Ryan: For people who are unfamiliar with Grizfolk, can you explain how the band came together?
Grizfolk: We met in LA. Adam, Bill, and Brendan had been in a band prior to Grizfolk. At the same time, Adam was writing songs with Fredrik and eventually met Sebastian. We stumbled upon a sound that inspired us to start a group, so we put all of our focus on that, which turned in to Grizfolk.
Ryan: Let’s talk about the Bad Blood / Last Stand tour. Did Bastille approach you specifically or was it more of a record label decision because you are both signed to Virgin?
Grizfolk: We originally did 3 shows with Bastille, and after the 3rd show Dan asked us to join him for the European tour. They also asked us to join them for the current tour “Bad Blood / Last Stand”. They are some of the hardest working guys we’ve ever met, and we’re honored to have them as friends as well as blessed to be able to join them on the road.
Ryan: Your first big hit — “The Struggle” — gained success from the help of a friend’s blog post. Elaborate on this and explain how it eventually landed you a record deal with Virgin. Also, was there any competition in deciding on a record label?
Grizfolk: When we originally wrote “The Struggle,”we knew right away that we had stumbled upon something special. That song has opened a lot of doors for us, and I believe it was written in less than an hour. We put it on Soundcloud to share with our friend under the username Griz Adams, and Brandon from the Burning Ear posted it on his blog. It was very well received, and soon we went on tour. By the time we arrived in Portland, Virgin Records was flying in to have dinner with us and check out the show. From the start we had a great feeling about the music they put out and the staff. There were other labels interested but for us it seemed like a great match, as well as perfect timing.
Ryan: I was recently introduced to Grizfolk and learned that all of the members come from different musical backgrounds, ranging from Hip-Hop to Rock to Funk and Electronic. Does this ever cause issues when making music or is this musical diversity an advantage?
Grizfolk: When we write songs, the influences come out naturally. It’s an honest stylistic collaboration where anything is possible.
Ryan: The Beastie Boys are one of many major influences on Grizfolk. Who are some of your other musical influences?
Grizfolk: We love all of Justin Vernon’s projects: Bon Iver, volcano choir, and the shouting matches. More recently, most of us have been listening to Ryan Adams new record quite a bit. Chet Faker and Blood Orange, also.
Ryan: California is an inspiration for your music; you specifically mentioned Joshua Tree in one interview. I visited this past summer and it was incredible. Talk about how California, Joshua Tree in particular, inspires you.
Grizfolk: When we write music, we imagine where the song takes place. Sometimes it’s the desert, sometimes is downtown LA or maybe the mountains or on a boat out at sea. We are inspired by people, places and ideas and there’s quite lot of great people, places and ideas in California.
Ryan: I personally love the message portrayed in your new single, “Hymnals”, about pursuing dreams because life is short. Would you say that this is a major theme in your music?
Grizfolk: We all definitely have the mentality of never giving up and pursuing dreams, no matter what the outcome may be. We tend to have themes of people traveling the lonesome roads, trying to find what really matters to them.
Ryan: Are there any plans for making new music while on tour or are you strictly focused on the shows?
Grizfolk: We’re always working on new songs when we’re on tour. It’s a very convenient age of technology, in that whenever we get inspired on the road we can open our laptops and start working. No matter if we’re in the van, in a hotel or even on stage sound checking, we have some sort of tools available for us to create something new.
Grizfolk’s new single “Hymnals” – from the band’s 2014 EP From The Spark (Virgin Records) – impacts Alternative radio this month.
Bees are an integral part of our lives that we may not consider often enough. Research from the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) suggests nearly one-third of the daily food we consume — especially fruits and vegetables — relies on cross-pollination primarily by honeybees. A large number of bees are essential to our survival because they help make healthy food become available for consumption.The world is experiencing a bee colony collapse disorder. In other words, a dangerously high amount of adult worker bees are disappearing.
two.one.five magazine sat with local U-Bee-Well™ founder and creator, Barbara Gettes, at a Center City coffee shop, where we talked about how her contributions and products are helping the world — by helping the bee population.
Although Barbara always felt like the token hippie, she stuck to her guns. This was challenging at times, but now, even her family asks her about organic foods and she doesn’t hesitate to say “Yes, get them!”
“I feel like I’m doing what I dreamt about for as long as I can remember,” Gettes says about her work. She also said she never saw herself becoming a business owner, “it just happened to me, more than me seeking it out.”
Barbara says her heart “really became IN it” when her lip balms joined up with the cause to help save bees from colony collapse disorder. Now she’s partnered with the Philadelphia Bee Guild and Philadelphia Bee Company, so every purchase will help the bees.
Her increasingly popular lip balms (you can buy here in Philly at local stores) have also made it into the hotel rooms of Emmy nominees and presenters this year, and have been distributed nationally at Anthropologie stores.
U-Bee-Well™ is made in Barbara’s Philadelphia home (often while she’s holding her baby girl) with only with five ingredients: beeswax, olive oil, lavender, tea tree oil, and honey. Barbara has secured relationships with independent farms in the US and in Australia where her ingredients will be sourced, supporting those farms, farmers, and communities. Every account provides a 10% donation to beekeepers for queen bee rearing initiatives.
