meta-scriptMr. Eazi’s Gallery: How The Afrobeats Star Brought His Long-Awaited Album To Life With African Art |
Mr. Eazi’s African Art Gallery: The Evil Genius
Mr. Eazi

Photo: Banku Music


Mr. Eazi’s Gallery: How The Afrobeats Star Brought His Long-Awaited Album To Life With African Art

Mr. Eazi details the curation and creation process behind his new album, 'The Evil Genius,' a collaborative work that is accompanied by paintings from multiple African artists.

GRAMMYs/Nov 1, 2023 - 07:42 pm

How long can an artist in today’s industry go without releasing an album? Two, maybe three years? Clearly, Afrobeats star Mr. Eazi is playing a different, much longer game.

After releasing multinational hits and collaborations with everyone from Davido and Tiwa Savage to Major Lazer and Bad Bunny, Eazi unveiled his first full-length album. The record comes 10 years into his career. 

The Evil Genius — which took two years to make in a production process that spanned multiple continents — is the album Eazi never planned to make. It’s a personal, heartfelt departure for a musician that until now was content to make pop music. But there’s more to the record than music: Every song is accompanied by artwork from a different African artist. 

Eazi sourced artists for the project from art he would see at fairs, on social media, in books or through friends, then commission those artists to create work based on a song from the record. At art fairs in Accra, Ghana, Lagos, Nigeria, and in London, Eazi has previewed the record as a hybrid art exhibition/listening experience. Visitors could listen to the album on headphones while looking at the artworks inspired by each song

He considers the two elements inseparable – you can’t have the art without the music, and vice versa. It’s also a way for the musician to share an intimate experience with his fans, who, like him, are discovering a love of contemporary art through an accessible, African lens. 

"Art is uniting us, in the sense of collaboration, in the sense of knowing who we are," Eazi tells "We're discovering ourselves through the lens of art, which is beautiful because there's no judgment in art." spoke with Mr. Eazi over Zoom about The Evil Genius, why the art and music are inseparable, and why his full-length debut took so long to come to fruition. 

Plenty of musicians have sophisticated visuals nowadays that go with their albums. You've gone a step further and commissioned fine art. Why was it important for you to take that step?

To be honest, it just felt like the natural thing to do. Art is the reason why I'm putting out this album. This album was very personal to me, I might have recorded it and never put it out because of how personal it is for me, it was like therapy for me. It was a record of two and a half years of my life. 

When I saw the first art piece by Patricorel, it was the first time I had appreciated art in that way. It was the first time I was seeing the similarities between music and fine art. And it became the B-side of this album. It's me painting, telling the stories with instrumentals as my canvas and it’s the artists telling the same story, but with that form of expression. 

Had you ever heard of artists and music coming together in this way? I can think of, for instance, Jean Michel Basquiat, who did some album covers in his day.

I mean, album covers, definitely. I think fine art has been used across the years for album covers. I'd seen Marina Abramovich with Jay-Z, in that video "Picasso Baby," around the time she did "The Artist is Present." But the difference between all of that and this one is that this album is not complete without the art. If you consume the album without the art, you've only consumed half of it. 

And this is the first time ever — and I stand to be corrected — that you have this form of expression with African music and contemporary African arts, where everything is happening all at once. So each work of art that was commissioned is born out of the music.

Marina Abramovich was at the [Evil Genius] exhibition in London. And I was trying to take her through the exhibition, but she's like, "No Eazi, I know what I'm doing." And she took the headphones and she put on the song, and as she interacted with the art, she started telling me things that I hadn't told her about the art, and the music, and the connection. And she said, this is the first time she's seen this. Fela [Kuti] worked with the artist Lemi [Ghariokwu] in creating album covers. But this is different in that it’s track by track, coming together and presented as a multisensory exhibition. 

You're in London right now, and there's a big exhibition at Tate Modern of sculptor El Anatsui. And there are many, many newer contemporary artists from Africa going into museums throughout the English-speaking world. Do you think that there's still progress to be made in the perception of African art? 

There's definitely so much more, as much as there is for the music there is for the art. And that's one of the things this album seeks to do: show you different ways in which African art is evolving. And not just in the way you see it like when you go to the museum, but actually in pop culture, in its intersection with the music, and its intersection with fashion, for instance, which is something that's part of this album rollout. 

I think what is happening right now is there's African soft power on the rise and African culture being exported — "Made in Africa," you know? And consumption is increasing locally. And for people like myself, who used to think fine arts was very gated, this [album and exhibition are] sort of democratizing the interaction with art by putting it in this form.

Mr. Eazi’s African Art Gallery - Patricorel Legalize

"Legalize" by Patricorel

Something that gets discussed a lot in the context of this album, is pan-Africanism, an idea that's existed since the end of colonialism. How do you think pan-Africanism exists in the context of 2023, and how is it being expressed in your music in particular?

It’s, first, the awareness of Africa and the awareness of ourselves. And the awareness of our differences, our uniqueness, and the awareness of the need to collaborate. And the need to collaborate is not being forceful, it's not driven by liberation. It's driven by the natural order of things. 

Back in the day, even, like, 10 years ago, you would have people like me who have traveled more to Europe than they've gone to their neighboring African country. And you know, by going to Kwame Nkrumah University [in Kumasi, Ghana] – and of course [former Ghanaian President] Kwame Nkrumah was very big on pan-Africanism – I got to experience Africa, not through the news or through the history books, but through people that were in my class. I got to meet people from Gabon, from Equatorial Guinea; my roommate was Togolese in my first year. We are naturally connecting with ourselves, and not being stopped by borders. 

Think of Benin, where I recorded most of this project. Some parts of Benin used to be Nigeria. And then one day, colonial powers just drew the line, and suddenly some people, families were broken into two by borders. But those borders are ceasing to exist. We, as young Africans, are traveling across;  we're making music and collaborating with ourselves. We're making film. We're buying art from Ghana, to Nigeria, to Senegal. We're going to Senegal for fashion shows. We're going to Ghana for Detty Rave, my festival. Art is uniting us, in the sense of collaboration, in the sense of knowing who we are. And we're discovering ourselves through the lens of art, which is beautiful, because there's no judgment in art. 

