Official Biography (Courtesy of Kwanza Jones)
Kwanza Jones muses about "Blue Sky Day," a signature and deeply personal track from her forthcoming album, Supercharged!...
"I was in London while working on the song. Initially, it was inspired by a friend whose girlfriend had just broken up with him - but I was having a hard time finishing the lyrics. Something just wasn't right," she remembers. "Then I got a call that my father had been rushed to the hospital. I caught the next available flight out of London. It was pouring rain when I got back to the States, and I still had to drive to D.C. to be by his side. It felt like forever. But then, I looked out of the car window and in the midst of the rain I saw this one tiny patch of blue sky. It was as if Daddy was clearing a path for me. I followed that all the way to him." Kwanza says, "'Blue Sky Day' is about him - for him, really, and for anyone who ever needs hope in the midst of heartbreak. That song is very difficult for me to perform but its special because Daddy died in the middle of me writing it. I now see why I wasn't able to finish the song. Daddy finished it for me."
It is this type of depth, which Kwanza infuses into her music that makes her a fierce and solid contender. Creating music that not only speaks to the heart of her fans but also provokes thought and action is her motive. By résumé standards, she has done it all - releasing two full albums (Naked and Naked 2: Universal Fire), an EP (Victim of the System), and her latest single (Everything Around You). Add a Princeton and law degrees, charismatic presence, songwriting/arranging credits and video production/co-direction on her own projects and undoubtedly Kwanza has secured a place as a musical innovator. The impressive accolades continue to pile up, such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, writing a song every day during the 9-day journey and afterwards penning the hit "To the Top" co-produced with Eric Clapton's keyboardist, Tim Carmon. Kwanza recalls, "Climbing that mountain was a lot like the way I do things in life: prepared and not afraid. There were times I felt like I couldn't go on, couldn't catch my breath, needed to stop and rest and get help but making it to the top, seeing the clouds and glaciers that close, it was like paradise. It changed my life."
Visually, Kwanza exudes an angelic glow with an intrinsic beauty that radiates powerful energy. It's as if destiny herself placed Kwanza under her right wing. But while comparatives to Tina Turner (whom the former Miss Baltimore shares the same birthday with) may be apparent, Kwanza's edgy content and almost entirely self written songs allow her fans to take pieces of her unique and distinctive soul. And she's more than willing to share her musical and personal vision. With equal parts talent and business sense, Kwanza's industry experience speaks as loudly as her talent. "There are a lot more struggles for women in this business. Its male dominated," she says. "Knowing what you're talking about gives you better footing when you're combating stereotypes and it changes the interaction. Being prepared is just as important as being talented."
Kwanza grew up playing the piano, flute and violin. She says she always knew she would be working in entertainment but wasn't sure whether her focus would be on the creative end, as a performer, or the business end, as an entertainment lawyer. It wasn't until Kwanza performed at the historic Apollo Theater in New York, that she was sure. "Beside the fact that I got paid to do it" - she laughs - "realizing that people would travel AND buy tickets to see me perform helped me make the decision to become an artist. There were busloads of people who came from Princeton, the DC area, and the Carolinas. It was a really diverse group but they all had a universal connection - coming to see and hear me. As an artist, there's no better feeling than to know your music and talent is appreciated."
Kwanza's melodies and belting rock-laced hooks riddle with emotion and captivate the listener with reality lyrics and heart thumping beats. An eclectic combination of soul-fused pop mixed with modern acoustics and an R&B kiss, Kwanza masters the art of the blended genre. Yet she sails past the boundaries of a contrived vocalist and offers audible pleasantries with a ravishing sensual appeal.
"When I write a song, I sit down with no idea what is going to come out," she explains. "All I know is that I want my songs to be impactful and accessible. Some of the music is personal and some is about other people's experiences. I cross boundaries. Life doesn't easily fit into neat packages. Well, my music is like that... It's the soundtrack to life."
"Everything Around You (I'm Not Happy)" is the prelude to her newest album, Supercharged! (slated for Spring 2010 release). It is a steady building "in your face" delivery about unhappiness - not a pessimist's moody anthem, rather, it is Kwanza's perspective on how to "check your situation, realize what's not working and do something about it." Yahoo Entertainment featured the "Everything Around You" music video on its homepage.
Says the self-taught guitar player, "That song is about a girl I know who had issues with this guy. They were going out and everything was fine, but then it all changed. He was distant, always on his phone, texting all the time. She asked me what she should do, and I asked her, if she was really happy? She said, ‘No.' So I said, 'You can change yourself but you can't change him. Either accept your situation or cut the rope and move on.'"
Kwanza describes her career as moving in stages. Her first album, Naked, she says was her "learning how to walk, the first step, organic and introspective." Naked 2: Universal Fire, she says was "learning how to climb, it felt ambitious and daring." This "concept album" was revealed during her trek up Kilimanjaro, it merges different cultures, genres and features the sounds and chants of the Masai tribe. An unreleased album she calls The Lost Album was the "learning how to let go" phase. She recalls, "I was with a band, it wasn't working out because too many people wanted to be rock stars but didn't want to do the work." Her new release, Supercharged!, Kwanza says is her best effort to date. "I really pushed myself and put every ounce of me into it. The album has real music and a unique style. What more can I say? Supercharged is MY theme song... I work hard, I take risks, I fight hard, and I love hard."
Kwanza is securing a place in the ever-evolving musical landscape. She has already been seated amongst the greats. Most recently, the Washington, D.C. bred star became a part of Girls Are Not for Sale campaign, a derivative of GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Services). The organization is actively involved in the prevention of sex trafficking among young women. Kwanza Jones joins Halle Berry, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Sinead O'Connor, amongst others, in bringing awareness to the growing issue. This is in line with her message of empowerment, especially for women and girls. Kwanza is featured in the PSA as well as the video remake of O'Connor's "This is to Mother You."
Says Kwanza of her determination and work ethic, "No matter what you do, there will always be challenges. I embrace them. It's important for me to never become complacent and to push myself beyond my comfort zone. It's simple, I'm trying to be unstoppable."
With her attitude, work ethic, beauty, and unique vocal and performing talents, Kwanza Jones is on her way to becoming a household name and a beloved one.