Barbara mentioned her product doesn’t only help with chapped lips. “I can’t say that my lip balms have ‘healing properties’, but I’ve found they work well for other skin ailments. Actress Minnie Driver has my product and I keep wanting to tell her to rub it on her baby’s butt!” Barbara says laughing.
What exactly made Barbara so passionate and motivated? She also plays in a local folky music band called The Spinning Leaves. While on tour, she and her partner spent an entire month on a New Hampshire farm, which she said changed her perspective on the environment. This experience helped her gain a new understanding of the important connection between humans, the planet, and food from the ground. Thinking back, Barbara says, “I didn’t know then how that experience would so strongly impact my life and forever change the way I live…” … and now how she makes a living.
This self-proclaimed social entrepreneur — who claims she didn’t even know what a social entrepreneur was until last year — lived in California for a bit until she realized the East Coast really needed her. “In the past four years the East Coast has changed. When Michelle Obama reinstalled the White House garden, it changed everything by creating awareness about what my friends and I have been doing for years and years — like the gardens we have been growing and the products we have been crafting. Now, I’m not just ‘the hippie,’ and seem to have solid ground to stand on!”
As Barbara’s business continues to grow she says she wants to work with beekeepers from all over the world and be able to give them profits while trying to increase the public’s awareness on the issues relating to bees. “While I am part of a consumer society, I want quality products in my life and I want to understand where they are coming from. I want to contribute to individuals and communities while supporting appropriate educational efforts and movements, encouraging more conscious consumerism.”
We all live in a world comprised of cultures with sets of rules, both written and unwritten, that dictate or at least attempt to dictate the manner in which we interact with one another. These interactions vary from informal to formal, familial to business-place, through virtual and technological media, face to face, within our own gender, and of course cross-gender. How we navigate this sea of interaction makes a tremendous impact on our day to day lives, and can definitely influence our professional success. Many variables play — and often interplay — their own significant roles in communication.
Many people dedicate careers to understanding, and helping their clients understand how to best parlay strategies into success. These fields include areas from public relations, marketing strategists, brand endorsement strategists, professional coaches and fashion stylists, to trained PhDs who study the slightest tendencies of our interactions. This has gained momentum because in a business world often driven by the bottom line, the numbers don’t lie. In an increasingly competitive workplace, professionals and employers seek every bit of leverage they can. It may indeed be more involved than going to see How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.
Though there is no doubt that values such as education and experience levels serve a professional well, we are also very highly linked to our physical appearance — shallow and vain as that may seem. In other words, if you have two equally deserving job candidates, the nod may be given to one based heavily on the perception an employer gathers from physical appearance — rather than experience or other qualitative characteristics.
Important to note is that one’s physical appearance includes, but certainly not only pertains to your looks/attractiveness. Thus, attention to detail when presenting oneself through such avenues as wardrobe choices, hair styles, tattoos, jewelry, posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and speech — to name a few — is extremely important.
With women becoming more and more present and involved every day in leading professional roles, research suggests that they face an added obstacle when presenting themselves. It seems, women must often choose between femininity and respect. Whether it be toning down, or jazzing up their workplace appearance, this decision can be either a gainful advantage or debilitating roadblock in their career.
New York image consultant and founder of DAMstyle, David A. McKnight, says in his book The Zen of Executive Presence (2013) “people instinctively judge each other by physical appearance, and a business woman’s motives and qualifications can be misconstrued because of a poor wardrobe choice, whether it be overly provocative, intimidating, or unflattering.”
In order to take a further look at this topic, I spoke to young professional Keenan Corrigan. She graduated from Duke University and has worked at two very different companies. First, Keenan worked for 2 years at the Department of Defense as a civilian analyst. She currently works in Baltimore, MD for Outward Bound as a field instructor — leading trips for students backpacking, canoeing, kayaking — and at the Outward Bound administrative office as the Executive Assistant — where she performs office related work including development and strategic planning.
At the Department of Defense, with obvious ties to the military, Keenan worked in a chain of command system where there were virtually only men working above her. She always noticed that there weren’t many women in positions of power, but said it “wasn’t surprising because there were proportionally fewer women in the organization in general. I didn’t think of it as a prohibitive factor.”
Being a young female in a male dominated workplace, she dealt with regular flirtation and at times harassment that made her feel uncomfortable. Keenan recalls, “I would err on the conservative side when it came to how I would dress. So even things that would be presentable in other environments, I wouldn’t wear to work. I didn’t want to put off a certain image in that office, because it was hard enough being young and working with a lot of older people. But being a woman as well, I wanted to be professional, I wanted people to take me seriously, and I didn’t want my appearance to dictate that. I felt like I had to work a lot harder to make sure that people knew I was intelligent, and competent, and didn’t just look at me and write me off.”
One instance involved a person of authority writing Keenan a provocative email after she wore what she called a “tasteful red dress that went below my knees, with sleeves and a high collar.” The individual described how he didn’t recognize her at first and thought he “had to go talk to that hot girl.” Keenan didn’t report the incident as she explained, “It wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight at that point in time. I didn’t want to aggravate the situation, I wanted to focus on doing my job.”
She continued, “I didn’t want to dress frumpy, because I care about my appearance, but there was a fine line between feeling good about the way I looked and not projecting certain viewpoints onto other people. A lot of times I left the house feeling great about what I was wearing. Then I would get to work and think… I shouldn’t have worn this. I was constantly thinking about what I should wear, or not.”
