Branjae on the sixth sense, the street light and empowerment
A Q&A with the singer/songwriter, who just released a new single: “Street Light.”
Branjae’s “Street Light” was recently featured on the TulsaTalks podcast. You can listen to the single on Spotify and YouTube, and can find more of her music on her website. You can also support her GoFundMe, of which 10% of the proceeds will go to DVIS.
What's on the horizon for Branjae? We've seen the release of two singles — "Everybody Needs" and now "Street Light" — since last March, and listeners can also find live performances of "Addicted" and "Focus" online. Do you have plans to combine these tracks into a new Branjae record?
The horizon. I see many opportunities to expand and create more art with a message. I am watching the story unfold according to my desires, and I envision an EP in the future. I’m not totally sold on how I’m going to present it, or what songs will be included, but I can guarantee that it will be empowering, and it will tell a story. I’m learning the balance between making it happen and allowing it to happen. More to come.
In your Afropunk op-ed, you explain the sense of empowerment you felt while leaving your previous toxic relationship, and you describe the event as having developed your "sixth sense." What is a "sixth sense" in this instance? Does it relate to one's ability to overcome the influence of their abuser?
The sixth sense is just that. It’s a natural sense that I believe everyone has. Like hearing, seeing or the sense of touch, only the sixth one is internal. I also believe it is eternal. It’s the still quiet “voice” inside. The instinct of “knowing” when answers aren’t presented in the physical. It is the spiritual sense about a person. The real you. The one that is never changing. The one that is connected to the Universal creator.
I believe this sense is alive and well in each human being. We have the ability to activate and connect to it intentionally. I was connected to this sixth sense when I was committed to a relationship that I just knew would turn bad. We’ve all said it a time or two, “Something told me not to do that,” or “I had a feeling about that ...” That is the higher self. The perfect part of us. Our guide.
The eponymous street light is an overarching metaphor in your new track — what inspired this choice of imagery? Lights are usually beacons of safety and hope, so I find the repetition of getting home "before the street light comes on" to be an enticing subversion.
When I was little, I had freedom to move freely biking and playing outside. I’d be gone all day long. There was one condition to my said freedom: I had to make it home before the street light came on. Momma didn’t play. Most ‘80s babies know what I’m talking about. When that street light came on, I better be home, or barely walking through the front door. Or … well ... like I said, Momma didn’t play.
I used this metaphor in the song because the neighborhood street light turning on, meant that total darkness was on the way. When the light came on, it was time to make moves toward safety. Home. I was safe, cared for and protected. I find it the same way when looking at toxic relationships. The street light can be compared to red flags or a moment of toxic behavior that turns harmful. When the light comes on, time to get to safety.
You've long been a member of the popular local band Count Tutu. When developing a new song, how do you decide if it will become a Count Tutu track or a Branjae track? How does the production experience differ when performing with your solo moniker, as opposed to with Count Tutu?
Count Tutu is a collaboration between nine insanely talented musicians. We are a musical family in every sense of the word. We collaborate together, while many times, members bring full versions of songs individually written. It’s a free for all!
When I write music, sometimes I have in the forefront of my mind where it’s going. Sometimes I have a predetermined plan, other times I’m only being creative. When a song is completed, I then step back and decide where it goes. It really depends on the style and content of the song that determines its location for me. I’m lucky to have the ability to collaborate with my band brothers (and Dads) of Count Tutu, while expressing myself as the artist “Branjae” with my backing band including five other insane talents. We are all supportive and promote each other on our solo and smaller group projects. It's pretty much perfect.
If a new record is, indeed, on the way, what sorts of themes may we expect you to explore or continue to explore? Will the empowerment of "Street Light" or the call for love in "Everybody Needs" make a reprisal?
Storytelling is something I enjoy communicating through my music. In a roundabout way, these songs all kind of connect to a message of empowerment … only different scenes in the story. I don’t want to give anything away, as I am still developing ideas being led by creativity, but promoting and working with DVIS isn’t going away when the next project presents itself.
I still have more work to do continuing this journey and shining a light on diminishing domestic violence. There are so many levels to it, and I want to talk about that. I want people to know that by supporting sustainable art, they are also making a difference in our communities. The music and the work must reflect each other, so that’s what I’m out here accomplishing at a steady pace. We will see very soon what that looks like for BranjaeMusic.