Goapele traveled thousands of miles to work on her current single “Victory”. A California–by way of South Africa– resident, going to the Motherland was nothing short of a family reunion for the singer. Having traveled there several times growing up, her last trip was a lot different being in the midst of the monumental 2008 US election. Barack Obama’s presidency coupled with the excitement of the World Cup (once the project was wrapping up) inspired her song with South African rapper, Hip Hop Pantsula.
Now, she’s shifting focus to her anticipated album Milk & Honey, that has been in the works for two years. She chatted with us about South Africa, her new album and balancing everything with a daughter and family.
Madame Noire: How have you been?
Goapele: Good, good. How are you?
MN: Good, what have you been up to?
Goapele: I’ve mainly just been in the studio working on my third album, Milk & Honey. Doing shows, starting to perform new music like “Victory”, which is more of a project around South Africa and Africa as a whole. The title track is something that I did with the Hip Hop Pantsula a bilingual artist out of South Africa. The “Victory” project is a side project that I’m doing as a collaboration with African artists. You know, I have South African family and grew up listening to artists that my parents were listening to from the ’70s. And so the last trip that I took was the first time that I met a lot of the new artists that are doing their thing now. It came out of a time when Obama had just been elected and it felt like we were witnessing change in this country and even in South Africa people were feeling that. And then we were getting the music out around World Cup and just the excitement from the world looking at South Africa.
MN: Were you raised there?
Goapele: No, I was raised in the Bay area (California). I’d say about half of my family still lives there on my father’s side. I started visiting in high school when the laws started changing and Mandela was about to come into presidency.
MN: How have things changed?
Goapele: Africa doesn’t look like it’s changed that much to me since I first went in ’94. There is still a major economic divide, but the rights of Africans have changed and progressed. I would say there’s more black South Africans in [government] and have power right now. But there’s still a huge economic divide.
MN: What have you been up to between the last album and Milk & Honey?
Goapele: I’d been doing shows, but I slowed down because I had a daughter and got to spend some time having more of a family life. Built a new studio in Oakland, called the “Zoo” and have really just been taking my time with this Milk & Honey project. I’ve been working on it for the past two years and recording a lot of songs. And now I’m just finishing the album up and picking the strongest songs.
MN: What about the album are you most excited about?
I feel excited about it. I’ve gotten to work with a lot of people on it. Hooked up with different musical friends, because musically we were interested. And that was really exciting. I did a track with Khao, out of Atlanta who’s worked with T.I.. Did a track with Maylay, who did a lot with John Legend’s album. I got in the studio with Kanye West, we did a song. The dedication for the career takes a lot of work but if you love it, it’s worth it.
MN: You have a lot of current producers. Is it classic Goapele or more contemporary, having the sounds of today?
Goapele: There are a lot of classic Goapele tracks, that are obviously me. And I’m also just trying to keep evolving and grow as an artist. I’ve always had a wish list of producers I wanted to work with. I just wait until the feeling is mutual and go into the studio to see what we can come up with. So I feel like there are some songs that have potential to go past the last album, but people will definitely still feel that it’s me.
MN: People always associate you with “Closer”. Why do you think that song was so popular?
Goapele: Yea, I think a lot of people relate to the struggle and excitement about what they’re trying to do with their life– rather they’re an artist or have another career or students. When I wrote the song it felt it was extremely personal and it was really just the vulnerability of getting some of the first songs I ever wrote out to the public… not knowing if I would fail or succeed. It just resognated with other people, because it’s really honest and catches a moment in time that so many people go through, but want to remain inspired.
MN: It’s also just instrumentally, soo calming. Very melodic [Laugh].
Goapele: It’s so viby! [Laugh] I’ve heard… it’s the cords Tiger was playing. It feels good and the drum and baseline are hard-hitting. From the first time I heard the track, just the instrumentals, it hit me. On a similar note, what I’m hoping to do in the near future… we have something in the works where I want to do a televised project around what “Closer” has meant. Basically hook up youth with people in their dream career and get to walk through the day with them and help them get to know their own inspirations. That’s what I’m hoping to start after the album is finished.
MN: How has being a mother affected the album and the process of Milk & Honey?
It has made me more open and vulnerable [Laugh]! Both at the same time. And I’ve had to open up more and be more patient and stronger and more determined and really it’s a lot of my heart. It’s meant a lot to me to be able to expand my life into having my own family amongst having a musical career, because it can be a challenge. Just in terms of time, when I have it, I just really have to focus in the moment. Whether that’s with her or having to get up early and go to the studio or operating with less sleep. Just staying more focused.
MN: What’s the soft date for the album and what will you be up to this year?
Goapele: The album is going to come out in the spring. People will hear “Right Here” very soon. And I would just say, we just relaunched Goapele.com and people should go there to find out about shows. I’m doing shows across the U.S. and a larger tour during the spring. I’ve really just been appreciative about the music supporters that I have and that fans have been with me, even with me taking the break between putting out new music.
Click here to listen to “Victory”