AN INTERVIEW with songstress Meklit Hadero.

We are thrilled that Meklit Hadero, multi-talented California-based queen of soul, will be here at SPACE on January 16. Meklit was kind enough to tell us about starting out as a musician, living in San Francisco, and writing songs about space aliens. (!!!) 
Read all about it below, and MAKE SURE you come out and hear Meklit's amazing voice this January.

I’d love to hear about your early beginnings as a musician. How did you get introduced to music? Do you come from a musical family?
I was introduced to music first by the radio, which in the mid1980s was full of Michael Jackson and Prince. MJ was definitely my first musical love and I remember spinning Thriller and dancing to it on repeat in our living room. He is still the one and only musical star I ever wrote a fan letter to, and I believe it was very soon after I learned to write! I must have been five or six at the most. I was introduced to Ethiopian music by old warped tapes that my parents used to play in our car. Aster, Hirut, Mahmoud to name a few. I don't come from a musical family per se, although my mother and grandmother are both great singers. Even when I was little I wanted to be a singer. It was my first and earliest calling. It just took a while to get there, as happens in life sometimes. 
I’m impressed by how many various sources informs your music—from Sam Cooke to Nina Simone to MGMT. The cover of the Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” on the album you made with Quinn DeVaux transforms that song into something incredibly soulful and hauntingly beautiful. Can you talk a bit about the varied and multifarious influences on your work? How does editing play into your creative practice?
These days, I feel everyone is like that to some extent. Check out the average persons iTunes collection and you'll find sounds from at least a few different countries, probably spanning decades if not centuries of creativity. It's all here. We have access to it all. I dig music that moves me, and it can be from anywhere. 
Because I grew up in a lot of places, twelve cities and three continents by the time I was 25, I had an understanding that people had different sensibilities in different places and it was worth learning why folks from whatever new place we landed liked what they liked. The openness comes from there. From multiple centers to reference. So doing an arcade fire cover (and I'm glad you were feeling that one!) is as comfortable as covering Tilahun Gessesse tune or a Nina tune. It's all one thing to me. Sound!
In my creative practice, I tend to start with one or two simple ideas and build from there. Typically I might begin with a bass line idea, or a particular rhythm that I'm attracted to. In my early songwriting days I used to start with lyrics a lot more than I do now. I often develop melodies through improvisation on an initial musical idea, and just record track after track of improvisations into garage band and then see what sticks and build from there. There are a lot of roads to a song. 
In 2012 you released an album, Earthbound, that’s categorized as an Ethiopian sci-fi hip-hop opera. How did this project come about?
It came about the way a lot of music arrives in this world... through a good hang! One day in December 2010, myself, Burntface (aka Ellias Fullmore) and my cousin Gabriel Teodros got together just cause we hadn't seen each other in a while, and we were going through beats that Burntface had recently done with his classmate Chris Coniglio. There were a lot that we felt we had heard before, but one in particular that felt like nothing any of us had come across. So we just decided to write to it and see what happened. I had just come from an experience with the San Francisco amateur astronomers, looking at the moons of Jupiter, and it had completely blown my mind. I wrote about that. Gabriel decided to write a verse like an alien character visiting earth for the first time, and Burntface wrote about the experience of Ethiopia as another planet. We recorded it that night and it became our lead single Phone home. Then we went to Ethiopia together in May 2011 and made the music video for the tune there. Afterwards, we developed the concept and our characters much further, and spent a month writing the whole project, and even collaborating with an astrophysicist from NASA from whom we got sonified light curves (star sounds!) to use in the beats. For us, taking about outer space was a great metaphor for diaspora, cultural connection, and all the themes that were threaded across our work in different ways. 
How does working collaboratively hinder or enhance your creative energy?
I think of collaboration as a great way to explore untapped parts of your creativity. But that only works with the right collaborators. You have to follow your own instincts about choosing the folks you work with. But that's true of life as much as it is music. Music at its heart is collaborative. In my solo project, where I am the primary songwriter, I work with an incredible band, who you'll meet in January! Darren Johnston on trumpet, Sam Bevan on bass, Lorca Hart on drums. They all contribute to creating arrangements, working through musical ideas, shaping the sound with who they are as artists. This is also collaboration. 
I felt very strongly about returning to my solo songwriting, after releasing those couple of collaborative albums in 2012. I'm so thrilled that Six Degrees Records is as excited about it as I am and that we are going to be putting a body of songs out together in March 2014! Look out for that! 
What are your goals and dreams as a performer?
Well there's an inner and an outer answer to that question. I will give you the inner answer. I want to make music every day, until the day i die.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary musicians?
So many! And a lot of my favorites are my friends! A Carnatic saxophonist by the name of Prasant Radhakrishnan, the great Ethiopian American singer Wayna, all the guys in my band, Red Baraat, Aster Aweke, Sean Hayes, Dina El Wedidi, Alsarah, Vusi Mahlasela, Debo Band, Sara Tavares, Shabaz Palaces. The list goes on and on. 
Can you talk a bit about your experience living in San Francisco? Has living in a city with such a deep artistic scene affected your practice as a music-maker?
At the beginning of my time in San Francisco nearly 10 years ago I would've said yes. But now, the music scene is changing every day. In the last year and a half as thriving tech companies move from Silicon Valley to the heart of SF, housing prices are rising through the roof and musicians and artists are fleeing. It's a very different city from when I moved there. Many of my artist friends are gone. Either to the East Bay or other more affordable locations elsewhere in the country. It's a very tumultuous time in my fair city.

THANKS, Meklit!
By anne
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