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Entertainment
06/24/14

Perseverance Mattered for This Rising R & B Star

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Singer, songwriter, rapper and dancer Mila J best known for appearing in Prince videos will take the stage next month at Essence Festival.

She sat down with News With A Twist host LBJ ahead of the festival to talk about her new EP and sibling rivalry.

LBJ: Well it’s always good to have to have folks stop by the Twist set. And, today is no different. We are happy to have Mila J. Hello there!

Mila J: Thank you for inviting me.

LBJ: M-I-L-A-J. Made in L.A. (That’s the name of the CD as well.)

Mila J: That’s the name of my EP that’s coming out this September actually. I was born and raised there.

LBJ: Born and raised in L.A. And the current single, ‘Make Up’… I mean ‘Break Up.’

Mila J: Break Up! We not making up!

LBJ: I understand. Well, you know, your story is truly one of perseverance. You’ve been playing you music for a long time. You also dance. You write songs. And is that the message to young people that you just keep swinging the bat as long as you can.

Mila J: That is definitely the message. You just keep swinging it. And, you know, eventually that door will open. Even If you gotta, you know, kick it down. You just definitely gotta stick with it. I feel like as long as you have the passion for it and the work ethic, you know, because a lot of it is talent, but a lot of it is that work you put in, you know. And I definitely think it will come pretty soon.

LBJ: OK, so, coming up, the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, the headliner is Prince. You got a pretty interesting experience with that guy.

Mila J: Yeah, I was actually a little girl in his “Diamonds and Pearls” video.

LBJ: You were one of the little girls with the kids sitting at the table and all that.

Mila J: Yep, yep. And the one sitting on Rosie’s lap, the one the lady was singing to.

LBJ: Well that`s awesome. So it’s been that long. You’re a dancer. Which one do you prefer, dancing, song-writing, performing, which one do you like?

Mila J: I can not pick one. Honestly, because I fell like they all… I mean, I did initially start off as a dancer. But I just think, all around, just being an entertainer or a performer that can sing and dance. It’s hard to pick one. It’s like picking a favorite child.

LBJ: Speaking of children, it’s good to be in your family these days.

Mila J: Yeah, it is. It is.

LBJ: Your sister is…

Mila J: Jhené Aiko.

LBJJhené‘s on out there too. You guys competing?

Mila J: No. Not at all.

LBJ: Sisterly love…

Mila J: Sisterly love. There’s no sibling rivalry. Everyone is trying to create this thing between us. But, no, it`s all love. She’s been doing it a long time too. So it’s just finally happening.

LBJ: Well that’s fantastic. We wish you the best. When you come back you got to perform for us.

Mila J: Yeah, I got to break it down on the Twist Stage. News with a Twist.

LBJ: Before we let you get away, on the upcoming Made in L.A., what’s the music like, because there’s a bit more of an edge to your music than most female performers.

Mila J: Yeah, there definitely is an edge. I still am a tomboy. I think a lot of my mentality is… you know, I’m a diamond in the rough. So a lot of the lyrics are definitely a little more aggressive. But it definitely has a good vibe to it. I’m not bashing guys or anything like that so don’t get me twisted. You know, there`s actually a lot of songs about holding a guy down. A lot of relationship-driven songs. I have some up-tempos on there that are club bangers and my DJ on there is crazy. B.O.B, actually, is featured on one of the songs. It`s a lot of different vibes to the album. I’m just excited for everybody to here it.

LBJ: Mila J, thank you so much for stopping by. Best of luck. “Made in L.A.” is the EP.

Mila J: September!

LBJ: Pick it up.

 

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - If you’ve ever seen this woman play her instrument of choice, chances are you’ll never forget it.

Meet Rosalee Ashton Washington, or Lady Tambourine as she’s known.

Her desire to play started with a vision she had of a relative in church.

Washington says, “I was 5 years old when I saw my Nana or Godmother playing the tambourine in church, and she was singing her favorite song, ‘Power, power, Lord. Power, power, Lord.’ And I saw fire all around her and I turned around to see if anyone was going to run and put the fire out because her dress would catch on fire. She kept on playing and I said, ‘She makes fire like that. Lord, I wish I could play like that.’”

