Not many musicians can say they performed at a presidential inauguration. But Alicia Olatuja can proudly hold that title. Years ago she took the world stage as a performer at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Since then, her career and life has changed.
The New York Times described her sound as “a singer with a strong and luscious tone.” That unique voice has propelled her into an arena of musical accomplishments. The singer has shared the stage with legends such as Chaka Khan and Bebe Winans. In 2014, she independently released her musical collection titled “Timeless.” Now, she has a new musical endeavor.
Her latest project “Intuition: Songs From The Minds of Women” is a musical celebration of women and their contributions. The project features songs renditions from Sade, Tracy Chapman, Kate Bush and others. Olatuja produced the album along with Kamau Kenyatta and Ulysses Owens Jr.
Despite having a strong voice, over the phone Olatuja is bubbly and cheerful. She spoke to the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper about the project and the creative process behind the development.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL (LS): Pleasure speaking with you. Can you elaborate on how you begin your love of music?
ALICIA OLATUJA (AO): Growing up my family had a great appreciation for music but no one pursued it professionally. It was a hobby at first. I went to college as an undergrad for veterinary medicine but minored in music. One day I peaked into a recital hall and heard a girl singing. I could see the joy in her face. In that moment I decided it was something I wanted to pursue. After that, I switched my major to music and an explosion of opportunities started to happen. Sometimes when you just put yourself in those situations, it can become the validation that you can actually do it.
LS: What gravitated you towards creating ‘Intuition: Songs From The Minds Of Women?’
AO: With ‘Intuition: Songs From The Minds Of Women,’ I decided to do a project that celebrates other women and keeps them at the forefront of what we celebrate as musical creativity. It’s also about pursuing your own opportunities and knocking down any obstacles in your way. It’s the celebration of other women especially those that you stand on the shoulders of in music.
LS: The album speaks about some deep issues. What motivated you to include those elements?
AO: We’ve gotten to a place where we cannot back down from the uncomfortable conversations. I think we have been emboldened collectively to do so almost like a synchronicity amongst women. We collectively are pushing forward relentlessly while addressing things that make us feel uncomfortable. I’ve had those experiences personally.
LAS: How so? Can you elaborate?
AO: I have a song that I do by Joni Mitchell. It’s called Cherokee Leaves. The subject is about racism and abuse. I was thinking I want to celebrate Joni but it felt uncomfortable. But then I said if I don’t address the uncomfortable issues we face as women, how am I going to make an impact outside these musical impressions? It’s the self-challenge that is pushing the women’s movement forward in a powerful way.
LS: What inspired the name ‘Intuition: Songs From The Minds Of Women?’
AO: Intuition is something that is usually associated with a woman. I’ve heard that for as long as I could remember. We’ve been taught to trust our gut instincts. Sometime that may contradict what’s in front of us or contradict what seems rational. We’ve been told to trust our intuition as women but we haven’t always been taught to trust our intellect or our creative outpourings. Those are discouraged in society. So ‘Intuition: Songs From The Minds Of Women,’ celebrates that intuition but also the intellect.
LS: What is the main message you want listeners to experience?
AO: I want them to leave with something that makes them feel that I passed the torch to them. I also want them to either deposit something positive in the world creatively or artistically. It’s like a flame. You want to send everyone a blaze and have a positive impact on somebody else.
Olatuja’s upcoming performance begins March 22ndat the Moss Theater in Santa Monica. For ticket inquires, visit www.aliciaolatuja.com/tour.