You think you may know the road to stardom, but becoming successful in the music business takes time, practice and perseverance. Confidence doesn’t hurt though. Just ask new R&B artist B. Morgan if he knew one day he would eventually get his lyrics, his music and his luck right and he’ll answer you with his trademark: “OFCOURS!”
After a decade-long grind, the 29-year-old Bronx singer is finally on the verge of seeing that his dream was meant to be. Press play on his newest track: “Who Do You Love”,
Lyric Soprano Brenda Marie Turner received formal classical vocal training at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Film from Northwestern University. Based in Berlin, Germany, Brenda sings a variety of genres of music, including classical, jazz, musical theater, gospel, and neo-soul, with various organizations around the globe.
In conjunction with regular performances in operas, recitals, concerts, cabarets, and the like, Brenda has been the soprano soloist for several oratorios, including well known works by Handel, Rutter, Mozart, and Mendelssohn and lesser-known gems by Fanshawe. Additionally, she completed multiple seasons in studio artist programs and as a chorus member at Orlando Opera, Palm Beach Opera, and Cincinnati Opera.
Brenda has performed, in part or entirety, the roles of both Bess and Serena from Porgy and Bess, Lucia, from Lucia di Lammermoor, both Micaela and Frasquita, from Carmen, Lakme, from Lakme, and many other audience favorites. She also participated in the workshops and world premier of the now-popular opera Margaret Garner, and enjoys the challenge of bringing life to new music.
In addition to her singing career, Brenda has more than ten years of experience as a fundraising professional. She holds the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential and is the founder of Turner Divine Consulting, a firm through which she guides nonprofit organizations to fundraising success.
+++ In collaboration with the Grammy-nominated and esteemed writing and production duo in New York City, Kinetics and One Love (Pitbull, B.o.B, and Nelly), JENNA brings you her latest hit, Drunk and Dreamin’. This is just the first original release from her forthcoming album.
For the third instalment of our newly inaugurated FOCUS Nottingham feature, Ben Standring sits down with the soul-inspired Mollie Ralph to discuss balancing workloads, the debut EP and her determination for the future.
Vivacious red locks cascade over the top of a gleaming Mustang cruising comfortably over London’s iconic Tower Bridge. The vintage sights of the capital’s remarkable architectural landscape balance decadently with a bounding Norah Jones-esque figure swinging around lampposts, testing retro-framed bicycles and permeating colour into the mundane everyday. A viewer might mistake the four minute video as a promotional campaign for a fashion label or a teaser for the latest offering from a Hollywood actress, yet alas not, the video is for single Give It Up and the central figure is a humble, instantaneously likeable character, with roots not in Los Angeles but Nottinghamshire.
Sitting down with the heat of another late-afternoon Summer day reigning down, Mollie Ralph is exhausted and understandably so. ‘I’ve just finished a placement which had fourteen hour shifts so seven until nine, and then went straight down to London on Saturday morning to film the music video, and then back up to Nottingham,’ she laughs through sleep-deprived eyes. A student nurse having to juggle intense work placements in Derby with the early blossoming of a music career, Ralph is a composed figure, who at first clings tightly to the makeshift shield of her bag before letting loose and opening up, her workaholic mindset contrasting the anecdotal horror stories of past exam seasons in which the singer-songwriter confesses she’d cry during every year.
Examining her artistic path, Ralph exclaims ‘I’ve always sung really. I did the typical vocal grading and then my first few gigs were with a guy, a pianist I met from Newark, and I did a couple of Costa Coffee gigs when I was seventeen. They were fun but I sort of wanted to go off on my own a bit so I learnt the guitar myself just basically so I could go to open mic nights in Nottingham so that’s where it started.’ Whilst the city’s vibrant open mic scene led to the singer-songwriter being offered prestigious festival slots at Splendour and Dot to Dot, music had always been drilled in to her creative mindset from an early age, with her father in a band, she explains. ‘I grew up on a lot of eighties crap’ she laughs. ‘I can’t say I am a huge fan but I’ve always listened to the older tunes from Etta James and Billie Holiday. They’ve really influenced me.’