Now at the Outward Bound Baltimore office, many of Keenan’s co-workers in leadership roles are female. She says, “I think one of the reasons I love my job as much as I do is because of the strong women in leadership positions. They are wonderful role models and trail blazers.” She explained that even though the outdoor education industry is still a male dominated workplace, due to the type of people working there she feels much more comfortable. Keenan stated, “I think in this workculture I’m able to remain more focused without worrying frequently what others think of my appearance.” She paused when I asked her about her dress code at her current job and then answered, “You know, I don’t even know if there is one… but I know we are expected to make good judgement when choosing work clothes.”
Gabriele Goodman, who has earned both an MA and PhD in Organizational Psychology, has worked for over 10 years gaining expertise gender issues in the workplace. She has developed practice guidelines and strategic initiatives that help both women and men understand and identify how gender politics play out in organizational settings. As Goodman describes on her LinkedIn profile, “By providing insight and tools that help women became stronger forces in the workplace, [I] teach them how to reach their career goals.”
Goodman points out that, “It’s still such an unequal playing field. The thing about femininity [versus respect] is that women who can use their femininity strategically often do so in service of meeting their professional aspirations in an unequal gendered organization system. Depending on organizational culture, context, and social players involved, the strategic use of femininity may garner respect, but it is mainly used consciously as one possible tool in a big tool kit utilized only as a means to an end.”
She added that contrary to popular belief, these issues do not only exist across genders. Goodman says, “Yes, men do tend to sexualize situations to a much greater extent than women. But the biggest barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace are often other women. Many women feel threatened and think ‘I’m not as pretty as her,’ ‘I’m not as fast as her,’ and/or ‘I’m not as young as her.’ Comparisons of personal worth on often unconscious levels transpire, competition may surface, and the internalized message of ‘I’m fundamentally not good enough’ becomes externalized as a ‘me vs. she’ power play instead of a collaborative ‘we’ mobilizing effort.”
The harsh reality is that beyond just feeling comfortable at work, research indicates physical appearance directly corresponds to the average salary a person will make in his or her career. In his article for Salary.com, Aaron Gouveia discusses 7 Ways Your Looks Affect Your Pay. Citing multiple sources from top University studies, outlined are the facts and numbers that support height, weight, hair color, physique, make-up, general attractiveness, and being “too pretty” all directly affect average salary.
For example, in regards to make-up, Gouveia writes, “Not only do people judge beauty based on how much make-up a woman is wearing, make-up adorned women also rank higher in competence and trustworthiness, according to a study funded by Procter & Gamble, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A study in the American Economic Review said women who wear make-up can earn more than 30 percent more in pay than non make-up wearing workers.”
In some cases, appearance can jeopardize your job altogether. You can certainly be too attractive, or perceived as too provocative for the workplace.
In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenzana — an ex-employee at Citibank, was fired for being a distraction in the workplace. While the employer admitted that the employee was following the same dress code as everyone else, given her natural appearance in such attire, several co-workers described her presence as a distraction and negative influence. Lorenzana sued and her case was to be settled in private arbitration.
The fired employee was following the rules, so to speak, but unable to maintain her job because she was considered by others as too attractive. This seems unfair, and yet another example of an obstacle someone must consider when expressing their femininity versus gaining and/or maintaining workplace respect.
Recently [July], a news story cited by BleacherReport.com indicated how this issue exists world-wide in many work arenas – no pun intended. Kazakhstan National Team volleyball player Sabina Altynbekova‘s appearance has “upset and distracted” her teammates and coaches.
[“The player’s teammates and coach complained that Altynbekova was simply too attractive and was distracting fans… The coach complained “It is impossible to work like this.” Sabina also admitted that things are getting a little out of hand.” I was flattered at first but it’s all getting a little bit much,” she said. “I want to concentrate on playing volleyball and to be famous for that, not anything else.”]
Goodman’s findings support how influential attractiveness can be, whether positively or negatively. She explains, “If you’re deemed ‘too pretty’ it can be a liability, but definitely having good looks generally helps. Beware of the catch-22 though: If you’re seen as ‘too attractive,’ you may not be taken seriously by both men and women alike. Men want to sexualize you and other women can feel threatened by you. So the bimbo affect comes into play. Although this is a huge generalization, it appears that once women can prove their business acumen to their male counterparts through their work ethic, their emotional intelligence, their ability to think creativity, etc., the fact that they are good looking may fade into the background. However, female co-workers might have a harder time changing original assumptions made and continue to pigeonhole these threatening ‘femme fatals’ into a classification system whereby they are seen as allies, enemies, outliers, or outsiders.”
Goodman continues, “Conversely though, if you aren’t seem as ‘pretty enough,’ a judgment call made by both genders in seconds and usually registering first and foremost on an unconscious, strictly biological level (I’m speaking in vast generalizations here and am assuming heterosexuality as the primary orientation), you may be seen as non-threatening by other women, and an ‘after-thought‘ by other men. Of course in both cases, this is a temporary state and likely opinions will shift based on that individual women’s mental and emotional capabilities. However, being ‘good looking‘ still opens more doors than it closes.”