I don't care about the politics of Nigeria and South Africa. I know about it, but I don't care because in the club, there is no politics when I hear those amapiano records. Or when I'm in the studio with Soweto Gospel Choir recording "Exit," there's no politics, it's just pure music. And it's pan-Africanism, in that sense.

You know, you raise an interesting point. Amapiano is a style that has definitely penetrated into Afrobeats music, especially in this year. But listening to your album, I don't really get much of that influence. You are blending a lot of different styles and sounds on this album. How did you make them fit together cohesively, and how did you decide what directions you wanted to go into?

I didn't write any of the songs pre-instrumental, I would just hear the instrumental, I would connect with the instrumental and I'll start to sing on them. And as a fun fact, earlier in the year I put out with ChopLife Sound System, my group, I put out an album called Mzansi Chronicles, which is 100 percent amapiano influence. I recorded that whole thing from Jo’burg to Cape Town. 

I went to shoot the video for "Exit," the song with Soweto Gospel Choir, and it was after shooting the video that night that I go into the studio. The producer just randomly plays this amapiano beat, and I end up recording the song that became "Patek," a smash hit from last year. And that's my first time jumping on amapiano. 

On this record, it wasn't me chasing pop, because it's a record of my life. It's like a journal over instrumentals. So I was only divinely drawn to instrumentals that went along with the topics that were in my subconscious, because I didn't even know the topics I wanted to sing about until I had the beats. You don't hear amapiano on this album, not because there was a purpose [or] an intention to stay away from amapiano. No, it was because it just didn't naturally fit with what I was trying to express on this project.

Obviously, you waited quite a while to finally put out an album. What kind of story did you want to tell, and why did you feel that this is the right time to finally put out an album?

I've never wanted to make an album. I wanted to quit music. Coming out of 2020, I was sure I wasn't gonna make music professionally anymore. I was just gonna do it as a hobby — which is how I started music — and I was gonna focus more on the business side of the music. But one of my producers, E Kelly, who made one of my biggest songs, "Leg Over," and Kel-P, who made Burna’s international breakout album, had been chasing me for two years to record an album. Every time they would come, I would find a way to run away from recording. But in 2021, on Feb. 16 — and it's so funny, because this album has 16 tracks — I started recording it. 

Kel-P had rented a place in Accra, and asked me to come around, just to catch a vibe and chill. So he tricked me, because I ended up going there just to play video games, and he started to play different instrumentals on loop. And as we were chit-chatting, before we started doing anything else, I just started to hear this song, this instrumental that became "Exit." I start mumbling things, and he's like "Just record." I started speaking about very personal things. I never wanted to speak about personal things in music; I felt my music should just be for entertainment and to take you away from all the real stuff happening in the world. But here I was, speaking my truth, telling my stories. 

Before this album started I had never done therapy and never spoken to anybody about my issues. I just internalized. But this is me speaking about it on the record. The first track, "Olúwa Jọ̀" features my mom; my mom has never seen me perform. I say that "I swear to God, I feel lonely with people around me." This is something I've never even said to myself. But it was my truth at the moment, because with fame, I always seem to have so many people around, but I still feel lonely. It was just me using the music as therapy. The decision to make this, to call it an album, has come rather naturally, especially once art came into the picture. 

I ended up recording for two and a half years and recording three albums. And the other two are ready, but I couldn't start recording them until I was done with this one, because I needed to put them down to sort of free myself. I needed to ask myself all these questions of who I am. I don't feel the pressures that I felt when I was dropping previous mixtapes, bodies of work. Because to me, this is my project and I'm just sharing it with the world. Because I believe that's the divine purpose.

You talk about your mental health struggles on the album, is that something that you want to see more of in Afrobeats and African music? More openness?

Some people think of African music and they think of Afrobeats, and they just want to talk about Afrobeat, and they want to say, "oh, all African music should be talking about politics."  In African gospel music, we talk about God a lot, you know? In African folk we talk, we talk about proverbs that speak about life. Even if you think about records, like "Gaou" [by Ivorian artists Magic System] from back in the day, you know, that he's talking about being jilted by somebody, it’s a sad song. 

So African music has always been used for different purposes to speak about proverbs, life. If you listen to songs from Sunny Ade, Victor Uwaifo, Ebenezer Obey, you'll see different topics, including mental health being spoken of in the music. So this is not the first time it's happening. It's just that there's not a lot of education, or those  might not be the popular songs that hit the charts in the U.S., but it doesn't mean they're not popular locally.

In terms of Afrobeats, and how we talk of African soft power coming into places like the U.S., are you thinking of how your music is going to be perceived in these countries that don't have the context that you might find in Africa? Are you afraid people might not know the words to your songs, or they might not understand?

No, because I think music is spiritual. Music is a soul language. For instance, I performed once in Goma [in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] to 10,000 people. And in between my performances, I like to drop jokes. And I was dropping these jokes, and no one was laughing. And then I thought to myself, "Wow, I thought I was funny," only for me to remember that in Goma, they speak French and Lingala. So most of the people there didn't even understand what I was saying, but they were singing all the songs. 

I've performed in Ukraine, in Kharkov, in Kyiv,  in places where nobody understands what I'm saying. But what they understand is the emotion and the spirit behind it. That's the beautiful thing about art, there's no judgment in art. When I hear "Gangnam Style," I don't even know what the song is about, but I just feel it. It's a vibe. And it's the spirit in the music that I think gets to people. 

I've been in the hinterlands in Ghana, back in the day when I was mining, and found people playing country music, found people playing music like Kenny Rogers, singing it word for word. How do you explain that? I think that's the beautiful thing about art and music, in that there's no language. Bob Marley said, "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." 