Lady Tambourine has been playing for decades, but she came to our attention a few years ago at Jazz Fest in the Gospel Tent.

She started there backing up the Banks Family, years ago with a show on senior citizen’s day.

Washington stated, “This year made 20 years, 2 decades of me playing at the Gospel Tent at the Jazz Fest.”

LBJ: “And it started with you turning it out with them old folks.”

Washington: “Yes, helping someone else and God making room for my gift.”

One year, after being told she couldn’t play with a particular group in the gospel tent, Lady Tambourine decided to spread wings and explore playing with others outside of the gospel arena, exposing her to a larger group of people, but also giving us more opportunities to hear her.

“So I started playing with the Indians and different bands, and I got a chance in ’96 at the Essence Festival to play with Stevie Wonder, and I’ve played with him twice,” she says.

Lady Tambourine has played with Leanne Rhimes and Beyonce in the movies, with Wyclef Jean and with Faith Hill in the Vagina Monologues, and with her husband Tim McGraw back at the fest.

Obviously, these big stars see the same thing in her that we do:  She’s a master!

She says her biggest compliments come from the fans:  “Everyone says, ‘You woke me up!’ I just, ‘Wow! You were it! I felt the power. I never seen a tambourine played like that in my life. You’re a legend!’”

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - It a classic Led Zepplin song with a beautiful refrain, but the beautiful instrument it’s being played on is not so common. Rachel Van Voorhees is, among other things, principal harpist for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and an educator, but like so many other masters, she didn’t start out playing the harp.

“My parents made me take piano lessons, like everybody, and there was a summer music camp at the University of Vermont, and they encouraged you to take a second instrument for fun,” Rachel explains. “One summer I took the oboe, one summer I took the clarinet, and then by chance some gals were taking the harp, and I said, ‘I’ll try that’ and that was it, that was it.”

We are all much richer because Rachel choose the harp, an instrument that dates back centuries.

“I always say, do you know what the oldest instrument is, and that’s the human voice, and the second oldest is drums, the third oldest is the flute or the pan flute, and the fourth oldest is voila, the harp,” she says.

In addition to teaching music on the faculty at Loyola, Rachel also provides private lessons, and says she’s pleasantly surprised at the interest level of the harp in New Orleans.

“Some people come because they see me play with the symphony and the hold on to that idea and keep nagging their parents until they bring them over for lessons,” Rachel says. “Some people want to be able to play in their church, some people come because it helps their arthritis, some people come because they want to play in rock bands, and they want to learn to play harp for rock bands.”

She goes on to say, “Some people come because they only want to play Irish music and they want to learn to play that, and believe it or not some people come because they want to be symphony harpist.”

To her credit, Rachel is as comfortable in the concert setting with the philharmonic orchestra, as she is playing any genre of music.

“Besides the classical players in town, I have so much fun with everyone doing all kinds of music, it’s awesome,” she says.

Tanya and Dorise can be found playing great music on Royal St. and St. Louis in the French Quarter. People love them and they love playing for the people.

 

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - He’s one of New Orleans’ finest piano players and unmatched as a music educator, so who would Ellis Marsalis like to play with?

Miles Davis.  And he actually got a chance to tell him that at one of their performances in New York.

“I was telling Miles, ‘ya know I always wanted to play in your band,’” Marsalis recounts.  “And he said, ‘you’d better be glad you didn’t, everybody that’s played with me is dead.’”

After graduating from Dillard University and playing mostly clarinet and saxophone in bands around town, Marsalis told us we have someone to thank for making him the man he is today.

His name is Nathaniel Perrilot.

“I was in a jam session at the Dew Drop one Sunday, and I heard a saxophone player by the name of Nathaniel Perrilot, and that ended my career as a saxophone player. I went home, put it in the case and never took it out again,” Marsalis said.

Marsalis stayed out of the spotlight most of his life, focusing more on being an educator.  And that’s worked out pretty well.  He’s the father of today’s jazz giants –  Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason — also has influenced the careers of countless other musicians like,  Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton.

Today, Marsalis plays piano and teaches young people.  He said these days his piano playing has less to do with growing as it has to do with maintaining.

