April RaQuel’s mom grew up watching her cousin Clarence “Blowfly” Reid play the piano and write songs on her mother’s piano.
Today, April RaQuel is keeping the family tradition of South Florida funk and soul alive while adding her own rock and urban flavor to the mix.
With a weekly South Beach residency under her belt, her own Kouture Funk Band keeping the rhythm tight, a hot new single on iTunes, and an EP forthcoming for early 2016, it’s no surprise that April RaQuel is on a quest for world domination. Here’s what the great young artist had to say about playing Lebron James’s wedding, the Revolt Music Conference, and being a bad ass in the music industry.
Congratulations on your new single!
Yes! Thank you very much. Very exciting time.
Tell us a little bit about “Nobody Does It Better”
Nobody Does It Better is a live instrumentation studio recording produced by Todrick Hunter who is a local bass player and producer in the South Florida area. We worked on the song together co-writing it and it is basically a female declaration of prowess, ferocity, and basically making no mistake about a woman being who she is. It’s a bold statement from a female perspective and we had a lot of fun making it.
Where and with who did you record it?
We recorded right here in North Lauderdale at Trunoyz Studios and the engineer and owner is Eddie Perez, a Grammy award winning engineer. I’m really blessed to have him engineer and he will be engineering my EP. It’s been a really awesome work9ing relationship and happy to have him on my team.
How did you become the Miami Heat Wedding Singer?
That makes me laugh every time I hear it. Unofficially you can say that. I had two opportunities within a month of each other, totally unrelated but I ended up working with a band at Udonis Haslem’s wedding and then literally two weeks later I was flying out to San Diego for Lebron Jame’s wedding, and I performed at his reception as well. The stars kind of just aligned for me to be working for these huge figures in pro basketball that I’ve admired from afar. I just call it being favored.
Where can people see you perform locally?
I’m with my live band every single Monday at Ocean’s Ten on South Beach. We’re called April RaQuel and the Kouture Funk Band, and we’re also featured at Dirty Martini in Palm Beach Gardens every month, and we’ve started at a new venue on South Beach, a very sexy, cool, fusion kitchen lounge called 9 Beach. And that’s a fun place where we’re starting to build a regular schedule twice a month. We are the first live entertainment act there and we’re really grateful for the interest and growth. We play covers and originals from a wide range of genres.
What is your style of entertainment?
I came up with a concept for my style of entertainment: the Urban Rock Soul Funk Experience, and in my shows I’m literally covering all those things. Funk and soul is the music I grew up listening to, the music my mother grew up listening to. The natural grooves of funk and soul I just can’t deny myself. I also love a lot of the 70s and 80s rock. And I can’t deny my hip hop roots. I’m not a rapper, it’s just because of the impact that hip hop has had on culture since the 80s…I’ve always been a fan. So with my edge and my urban culture and a little funk and soul and rock, you have a high powered show. You should see the audience reaction when we perform.
How did you get started in music?
I always loved music, even before I knew I could sing. When I was a child I was always wishing I could be on stage, but the professional desire didn’t manifest in me until around 2009 when I decided this was really the platform for me. At first I lived in LA and pursued modeling and wanted to do acting, but it really wasn’t as authentic of a platform for me in terms of being an artist. I decided to move back to South Florida and joined a local band in 2006 really just to get my feet wet and try it out, to see if I really had the confidence and what it takes to be an entertainer, and it was literally like drinking water. It was just natural, like, here it is. I knew right then this is exactly what I wanted to be doing, connecting with the music and the audience. I went from playing with cover bands in local bars to having my own band and making my own music and it’s been a really amazing journey.
What does it mean to be a bad ass in the music industry?
Well honestly, the best answer is for me to be like the artists that I study like Tina Turner, she’s definitely my biggest influence. Also MC Lyte, Chaka Khan, Pat Benatar, women that did things that chicks just weren’t doing at the time in their time. They’re heroes to me. I grew up feeling like, “Who told these women to be this bold and bossy and confident?” To step out and be so wicked and amazing, sexy, in control, and edgy….all these things I wished I could be. And so to embody all of that and take a bit from each and find a way to own it for myself is what it means to me to be a bad ass in the music industry. And it came from knowing that it could be done with an unapologetic fierce attitude, unafraid of my sexuality and intellect and talent.
How did you get involved with Revolt Music Conference and what did you think of it?