What was the selection process like for these artworks and these artists? You said you just saw stuff you liked and reached out to the artists – can you go into a little more detail?

So I’ll start from the very first one. For most of the album creation process, I was living in the Republic of Benin, a small country of 12 million people next to Nigeria — 250 million — and they speak French. I came back from a business trip, and I was walking into the hotel where I stayed. And every month, a new African artist would be showing in the hotel. And I never paid attention to any of the art in the hotel, but I remember walking in and seeing this piece by Patricorel. He ended up painting three pieces on this project. 

It was a male and female skeleton sitting on a bench and holding this flower. And the only thing that would seem to be alive was the flower, it was the only thing that was colorful. And for me, I just saw that as speaking about the finality of love. And it was around the time I was about to propose to my fiancée. So immediately, I was spellbound. And I just thought to myself, This artist will paint the cover for "Legalize," because, again, it’s the finality of love. And I reached out to Patricorel, sent him the music, and we chit-chatted after he heard the music to see that we're on the same page. And he asked me one question, he said, "Do you have any guidelines for me?" And I said, "No, you need to express yourself because it's a collaboration."

Mr. Eazi’s African Art Gallery  We-Day by Kufa

"We-Day" by Kufa

And so this was the process for every song. I would either go to an art fair and see an artist's work like Kufa [Makwavarara] from Zimbabwe, who painted the song "We Dey." I was recording in Cape Town, I was recording the ChopLife Sound System album, and I went out to an art fair in Cape Town. I'm just walking through the fair, and immediately I saw his work. I just knew it. I just said to my friend, Hannah, "This is the guy who paints the piece for ‘We Dey.’" And divinely, this Zimbabwean artist happened to be in Cape Town at the same time I was in Cape Town. 

Either I will see the artists in an art fair, or I will see the artists on Instagram, or I will see the artists’ work in a book, or somebody somewhere would send me a group of artists and say, "Hey, I see that you're really getting into art. Look at this thing." One of the pieces, "Jamboree," was painted by an artist from Cotonou [in Benin]. And it was [sent to me by] my lawyer…[who]was in a fair in Senegal.The artist as it ended up was living in Benin. He was right there beside me all the while, his studio was like 15 minutes from where I was recording. 

You're showing these artworks in Accra, Lagos and also at Somerset House in London. 

 It would be a disservice to anybody to just listen to the album, or just look at the art pieces, it must be done in unison, ideally. That exhibition was showing people exactly how I wanted this album to be consumed: You come in, you have the headphones, just you, you listen to the music, and you interact with the art, because that's how you get the full experience. 

So you saw a lot of first timers like me who had never ever been to an exhibition, or never going to see art in a museum or a gallery. But because of the music, or because of this project, they were interacting with it for the first time. And it was just so beautiful, that now they get to discover art through the lens of contemporary African artists. 

Meet The Latest Wave Of Rising Afrobeats Stars: AMAARAE, BNXN, Oladapo & More

Jacob Collier
Jacob Collier performing in 2023

Photo: Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns via Getty Images


New Music Friday: Listen To New Music From RIIZE, Norah Jones & Dave Grohl, Mr. Eazi & More

As we hurtle into spooky season, listen to these spooky tracks from Mr. Eazi, RIIZE, Norah Jones & Dave Grohl and more.

GRAMMYs/Oct 27, 2023 - 04:56 pm

As Halloween approaches, this New Music Friday offers a potion of nostalgia, emotions and fresh sounds.

From RIIZE — K-pop's rising stars, who are mesmerizing listeners with their pop hit "Talk Saxy" — to Norah Jones & Dave Grohl uniting for an unexpected collaboration with "Razor," many different genres are being represented today.

Keeping old times alive, Taylor Swift released her highly-anticipated Taylor’s Version of 1989, and Duck Sauce is bringing back their 2011 "Barbra Streisand" sound with their new dance single, "LALALA."

Listen to these seven new tracks and albums that will gear you up for spooky season 2023.

RIIZE - "Talk Saxy"

K-pop’s rising stars, RIIZE, are making a vibrant musical return with their new single, "Talk Saxy," a hypnotic dance track that adds a level of depth to their sound even including a catchy saxophone riff. The lyrics focus on attraction to a stranger, and wanting to get their attention.

"Talk to me exactly what you feel / Hide nothing, show me all and everything / It’s okay, let your heart do what it wants / Get it straight to the point / Talk Saxy," RIIZE croons on the chorus.

This track follows their debut single "Get a Guitar," which launched their announcement that they’d signed with RCA Records. RIIZE is the first boy band group to hail from SM Entertainment since Kpop group NCT. RIIZE members, Shotaro and Sungchan, are notably from NCT, and departed from the K-pop group this year.

Norah Jones & Dave Grohl, "Razor"

Dave Grohl, the frontman of Foo Fighters, graced jazz-pop singer Norah Jones’ podcast with special musical performances, including a cover of "Razor," a rare gem from the Foo Fighters 2005 In Your Honor album.

The track features a calm beat with a tranquil melody and guitar strings and piano, blending their strengths seamlessly. This track follows their collaboration on the In Your Honor track "'Virginia Moon."

During this podcast, Jones announced the release of a Black Friday Exclusive LP Record dropping on Nov. 24. Featuring a collection of podcast episodes with fellow musicians, this looks to be a real treat for fans of Jones and/or her estimable guests.

Jacob Collier feat. Michael McDonald and Lawrence - "Wherever I Go"

Jazz musician Jacob Collier has dropped the song "Wherever I Go," a look into his forthcoming album, Djesse Vol. 4. A track inspired by idols from his childhood including the Doobie Brothers, Stevie Wonder and more, he’s made a standout collaboration with Michael McDonald and Lawrence to craft a memorable record.

The two-minute track, which includes a strong bassline and soulful vocals, paints an illustration of loneliness from their lover.

