Michelle Blackwell Interview Session


For the longest time in such a male dominated industry as Go-Go, we’ve had the tendency to overlook, or rather, not take into consideration the major contributions made by the women on the same type of level as we do the men. For example, the majority of the time when we make out a list of top tier folks, we name all males… such as Chuck, Funk, Benny, Big Tony, Sugar Bear, Buggs, Big G, Rapper Dude… and usually end it about there. You rarely, if ever, hear mentions of the Lenore Fenwicks, the Vicky Wests or the Michelle Petersons.

Well, one of the many women who have been making marks on the history and putting a change on that perception is no other than Michelle Blackwell.

From the moment she stepped onto the scene, Michelle has proven herself time and again to be a force reconded with, both on the artistic as well as administrative sides. Her talents over the years have graced the stages of Suttle Thoughts, Northeast Groovers, What Band, Chocolate City, Project 71, Rare Essence and Trouble Funk… just to name a few.

Where are you from?
Washington, DC

Thinking back to early childhood, what was your first experience with music for the first time like?
First and foremost, my mother is the number one really why I think my love for music runs so deep. Growing up, our house was filled with music on R&B, Jazz, Soul, Opera, Diasporic Arfican, Latin. All of it. 

Also she had house parties and get-togethers where she and her friends would be downstairs in her living room blasting music while me, my brother and my childhood friend Angelette would sit in the hallway upstairs and dance and sing until we either got yelled at to to go bed, or told to come downstairs and entertain everybody 
(Yep… just like on the intro to Eddie Murphy’s “Raw”). But my most vivid early childhood music moments were when my mom used to wrap papertowels around our feet and we would wax our floors by slip sliding back and forth all over the house, and she would blast music and we would dance, slip and slide and sing. To this day, whenever I smell Pine Sol it evokes that same memory and I smile inside.

What song do you remember most as a child?

How would you describe your music/art/entertainment for a public audience who may have never seen you before?
As for my music, it’s everything I feel. How it comes out could be R&B, Rap, Go-Go, Reggae, whatever the feeling I’m expressing call for. My entertainment aesthetic is both representative of my upbringing in performing arts, which is the full out and stage show image component and what Go-Go has infused in me, which is the interactive component.

You’ve been with actively performing within the go-go arena for almost 20 years now. What has been your proudest moment?
My proudest moment was receiving the ‘Best Leading Lady Award’ at the 2007 WKYS Go-Go Awards with my son walking beside me along with the band.

Can you use a brief rundown of the experiences that you have had in the music industry (i.e., groups, bands, other other projects leading to where you are today)?
Sarted with Suttle Thoughts, which was a great experience. Had my first run with controversy when Pratt and I split with ST and formed another band, which I left after a couple of months because of management disagreements and came back to Suttle. Shortly after that, I joined Northeast Groovers and played with both Suttle and NEG for a year until I was asked to choose between the two by Suttle’s management, and I chose NEG soley because of my ability to perform my own material there. A year after that, NEG disbanded again and Rapper reformed What Band months later and asked me to join. I joined What Band and a year or so in, took over management, which I did for just under 10 years before I formed my own band called Chocolate City.  Since then, I’ve performed with NEG, What Band, Trouble Funk and feature with a variety of other bands as well.

What was it about your mentality would you say have changed from when you first started performing and today?  The shifts that you went through as you rose through the ranks?
I would say that the main thing that has changed about me is that I am less attached to and affected by the opinions of people in this business and more attached to my music and the fans who genuinely support me.

What can people expect to see at your live performance?
They can expect to see me give it my all and connect with them in a sincere way. Raw and uncut. 

Art & Music has an impact on both young and old. Everyone loves a celebrity, so what advice do you have for the youth of today?
Be creative and genuine as an artist and strive to be the best that you can possibly be.  Also… practice makes perfect.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
That would probably be other leaders in this business. Just by observing them from a distance and making note of things I would do the same or differently. There really is no one specific person, but many.  (more…)