‘I wouldn’t want to sacrifice my own time if it wasn’t something that I was so passionate about, something I want to pursue as a career,’
There’s an inherent timelessness within Ralph’s artistry that gesticulates towards the fifties jazz and soul movements, but similar to contemporaries Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Norah Jones, Ralph desires to shift the precious genre into the twenty-first century. ‘The artwork for the Old Cafe EP cover is like that I guess. I do like to go down the vintage route. I’d like to be perceived like that but also it’s juggling…trying to appeal to a younger audience as well. I want to appear fun and youthful but I also want to be the more classic, Norah Jones kind of artist.’ A quirky, vibrant character who understands Amy Winehouse’ artistry to be a timeless element within music history, she offers gracious company. A curveball question regarding her favourite movie has Ralph gasping and grappling for tenterhooks. ‘You can’t ask that!’ she marvels. ‘Oh my god I don’t know, probably Pulp Fiction. Tarantino is so stubborn I don’t think he’ll come out of retirement. I watched Reservoir Dogs the other day. It’s weird I just love his spin on things it’s amazing.’
With influences spanning creative art-forms and genres, Ralph’s sound core was naturally going to incorporate the maelstrom of vintage and modern day passions she grew up with, yet her debut EP Old Cafe came about mainly as a result of a desire for a portfolio of music to send to festivals and venues. ‘I thought I’ll independently release something to showcase myself,’ she explains. ‘I just wrote some songs that I loved and just went for it and released it.’ Such was the passion and enthusiasm that Ralph had for her debut project that she took the brave step of taking six months out of her nursing degree. ‘It took around six months to make and I’m glad I did it, it’s given me so many great opportunities. It’s how my managers found me…it was really good,’ a wily hesitance is brushed aside by an infectious grin.
When asked about the real-life intricacies of freeing up six months of an academic year, Ralph is graciously honest. ‘My parents weren’t happy, no, but I thought you know what, if this is where my passion truly lies I may as well give it a bash,’ she sighs. ‘They understand why I did it now because they realised it was sick! It was a great experience having a sold-out EP launch at Rough Trade as my first gig as well.’
‘Acoustically you can only achieve a certain sound and that’s not what I wanted.’
A residual warmth lingers deftly in the air, hovering as Ralph examines the making of Old Cafe, the extravagantly produced debut EP which fits a market so desperately in need of a new figurehead. The modern jazz and soul movements were once spearheaded by a war of vocals between Amy Winehouse and Duffy in the mid-2000s. Since then, Duffy has faded into the abyss and Winehouse passed away, leaving the genre free of key female-driven leads, with the likes of Gregory Porter and Leon Bridges coming into the spotlight. Yet, there are smatterings of greatness cast across the sprightly EP, with Give It Up an instant pleaser from the get-go, its liquid-golden delivery tunnelling soothingly into the ears of the haplessly inspired daydreamers and life-long optimists, whilst lyrically its message is one of departure and self-respect.
Co-written with Nottingham stalwart Georgie, Give It Up documents ‘unrequited love…when someone’s not giving you their full attention but you want to be there for them, you want to be their hero, you want them to run to you if they need you…but they’re not.’ A forlorned sigh washes over the typically placid singer-songwriter, who sits with a quaint politeness throughout the interview, yet breaks into glowing periods of enthusiastic chatter later on; her Cheshire Cat grin demonstrating a slight wild-child aura in the singer’s demeanour.
‘Seeing some of the people in Nottingham really going for it is incredible…and I’m just like I want this!’
Addressing the crux of the EP; the shimmering soul-infused textures woven delicately between the layers of jazz and pop foundations, Ralph profusely highlights her need for a creative output that wasn’t rooted in the acoustic sound of the city, despite being partly a product of the open mic community. ‘I didn’t want people to hear my EP and it feel like its too acoustic-based,’ she declares. ‘Acoustically you can only achieve a certain sound and that’s not what I wanted. I did some acoustic shows to finance the EP and I lost myself a little bit. I wanted the full production and because instrumentally I don’t play that well, it’s hard to capture the full-bodied sound.’ Now with a nine-piece backing band behind her, Ralph is ever-closer to the sound she feels characterises her identity. ‘Everyone is just really excited to be involved so we’re trying to think of a name for the band! I’ve got trumpet and saxophone and backing vocalists, it’s amazing.’
