Call & Response: B~FREE
LAB NOTES (LN): If you had to boil your musical journey into one sentence, what would it be? (Run-on sentences accepted and encouraged.)
B~FREE (BF): The interminable expedition of the world’s slowest-burning flame…….as narrated by Jill Scott lol.
LN: For those unfamiliar with your music, how do you describe your sound?
BF: My sound is best described as a fusion of past and present generations of Soul, Hip Hop and R&B, with sprinkles of Jazz, through the scope of a millennial musician………..as narrated by Jill Scott lol.
No matter how it gets done, I always aim to make it as authentic as possible or else I won’t be satisfied.
LN: You’re extremely active within the community here in Milwaukee. Can you give us a rundown of all the projects you’re involved with?
BF: The many hats that I wear as “B~Free” keep me pretty busy throughout the year. Within that scope comes a lot of singing, producing, writing & composing, educating & a LOT of performing; for myself as well as others. At the moment, I’m getting ready to embark on what will be my 28th performance this year alone & many of those have either been under my own full band or solo act, the duo act I perform as part of with my husband Quinten Farr, or as an individual entity among many with collaborative endeavors throughout the city. Along with that, I’m also a curator of large-scale musical productions like the MJ Uncovered, Prince In the Park or Ladies First Hip Hop Week MKE shows I’ve carried out. All of these projects & ones like it have allowed me to stay as active as possible.
LN: Tell us about your involvement with Grace Weber’s Music Lab, what it is, and why it’s important to you.
BF: The Music Lab is a free monthly music and arts education program and talent accelerator that is offered through 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. It was founded by Milwaukee Native Grace Weber who wanted to create an open space where the youth of the city could have a platform for fostering their musical creativity & building relationships with their peers while getting firsthand insight & feedback from industry professionals. Each month, the Lab arranges for a special guest to come perform & interview for the students, while also holding an open mic for the youth, where the guests offer constructive feedback on each performance. As the Music Education Coordinator, my primary responsibilities include everything necessary for keeping each session afloat while promoting as much student attendance as possible. Having been a music educator for 7 years now, it’ll always be important to be involved in anything that can give our youth the same avenues of expression that inspired me & my musical upbringing. Happy to have a hand in offering this to the city’s future.
LN: We recently sponsored your trip to the Women’s Audio Mission at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. What was that experience like for you? Were there any surprises that came from that?
BF: The LA trip remains to be one of the most incredibly inspiring, self-assuring & beautiful experiences that I’ve ever had the honor of taking part in! The fact that there were women who’d gathered from all over the world just to be part of a conference with other women who all do the same thing as one another was truly remarkable. There were women who held positions & titles that I hadn’t even considered within the industry, as well as others who had written, produced played or engineered for some of my favorite mainstream artists! Often times, being a woman in the music industry (local or large scale) can be a frustrating & alienating path to travel alone. Seeing all of those women gathered together, fueled by the camaraderie & desire to learn from one another, was nothing short of amazing.
LN: How do you go about writing?
BF: My writing process varies with my mood, the season & my availability to sit down & focus on something for longer than 10 minutes lol Most of my songs actually start with a melody & beat in my head that I fit words around later. Other times, I’ll have a lyrical line or theme that I’ll build patterns & messaging around. This process can either go quickly & I’ll finish a song in a couple of hours or it can drag on for months with constant revisits until I’ve found the right combinations to convey what I’m feeling most with a song. On my last project, there was a song that I’d started when I was 22, which didn’t get completely finished until 6 years later. No matter how it gets done, I always aim to make it as authentic as possible or else I won’t be satisfied.
Often times, being a woman in the music industry (local or large scale) can be a frustrating & alienating path to travel alone. Seeing all of those women gathered together, fueled by the camaraderie & desire to learn from one another, was nothing short of amazing.
LN: What inspires you?
BF: To be honest, I draw two types of inspirations: inspo for my music & inspo for life. With my music, I get inspired all the time from the day to day musings of life. So many of us experience so many different things; good, bad, tragic, exciting, confusing etc. I’m most influenced by any form of art that can capture all of these nuances. In general, seeing talented, kindhearted & hardworking people achieve what they want in life inspires me so much because it makes me believe that what I want to achieve isn’t far from my grasp. Lastly, there is nothing that truly inspires me more than people telling me how much they enjoy & appreciate what I do with my work. Being an artist can be full of discouragement & self-doubt more often than realized. But when people take the time to tell me that something I’ve created has had an effect on them or inspired THEM to come see me perform on multiple occasions, it’s the most humbling & reassuring experience I could ever ask for. Those moments are the ones that I live for as they help me to remember that my gifts are here for a reason.
LN: What music are you listening to right now?
BF: My rotation of music changes with my mood, but I’ve been listening to a LOT of Mac Ayres & Tom Misch as of lately. I consider myself to be pretty eclectic but my musical heart will always flutter for warm Neo-Soul music. I’ve also been listening to Tiana Major9; a beautiful Jazz-Soul songstress from London. (Pretty much ANYONE from London makes dope music, I’ve realized in the last decade lol) My favorite rapper at the moment is also Kota The Friend; he’s newer to my ears but his style, messaging & production value remind me so much of a younger Kendrick Lamar & I love it. Lastly, I’m obsessed with the intricate arrangements of songs from an acapella group called Pitch Slapped.
LN: What do you do when you’re not creating/teaching music?
BF: SLEEP lol I’m ridiculously busy all of the time & while it’s expected that I’m creating in my spare time as well, sometimes it’s just wonderful to do nothing but sleep. Napping is a true art form that was taken for granted when I was younger & try to make amends for that as often as I can. Other than that, I can do the usual binge-watch of something that I missed out on when everybody else was into it because I was probably out doing something music-related. I actually draw fairly well also & need to get back into it more in my spare time (I have several comic strips I created when I was younger.) Aside from all of this, My number one downtime activity is actually playing The Sims 4!! I’m lowkey a huge gamer & life-simulating games are my specialty (that & Tekken lol) There is something remarkably therapeutic about designing homes, images & storylines for fictitious characters with an unlimited amount of money & skills acquired through cheat codes. If only real life were that simple to navigate, right?
LN: If you were trapped on a desert island, what 5 albums could you not live without?
BF: In no particular order:
Brandy - Full Moon
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
The Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio
Jill Scott - Words & Sounds Volume I
Janelle Monáe - The Electric Lady
LN: What are three things about you that wouldn’t want left out of your Wikipedia page?
BF: The fact that I have perfect pitch - (the ability to identify & recreate pitches by name without the aid of an instrument).
The fact that I literally had to build myself back up from the bottom after my vocal cord surgery in 2014.
That there are always have been & always will be more artistic layers to me than what meets the eye.