The four-part journey of Djesse has gained him five GRAMMY awards and 11 nominations. With Djesse Vol. 4, collaborations such as "Little Blue" with Brandi Carlile to Ty Dolla $ign and Kirk Franklin are showcasing Collier’s versatility and knack for genre syntheses.. He also announced a 2024 North American tour with musicians Kemba and Emily King, celebrating the release of this album.

Mr Eazi - The Evil Genius

Afrobeats sensation Mr. Eazi has unveiled his debut album The Evil Genius. The 16-track record shows Eazi’s ability to blend his rhythms from his hometown Nigeria, with hypnotic grooves from Ghana where he spent most of his years.

The Evil Genius takes listeners through his roots, family, love and loneliness in three acts. His skill in blending different styles of music like Gospel and Ghanian styles, makes him the global phenomenon he is. Eazi chose 13 African artists from eight countries to collaborate on this album, bringing together different parts of Africa.

Enhancing the music album, he has introduced a global art exhibition in Ghana, which features work from young artists across Africa.

Tiësto with Tears for Fears, NIIKO X SWAE, GUDFELLA - "Rule The World (Everybody)"

American DJ & singer Tiësto dropped a fresh new track with Tears For Fears, NIIKO X SWAE and GUDFELLA for a reimagining of the 1985 "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." This heart-racing banger has blended stylistic worlds to imbue a classic song with an even catchier, dance-flavored beat.

NIIKO X SWAE originally released an unofficial remix on Soundcloud, which then went viral on social media.. "Rule The World (Everybody)" could certainly become a new party anthem to put on your ‘Halloweekend’ playlist.

Maria José Llergo - ULTRABELLEZA

Spanish singer María José Llergo released her newest album ULTRABELLEZA, following her 2020 Sanación. The album features songs that transverse between genres like "NOVIX," which features a intricate, Latin rhythm and "Superpoder," a star-studded pop song.

"Flamenco is like the blues," she said in a NY Times interview.  Liergo discusses how she incorporated Flamenco, a Spanish art form, into her album in hopes of keeping her cultural traditions rooted in the lyrics that "tell stories of survival — it’s always been a way for the most oppressed to escape."

Duck Sauce - "LALALA"

The hitmakers behind 2010 classics "Barbra Streisand" and "Big Bad Wolf" are back with another dubsmash single called, "LALALA." This duo has made another infectious dance track, which makes listeners transports them to the wildest party of their dreams. "LALALA" feels reminiscent of their past collaborations together, keeping up the nostalgia theme on this special Friday.

The GRAMMY-nominated producers behind Duck Sauce, Armand Van Helden and A-Trak, have recently joined Defected Records’ D4 D4NCE imprint. Keep checking on Fridays for a sampler platter of new sounds!

Global Spin: JINI Is Impatient In Love During This Passionate Performance Of Her Debut Solo Single, "C'mon"

Michael Brun

Michael Brun

Photo: Steve Baboun


Haiti's Michael Brun Talks Debut LP 'LOKAL,' Friendship With J Balvin & Diplo & His Legacy As Global Artist

"The deeper I got into my own culture, the more it allowed me to connect with others. I felt like that was so important to get a clear vision of what Haiti represents to me and that led the album," Brun told the Recording Academy

GRAMMYs/Jun 26, 2019 - 09:32 pm

Haitian DJ/producer Michael Brun may just be 27, but he is already focused on his musical legacy: to serve his life-long vision of being able to give back to his community in a meaningful way. With his music, he wants to world to also get to know and love the vibrant sounds of his home country, and to showcase other Haitian and global artists in the process.

His new debut album, LOKAL, which dropped today, does just that. On the project, he collabed with more than a dozen featured artists for its nine upbeat, joyful tracks, weaving in traditional Haitian Rara and Konpa sounds with hip-hop, reggaetón, house and other danceable beats in a beautiful sonic tapestry. While it is his first full-length, Brun has been releasing tracks since he was in college, then with a more EDM during its early '10s boom.

Brun also aims to recreate the sound and liveliness of the block parties he used to throw back home to new audiences; his hugely successful North American Bayo 2019 tour, which he recently wrapped, featured a selection of Haitian artists and more special guests in every city.

"Those kinds of moments with the music that I grew up and to see artists that I really love and support have this platform, I think that's my personal favorite. That's this whole mission that I'm working on, to get my culture and my music heard," Brun told the Recording Academy in a recent phone interview that dove deep into the new album and his vision. He also tells the story of how he serendipitously met one of his mentors, Colombian reggaetón sta, J Balvin, and what he learned in working with him, among other topics.

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You're releasing your album LOKAL soon. What are you most looking forward to about sharing it with the world?

I think just the fact that I've been making music now for coming into eight years professionally, and this is my first album project that I've ever done. So just being able to take all these different experiences from the last eight years of touring and collaborations with all these different types of people around the world, and then also bringing my culture, Haitian culture, and sounds in a really unique way to this project, I felt like this was the moment to do it and it's just representative of that whole journey.

Where did the idea for the project start? And how did it grow and shift as you began working on the songs and working with different collaborators?

I think part of the concept for this came from the tour that I was doing. It's called the Bayo tour; "bayo" in Creole means give it to them, or to give. The concept for that was just to create a showcase and a presentation of Haiti and Haitian sounds and culture for the whole world to be able to learn something new, hopefully, and then maybe find a new genre of music or artist that they like a lot.

So I was doing that tour, and that incorporated Haitian sounds but then also in my sets and in the actual live performance I'd play Latin music and I'd be playing African music. And I realized that they were way more similar than I ever initially thought. And I had these moments where I was like, I want to transition from an African song to a Haitian song or Caribbean song to a Latin song, and I felt like with the album it was an opportunity to create those transition moments where it showed the links between those different cultures. It was just over the course of two years of touring, finding those pockets where I could come up with something that would help tell that story.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Bayo Tour 2015 vs Bayo Tour 2019<br><br>Never give up on your dreams. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Michaël Brun (@MichaelBrun) <a href="">April 1, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

That's so cool. You did the Bayo tour first in 2016 and then again this past year, correct?