An example of the flourishing hive of creativity buzzing around her camp, Nightwalker is perhaps the most avant-garde offering from Ralph to date, straying far from the acoustic path she seemed so traditionally comfortable with. A seductive temptress of a single, working with exquisite yet subtle layers of instrumentation, Nightwalker is a tongue-waggling offering that manages to prise Ralph into small fits of giggles as she explains its inner-workings. ‘Nightwalker…that’s the song about the prostitute! Somebody told me a story about one of their friends who considered going into prostitution. My immediate thoughts were just ‘gosh that’s risky‘, you don’t know who you’re meeting and anything could happen. This story came about in my head and I put pen to paper and that came out. I didn’t really want to be too controversial in my first EP, but I really like the song!’
‘I want to appear fun and youthful but I also want to be the more classic, Norah Jones kind of artist.’
Delving into the writing process behind Nightwalker and it’s clear to see that Ralph thrives off human interaction, picking up subtle anecdotes and conventionally mundane quips before shaping them into songs with a driving story behind them. ‘I’m not that old and haven’t experienced that much, so I take ideas from things that people have told me or movies that have touched me.’ She passionately describes in minute detail the rush that follows after writing a track from the very core of an idea, before offering a side of her personality previously unseen, a ferocious artistic drive for crafting a sustainable sound for the future. Whilst Ralph has started to battle between her goal of becoming a successful artist and the drive to maintain artistic integrity, the integral sonic soundscape that so beautifully frames her voice and songwriting style looks to hold the singer-songwriter in good stead for the coming months. ‘I wouldn’t want to sacrifice my own time if it wasn’t something that I was so passionate about, something I want to pursue as a career,’ she says matter-of-factly, before declaring ‘I’m not too stubborn really! I am good with seeing things from other people’s perspectives. I am open to suggestions as long as it’s good!’
Despite Ralph’s clear-cut drive and determination, there are signs to suggest that she’s opening up to the camaraderie of Nottingham’s music scene. Having met singer-songwriter Chloe Rodgers at school, a friendship later blossomed which led to the two performing together and subsequently collaborating on a joint project. Recording partly next door to Madness at RAK Studios in London, Ralph explains ‘Chloe taught me to harmonise properly, she’s a genius at it. It started from just busking together. We were too scared to go alone so we took it in turns last summer and now we’re writing an EP. Chloe is a lot more folky so it’s trying to work out how to blend that together. I’m obviously a more soulful artist and we want both genres in the mix so she started two tracks, and I started two tracks, and we completed them together.’
With the fruits of Ralph’s collaborative endeavours with another one of Nottingham’s finest singer-songwriters still to come, there is a lot lying on the horizon with new single Traitor coming soon, based on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and subsequently ‘about being cheated on… a dickhead basically…It’s kind of got Bang Bang vibes.’
Now with the help of a nine-piece band behind her, Ralph’s live show is an intoxicating celebration of soul and jazz, bolstered by the artist’s determination to pursue a career in the music industry. ‘Seeing some of the people in Nottingham really going for it is incredible…and I’m just like ’I want this!’ she projects. Ruminating on the video for Give It Up starts to inject a belief of where Ralph could get to in the future, with a sense of purpose and drive matching her larger-than-life personality. In contrast to the video’s faux dress-up and superstar-glamour pretence, it’s not an overt thought to ponder upon whether the singer-songwriter could soon be indulging in the sights of London from the comfort of a Mustang of her own as she starts to mould a timeless genre to her own irreversible talents.
Brought up in a family of musicians, Akon spent his early childhood in Senegal before leaving at the age of seven to live in the USA in Union City, New Jersey. A Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum selling artist, producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Akon is one of the world most influential voices in music today. In addition to having two multi-platinum albums, Akon has had 27 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and is the first artist to accomplish the feat of holding both the number one and two spots simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice.
