DJ Lady Sha isn’t afraid to throw off the yoke of tradition in favor of the road less traveled. She is a genre-defying trailblazer in the male-dominated world of DJ-ing. Originally set on a course to study medicine at UC Berkely, Sha bucked medical school for a life of turntables and dance floors -- and she hasn’t looked back. She is an award-winning, globe-trotting entrepreneur whose diligently cultivated and eclectic sets helped her to become the first female to win the Winter Music Conference DJ Spin-off (2008). Although based in Los Angeles, Sha’s drive and spinning prowess has taken her the world wide to New York, Miami, Jamaica, and South Africa, where in 2004 she was the first woman to spin live on South African air waves. I got the chance to chat with Lady Sha after she DJ’ed the Made Woman 2 Year event:
Lady Sha: Always, thanks to my Mom and Dad! Whether waking us up with music on weekend mornings or playing it in the car, we were always listening to something. Back then it was a mix of my mom’s favorites from Persian music to Elton John, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, etc... or my Dad’s choice – anything on KCRW.
Lady Sha: I love such a huge range of music from pop to underground, hip hop to dance music, and even country jams that I don’t consider anything a guilty pleasure. Most days I’m digging through hundreds of new and old mp3’s to see what I want to include in my sets, so when I have time to listen to music for pleasure, I just go with whatever I’m in the mood for at that time. On my runs, I like to listen to hip hop and dance music for example. In the car after a long night, I like to listen to KCRW late-night or a country station, something completely different than what I was just playing at an event for four hours.
Lady Sha: I didn’t even know I WAS interested in DJ-ing a little over a decade ago. While I was at UC Berkeley as an undergrad studying Pre-Med & Anthropology, my neighbor happened to be DJ Phatrick. He asked me to sit in on one of his DJ courses on campus. At first I told him I was too busy – not only with school, but with my hobbies as a guitarist, singer, and member of the UC Berkeley Poetry Slam team. With his convincing though, I sat in on his class and fell in love from that moment on. Two weeks after the course ended I bought my own turntables.
Lady Sha: I think the most valuable advice I can give is to have clear focus on where you’d like to go, make sure your entrepreneurial signature is creative and original -- or improving upon what already exists -- and have a phenomenal work ethic to achieve your vision.
Lady Sha: DJ-ing more frequently and working around the clock to showcase my style and abilities at gigs and with mix CDs, my mark slowly became increasingly noticeable and present in Los Angeles. Now to expand that to the world...
Lady Sha: The pioneers of hip hop and dj-ing were male and to quote the film Miss Representation, “you can't be what you can't see”, so I think it took some time for females to break into dj-ing. I hear about so many more females DJ-ing now than 10 years ago. There’s a snowball effect of more and more females entering the industry and finally evening out the playing field!
Lady Sha: I’ve had a ton of fun at DJ gigs in New York, Miami, Rome, Vegas, and San Francisco as well as in countries such as South Africa and Jamaica. However, nothing is as amazing as a popping dance floor in LA filled with the intense energy of my friends and people that have danced to my sets over the years.
Lady Sha: Not only do musical tastes differ in club scenes around the world, but also from club to club here in LA and from night to night in each venue. One night you may have a hip hop crowd, another night a dance music crowd, and on another night, a crowd that wants to go on a genre-hopping journey with the DJ of the night.
Lady Sha: My absolute favorite thing to do when I DJ is to play for a crowd that will let me take them on a ride through different genres from hip hop to trap, dubstep, dance music, indie-rock, and hip hop and R&B jams from the 80s and 90s. I’m not happy having to stick to any one genre.
Lady Sha: Show Me Love – Robin S. The only variable is what I pair before and after the song that affect the impact the song has on the crowd.
Since her new and improved website launches in early November, it’s easy to stay up to date on all of DJ Lady Sha’s happenings including daily updates on her performance schedule and new videos and mixes. But in the meantime to get your fix, you can check out Sha on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Soul artist Raquel Rodriguez is a Los Angeles native with a penchant for emotional vocal runs, a bright, driving style that will get your blood pumping, and for just being one of the ‘guys’. Rodriguez’s influences are a collection of both old and new school soul - from Sarah Vaughan to Adele -- and you can hear elements spanning the decades in all of her music. She blends the best of decades past with a modern surge. And with a seldom-seen-these-days six-piece ensemble, The Big Guys, backing her, Raquel has moved swiftly from self-titled EP in 2012 to debut LP release. An entrepreneur in her own right taking command of her career, Raquel is spirited woman with a mission to get her music out to the world. After recently releasing her first LP, Miss Me, on June 21, Raquel can take a moment to relish in her accomplishment. But just a moment, because there is no doubt that Raquel has plans to check a lot more off her to do list.
