When you hear Aja Graydon and Fatin Danztler, the married Philly-based couple comprising R&B duo Kindred the Family Soul, sing of "every single brick and every single nail, every single triumph, and every single fail" on their lush new single, "House of Love," it's as much about their years of struggle in the music industry as it is their relationship as parents and partners. The Arrival, their third CD, signals a new chapter personal and professional growth for Kindred, thanks to behind-the-boards assistance from Dre and Vidal, Adam Blackstone and Steve McKie, and the surprising addition of two new members to the family. Excited about it all, 34-year-old Fatin and 30-year-old Aja spill the beans on the recording process, what they want for their kids and what's harder at the end of the day; working as artists or as husband and wife.
Congrats on the babies you two! Aja- Thank you!
How old are they? And how many children do you have now? Fatin-The twins are 10 months---and we didn't find out we were having twins until 3 weeks before they were born (laughs). So now we have 4 daughters and a son, and they're 9,6, 4 and 10 months.
That's having a 'House of Love" for real! I wanted to tell you both that this CD has such an authentic approach to love and to soul this time round, and when you sing lyrics like, "I wanna pull my hair out..." (Aja cracks up), it's a refreshing thing to hear, you know?
Aja- I think you hit the nail right on the head...we always strive to, for lack of a better phrase, 'keep it real,' you know what I mean? A lot of different people feel where we're coming from, they understand who we are and what our message is. It just comes down to encouraging people, by example, to be who they are and to really celebrate that.
I felt as though your last CD, In This Life Together, focused on the longevity of and the journey through love, and now this new CD feels as though you're coasting through it, but still navigating the bumps along the way.
Fatin-I think that's a really good analogy. I think that with album #3,we're more comfortable with who we are, what our roles are and how we should express ourselves. We didn't really wantto get into specifics (about our relationship) this time, because we're more than a married couple making music. We wanted to make music that would resonate with all people. We're human, and we're feeling all of the same things that most people are feeling.
So it's more about the ebb and flow of life in general, you mean.
Fatin- Exactly; people are always in the grips of one thing or another, and you don't want to run away from what it's about or who you are.
Aja- Surrender to Love was about putting aside all the drama and the baggage and opening yourself up to the other person. In This Life Together was bout examining the fact that you grow as a couple and in the process, become a better person. This new album is about that comfort level, the reality of life as a couple. There's a lesson in that relationship, and it's not always about just being a husband or a wife, it could be about finally growing comfortable in your own skin, which helps you in every other aspect.
Do you two have any any favorites on the CD?
Fatin- Mine is "The Struggle." Aja came in and took that one to another level with her verse. And then there's '"So Much Better": to me, that song represents the sun coming out after it's been dark for a long time, and the emotion that's tied into that. There's the "House of Love," that's where we are right now as a couple, with our children.
Aja-"House of Love" also speaks to me, and I also really like "Alright": it was a song that we used to perform back in the day that we'd never put out, and it reminds me of a really, really fun time in our career, when we were trying to get put on, runnin' to the club and tryin' to make it back in time for the babysitter...
What did you try and do differently with this CD as opposed to your previous ones?
Aja- It's like any relationship, you wanna believe that you're gonna start coasting after one year of being married, but it's not like that, it takes time to get into that good rhythm with one another, and that's what our new record is. We definitely played around with a lot more with styles of duetting, steering away from 'his verse, my verse, hook, bridge, we out'. We experimented a lot more with the structure of the songs. We just wanted to polish it up
Fatin- We're very passionate about what we do and we love that that we get the opportunity to express ourselves, so we feed off each other's energy and try to make each project better. I think that Aja's an exceptional vocalist, I think that I'm a good singer and that when we have good material and can bring our emotions to it, that makes it easier. We were also produced a little bit more this time, so that extra input brought more out of us. You can't always see or hear what you're capable of, unless someone else is pushing you and driving you to get your best performance out of you, so that definitely helps.
Aja-And we welcomed that push. I feel that too many times,with 'neo soul (quote, unquote)' artists, everything feels like a jam session, which is beautiful, but at some point, you have to graduate and make things a little bit more sophisticated. We wanted to try a little more pulled-together production, but we still wanted to sound like Kindred and not have people say, 'damn, what are they doing?' Fatin-we weren't about to put any T-Pain on there (laughs), but we wanted our sound to speak to where we are, right now.
Over the years, would you say that it's easier to work together, or harder?
Fatin-It has its challenges, but it's worked very well for us. I have to say that it gets easier, and that doesn't mean that it becomes easier when we have challenges in our relationship, but....
Aja-We probably get on each other's nerves personally more than professionally. My husband is a great writer with a great voice, he's one of the people that I respect. From a professional and personal standpoint, he's just a good man. He's my heart and my headache, you know what I mean?
Fatin-I'm your heart and your headache? Wow...
Aja-You look at him and you're proud, but at the same time....(laughs) The relationship and the work relationship are 2 different entities, but the personal one is more important and requires more energy.
Do any of your kids show any inclination to get into music yet?
Fatin- Tthey love the music, they're around it a lot and enjoy the singing and the dancing, they're the kind of children we were at their age. We're not pushing them in any direction though, we try to keep them focused on their grades and putting their education first. Sports, music, arts, English, and we tell them that the sky's the limit for them. They're part of a great generation that have a lot of opportunities that didn't exist for a lot of us in the past. We don't want them to be limited and think that being a singer or a rapper in order to be somebody, we tell them to make their own lane. And since I got 4 daughters, and I really don't know if I can handle them all being in the music business (laughter).
Since you two had to struggle to make it happen in the biz and raise a family at the same time, what advice can you offer the newbies these days?
Fatin-times are a little different now than when we first started. So many independent artists are getting more props now, actually being nominated for Grammys because of their expsoure these days from the internet. That's a beautiful thing, so I encourage artists to stay true to who they are and every little thing counts.
Aja- You don't have to pander to the lowest common denominator, and what I've learned from knowing my husband all this time is not to take no for an answer. Keep pushing to make it happen. Be your most genuine and authentic soul.
And as far as this year's election...?
Fatin- We want our fans to vote: I know you hear this over and over and over again,but this is a very important time for change and we want everyone to make sure that their voices are heard.
By Melody Charles