Akon is an established bona-fide global superstar. The American born Senegalese artist has sold over 35 Million albums worldwide, received 5 Grammy Nominations and collaborated with an array of A-list artists from many genres including Lady GaGa, Eminem, Gwen Stefani, Daddy Yankee, Lil’ Wayne, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg and many more.
Akon’s global vision is rooted in music, but has expanded to include renewable energy. His “Lighting Africa” initiative put him at the forefront of the Sustainability Movement- an issue that profoundly affects citizens all over the world. This platform has given Akon a global stage as a multi-dimensional philanthropist, global entertainer and, in his own words, “ a social entrepreneur.”
Recently, Akon announced the formation of Akonik Label Group, distributed by BMG. The unprecedented artist-founded label group is comprised of four distinct record labels: Akonda (Afrobeats), Akonik (U.S.), Jamakon (Caribbean) and Ke Lo Ke (Latin America). This is the first time an artist has established a global record label group dedicated to multiple genres.
If you ever wished to mix the sweet falsetto of Marvin Gaye, Usher, Prince, and De’Angelo into one voice then your wish has come true in the form of Timothy-J. Believe us when we tell you that this kids voice is truly unique yet encompasses all these greats into one solemn and solid stream. Timothy is a real definition of soul, blues, jazz and modern day pop. He truly will steal your heart with his melody and style. we got a chance to ask this upcoming star a few questions and here is what he had to say:
Q: Can you please tell our readers your real name as well as your stage name? Real Name is Timothy Jamail and stage name is Timothy-J
Q: Where are you from and Where are you based? I am from Houston, Texas and reside in Nashville
Q: At What age did you start making music? I started learning instruments and my vocal range at 7 and started writing and producing the last 2 years.
Q: what genre would you consider yourself? R&B, Gospel, Blues, Soul, Rock
Q: Tell us about your latest track or Video ( what is it all about)–Please explain the concept or message Well this project is called Age of Aquarius, which also is my zodiac sign and represents the dark times we are in. As you listen to music, it sounds the same, there’s no message, but real life situations happen and no one talks about the real things. The family that you have to turn away in love because they wont grow, kids burying parents and having to be alright and just go on, blind love or is it love at all, marketing and psychological agendas targeting the mind because we are groomed to be sleep, having to wake up long enough to see dark times call for picking sides. What does your voice, vote, view, and faith show.
Q: Who wrote it and what was the inspiration behind it I wrote it, and the inspiration is what I wrote above. Ultimately, it describes the dark times we are in and the war for the mind, soul, and love of man.
Q: If you were given a chance, which Artist would you love to perform with? If I was given a chance to perform with an artist it would be Anita Baker, because shes a fellow aquarian, lol but also because her Jazzy/gospel/soul is my style, from her scatting to her emphatic vibes to give the soul exactly what the vibe calls for.
Q: Where can fans find you? List all your social media links
Born in Houston, Texas, Beyoncé Knowles first captured the public’s eye as lead vocalist of the R&B group Destiny’s Child. She later established a solo career with her debut album Dangerously in Love, becoming one of music’s top-selling artists with sold-out tours and a slew of awards. Knowles has also starred in several films, including Dream Girls. She married hip-hop recording artist Jay-Z in 2008. In late 2013, she surprised audiences by releasing her fifth studio album, self-titled Beyoncé, and has twice performed at the Super Bowl. She released her sixth studio album, Lemonade, after the airing of an HBO special in April 2016, and two years later she dropped a joint album with Jay-Z, Everything Is Love, while the two were on tour.
Singer and actress Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born on September 4, 1981, in Houston, Texas. She started singing at an early age, competing in local talent shows and winning many of these events by impressing audiences with her singing and dancing abilities.Destiny’s Child
English artist Ed Sheeran is a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter known for hit songs like ‘Thinking Out Loud,’ ‘Photograph,’ ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Perfect.’
Who Is Ed Sheeran?
Ed Sheeran is a singer/songwriter who began playing guitar at a young age and soon after started writing his own songs. When he was just a teenager, he moved to London to pursue his music, and his outpouring of creativity added up to several early EPs and hundreds of live shows. Drawing attention for his online performances, Sheeran hit No. 1 on the iTunes chart before he ever signed with a record label. Since signing with Atlantic, Sheeran has sold millions of records, had a song appear in the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy and won Grammys for hits like “Thinking Out Loud” (2014) and “Shape of You” (2017).
