Jazzy/soul singer Maysa is not new to the game. At age six, she knew she wanted to sing after her mother took her to see a production of “Purlie” starring Melba Moore. The Baltimore native followed that dream to a degree in classical performance from Morgan State University and a chance meeting with Stevie Wonder.
That led to a stint as part of Wonder’s famed Wonderlove background group and eventually to becoming the lead singer of Incognito, the popular U.K. based jazz/funk/R&B ensemble, appearing on nine releases and moving to London for four and a half years.
By 1995, Maysa was ready for her own CD and has since released 9 solo albums, including 2011’s “Motions In Love,” which Wonder guest starred on. On the eve of releasing her 10th solo project, “Blue Velvet Soul,” we caught up with Maysa to get some insight on her life and music.
Blackamericaweb.com: This release was conveniently scheduled during Black Music Month. Why this project and why now?
Maysa: This is my 10th solo studio project and when they first approached me to do another one, I wasn’t really ready because my mother passed away last August. She was my best friend in the whole world, so I really didn’t have any music. I wasn’t feeling anything. I was quite numb for a long time so I told them I wasn’t ready to do this one. There were a lot of obstacles and blockages I had to fight through to get this record done. But God always seems to bless my music. This time I tried to let go and let the chips fall where they may and it came out good. I think it’s one of my best records so far.
You have almost 25 years in the business and have worked with some great people. Since it’s Black Music Month, what can you tell us about Stevie Wonder?
The first time I met him he brought out in me the kind of perfectionist vibe that my parents instilled in the first place. When you work with Stevie Wonder, you don’t want to be mediocre. You don’t want to half-ass anything. He’s just top-notch. I remember signing on “Jungle Fever” and in that first session for “These Three Words,” I was so worried about my note because I was the new kid on the block. I was practicing my note and I heard Stevie saying “Maysa, you got it, stop worrying about it, you got it!”
You also worked with Incognito, one of the major groups of contemporary jazz. What was that experience like?
It was incredible. I’ve been around the world 3 or 4 times with them. It’s just been amazing. They travel on a consistent, constant basis. I can’t do it anymore. I have to stay home and take care of my son. But just to be exposed to different cultures, it was unbelievable. When you get onstage in different countries and people are singing every word of your songs, that was amazing to me. But that’s what music does.
What do you want your fans new and old to know about this project?
Well, this record is not jazz-influenced at all. I do a little bit of scatting here and there. Most of my records have had a jazz influence. But I find myself leaning more towards R&B music right now and doing it the old school way. R&B, soul music and funk music is in my spirit, it’s in my soul, in my DNA.
Some people want me to go back strictly to my jazz roots, but I’m definitely not there anymore. For people who don’t know my music, I think this record has enough variety on it to reach many people. I try to do my best to do records that are seamless.
I would never do a record with a filler song. Every record I do is carefully planned out with a theme or thought in mind. I hope everybody can find something in this music that is helpful to their life or makes them happy or helps them from a sad time to a happy time. That’s all I want to do in life. That’s my job.