Yeah, so it started out as literally a free block party in and around Haiti. I would just set up speakers or find a spot, it would be in the street sometimes, sometimes it would be in a venue, but we would just set up, and I'd invite all these different artists around Haiti to come and perform and it just a complete surprise. So we did that in 2016 and it started out with 50 people, if that. It was super small, but just, it was more about the sound and the vibe, but it grew.

When I brought it to the States, I did it in Miami first at the Little Haiti Cultural Center and then I did the first New York show in Brooklyn. And then it just went from like 50 people to like 500 people to 1,000 to now we sold over 10,000 tickets for the tour in the last year. So it's crazy how it's continued to evolve and just become this way bigger concept than I thought it would be.

It must be surreal and also just really powerful to share Bayo outside of Haiti to such big crowds.

It's been such an amazing experience to see the crowds and then also just to see the artist support too. Because I think what made this tour special, the one that we did in the spring, is we had such a diverse Haitian line-up but then we also had Maxwell in New York and Major Lazer and Mr Eazi in Miami, and then Adekunle Gold in Boston and Demarco and Kevin Lyttle, and all these different artists from around the world came in for the support. That was just so cool seeing all these different genres represented and these different countries and cultures, but somehow it could connect via Haiti. That was what I always hoped for this.

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I want to talk a little bit about some of the different collaborators on the album. Did you know who you wanted to work with going into it? Or did that sort of grow organically as you started working on the album?

Partially. I knew that I wanted to work with the best of the best from Haiti. I wanted to find all the artists that I thought were doing a really amazing job across the board, not only as musicians but also as representatives of the country and supporting community and building up the image and the sound of Haiti. I had actually so many songs that didn't even make it on the album, just for the sake of time.

From those artists to the international artists that I was close with, like Diplo and Major Lazer. I'd been doing some stuff with them for years now and to finally get a track together was really, really cool. Diplo's been so supportive with everything. They came out in Miami it was a complete surprise, him and Walshy Fire [who is in Major Lazer with Diplo and Ape Drums]. It was really cool. Yeah, so they were one of the artists, just talking to them about the song and saying, "Let's make a song that represents the streets of Haiti that's a hot track but we can take it into a place where it can also be international and global." So that was one example.

And then Mr Eazi was another example. I went on tour with him, opening forJ Balvinlast fall, and we became really, really good friends and collaborating on so many different things outside of even just the two songs on the album. We have dozens of stuff together, music and projects that we've been doing. He's an amazingly talented artist, so getting him on there was a no-brainer.

And then Arcade Fire too. They had invited me to New Orleans for this project that they were doing and we got to spend a few days together, playing music and just talking. Win and Régine [of Arcade Fire] are such amazing people and to have them and the Preservation Hall and RAM all together on one song, it's such an honor really. I feel that all these international artists and the Haitian artists, they really are some of the best in their entire industry so it's really incredible.

The track list, with all of its featured artists, is really impressive. Was it a powerful experience for you, working with all these different artists?

Yeah, I'm so grateful, honestly. Because I feel like when you make a collaborative album, you're dealing with so many different people, you can have a vision, but if people don't fully connect with your vision maybe it won't work out. But in this case, it was so smooth. I think also just the fact that I worked with people who are friends and people that I really look up to, so that we've connected on a level before we even made the music helped. I think you hear it when you listen to the songs, even if it's in Creole or in French or in English, whatever language it is, I think it does feel really authentic and honest.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This song is really special to me because it not only features many of the artists from the Bayo Tour, but it also samples a song from my dad’s band Skandal. I also found out that it’s the 25th anniversary of that project. There are no coincidences in life I guess. <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LOKAL</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Michaël Brun (@MichaelBrun) <a href="">June 23, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Can you speak to the different styles and sounds that you explore in the album? You mentioned how some of them are native sounds to Haiti, so it would be really cool to learn a bit more about those specifically.

I would say there's probably two specific genres that really were the focal point for me in Haitian music. One them is Konpa music, which is slower dance music, very Caribbean sounding with guitars and keyboards and a very iconic beat. It's mid-tempo. That dominated Haitian music for years. My dad actually had a band that made Konpa music, when I was a baby, so that's probably where I got some of the music production genes or whatever. [laughs] And actually, "Nouvo Jenerasyon," which is the second to last song on the album, has a sample of his band, funny enough. 

That was one genre. I feel like that's probably the most iconic Haitian genre that's existed. Somebody like Wyclef [Jean], for example, sampled that for some of his stuff. It's been known for a while. Then Rara music is the other kind that I really, really love. That's honestly one of my favorite genres of music in the whole world. It's this traditional, ceremonial music that's a mix of the Western African vodou rhythms and Haitian vodou rhythms with the tying of original native sounds. It's very percussive, it's very ritualistic. It's so hypnotic and powerful, when you hear that music it just puts you in a trance. 

I used to hear it every Sunday, actually. There was a Rara band that would always be near our neighborhood that would play and I love the rhythm so much. That very drum-heavy vibe, you hear throughout most of the album. You feel that accent, it feels like the earth. 

That whole combination of the two genres and then Afrobeat, and electronic music and hip-hop, and all these other genres that I was listening to and making, I wanted to infuse them and find a way to tell both of those stories.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The fourth preview off LOKAL is a reinterpretation of my brother <a href="">@paulbeaubrun</a>’s amazing song Voudou Ceremony! The rara sounds were recorded with <a href="">@lakoumizik</a> and it was also an honor to bring in Lolo from <a href="">@BoukmanEKS</a> as a special guest. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Michaël Brun (@MichaelBrun) <a href="">June 21, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Do you feel like the two Haitian genres were the threads throughout the album that kind of tied it together? Or, as you were integrating all these different sounds, what was the thing that kept it sounding so cohesive?