Early Years and Career in London
Ed Sheeran was born on February 17, 1991, in Halifax, West Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. When he was young, he began playing guitar, showing early promise as a musical talent. When he was 11, Sheeran met singer-songwriter Damien Rice backstage at one of Rice’s shows, and the young musician found added inspiration. As the story goes, Rice told Sheeran to write his own music, and Sheeran set out the next day to do just that.
It wasn’t long before Sheeran was recording CDs and selling them, and he soon put together his first official EP, The Orange Room. With that accomplishment and his abiding ambition driving him, at only 14 years of age, Sheeran headed to London for the summer. Thinking he could find gigs in the big city, Sheeran left home with his guitar and a backpack full of clothes, and his musical career took flight.
Once in London, Sheeran got busy recording and playing the local singer/songwriter circuit and quickly released two albums: a self-titled record in 2006 and Want Some? in 2007. He also began opening for more established acts, such as Nizlopi, the Noisettes and Jay Sean, and released another EP, You Need Me, in 2009, a year that found Sheeran playing more than 300 live shows.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Sheeran made the leap to the next level in his career, and it came via online media, a route Sheeran had learned to use with great effectiveness. When a video he posted online got the attention of Example, a rapper, Sheeran was asked to go on the road with him as his opening act. This led to an even larger online fan base and inspiration for many more songs, which ended up filling three new EPs, all in 2010.
Albums & Songs
When Sheeran headed to the United States in 2010, he found a new fan in Jamie Foxx, who asked Sheeran to appear on his Sirius radio show. Soon after, in January 2011, Sheeran released yet another EP, his last as an independent artist. Without any promotion, the record reached No. 2 on the iTunes chart, and he signed on with Atlantic Records that same month.
With Atlantic, Sheeran released his major debut studio album, +. An instant hit, the album sold more than a million copies in the United Kingdom in the first six months alone. Sheeran began co-writing songs with bigger artists, such as One Direction and Taylor Swift, and supported Swift on her 2013 arena tour.
On a roll, Sheeran’s next success would come when his song “I See Fire” was featured in the movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and in June 2014, his next album, x, appeared, debuting at No. 1 in the United States and the United Kingdom. The project featured three Top 10 singles — “Don’t,” “Photograph” and “Thinking Out Loud” — with the latter winning the Grammy for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance in 2016.
In 2016, Sheeran took a hiatus to work on his third studio album, ÷. In January 2017, he released two singles from the album, “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill,” which debuted at No. 1 and No. 6, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100. Sheeran subsequently released ÷ in March 2017, and announced a world tour. His new album broke a Spotify record for first-day album streams with 56.7 million listens in 24 hours.
Flying the flag for Coventry’s rap scene with a self-assured swagger, JAY1 had a meteoric rise after the single “Your Mrs” made its way to the 18th spot on the U.K. charts.
Originally rapping as Young Jay, JAY1 started making music seriously after moving from North London to the historically student-based city of Coventry in 2016. Bold, self-assured vocals and candid lyrics gave the U.K. MC a fundamental versatility: despite often letting his lyrics speak for themselves on minimalist trap beats, he demonstrated his ability to adapt to everything from drill to dancehall. After delivering freestyles on two popular U.K. video series, Bl@ckbox and Hardest Out, JAY1 saw his first major success with “That’s My Bae,” which blew up through online video channels before inspiring its own freestyle challenge.
A series of 2018 singles helped to boost the rapper’s fan base and expand his sound, leading to him trying his hand at summer dancehall on “Good Vibes” and blunt braggadocio on “Becky.” It wasn’t until “Your Mrs” that the Coventry MC found his breakout hit — after a snippet of its chorus received social media buzz, the song’s music video hit a million views on streaming services just three days after its release. Building on this success, he quickly landed a spot on the remix of Russ and Tion Wayne‘s “Keisha & Becky” and then appeared on Charlie Sloth‘s Fire in the Booth radio show in April 2019. His debut EP, One Wave, was released in July of the same year.