Wayna Interview by Tom Paul

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    WaynaEthiopian born Wayna has been busy promoting her new release entitled "Moments of Clarity" comparing her to Lauryn Hill and stating that every track is a pleasure to listen to and that she is an artist to keep an eye out for in the future.

    WaynaEthiopian born Wayna has been busy promoting her new release entitled "Moments of Clarity" comparing her to Lauryn Hill and stating that every track is a pleasure to listen to and that she is an artist to keep an eye out for in the future.

    Wayna has received great reviews for her album "Moments of Clarity" from Billboard, Essence Magazine and many others publications pointing out her skillful lyricism, alluring vocals and a conviction in her songwriting that will stand out for years to come.

    Her songwriting abilities have landed her in the studio with artists ranging from producer Bill Laswell to Sly & Robbie to N'dea Davenport. Wayna has also worked on Indie projects for W. Ellington Felton, Kenn Starr, Kev Brown, Cy Young, and Tamara Wellons

    Wayna has opened for many National artists during their performances in the Washington, D.C. such as Fantasia, Amerie, Common, Bobby Valentino, Jaguar Wright, Kindred, and Chuck Brown.

    She has steadily made a name for herself with her many performances and studio projects and will be performing Aug 28th in Manhattan at The Highline Ballroom with Les Nubians & Queen Godis.

    TP: Your first album "Moments of Clarity" has been acknowledged in high praise from several music critics. Describe what influenced the songwriting and lyrical content of this gem?

    W: Thanks so much! Moments of Clarity was really a coming-of-age album for me, lyrically.  A lot of the songs were about my own journey as a young person, coming into my own, resolving things in my past and defining the kind of woman I wanted to be going forward.  It was deeply personal; I wrote about being raised by a single mother, who often struggled to keep ends met, about being an immigrant, about being underestimated as a woman, about learning forgiveness, all the emotions I was sorting through during that period.  And I found that a lot of the experiences I thought were unique to me are really not that rare at all. That's part of the beauty of music, I think, to remind us of how alike we really are.    

    TP: Did you produce this album yourself or work with outside producers?

    W: I co-produced 1/4 of the album, but for the most part, I worked with a really talented team of producers in the DC area: Kev Brown, RoddyRod, Abegaz Shiota, Kokayi, and James McKinney.  They each brought there own flavor to the project, which added a lot of variety and personality to the album.  Also, a lot of the beats were a gritty contrast to my vocals, which made for a real unique blend. 

    TP: Did you write all the material yourself or co-write with various songwriters?

    W: I wrote mostly all of it.  There is one song on each of my albums, where I collaborated with other writers, but the vast majority is my work.

    TP: What studio did you record your album at?

    W: I recorded Moments of Clarity at the various studios where my producers worked out of, but for my recent album Higher Ground, I built my own home studio and did a lot of recording here.

    TP: What musical influences help craft your style as a singer over the years?

    W: I was really introduced to classic soul late in life, in college actually.  I'd won a scholarship pageant, and I had started doing a lot of performances around campus and was looking for good material to cover.  The first artist I fell in love with was Donny Hathaway.  He had an honesty and vulnerability in his voice that was so powerful, it just completely changed my outlook on singing. So after that, I started digging into other people's catalogue, and soon enough, I had a whole host of musical mentors. Minnie Riperton and Billy Holiday were my favorites.  Objective listeners can probably hear a little bit of them in my melody and production choices. 

    TP: What songwriters have you taken to heart in terms of your lyricism?

    I really appreciate writers who can tell a story in their songs and create a visual experience for listeners.  Folk music has been really inspirational to me in that sense: Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman.  I've also gotten a lot of inspiration lyrically from hip hop, where the rhyming schemes are more intricate, with the use of metaphor, alliteration, etc. Artists like Common and Lauryn Hill are my favorites.  Just the idea of being a voice for the voiceless is what's most exciting to me, and both folk and hip hop have an element of that. That is probably my greatest goal as a writer, to tell the untold story or to tell a universal story in a new and interesting way.  