Goodman adds there is far more to it than physical appearance, stating, “That being said, if you don’t have confidence – which is measured by both verbal and nonverbal communication styles – you could be extremely attractive, but in the end it becomes a moot point.”
Goodman explains that men benefit from being taught to use stronger communication styles. “In terms of verbal styles: men are better at asking for what they want than women. Men preface things as statements — women preface things as questions, asking for permission. Men tend to overrate their abilities — women tend to underrate their abilities. With nonverbal styles: women tend to sit with their legs crossed, hands in their lap — men tend to sit with their legs open, chest open. All of these seemingly subtle cues have a huge impact on both self – and other – perceptions.”
Of course, context has to be considered in examining any of these general findings. Where you work and with whom you work determines how you interact. Goodman states, “It does depend on the industry. For example, in medical fields, in male-dominated fields, and in other high risk professions that often deal with life and death issues, a culture ethos often exists whereby both genders have a greater tendency to engage in sexual banter and bathroom humor without getting stymied by worries of being PC or being blamed for sexual harassment. There’s less censoring and more humor used in part because it gets both men and women through the extreme stress — and often tragedy — of their jobs. The traditional 9-5 Corporate America workplace is much more constricted by formal organizational rules and codes of conduct. There are many more ‘official’ socialrules of engagement to consider. ”
So then, relating back to the main question: Is it in fact a constant choice for women between femininity and respect? Goodman doesn’t believe so. “No, women don’t need to choose between femininity and respect. It depends on the definition of both. We have to question: Number one, what is the operative definition of femininity and respect? Number two, who is crafting, instituting, and regulating these definitions? Number three, what are the implicit and explicit cultural norms around how these definitions are actually manifested in the workplace? And number four, what are the ways that both genders uphold/maintain or resist these definitions? In order to understand the debate proposed here (to be feminine or to be respected), these aforementioned questions need to be addressed. I don’t think it’s a black/white, either/or scenario, but perhaps a both/and prospect.”
She continues, “It’s sad that it’s viewed as an either or choice. I think women should be taught how (and allowed to) ask for what they want, how to be confident, how to be assertive, and how to be competitive in a healthy way, the way men are. If this were the case, the workplace may not only become more egalitarian, but offer both genders a platform for creativity, increased productivity, heightened social intelligence, and overall improved well-being and happiness.”
This topic will undoubtedly continue to be part of our human experience. So much of the analysis is subjective, and certainly how factors such as appropriate communication styles and appropriate attire impact given situations is tied strongly to the context. Whether it be the industry, the individuals involved, the perceptions of those involved, and of course culture and gender, many pieces are in play to consider.
Research supports the cliché that first impressions are important. Yes, how you present yourself, how you dress, and what your physical appearance is carries a lot of weight. But moving forward you still have to be able to bring your job’s skills to the table. If you’re at an accounting firm, you have to be a good accountant. The advantage for someone with good physical appearance is they will probably receive more opportunities to show their talents.
And in an incredibly competitive job market, there is no telling how many chances anyone will be given. It could make all the difference…
This comedian is making a name for herself in the comedy world. The West Philadelphia native discusses how she gained her love for comedy, transition from fashion to comedy, and her upcoming projects. Tanisha met with 215mag.com displaying her fashion background. Wearing black vans, black, skinny ripped jeans, black tank with matching hat, chic glasses with a lime green sling bag, she gives the public a look into her life.
Interview by Alysia Lester | Two.One.Five Magazine
215mag.com: Did you always know you wanted to be a comedian?
Tanisha Long: No, I actually went to school for Fashion Merchandising. I went to many schools in Phila, PA: Drexel University, Philadelphia University, and Penn State University. Drexel’s still trying to get money from me. I think they sued me twice, now it’s not on my credit report, so I’m like whatever [laughs]. I just randomly moved here with a friend eight years ago and took some improv classes. I’ve always loved comedy, always watched it, but never thought I would be good enough to be a comedian. Every time I look back, I am so lucky to be in this position but have worked extremely hard. Before I even started onstage, making money off of performances, I was training in improv. I am happy to be doing it.
215mag: Why comedy?
TL: I love comedy. I’ve always loved comedy. I love fashion too, but realized I didn’t love fashion as a job. I love shopping, but I really didn’t want to be a buyer when it came down to it. I want to be a stylist too, but I would rather dress myself. I have friends who are stylists, and it is an extreme grind. I don’t love that the way I love comedy. I will go broke doing [comedy]. And I sometimes do. The sacrifices I am willing to make for comedy versus fashion are so different.
215mag: Sacrifices? Some people think comedians are well off.
TL: It’s a constant struggle. Yes, I am on television, but a lot of that stuff cannot sustain a lifestyle in NY, especially. I am moving to LA in October because I cannot afford to live in the city. And I don’t even live in the city, I live outside of it. I just want to live more comfortably and be in LA for acting. It’s really hard to come to NY and make it. And I love Philly (Philadelphia), I’m from Philly. I can’t do what I do here in Philly. I wish I could, because I love that city and living there is fantastic. Having a one bedroom apartment in Rittenhouse Square (in Philadelphia), and bartend somewhere and do standup, that would be great. But you just can’t do it on the level you do it here.
215mag: How was the transition moving from West Philly to NYC?