I think the main thing actually was, as a producer and why I haven't done an album yet, this is the first time I ever felt confident in it, as I wanted to have a really clear vision with the music I was making. I wanted to make sure that when I was going to do a project like this, that it would be timeless and be something that I could be proud of in my legacy as an artist, I wanted to make sure I could put these different sounds and genres and artists, put them into this vision of a mosaic of Haiti. Actually, when you look at the artwork for the album, it is a mosaic. It's meant to be connecting all these different parts of my culture and Haitian culture as a whole and putting that into perspective via this music.

And then something that I learned while being on tour with J Balvin and also just working with him and Mr Eazi, who are Colombian and Nigerian, was seeing how much they connected with what I was doing. The deeper I got into my own culture, the more it allowed me to connect with others. I felt like that was so important to get a clear vision of what Haiti represents to me and that led the album, that led the organization of it and the sounds. Because really genre-wise, there's all types of vibes on this album but I still feel like it's cohesive.

It's that transition from local, very, very local sounds, to global that I think is what I wanted that album to be about. If there was one thing I could say about it, you listen to it and you feel like, this is Haitian, but then also wait this makes me connect with all these other cultures too.

"The deeper I got into my own culture, the more it allowed me to connect with others. I felt like that was so important to get a clear vision of what Haiti represents to me and that led the album, that led the organization of it and the sounds."

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So you collaborated with J Balvin on "Positivo," the 2018 World Cup song, in addition to joining his Vibras tour. How did you guys originally connect? What was the biggest thing you learned from working with him?

It was really so random, it was one of the craziest experiences of my life. I was in a meeting with Apple Music for my label, because I have my own label that I founded with my manager called Kid Coconut. We were doing a label meeting with upcoming releases and we were meeting with a few different people at Apple, and they asked at the end of the meeting, "Hey, do you have anything that you wanted to play that you're working on?" Because I was actually not focused on me, it was more like a general label meeting. And I was like, "Actually, yeah, I have this song 'Bayo' that I'm working on." I had made a list of international collaborators a few weeks earlier, and I was like, "I want to work with these artists around the world." J Balvin was the person that I had in mind for "Bayo."

I played them a 30-second section of the song and then they're like, "One sec. Can we get somebody else to come in here?" And so they brought the Latin editor at Apple, her name was Marisa. I spoke to her for a bit and played her the song. She was amazing, I mean everyone on the team was so nice, but she said, "Hey, you want to get J Balvin on this. I actually know José. I'll put you in touch." And I've heard that a million times and in every kind of way, like, "Yeah, I know that person." I was like, "Okay, but thank you, I don't expect that at all, but I appreciate you saying that." And then legitimately one week later, she messaged me, "Hey, José loved the song and he wants to speak with you."

And that was it. He sent me "Positivo" one week later and then three months later he hit me up again and he was like, "Hey, the World Cup's been asking me if I had a song that we could use." I was like, "Of course, use that. Why are you even asking?"

It just happened so naturally and he's been such a leading mentor and also given me a really great spotlight consistently, bringing me on any way he can. Bringing me, for example, to work on his upcoming album. It's been blessings for the last two years, nonstop blessings. I'm really grateful and also excited because I feel like all these different things I'm working on, they're now going to be coming out. I can't wait for people to see it.

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font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;"> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"><div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"></div></div><div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)"></div></div><div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style=" width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"></div></div></div></a> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">Global music taking over in 2019!! Elevating our cultures and breaking boundaries  @jbalvin @rosalia.vt @mreazi</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href="" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> Michaël Brun</a> (@michaelbrun) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2019-04-21T15:01:13+00:00">Apr 21, 2019 at 8:01am PDT</time></p></div></blockquote><script async src="//"></script>

That just sounds like such a serendipitous but also very much meant-to-happen moment of connecting you and J together.

I know. Another really funny thing, which is insane, was I was with Arcade Fire in New Orleans in February for this event that we were doing together. Diplo was there too, so I met up with him and spoke for a bit and then was like, "So where are you going next?" He's like, "Yeah, I'm going to Colombia." I'm like, "You're going where?" And he's like, "Medellín. Wait are you going to Medellín?" And we literally went to J Balvin's camp, like the day after, where we were working on music. We played football and made music, it was something crazy. I can't imagine anybody else in the world besides Diplo going from New Orleans to Medellín, working with Arcade Fire and then working with J Balvin. It was crazy.

You talked a little bit about your Bayo tour, which you just wrapped up. What's your favorite part about sharing music in that format?

I think there's a few parts. One of the personal favorite things was just the fact that all these artists that are on the tour, we had I think it was about 15, both women and men, of so many different genres. They're some of my favorite artists. And I feel like the diversity and just the quality of the music is so special, and yet it's not really known outside of Haiti. So being able to bring these different people on these pretty big stages. Like some of these shows are like 2,000 people and sold out. We sold out Brooklyn Steel, which was nuts to have all Haitian lineup sell out there.

Those kinds of moments with the music that I grew up and to see artists that I really love and support have this platform, I think that's my personal favorite. That's this whole mission that I'm working on, to get my culture and my music heard. So to see it happen from this tour so relatively quickly and to get the kind of support and feedback that we have been, it's been worth the sleepless nights and the crazy investments in every way possible. Like, making sure that everything goes as smoothly as it could, it's been worth it all. Because just to see further opportunity come up for some of these different artists has been amazing.

"Those kinds of moments with the music that I grew up and to see artists that I really love and support have this platform, I think that's my personal favorite. That's this whole mission that I'm working on, to get my culture and my music heard."

You mentioned your dad was in a band when you were growing up; what music were you jamming to when you were younger? Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to make music yourself?

Funny enough, I was pre-med in college and I thought I was going to be a pediatrician my whole life. That was my whole plan, because I grew up in Haiti and I felt a responsibility for the community that I was in that I had to give as much as I possibly could because I received so much. I felt like being a doctor was the most direct way. And I was volunteering at different hospitals. I got a full scholarship at Davidson College for that, to be a doctor.