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Some people were born to sing!  That couldn’t be more true for Robin Barnes.  There’s a reason why she’s called “The Songbird of New Orleans.”  With her career taking off, the world is her stage.  But how much do you know about the local singer?  News With A Twist reporter Deepak Saini got to know the woman behind the voice.

Robin Barnes is known around town as…

Robin laughs, “I am the songbird of New Orleans.

Her vocal range goes as low as Etta James to as high as Mariah Carey.  Her voice celebrated, she even impressed us on our Twist stage, it’s the reason why she’s one of the star attractions at the Windsor Court Hotel and the Hotel Monteleone.

“When I was a child my dad was like, okay, Robin definitely has to be a singer.  My mom was like ah, no, no, no, let’s focus on business and education, let’s do that side of things,” says Robin.

But success for this songbird didn’t come easy.

“Oh! So many no’s! So many no’s! More like, who’s your mama? Who’s your daddy? Who’s your family? Do they play? My family was more in church so I couldn’t be like oh, My dad is Kermit Ruffins,” says Robin.

No one would hire her.

“If you can’t get a gig, it’s disheartening, it’s like, what’s wrong with me? Am I not a good singer?  Am I not a performer? What’s wrong with me that I can’t get a shot?” says Robin.

Often times, the struggling singer sang for free, hoping someone would notice her talent.

Robin says, “I was so hungry for gigs, I was doing whatever the places wanted me to do and forgot who’s Robin.”

Finally, one day, her first big break.

“I sang my heart out, even if there was only one person in the room, and she came up to me and said the Hotel Montelone is looking for someone new,” says Robin.

The hotel signed Robin right up.  In the years since, she’s drawn crowds and her popularity has soared.  She’s a favorite at local festivals and she’s incredibly popular in Europe, booking pristine gigs in places like France.  One of her biggest accomplishments?  Releasing her first EP.

“I had a big party for it and I was so happy.  I feel like I told 10 people and 300 showed up,” Robin laughs.

Robin comes off as confident and outgoing, so you’d never guess…

“I am super shy.  I’m that quiet mouse.  If something’s wrong, I’m not going to be the one that says it,” laughs Robin.

So what happens when you force this shy songbird to surprise someone with a serenade?

(Robin sings for guest)

It was worth the risk, making someone’s day, with a voice you simply cannot forget.

To learn more about Robin Barnes and her music, visit:  robinbarnesmusic.com

Robin’s Schedule:

Wednesdays:  Roosevelt Hotel, 5:30pm-8:30pm

Thursdays: Windsor Court Hotel, 5pm-8pm

Fridays: Hotel Monteleone, 5pm-8pm & Windsor Court Hotel, 9pm-12am

Saturdays: Windsor Court Hotel, 9pm-12am

 

ST. ROSE, La. (WGNO) - There’s a young man from St. Rose named Billy Wallace.   He has a voice that sounds as old and rich as Lyle Lovett or Johnny Cash.  Instead, he’s a Destrehan High School Senior and he released a Country music album for his senior project.   News With A Twist reporter Deepak Saini met the singer who has an amazing start to a bright future.

From running Cross Country to taking a date to Senior Prom, Billy Wallace, is like any other graduating senior.

“The name is definitely country,” says Wallace.

Fittingly so, the Destrehan High School student decided to release a Country music album for his senior project.

Wallace says, “My mom was kinda iffy about it at first.  She was like, I’ve never heard you sing by yourself, how do you know how to write music?”

With no formal training, Billy reached out to Andrew Duhon for help.  The New Orleans singer and songwriter coached him through some long sessions in the studio.  It’s a sound people seem to like, especially young girls.

“I have been getting random Twitter messages and Facebook messages.  I guess it just comes with the territory,” says Wallace. (Follow Wallace here: @bmwall23)

The St. Rose native released three songs for his EP titled “The Way I Am.”

“My inspiration really just comes from living in southern Louisiana and hanging out with my friends, that’s what I write about and that’s what I know what to write about,” says Wallace.

Billy wrote each song himself and made a music video to the one titled, “Be Okay.”

“It’s about a breakup that you think you’re not going to live through and you’re fine.  So that’s definitely relatable in high school.”

With thousands of views on Youtube, the girl in the video is getting just as much attention as Billy’s voice.  She does look strikingly familiar.