TL: I hated it when I first moved here. I learned to tolerate it. I’ve never really loved it. It’s like being in a relationship with someone you don’t like because they’re attractive and have a lot of money. It’s really what it is. Apparently, I can have a relationship like that because I’ve lived here for eight years. I don’t like it here but everything amazing in my life is here-friends, career opportunities, where I live. NY in itself is so hard. This past winter was just: move out of NY, move! Don’t be here next winter. I told myself I will not be here next winter. It is terrible.
215mag: What do you tell yourself when times get rough?
TL: I cry a lot [laughs]. I’ll give myself a couple days and cry and I’ll be ok. I will try and write through it and write jokes about why I’m sad because dating here is hard too, and I’ve gone through a bunch of terrible breakups while living here.
215mag: Don’t you think it would be the opposite? A variety of men in a big city?
TL: Oh, it’s the worst! There’s too many options for guys and none want to be in a serious relationship. They think they do, then they’re like, “Tanisha’s cool, she’s funny, she’s pretty, I’m going to date her”, then it’s like “oh! You want to be in a serious, serious relationship. I want to be in a serious relationship where I pretend like you’re my girlfriend, but then date other people, is that not what you want?” So, I’ll go through breakups and cry, while writing jokes.
215mag: Does it help?
TL: It’s the best thing. I’m trying not to tell jokes about my ex-boyfriends anymore, because I know for a fact that one of them enjoys me telling jokes about him because he’s a narcissist. So, now every joke about him is gone from my set. I will not talk about him on stage. I have another ex that I’m friends with, and he is a sweet guy so the jokes about him are funny. They’re just about how big his penis is, because he has a big penis.
215mag: Who is your favorite comedian?
TL: I’ve always looked up to Dave Chappelle. I loved Chappelle Show. Watching his work is amazing. I grew up watching sketch improve more than standup, so I have my favorite sketches. I loved In Living Color, SNL, and Kids in the Hall. Those shows affected my sense of humor growing up.
215mag: How did you get involved in Girl Code and Guy Code?
TL: It’s a dream job. Damien Lemon, who is also one of my favorite comedians, I worked with him on a pilot for MTV years ago, before Guy Code was even thought of. We stayed in touch, and he is one of the sweetest guys ever. The thing with comedy guys is a lot of them make friends with females in comedy because they’re creeps and trying to live with you, but all of the guys on Guy Code are nice guys. They have never been creepy. So, the creator of Guy Code was talking about creating a Girl Code and Damien brought my name up. I auditioned and here I am [laughs], three seasons later.
215mag: How was the audition process?
TL: You walk in and are given topics to talk about. It was like an episode of Girl Code. It was pretty fun and I remember after the first audition, I was like if someone is going to pay me to do this, I need this job! I was freaking out about whether or not I was going to get a callback. When I found out I got it, I cried. It’s been great.
215mag: How was the atmosphere on set?
TL: It’s so easy. The crew is great. They are really nice. The writers and producers are fantastic.
(Interview is interrupted by a Pomeranian dog showing off her new haircut)
Owner: She just got a haircut.
TL: So she’s emotional?
Owner: She’s just excited about it.
TL: I saw a video of a Pomeranian and it was walking on its hind legs!
Owner: Yes, they do that!
TL: That’s hilarious.
TL: So, I don’t get to be in the same room as the other girls on the show. I’ll see them in passing, in the makeup room. It’s really interesting because when you watch the show, you think we’re all sitting in a room together. We all work well together.
215mag: Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
TL: I’ve met Dave Chappelle once when I was a server at a hotel and he told me “you don’t need anybody else to have your career.” I was talking to him about how I wanted to be on a team at an improv theater and use that to help build my career. He told me you don’t need that, you don’t need SNL. I auditioned for Saturday Night Live, and I didn’t get on. It was interesting to hear that from someone on that level. While I was doing improv and sketch, I didn’t really find a home that other people did. It turned out fine even though I wasn’t lifted upon improv theater’s shoulders. I found my way anyway. That was the best advice.
215mag: How was auditioning for shows like SNL?
TL: You do it, and then afterwards, you have to forget what you did. Because you have no control over anything. Have a clear mind, go in, and make everybody laugh. Do a good show and walk away and never think about it again. To even be thought of is so incredibly flattering.
215mag: What advice would you give to up-and-coming comedians?
TL: Keep doing it and stay focused. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything. Especially now that I’m doing standup, I encounter other performers who are insecure about their position in their career. Some have told me, “You don’t want to be really attractive performing”. That is insulting to me and the audience. You think the audience is that stupid? And the material is that bad that all they’re going to see is that I’m remotely attractive? Or they’ll say “You shouldn’t talk about this, or that.” Talk about what you want to talk about. Chris Distefano, of Guy Code, told me “do what you want to do. Not what your manager, agent or other comics want.” Find your voice. I’m still finding mine. Keep going and failing. Donnell Rawlings, also of Guy Code, told me “be ready to fail and embrace it.”
215mag: Do you read the comments about you social media?
TL: When I first started on social media, my feelings used to get hurt, and most of the comments were from girls under the age of 14. It made me sad, because girls are mean to each other when they’re young. They must think I am their age, because the comments would be things said to another girl in grade school. I’ve been picked on, so I know what is going on. Now, I laugh because you took time out of your day to say something mean to me.
215mag: I viewed your YouTube video of your opinion of men verbally harassing women in the street. How do you feel about the disrespect women receive from men?