    TP: You've had the pleasure of working with some great artists in the studio, can you talk about some of those sessions you've been a part of?

    W: I think the person I probably have most chemistry with in the studio is Roddy Rod, who is a phenomenal producer. We would get together without any real plan for what we're going to make.  He'd start pounding on the MPC, and in an half an hour there's a ridiculous beat looping.  I just try to relax and write. We did Slums of Paradise from my first project that way and A New Scenery on my recent album similarly.  Muhsinah is another artist I had a real effortless experience with in the studio.  I think when you vibe well with folks, the best part of you as an artist gets to shine and vice versa.  My most fun in the studio, however, is usually with Cy Young, whose a complete comedian except for when he quiets down long enough to spill out the most poetic, eloquent verse you've ever heard.  We just really laugh our way through a song, which is really fun. 

    TP: Do you have any new projects that you can talk about?

    W: Yes, I'm really proud and happy to have just released my sophomore album, Higher Ground.  It is in a lot of ways an evolution of my first project: vocally, lyrically, and production-wise.  The songs are less about my story and more about the people and issues I've observed over the past few years, which was a new and exciting challenge for me as a writer.  There are songs about domestic violence, police brutality, office politics, homelessness. There are also a lot of love songs on the album, which show a softer, funny side.  In general, I worked hard to make a complete project with no skippers, and I'm really excited about how it came together.

    TP: Did you study music growing up and later in College?

    W: No, I actually majored in English and Speech Communication at the University of Maryland, which turned out to be really helpful to me as a writer and businesswoman.  As a child though, I played the oboe and a little guitar, but formal training felt really restricting to me.  It was almost as if what we were doing wasn't music because it was so broken down and mechanical.  But I think that was more about the type of instruction I had.  I look forward to getting formal training in the near future, however, to really build on the skills and instincts I've been developing.

    TP: What was your first job out of College?

    W: I worked as a Researcher and Writer in the Office of Speechwriting at the Clinton/Gore Campaign Headquarters and then at the Clinton White House.  It was a really exciting time.  If I had a true love outside of the music, it would be government, so I was thrilled to be there and really inspired by the work and the brilliant people I came in regular contact with.

    TP: What told you to stop what you were doing and go after your musical dreams?

    W: In spite of all the ways I was challenged and growing there, I felt like my greatest gifts weren't being put to use. And when that's happening, a part of you just starts to go numb.  Every morning on my way to work, I passed a large record store, which had in-stores with some of my favorite artists, and I found myself sneaking out more and more on my lunch break to meet them.  It just became obvious after a while that this was where my heart was and that no mater how exciting my day job, I wouldn't truly be happy or fulfilled until I developed my potential as an artist and really chased after this dream.

    TP: Have you performed with any other groups in the past?

    W: I've been blessed to share a stage with Common, Fantasia, Anthony Hamilton, Ashford and Simpson, Chuck Brown, Bilal, Raheem DeVaughn, and a lot of other popular acts.  But some of my favorite performers are underground artists like Eric Roberson, WES Felton, Grap Luva, and Sy Smith, all of whom I've gotten to work and grow with as part of the DC music scene.   

    TP: Name 3 artists that you'd like to work with in the future?

    W: Andre 3000, because he's just out there in a way I think I'd like to beJ Stevie Wonder because we'd all like to breath in a little brilliance in this life.  And Lauryn Hill for probably the same reason. 

    TP: What were the last 3 downloads or CD's that you purchased?

    W: I actually went on a rock binge a few days ago and bought the best of Queen and Pink Floyd's, Dark Side of the Moon.  Before that I think it was Sly and the Family Stone.

    Please check out the eFlyer for Wayna's show with Les Nubians on August 28th at The Highline Ballroom. It's gonna be a HOT Show!!!