Soul music has always been a huge part of my life. My mom would only play good music while my brothers and I were growing up. In my teen years I definitely gravitated to the pop/hip-hop stuff, but as I got older I found myself going back to my roots. I started to mimic the sounds I used to love and wrote about things that were important to me.
Destiny. [Laughs] Seriously though, I met all of the (Big) guys pretty much through school. Whether it was because we had a class together or just a mutual friend, I met all of them through USC. It took me awhile to find "my band," but now that I have, I'm so grateful. These guys are what make the music what it is and they're all like family to me.
Tough question, but if I have to choose one, definitely Sarah Vaughan. I love Billie Holiday’s vibe and soul, but Sarah Vaughan has got the voice! Man, I remember when my voice teacher at USC had me transcribe one of Sarah's solos for homework, and after that I just went on a SV craze. She's dope! I definitely learned a lot from her just listening to different albums.
Change is inevitable, and whether it's good or bad, it's going to happen. I think a lot of things contributed to what mainstream music is now. Technology, politics, location, life, whatever it may be, it's all taken part in what music is today. I love that Soul music is coming back because I honestly believe that it's healthy for people. It's called Soul music for a reason.
It's awesome! Most of the time it's so easy because I grew up with two older brothers, so I'm used to having boys around. I'm definitely a little bit of a tomboy sometimes. The only thing that's tough about it is that I find myself starting to act like them a little too much. I'm pretty sure I burp louder than any of them.
The album is called "Miss Me," and it has that old school vibe. A lot of music today is so produced, which can also be cool, but we didn't want that for this album. Sam, who plays drums on the album, produced the whole thing and wrote a lot of the music, so he wanted to make sure that we recorded it right. We spent A LOT of time making sure things sounded exactly the way we wanted them to, all while keeping in mind that this record is being pressed to vinyl.
The [Raquel Rodriguez] EP was a lot more "calm" in a way, and the recording/production process was MUCH different than what I expected. The EP was made up of songs that I had written when I was younger and I wanted evidence of that. I've grown as a singer, songwriter, musician, performer, basically just as an artist all around, and I think "Miss Me" is definitely a good example of that.
Andrew Scheps was AWESOME! We learned so much from him in the one day we spent recording with him. He gave us so much advice and he was so knowledgeable and passionate about what he was doing. Definitely a huge inspiration. If you don't know what he looks like, just imagine a tall, powerful wizard with a long beard and that's him.
I dream more about playing in places that I've never been before. I want to travel all over the world in whatever venue that'll have me.
Listen to Raquel’s latest album and check out her site here.
Powerhouse vocalist Cheesa first came into our homes on last season’s The Voice. The Honolulu native swept Cee Lo off his feet at her blind audition with her rich and soulful voice. He gushed, “You could go on from here to be everything you were meant to be.” Now at 22, Cheesa has released her debut album Naked via her own independent label. It’s reminiscent of 90’s R&B/Pop vocalists like Mariah Carey and Brandy, and features catchy hooks and sweeping melodies bolstered by vibrant, unflappable beats. Her journey to entrepreneurship and the music industry was by no means an easy one. Her family was plagued by financial hardships, converting their home into an elder care facility and moving themselves into the garage to pay their mortgage. Despite her parent’s initial hesitancy and the strong Filipino traditions which pointed to a more traditional career, Cheesa’s family moved from Hawaii to Los Angeles for her to pursue a career in music. We recently caught up with her to chat about the new album and her newfound exposure.
1. You’re just back from a stint doing shows and press in Hawaii, where you’re originally from. What’s your favorite activity or food spot to hit up when you go back home?
There’s so many things that you can do and so many things that you should eat. But my favorite, and I think a lot of locals can agree, is Kahuku shrimp. You can either go to Romy’s or Giavonni’s shrimp truck. And you also have to hit up THE BEST - Masumoto’s Shaved Ice. What I like to do is go to the beach. It’s quite as simple as that.