TL: Guys on the street feel entitled to talk to us. If we don’t, then they call us a name, or they yell. One day I had on pajamas, a hat, no makeup and some guy said something sexual and disgusting. It is not a compliment. I feel we start raising our sons to show respect. This is something that guys have learned. That is scary to have guys yelling at me. I’ve had guys follow me home since I was 13, and I wish it would stop.
215mag: Earlier, you mentioned moving to Los Angeles, CA. Explain why
TL: All of the television and film studios are out there. I worry about going there and not being able to do standup as much. I’m scared it will hurt that but I’m going to try to be bi-costal. The next step in my career is doing television and film, and I will continue to do Girl Code. But it would be nice to actually earn some money, have a salary, and pay bills on time [laughs].
215mag: What is the craziest thing a fan has done?
TL: I haven’t had any crazy fans. I hope this doesn’t encourage anyone to do some crazy fan shit, because I’m not for it.
215mag: People recognize you in the street?
TL: If I look the way I do on television, then everyone comes up to me. Then people that don’t even care or know who I am, they see someone taking a picture with me, then it’s like “oh, I’m going to take a picture too, she must be somebody.” I am not important. I am on an MTV show. I will say I get free coffee at every Starbucks. I think Starbucks only hires Girl Code fans, because they know who I am!
215mag: Where do you see yourself in five years?
TL: Own a house in the hills in Hollywood, have a condo in the Upper West Side, be in every movie ever! [laughs] I hope to be doing standup in theaters. I would like my standup to get that good. I’d love to be on a sitcom and have done a comedy movie or two. Maybe have a boyfriend and dog by then. I doubt it. I probably will have a dog before I have a boyfriend. I feel like guys get intimidated by my schedule. I cannot date comedians, it’s not good. They would talk about you in their set. I have never had that happen, even though I’ve dated a comedian. Comedians tend to be unstable and it is hard to have two unstable crazy people together, and one of them needs to be sane. My career is always going to be number one is my life and I am not in a rush for any of that.
215mag: What do you want to be remembered for?
TL: Geez! That’s tough [laughs]
215mag: On Girl Code and Guy Code?
TL: Oh, I hope I won’t just be remembered for being on Girl Code and Guy code! That I’m funny, and I work hard! It’s a loaded question. I respect people. I feel like I’m going to get on the train and say “I should have said this!”
215mag: Do you have any upcoming projects?
TL: Girl Code is coming back. I just wrapped up the third season. I am going to be doing a college tour doing standup, and will be doing shows throughout.
For those who have not yet been introduced, if you’re looking for a band that stays true to the conscious principles of reggae, blends in the latest sounds and musical influences of today, and boasts outstanding vocal talents, search no further than Morgan Heritage. For those fans already well acquainted, you know that these trademark characteristics have remained proud fixtures dating back to the early 90’s. We haven’t seen the Morgan family in unison the last several years, as each member has remained active but more individually, making this latest collective re-emergence that much more special.
The five siblings and original members of Morgan Heritage — Una Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Peetah Morgan (vocals), Roy “Gramps” Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan (rhythm guitar) and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan (percussion) — shine on as the offspring and living legacy of famed Jamaican reggae singer Denroy Morgan. Recently, the next generation has joined in the shape and sound of Gramps’ own son Jamere Morgan.
In this current era with its generation criticized for its sense of entitlement, many seemingly too-often fail to recognize those who came before and struggled for the betterment of humankind. Morgan Heritage though, graciously gives due notice to the predecessors of their trade who battled and faced prejudice during a remarkable and transformative time. Yes this includes Bob and Peter, but stretches far beyond and into the isles of past icons the likes of Jacob Miller, Inner Circle, Dennis Brown, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, and Black Uhuru… the list certainly goes on.
Morgan Heritage remind their listeners that the work moving forward is not, nor will it ever be done. An ever-changing world provides new challenges, and needless to say, many of yesterday’s problems still remain far too prevalent today. But key is the road map their words in effect become, offering a guide to live better for your fellow woman and man. In the name of love and understanding.
I spoke with lead vocalist Peetah Morgan about the current state of reggae music, the important messages Morgan Heritage sings about in their songs, and discussed reggae’s transformation into a global music genre.
Two.One.Five Magazine | Morgan Heritage Exclusive Interview
ARAN HART: Why does Morgan Heritage feel it’s important to shine light on the founding figures of Roots Reggae music?
PEETAH: It is important for us to pay homage to the pioneers because they’ve been through the struggles that we are free from facing today. They broke down so many barriers. And that has allowed us to go into countries and places that they weren’t able to go because of the stigmatism that was upon Rastafarian and Dreadlock people, playing rebel music. We are now playing in places, on TV, and on radio stations that they never played on. It’s a great feeling for us to be doing this today as a tribute to recognize the hard labor of those who came before us.
ARAN HART: Is Roots Reggae music’s future in good hands?PEETAH: Roots Reggae music forever will be in good hands. It’s great now because it’s not just Jamaica. The music has become global. You have great reggae bands playing roots music from here in America, in Europe, Africa, Japan, and the South Pacific. We still have Jamaicans like Tarrus Riley and Morgan Heritage, Anthony B, Luciano, the list goes on. But it’s not just us anymore… it’s foreigners who have joined us as torchbearers of the music.