But I loved music too. And both my parents were really musical. They played piano and different instruments. I did violin also, I sang, played guitar, a bunch of different things. Eventually I was producing when I was like 14, 15. And it was a hobby, I never thought, "I'm going to do this as a career." And then while I was in college, there was this one thing that ended up going viral on Hype Machine and it opened up this Pandora's box of music stuff. But it was really serendipitous. I feel like I've had a lot of serendipity in my life. The fact that I was able to speak with the school and with my family and friends and making music was the option that everybody supported. Because school was always going to be there for me, so that was amazing.

And then the other part of your question; musically, I listened to so much different stuff. My parents were really, really into '70s and '80s music, so like Earth, Wind & Fire. And everything from the '80s, my dad was a huge Tears for Fears fan, he loves, loves, loves that group. And my mom listened to everything contemporary too, so it was a mix of all these different international genres and then whatever was on in Haiti at the time, so Kompa music and Rara music, hip-hop and all of that informed my music. EDM too, because I made it for like the first five years of my career. That was during that whole amazing boom of that music, so it really gave me an opportunity.

When you tell that story it really makes sense with how your musical path has all come together now, exactly where you are today.

Yeah, I mean the thing is, even though I'm making music now versus being a doctor, I feel like that is also improving the community that I came from. And to work with those tools and with the people and provide more opportunities and just have that as the focus of what I do; it's always been there. And I can see the results now with music, that maybe as a doctor you get to reach a few thousand people in your life, which is already incredible, right? But then with music you can reach millions. And I think that as I continue on with this, I always want to keep that really in the forefront of what I do, because it's a responsibility and I want to create as much good as I can.

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I love that. And it goes perfectly into my next question; what do you feel is your biggest duty and goal as a rising global artist in 2019?

I think as a global artist, the people that I really look up to in the industry like J Balvin or Mr. Eazi or any of these international artists that I feel like are representing their cultures really proudly; they know where they come from, they really know who they are. And that allows them to not only have the support of their entire community and wherever they grew up or their country or even the continent. Eazi represents all of Africa in my opinion, not just Nigeria. J Balvin represents all of Latin America, he doesn't just represent Colombia. And the reason they can do that is because their identities are so strong that you just know that's what they are and they know that too. I really want that same level of clarity when I'm working as an artist so people can connect with that.

And I see that honestly, I've already seen it in the last few years of working on it, and being able to work with some of these impossible-to-reach people, it's been such a blessing. And I think that goes hand-in-hand with making great art. And then also representing your community; when you do that, I feel like doors open for you and it allows you to create bridges.

What is your biggest dream for the trajectory of your path in music over the next few years?

I really want to leave an amazing legacy for what I do. I don't want to ever have anything that's middle of the road. I'd rather you hate it than you love it, honestly. I feel like that's the purpose of art, it's supposed to make you feel something. And with my legacy, when you first listen to something that I worked on, I think you'll have that reaction. Then when you look deeper into it and you see how carefully I've been thinking about this and how much I'm incorporating community into the work that I do, I hope that it inspires people too.

I feel like education allowed me to get this far in my life, especially coming from Haiti where that's not always that accessible, and it can really completely change the course of your life. I hope that when people see how I've been able to get to where I am today, it's because of a combination of all these different things. They're tools you can share, it's not things that only a few people have access too. I want it to be accessible to everybody. So, legacy is really important to me right now.

It's been amazing talking to you and learning more about your story and being able to hear your music, thanks so much for sharing it with us. 

I really appreciate it, because that's what helps to get this further out to the rest of the world. Everybody that's helped support this has made it into something way bigger than I could have imagined, and I'm really grateful. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Thank you all for supporting me. <br><br>Thank you all for believing in me. <br><br>Thank you all for allowing me to do what I love. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Michaël Brun (@MichaelBrun) <a href="">April 18, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

SOFI TUKKER Announce R.I.P. Shame World Tour, Reveal New Music Is Coming

Mr. Eazi

Mr. Eazi

Photo: Joseph Okpako/Getty Images


SXSW Adds Second Round Of Global Artists For March 2019 Festival

Deerhunter, Mr. Eazi, Jerry Paper, Nadine Shah, and hundreds more emerging acts will make the 33rd SXSW in Austin, Texas a wild opener for 2019's festival season

GRAMMYs/Nov 29, 2018 - 03:14 am

On Nov. 28 SXSW added more than 240 showcasing artists, including Deerhunter, Mr. Eazi, Jerry Paper and Nadine Shah, to their 2019 music festival lineup, in addition to 240 artists already slated in their first-round announcement last month. Emerging talent from around the world will be the center-of-attention in Austin, Texas on March 11–17, 2019, as the annual music event reconvenes for its 33rd year.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Over 240 Showcasing Artists just joined the <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SXSW</a> 2019 lineup! Who are you excited to see? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; SXSW (@sxsw) <a href="">November 28, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Any small sampling of the global array of up-and-comers planning to play SXSW next spring is bound to call on many rising stars and the hits they have in store. For example, also on Nov. 28, Nigerian afrobeats performer Mr. Eazi released Lagos To London, a documentary to complement his recent mixtape of the same name, explaining his evolution as an artist. As music consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere continue to build their interest in more international sounds, Mr. Eazi's fans have even compared some of his beats to those of K-pop phenomenon BTS. SXSW will bring plenty of global sounds to Texas, with Seoul, South Korea to be represented by Cifika and Duo Bud.

Read More: Keith Urban, K-Pop, Women In Music: Go Behind The Scenes At SXSW 2018

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Experimental indie-rock group Deerhunter from Atlanta, Ga. and rapper Jerry Paper from Los Angeles, Calif. will be there. Tyler, The Creator teamed up with Paper just two weeks ago on their release "Hot Chocolate," to warm up the winter months. Britain's Nadine Shah is also a new addition to the lineup, whose growing following delights in her unique sound, blending jazz and pop with influences from the Sufi music she grew up listening to with her Pakistani dad, putting her on the Mercury Prize shortlist for 2018.