2. How old were you when your family moved to LA? What was that transition like for you?
I just turned 16 about 2 weeks before we moved to LA. It was such a culture shock. I went to an all girls Catholic school in Hawaii, so to go to a coed public school [in LA]...I think I had way too much freedom. I kind of wilded out. It’s definitely difficult to adapt.
3. What is The Assembly?
The Assembly is the production company that I’m in. One day we just decided let’s do it; let’s produce songs, make albums, and just go full force with it. We never thought that it would become this serious, so for us to produce a full-length album is really surreal. [It’s] gratifying that we have everything on iTunes and people from around the world are appreciating the music that we put out there.
4. What is your creative experience like? Where do you find the balance within The Assembly, as far as who writes, who mixes, produces, etc?
It’s a very collaborative effort and everybody has their certain niche. I think we mesh well together because everybody has a specific role.
5. You mentioned your brother, Troy who is also a musician and music director, and has toured with the likes of Demi Lovato , David Archuleta, and Cherice (aka Sunshine Corazon from Glee). Is music something that your parents impressed upon you two growing up?
It was something we were introduced to by my dad who also sang when he was young, but it was never really an option to be a career choice. Because my dad sacrificed a lot for us, he was more expecting us to be in the medical field or in law, something more stable, and, from his standpoint, more realistic. He never really wanted to see us struggle because he knew how hard it was to struggle in his own life, living in the Philippines. But after a lot of convincing he agreed to move to LA so we could pursue music.
6. Being from a close-knit Filipino family, did your parents have a reaction to your rather provocative album cover?
[Laughs] I remember the day after we got it, I remember thinking this is really controversial and I was really scared to show my mom. But surprisingly the one that we thought was going to be more mad about it was the one who was more accepting. My dad was like, she’s not really showing anything.
7. Was there a moment or battle for you on The Voice that was particularly challenging?
It was my first time ever doing things on my own. My brother and I have been performing for quite some time as a duo. And as I was in a competition show, social media is such a big outlet for people to express themselves. It’s an open forum for people to talk negatively and positively, and it was my first time seeing all these comments. I don’t think anyone can mentally prepare themselves for that, so that was a big challenge for me. It was like a flashback to times in my childhood where I was bullied, so it was definitely challenging. It actually led to one of the songs on the album “I’m Not Perfect.” I want to inspire people to accept themselves and love themselves despite all the flaws and insecurities. You’re still beautiful.
8. Your single “Crash Boom” (my personal favorite) features Jamar Rogers from your season on The Voice. Are you still in contact with a lot of your teammates/ Cee Lo?
I just recently watched Cee Lo’s show in Vegas, Loberace. Great show! And I do keep in contact with a lot of people, Anthony Evans, Jamar obviously...we become so close being on the show. I’ve gained a lot of good friends from being on that show.
9. Where does the album title, Naked come from?
Naked was not meant to be that controversial. For me Naked meant stripping out the outside layers and the perception that people had of me. It was being able to use this album as a therapeutic journey to reveal my soft side. It was to inspire women, most importantly young girls, because society shows that women should look thin when really all sizes, all shapes, all colors should be accepted. Thats what I wanted the album to be about - for people to accept who they are and not be afraid to show it.
10. How has the post The Voice experience been for you?
I love the show. It gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of great people, Cee Lo and all the other great coaches and it opened doors for me. I would have never gotten the opportunities that I get now to travel around the world and sing, to be interviewed by people like you. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity and now I get to live out my dream.
For more of Cheesa be sure to catch her upcoming summer promo tour on both on the west coast and in Asia. More details to follow on her websites.
With an eclectic style that won’t be tamed, Dezi Paige explores a range of musical styles in her debut, the recently released, Tall Tales. Paige was born to the into a Psychedelic Rock family; she is the daughter of David Getz, the drummer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, where Janis Joplin cut her teeth. With a best friend kind of ease about her, Paige shared with me how her father’s early influence and her world travel have informed her musical styles. I recently spoke with this up-and-coming Rock/Soul artist and asked her 10 questions about her life and her music:
1. What’s in heavy rotation on your iPod right now?
One of my favorites is Tame Impala, Lonersims. Jack White. Ty Segall, with his Twins album. I am loving Beach House. My friend India Shawn released an EP called Origins and my friend Rich King is an amazing artist out here in LA and he released an EP.
2. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town called Fairfax [California], which is in west Marin County. It’s this funky little hippy-dippy town. It’s really special.
3. Your dad famously drummed for the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, which also featured an up-and-coming Janis Joplin. Do you find a lot of your influences come from your Dad? Or are you musically spurred by other artists that you might have grown up listening to?
That’s a great question. I think I naturally was influenced by Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company. [My father] also started me early on The Beatles. Big Brother was probably one of my very very musical first influences. I heard the music from Cheap Thrills like Piece of My Heart, Down on Me, and all those other classic Big Brother songs, so many times just tagging along to these shows when I was little had a big influence on me. That early psychedelic rock.
4. You have this one interlude track on your mix-tape called Beginnings. It’s a clip of a little girl, maybe five years old, which I assume is you, recording with her father. Can you tell me about your first experiences playing music?
Yeah (laughs)! Yeah that’s me, you’re right. Its actually funny, I didn’t realize a lot of people would not realize it was me. I thought it was so obvious. I’m glad you got it. My memories are kind of blurry, but I guess that’s when you could say a started writing and singing. You know, I was like six years old. I would go to the downstairs of our house, that’s where my dad had all his instruments and recording equipment. I remember putting on these big ol’ headphones and sitting there and just kind of singing freestyle -- a stream of thought thing. And he still has all of it.
5. Now I read that you went to UCLA. I’m just going to lay it out there - I’m a USC Trojan, along with many of the other Made Woman ladies. So I’m just going to call a universal truce. But in all seriousness, can you talk a little bit about your time in school - were you a music major? How did you find your college experiences influenced your progression as an artist?
Funny enough I was not a music major, I was a dance major. I was accepted to the World Arts and Culture program at UCLA.
I find inspiration from all forms of art. Especially because I’ve been a performing arts person my whole life. Dance, acting, music, it’s all related to me. It definitely influenced my music. I came back into music about halfway through college. It’s hard to pinpoint and describe but college is definitely a character builder. The amazing thing that I really appreciate I got to do through this program is to go to Senegal to study dance and language there. All these things, you may not realize what it means at the time but there’s a power in it, definitely, it all is influential and inspirational.
6. The name of your debut album is Tall Tales. What does Tall Tales mean to you?
Well, Tall Tales (The Sky is Falling) is the name of one of the songs on the project. It probably is my favorite. That song really meant a lot to me and it embodied a theme that is a thread throughout the project. Tall tales a are mythical stories. They’re lies, but they contain an element of truth in them. I wrote it after I had been in a situation that left me heartbroken. Looking back on love, and the innocence with which you look at love at certain points in your life, and then having that - those dreams - crushed for you. There’s an element of truth sometimes, but it’s not what you thought it was.
7. You have a lot of musical influences on the album and you tread a lot of cover material in your mix-tape as well (Bob Marley, Coldplay). What genre do you find the most fun to perform?
I love all genres and that’s why my project is eclectic, like you said. I love mixing them all. Different styles of music speak to you at different times in your life, different days of your life and that’s why it’s so beautiful. Last year I was in a really rock n’ roll state of mind. That was what really got me going.
8. There is a lot of pigeon holing in the music business, for women especially. You know, “She’s a Britney type,”or an “Alicia Keys type,” or “A Beyonce”, etc, What do you think is important for women to do in order to set themselves apart in the business?
I think for women, it goes for men as well, to set yourself apart think about what do you have to say. What is your voice? What is your contribution? Be authentic. Be honest. I think that will always set you apart. I think there's still too much in the industry of chasing current musical trends when, in my mind, what has always won and stood the test of time throughout the history of music, is an authentic voice.
9. You’ve worked with some great artists already in a relatively young career - JR Hutson produced Tall Tales, you’ve worked with Frank Ocean who just had a huge year with his Grammy noms - Who would be a dream collaboration for you?
As far as producers go, for a long time I’ve really wanted to work with Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, and also Dangermouse. Greg Kurston. He worked on The Shins last project and does a lot of indie and pop/rock stuff. A dream collaboration would also be Stevie Wonder. He is my idol.
10. Should we keep an eye out for any upcoming shows or tour plans?
I am currently organizing a show, that has been long delayed, for the end of March in Los Angeles. I’ll be posting details on all of my social media sites.