“I’ve gotten at least 10-15 times that she looks like Kate Middleton and I agree,” says Wallace.

She’s actually a friend from school.

Billy’s songs are already on iTunes.  He’s already had more than a hundred pre-orders for his CD’s and to all those naysayers…

“They really love it now.  I don’t think they expected that I could actually do it.  I don’t think anyone did actually.  I do want to keep doing this for the rest of my life.  If something big were to happen such as a record deal or maybe move to Nashville, that would be great but if it just stays like it is, small, I’d be totally happy with that,” says Billy.

No matter where Billy’s musical journey takes him, he’ll be okay.

www.billywallacemusic.com

 

 

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Jeremy Davenport is vital to the music scene in New Orleans.  People love to see him perform at The Ritz-Carlton on Canal Street.  But how well do you know the man behind the trumpet?  News With A Twist reporter Deepak Saini gets Jeremy Davenport to open up about his life, dreams and accomplishments.

He’s the prince of New Orleans Jazz.  Jeremy Davenport is celebrated and accomplished.

“I’m constantly chasing a dream but I’ve had so many incredible experiences.  I’ve played for the Queen of England, I’ve been on tons of TV shows, including ABC 26,” says Davenport.

Davenport is the headline entertainer at The Ritz-Carlton.  Four nights a week, the Davenport Lounge is filled with the singer and trumpeter’s timeless sound.  Even at the top of his game, the musician’s work is never done.

“I’ve spent so much time playing LIVE and developing my LIVE show that I don’t love any of my recordings and someday I want to be able to listen to something and be like, that’s nice,” says Davenport.

He’s been surrounded by music since he was in diapers.

“I’d pick up my dad’s trombone and my arms were super short so I couldn’t play it, but he just left the slide locked so I could get out some notes,” says Davenport.

Then his father gave him his own trumpet and the rest is history.

“This is actually the first trumpet he ever bought me.  I’m still trying to figure out how to play it,” Davenport laughs.

All this time later, that one trumpet has been by his side, through the highs and lows of his career.

“It’s probably totally irresponsible but I have one horn.  So if you went cuckoo today and grabbed my horn and split, I’d be in trouble tonight because I don’t have a backup horn.”

Davenport’s trumpet has become an extension of himself.

“Brass doesn’t react well to the acidity of your skin so it’s definitely become a piece of my body.  It’s a piece of brass and its cold to the touch.  At certain times, putting a piece of cold metal to your mouth to make a sweet pretty sound is a tough task,” Davenport says.

While we see him as a master of his art, Davenport is much more modest.  Trumpeters Leroy Jones and Nicholas Payton are two of his heroes.

“There’s a moment where you have to look at yourself in the mirror and just be like, you have to celebrate who you are, because you’ll never be as good as, I mean I’ll never be able to play a trumpet like Nicholas Payton, but I have to figure out what I can do that he can’t do,” says Davenport.

And what Jeremy Davenport does, he does well.

Jeremy Davenport performs at The Ritz-Carlton Wednesday and Thursday from 5:30-9:30pm and Friday and Saturday from 9pm-1am.

To learn more about the musician or to hear his music, visit:  www.jeremydavenport.com

 

 

 

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - The exhilarating thrill performing at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival can only be felt by musicians who take the stage.

Until now.

WGNO goes backstage at Jazz Fest 2014, inside that extraordinary moment with Dat Boi Cue.

“It’s like my wildest dreams have finally come true,” says Cue moments before going on.

Dat Boi Cue is with Judah Clan Productions out of Treme where he plans to step his musical career up to the next level.

Meantime, he says  Jazz Fest is where New Orleans musicians strive to be at, the ultimate proving ground, “Right here is like the World Series of the music world. Hope you’re ready.”

Born Cuentin Stewart, the 26 year old hip hop/ reggae/ musical wiz plays this opening day Jazz Fest gig with Kirk Joseph’s Backyard Grove.

“I’m loving the crowd,” says Dat Boi Cue as he’s taking the stage.  “It’s awesome. I’m about to bust their behinds.”

Cue knows the significance this performance means, which could open doors and propel  his career… if he nails it.

Which he did!

“No greater feeling in the world,” he says exhausted after the show.  “I wouldn’t trade that for nothing, man.”

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