Feast your eyes on the diversity of SXSW's second-round list at the festival's website and then indulge your ears with the fest's compilation on Mixcloud, introducing just some of these acts' new sounds. Whether from Asia, Australia, Europe or North and South America, these artists leave an impression that the world is in good hands with the energy they bring, striving to enrich us with their music.

SXSW Announces First Wave Of Artists For Music Festival In Spring 2019

Photo of country singer/artist Anne Wilson wearing a brown jacket with pink designs, a white shirt, and light blue jeans.
Anne Wilson

Photo: Robby Klein


Anne Wilson Found Faith In Music After Her Brother’s Death. Now She’s One Of Country’s Young Stars: "His Tragedy Wasn’t Wasted"

The Kentucky-based musician first arrived on the scene as a Christian artist in 2022. On her new album 'Rebel,' the singer/songwriter star melds the sounds of her "true north" with a mainstream country sensibility.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:40 pm

After breaking out in the world of contemporary Christian music, Anne Wilson wants to take the country world by storm. 

Out April 19, Wilson's sophomore album embraces the many aspects of her self. Rebel sees the Kentuckian lean into her country and horse farm roots just as she leans into her faith — a subject already deeply intertwined in country music — more than ever before. 

"I’ve never viewed it as switching over to country or leaving Christian music," Wilson tells "With this new record I wanted to write something that was faith-based but also broad enough to positively impact people who don’t have a strong faith as well."

Rebel is just the latest chapter in a journey of triumph and glory first set into motion by tragedy. Wilson started playing piano when she was six but didn’t begin taking it more seriously until the sudden death of her older brother, Jacob Wilson, in 2017. Despite the weight of the moment, Wilson, then 15, returned to the piano to channel her grief — a move that culminated in her first live singing performance when she belted out Hillsong Worship’s "What A Beautiful Name" at his funeral.

"My life forever changed in that moment," admits Wilson. "I already knew that life was very short on this side and that we only have a small window of time here so I wanted to make mine count. It was a special, but really hard moment that has gone on to spawn my entire career. Hearing just how much my songs have impacted fans makes me feel like his tragedy wasn’t wasted and that it was used for good."

Soon after she posted a cover of "What A Beautiful Name" to YouTube that netted over 800,000 views and caught the attention of the brass at Capitol Christian Music Group, who promptly signed her to a deal. Her first release with them, My Jesus, earned a GRAMMY nomination in 2023 for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album in addition to its title track hitting the top spot on Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart. 

Similar to My Jesus, Rebel sees Wilson doubling down on her religious roots while continuing to preserve the memory of her beloved brother. Although she grew up in a devout Christian household in Lexington, Kentucky, Wilson says that she didn’t fully connect with her faith until Jacob’s passing. 

Nowadays she couldn’t see herself living without it.

"When it came to dealing with the loss and tragedy of my brother I knew I couldn’t have survived that without [faith]," she says. "As I started writing songs and moved to Nashville my faith quickly became everything to me."

The 16-song project hits the bullseye between contemporary Christian and country twang, with an assist from special guests including Chris Tomlin ("The Cross"), Jordan Davis ("Country Gold") and Lainey Wilson ("Praying Woman"). Of the Lainey feature, Wilson says the two wrote "Praying Woman" upon their first day of meeting, with the elder Wilson growing into big sister and mentor of sorts for Anne. The song was inspired by the power of prayer Wilson and Lainey each experienced from their mothers growing up.

"We’d been talking about memories from growing up and remembering our mother’s coming into our rooms, getting on their knees and praying for us," recalls Wilson. "There was a conviction in how they prayed and expected them to be answered that was so powerful and special that we wanted to capture the feeling of it in song."

Rebel's strong motherly influence continues on "Red Flag," a rockin' number that Anne Wilson wrote as guidance to her younger fan base about what to look for in lasting love. While she largely had to ad lib the concept, having no bad breakup or relationship experiences to pull from, many of the "green flags" she notes were the result of years of advice. Things like going to church, being down to Earth, hunting, fishing, and respecting the American flag were traits and hobbies Wilson's mother had been passing down to her for years.

"Growing up she was always teaching me about relationship red and green flags, what to expect and to never settle," explains Wilson. "I have a song on my last record called ‘Hey Girl’ that ['Red Flag' is] almost a continuation of. It started out as a fun joke and turned out to be an actual serious song about red flags that’s one of my favorites on the whole record."

Another tune that began lighthearted before adopting a more serious tone is "Songs About Whiskey." Playing into country music and her home state's obsession with songs about brown liquor, the upbeat banger is intended to instead illustrate how Wilson gets her high from G-O-D rather than A-B-V or C-B-D through lines like, "I guess I’m just kind of fixed on/ The only thing that’s ever fixed me/ That’s why I sing songs about Jesus/ Instead of singing songs about whiskey."

"It’s supposed to be fun, make you laugh and fill you with joy," describes Wilson. "But it’s also meant to show how my faith is my true north, not those other things that are going to try to fill you up, but never do."

Through all of Rebel Wilson not only proves how her faith is her true north, but also shows others yearning to get there a path toward. This feeling culminates on the record’s title track, which frames her open love of Jesus as an act of rebellion in today’s world. A lesson in "what it means to have faith, not backing down from it and clinging to what we know is true," Wilson says the song was also inspired by previously having a song turned away at Christian radio for sounding "too country."

"I’m not going to try to please Christian music and I’m not going to try to please country music, I’m just going to be who I’ve always been and let the songs fall where they want to," asserts Wilson. "That was fuel not just for the song, but going against the grain on this entire album to be my most authentic self yet."

At the end of the day, genre labels, accolades and being included in the Grand Ole Opry’s NextStage Class of 2024 are secondary to Wilson’s adoration for the man above and her brother who, albeit tragically, set her on the journey she’s on now.

"I want to make sure I’m honoring him in everything that I do," reflects Wilson, "because he’s the reason I started doing music in the first place." 

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