So our eyes are not just looking at what is coming out of Jamaica, we are also seeing what is coming out around the world. Bob Marley prophesized it many years ago — that reggae music is only going to become bigger and more global. Now we are seeing those words become reality. If you go onto iTunes, you’ll see that most of the top selling reggae music is not from today’s Jamaica — you still have the Wailers and Peter Tosh. We give thanks to the international bands like Rebolution, Soja, J-Boog, The Green, Lord Alajiman, and otherswho are carrying the torch because Reggae music is beyond borders. Reggae music is beyond color. Reggae music is beyond the islands.
Most reggae was created out of Jamaica and it was Jamaican artists who faced persecution to establish this music globally. But we are not fools to not understand where the music is today. We appreciate what each and every one is doing for the music. At the end of the day it’s not about people, it’s not about race, it’s about the music.
ARAN HART: You touch on many issues and have many messages in your songs… What is at the top of your list right now of issues you feel people can and/or should be fighting against/for?
PEETAH: We fight against racism number one. We fight against segregation and oppression. We fight against injustice. And we fight against sexism. And we fight for equal opportunity in the working world. For example, we have women now who are doing twice the work of a man and still only getting paid half as much. We are about equality and justice for all people. No matter your race, your color, your gender, or your creed. So we fight for women’s equality and rights. Without the women, we wouldn’t have the world that we have today. These things are important to us as a people and as a family. All people are respected for what they bring to the betterment of humanity.
In Jamaica right now, our communities are being hurt by gun-men, violence, and sadly enough we have a lot of young children who are being raped. These are things that we want to see eradicated from communities across the globe and are at the forefront of what we pay attention to. We need to educate our youth. We need to reach out to prepare the next generation who are coming up in the world today and will lead tomorrow. Everything is all about a better world. Everything we do and focus on — from relationships, to our social commentary, to spiritual awareness. The foundation of all of this is love.
ARAN HART:Including songs like “She’s Still Loving Me” and your latest single “Put it on Me,” Morgan Heritage is known to produce beautiful Lover’s Rock. Do you believe that pure love, kindness, and romance are the solutions to these issues you just mentioned?
PEETAH: Without love we have nothing. Love is the biggest foundation to everything we do in life. So, when we write songs about love and relationships, this is a form of consciousness. You have to be consciously aware to experience or share love with the ones that you love. You will always get that side of Morgan Heritage through our music. Just as much as you get social commentary or the spiritual awareness, you will always get love songs through lover’s rock music because it is a major part of life. Without love we wouldn’t be here. Our parents come together and make love to bring forth more love, which is life.
ARAN HART: How does it make you feel, having this opportunity to bring these messages to people’s awareness across the globe?
PEETAH: I’m grateful and thankful everyday because it could have been anyone else. It didn’t have to be us. But we are aware that we have been chosen to do this. It’s fascinating to go to a foreign land, in front of people that speak a foreign language, and realize that the music talks, and brings so many people together. So it’s fascinating to see how through our music we are able to communicate and inspire so many people, globally. It’s a blessing and it gives us encouragement to continue doing what we are doing, because this is why we do it.
ARAN HART: Talk about the latest projects Morgan Heritage have been working on and what we all have to look forward to…
PEETAH: In addition to our own recently released single and video, Put it on Me — which is doing very well globally and we are very grateful for — we have been producing and song-writing a lot for other artists like J-Boog, Irie Love, and many others from Africa. It is a work in progress and we will continue to be song-writers and developers of new talent. Also, look out for our own project set for release next year. Plus, we have been working a lot with Gramps’ son, Jamere Morgan. Morgan Heritage has a lot more in store for you, yah mon.
Matisyahu’s journey is one that travels far beyond the stops of his very busy 2014 mostly North American tour. For the man we all grew to know as The Hasidic Jewish rapper / reggae star, this journey explores the growth and evolution of an individual and the lessons he searches to learn from. He shares a piece of this ongoing experience with us all on his most recent 15 track release, titled Akeda.
A decade into his professional music career, much has changed. Many will point right at his obvious physical make-over. But what you’ll find when talking to Matis is that the true transformation came from, and took place, within.
His unique path before and after he became publicly recognizable — from his time he spent without an audience figuring out his sound, to that epic performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live — has influenced and developed Matis into who we understand him to be today. Matisyahu has successfully blended his creative talent as a musician with a personal narrative he uses to inspire his fans across the globe.
When listening to Akeda, one understands his songs reflect a newly found comfort, but don’t overlook how he arrived there. Matis offers his story with signature grandiose choruses and chanting conscious lyrics over a mix of reggae, hip-hop, alternative, and pop music canvases, with separate guest appearances from Zion-I and Collie Buddz.
I chatted with Matisyahu a few weeks ahead of the Third Annual Reggae in the Park festival Sunday August 3rd, when the West Chester, PA native will take the Mann Center stage. We discussed how he developed his lyrical style, the inspiration behind his new album, and how he learned to walk through walls.
Get advance tickets to see Matisyahu — plus Steel Pulse, Inner Circle, Morgan Heritage, Konshens and many more! And stay tuned for more two.one.five exclusive interviews. Follow @215mag.
ARAN HART: Do you feel it’s harder for you to switch or evolve your style based on the image so many people associate with you?