This is the second year I was invited to go check it out. I had the great opportunity to be in the building with so many people in the industry just literally right next to you or walking by. It was an open forum to connect with artists, and managers, and pr reps, entertainment lawyers, accountants, people involved in the industry, writers, publishers, they were all there. I decided that I needed to be in a position as an artist where I had something to offer and be relevant and attractive to anyone that I networked with. So my manager Natasha Sweeting from Nadashi Marketing and I produced a showcase, the #SoulFunkAbstraQt at 9 Beach on South Beach. I had the opportunity to present my original music along with a few covers, and we scheduled it intentionally for the Thursday of Revolt Week and spent the rest of the weekend at the Fontainebleau making awesome connections. We’re hoping that next year we can deepen our involvement and create a greater awareness for local talent. With such a huge conference in our city it only makes sense for the more well known and popular local artists to get their chance to shine.
What are the benefits of working with a live band?
Oh my god. For me, that’s where the energy comes from. Live instrumentation: there’s nothing like it. I know the time is going to come where I have to do certain things without my band, but that energy is very difficult to duplicate without them. The bass guitar is my favorite instrument. Something about a live bass, when it locks with the drums, it really breathes life into the music. That certain groove between the bass, drums, keys, and live electric guitar….it’s an energy that makes you feel completely alive and like a rock star. I thrive on playing with a live band. And I feel like the people in the audience are reached through it as well. The energy permeates off the stage and ignites them and engages them. And it all comes from the energy of the live band. When everybody locks in and commits and is aligned on one accord it is the best feeling in the world, and it translates to the people watching. They can’t help but join us in the party vibe on stage. My bas player Toddrick likes to say, “It feels good to you doesn’t it!” And that’s the magic we create.
What are your goals, dreams, and aspirations for your career?
I’m very interested in developing my brand and this concept of music, fashion, and athleticism. Those are the three things I’m most passionate about. I want to engage in this for the rest of my life. My idea is to develop a concept around this brand that involves these three elements. Music is second nature to me, I’ve been an athlete since 9th grade, and fashion is very much a part of who I am and how I honestly express myself. I want to connect those three things and make a global impact. There is infinite opportunity and I’m taking it.
When will you release more new music?
We are actively working on finishing the EP to release at the beginning of the new year and start out 2016 strong out of the gate with more hot creative new music from the April RaQuel brand.
What is the legacy of the South Florida Music Scene?
Highly underrated. We cant escape the bass, that’s what were known for, but there are so many talented singers, songwriters, musicians, and producers that I think are just getting by. People are performing and living off their craft, but not getting the shine and recognition nationally. I hope to be at the forefront of changing the perception that the world has had of just bass and trap or hood music. We have amazing soul, jazz, r&b. Nicole Henry is at the top of the jazz world and having an amazing career right here out of Miami. We have an amazing mix of all genres here. And I’m praying to have a huge impact representing urban rock, funk, and soul from Miami. I want to be part of that legacy.
Any inspiration from local artists from Henry Stone’s TK Records empire like KC & The Sunshine Band, Betty Wright, Latimore, Timmy Thomas, Little Beaver, Willie Clarke, Blowfly, Clarence Reid, Steve Alaimo?
I grew up on Betty Wright. My mother and my grandmother used to listen to her all the time. And Blowfly is my cousin. Clarence used to come to my grandmother’s house and sit at her piano and write his music, and you can’t get more influential than that. You are lighting up my morning bringing those names up. That’s real honest soul music that Betty Wright sang. Tonight Is The Night” is a classic in r&b, soul, funk music. It’s an honest story about this young woman having her first experience, and of course “Clean Up Woman,” Clarence wrote that. It’s in his catalog of hits. He was just able to sing to people and sing about things that people related to, and I’m hoping to connect with themes that are not necessarily politically correct, but to say what it is, and sing about emotions, and experiences, and failures, and heartbreak, and all that we experience. The trailblazers are all here, they came from right here out of South Florida.
Any shout outs?
I have to first of all shout out God! If he didn’t give me the favor to live this dream and express myself artistically, none of this would be possible. Thanks to our Creator for blessing me with the desires of my heart. I couldn’t be more blessed in this moment. Thanks to my mother Gale Jackson for being a huge supporter. I have to shout out my manager and partner Natasha Sweeting, it’s because of her that I’m really able to take myself to higher levels. I have the best team and support. Shout out to Todrick Hunter who goes by the GroovePlaya on Instagram, he is literally the best in South Florida on the bass, a very anointed and talented brother who I go back with since high school. He is one of my biggest team players, my musical director, bass player, and producer. I have a great stylist on my team Erika Everett. And I can’t leave out my sister, hair stylist, and really creative team member who goes by AsiaJae. Without these people I wouldn’t be here. We spend countless hours dreaming, conceptualizing, planning, and thinking of the best moves. It takes 100% of all of us, and without this group of people I definitely wouldn’t have accomplished what I have, and with them there is the world to take, and here we go!