In celebration of Black History Month, KEXP’s Alina Santillan interviewed numerous local and national African American artists about what Black History Month and Black Future mean to them. Seattle's own Falon Sierra shares with KEXP the joy she feels during this month, the artists that have inspired her, and offers encouragement for young artists looking to make their own way.
KEXP: So KEXP is celebrating Black History Month and a caveat to that is we should be celebrating Black History and Future and blackness in general all year round. So wanted to know what is Black History Month or black future mean to you?
Falon Sierra: Black History Month, I feel like it's the wholesome month for me. I just feel like everyone around me who is black, I feel like I'm so in tune with them. It's like this really weird feeling of being conjoined together – like togetherness. But it's not only black people. Just celebrating how far we've come, it's very very beautiful. And then also having the openness to talk about where we are going to go in the future because we definitely have a lot of work but just the fact that I am a black woman and I am able to do my art and put that platform everywhere... it sometimes blows my mind. I'll think about it and I'm like, "Man, if this was 100 years ago, I would not be able to do this at all." So I think it's beautiful. I'm happy we have a month. I wish it was all year long, but it's cool. We all come together, all my homies [laughs].
That is definitely a larger conversation and you also celebrate like blackness in general all year round. Can you tell me about some artists that have been influential to you in any aspect of your identity as a black woman, as a young person, as an artist, as an individual?
Yeah, growing up definitely Destiny's Child – that was my thing. Me and my sister would argue about who would be Beyoncé and who would be Kelly. We didn't really care about anybody else. And then of course [Beyoncé] is still an amazing inspiration and beautiful woman, just amazing. She's the queen, of course! But more like low key artists, definitely Kelela. I absolutely adore her. She's like heaven to me. She's a big inspiration to my art for sure. And Solange, Beyoncé's sister. They've just got good genes, I guess, because their music and their art is beautiful and they've been a big inspiration to me for sure.
Was there anybody that you grew up listening to that maybe someone older in your life – a parent, a cousin, an aunt – introduced you to?
My mom is a really really big fan of R&B and neo soul. So India Arie, Jill Scott. Definitely all of the like boy bands like Silk and Boyz 2 Men. I grew up on all of that stuff. It's interesting, I definitely see that in my music sometimes. I'll hear it and I'm like, "Oh I hear India Arie right there!" That kind of style. I totally have a mixture of the new wave of things too. I'm happy my mom molded me right with the good music. I'm very happy about that.
Why do you think music matters?
Music is a healing power, for sure. When times are rough, whether it's it has to do with racial stuff or your own mind or family or whatever is happening in the world, it's just the healing power and it brings so many people together. You go to concerts. You don't know any of these people, but they all admire this artist and the art of it. It's like you can escape the world. It makes the world go round. I mean, I would die without music so I'm so thankful for it and I'm so happy that I can express myself and then I'm able to do that today.
What would you say to young black artists who are coming up who are making art, who want to see more representation of themselves in music? What would you say to encourage them, share some wisdom?
I would say definitely follow your heart. And like say what you want to say. I think when I was first starting I was so nervous about what everybody thought. It took me a really, really, really long time to actually like put out my own song that I wrote. And I wish I would have done it so much sooner. I wish I didn't care and I wish I would have treated it more as a therapy than as a "Oh I want to be famous." I'd say definitely just do it for yourself and then follow your favorite great thing and pick out the inspiration from whoever your favorite artist is and just feel that vibe, because if it feels good to you when you're listening to your favorite artist you can maybe transform that into your own way into your own art. I think music makes the world go around but then music goes round and round and round too. And people find their inspirations and there's a lot of songs that came out today that probably sounded like a song a long time ago. So just find your inspiration and like let it go. .
Is there anything else that you want to add or that you want to say, just in the spirit of just celebrating black history?
I'm just happy. I try not to get so caught up in how far we have to go even though that is very, very important to understand that it's not perfect. I am just very happy – it's just like a happy feelings to be like, "Yes! It's Black History Month!" And I remember on MLK Day I was so happy, it was like Christmas. It's beautiful.
For more and a litany of amazing interviews featuring the incredible African-American musical artists that have shaped our lives, click here for all our Black History Month coverage.
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