Stone and was the flyest woman I had met at 21 years old. Her iTunes library was crazy! Songs for days! From her library I got a love of the Cocteau Twins, New Order, Dusty Springfield, and Jack White.

In terms of producing, I’m really focusing on producing and creating for my upcoming projects. My machine of choice is my late and favorite aunt’s baby grand piano.  I feel extremely connected to the piano, an acoustic piano. There’s something about pressing your hands down on those keys. It’s an extension of my own emotions. There are so many emotional color tones on the piano that really make creating a beautiful process. You may come across a chord that expresses an emotion you’ve never dealt with before- that’s what I love about the piano. But in terms of producing with samples and a beat machine I would love to have someone teach me (hint, hint). I really want to sample some marbles or rocks in a mason jar. That sounds like summer to me. Little kids falling in love at the end of summer. Running around barefoot.

K: What can we look forward to next from you?

AB: After ECDC I’ll go right into recording a collaboration with the amazingly talented producer, KMTK [It's in print I can hold her to it]. We’ve created a suite of interludes entitled, Indian Summer, which I can’t wait to release! Growing up in the 90’s interludes were everything, and we missed them. So why not create some?

I will also be collaborating with a dear friend of mine, Greg Meredith, on recording 6 instructional videos for this rad instrument called a Kelstone. The Kelstone is a 9-stringed instrument that lays flat and hails from Belgium. It’s crazy! We start filming those in September and they will be featured on the Kelstone website.

And last but not least, I’ll be writing and recording for my debut EP, ‘The King and I’, which I plan to release in Summer 2014. The EP will be accompanied by ‘The King and I’ short film.

K: Who's getting rotation in your iPod?

AB: Seeing as how my iPod was stolen (grrrrr!) then my car cd player broke, I’ve been listening to the radio. I’m not too happy about that, but I still find time to jam. Outside of my setlist, I’m listening to Quadron, Bobbi Humphrey, Jose James, Etta Jones, Emily King, Jodeci, Lianne La Havas, Daley, Jessie Ware.  A friend of mine recently put me on to Hiatus Kaiyote and I’m in love. Definitely love at first listen.

K: Who should I sample next?

AB: Seeing as the great George Duke has just passed, I would say sample Dukey Stick as a tribute. It’s super funky! The music lovers would appreciate that.

To catch the show peep the info below:

A Belle Productions and Foundry Dynamic Productions Present:

Alana Belle En Concert: En Chantant Des Chansons (Singing Songs)

Alana Belle tells her story through singing the music of iconic women who came before her. A night of music and storytelling blended beautifully.

Sponsored by Upscale Soiree

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rainier Valley Cultural Center

3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118


Tickets: $12

Share Article