MATISYAHU: I hadn’t really thought about it like that before, but yea. Being that I was a very specific thing to a lot of people probably does make it more difficult. There are a lot of artists out there that don’t have such an intense image that’s attached to them. But I feel like I go through this every record. I guess now it has happened in a more major way.
ARAN HART: How did you cultivate your singing and lyricist style?
MATISYAHU: I found what I really liked, listened to it a lot and just soaked it in. I spent a lot of time alone in my room, without a career or an audience, expressing myself via that mode. I had a band when I was 18 in Oregon and I got to be a front man and learn about what that’s like. Everything from having the right energy on stage and relating to an audience. I moved back to New York when I was 19 and I wasn’t able to put together a band so I set up a drum kit and PA in my room and would play the drums and sing, and chant through the microphone with different delays and effects.
I would also buy instrumental tapes on Canal St. in New York. At the time I was listening to a lot of Sizzla, Capleton, and Buju Banton — that wave of conscious dancehall. I would listen really fuckin loud, get high and write. Then I would plug in my mic and try to do what it was that I was experiencing and hearing. I would get really inspired by that reggae music. I never thought about, “I’m not this so I can’t do it.” If there is something that I connect with emotionally then it always feels natural to me. So I started writing and producing that style.
As time has gone I’ve evolved from that. I don’t sit in my room and get high and listen to the same music. I listen to a ton of different styles of music now. But whenever I find something I connect with, it’s still kind of the same process. I explore it, let it seep into me and figure out how I can add that to my palette of colors that I paint with, so to speak.
ARAN HART: Your music has been licensed for use with TV, movies, video games etc… Describe the importance of having your music used in these various media channels…
MATISYAHU: That’s a huge piece of it all, getting people to hear your music. The business man in me wants the music to reach as many people as it can. So you look for any outlet. With the exception of my first song, I haven’t had a lot of support in radio. Also with the game changing like it is, it becomes about looking for alternate ways, and licensing is probably the biggest way. Whether it be a car commercial, or a video game, or a movie, you want to get people that access to your music. It’s important.
ARAN HART: How has being able to take your talents around the world and experiencing other cultures influenced you as an artist and/or an individual?
MATISYAHU: I’m gonna be honest. For a long time I really had my head down. It was hard to get past the jet lag, the airplanes, going to the hotel, going to the show, getting back on an airplane and going to the next place. I’m just now learning how to try and take things in. Even though I’ve probably filled up 3 passport books, or whatever. I was tired for a long time and traveling for a long time. You can’t necessarily take in all the things that maybe other people who travel are able to. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. Even though it’s difficult, I love being mobile. You know, ever since I was 17 I left home with a backpack. So that’s who I am.
ARAN HART: In my estimation, so much of your music explores a personal journey, challenges, finding the ability to overcome, rising up and growing as a person. Where do you draw that inspiration from to write in that way?
MATISYAHU: I’m a pretty sensitive person. I’m affected by things. And it’s my nature to want to be growing. I’ve been searching for a really long time and I don’t see myself ever stopping. I mean, I’ve had periods in my life where I take it easy, but my nature is to keep pushing forward to elevate myself and get better at the things that I want to do. Whether it’s being a better father or singer. Being better at prayer. Being more understanding. Being a more compassionate person. Being able to take in my surroundings. All of those things keep me constantly striving and moving forward.
ARAN HART: Does your newest album, Akeda, represent a significant part of a journey or era for you?
MATISYAHU: About 2-3 years ago there were a bunch of things going on. One thing was, I was unhappy in my marriage so I decided to move on from that. I wasn’t feeling comfortable or happy in the religion anymore… and, when I say the religion, I mean specifically the rules. I had been following those rules for 10 years, and there are a lot of them. They dictated a lot about how I lived my life and the way I thought. Even though I struggled with those things, I still went through with them. I still woke up and lived according to a certain way. I started to feel claustrophobic and like I was being stifled.
I also had an issue with my voice. I had to go on vocal silence for about 3 months. I had finished a tour so I was sitting at home. I also had another health problem with my stomach that I was trying to heal. Basically I wasn’t talking, communicating, or eating normally. I was pretty much fasting. I got into a very deep meditative place and all of a sudden I started to feel all of my emotions start to come back. I don’t know if I’d ever felt things the way I was feeling. I was getting this intense mental clarity and getting in touch with all of these feelings. I could feel my heart waking up. I was claiming myself back from everything — the religion, the relationships, and even the lifestyle I’d been chasing. I’d been trying to be a rockstar all these years, thinking, “How can I get more famous, and make more money, and do more shows?” I just stopped all of it and went inwards. I was also battling drug addiction, and got sober. That’s where this record and all the creativity came out of.
ARAN HART: Alluding to the title of your single Watch the Walls Melt Down… Were these the walls you were watching melt and fade away?
MATISYAHU: Yea, the metaphysical walls. There was this one song they would always sing in Chabad, the Hassidic group that I was with, and the name translates to mean “go over the wall.” So this is my version and my take on that. You don’t go over the wall, but watch how the wall isn’t really a wall. Just watch it fall down, and walk straight through it.
ARAN HART: Have you walked through and achieved this freedom?
MATISYAHU: I’m still in the process, but there is definitely a taste of freedom.