LOS ANGELES, CA (News4usonline) – You know, pretty much everyone is looking for the next singer with a booming voice to replicate the power uniqueness of Aretha, Lizzo or Adele. There’s been a ton of television shows-past and present-hoping to be the one to land that most amazing talent the world has ever seen.
American Idol was the first to come along during this genre. Now, we’ve got The Voice, America’s Got Talent, and The X Factor, to name a few. Of course, there have been some incredible talent with drop-in-your-tracks vocals that have built an international platform following their appearances on these shows.
Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino are just a few of the singers who have transcended their debuts on these shows to becoming megastars of the music industry today.
And when you look back and think of the great soul singers from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Phyllis Hyman to Mary J. Blige, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan, and Toni Braxton, they all have one singular attribute that binds them together as performing artists: the power behind the mic.
Quiana Lynell, a full-range vocal southern belle who hails from Texas but has planted her musical roots in that jazz haven called New Orleans, is that next great singer that you’ll be hearing about.
The power and electric intensity that Lynell brings to the stage in a live performance as she brought to the table at the 2019 Playboy Jazz Festival, is a page taken straight from the great singer playbook.
She ripped it. A protegee of jazz master Terence Blanchard, Lynell is what you would call a storyteller through song. Growing up on gospel music and being influenced by Fitzgerald and Vaughan, Lynell took her big-sounding voice and has made good use of it.
Her appearances at venues such as Carnegie Hall (Dec. 6), Toronto Centre for the Arts (Feb. 15, 2020) and the Hollywood Bowl (2019 Playboy Jazz Festival) over the summer, validate Lynell’s up and coming arrival on the scene as a prime-time performer.
With an album (A Little Love) out that solidifies her magnetic vocals, Lynell is ready for her breakout moment as she talked about her career backstage at the 2019 Playboy Jazz Festival with reporter Dennis J. Freeman.
Dennis J. Freeman: What’s it’s like for you to be able to perform at a historic venue such as the Hollywood Bowl and at an iconic event like the Playboy Jazz Festival?
Quiana Lynell: “It means that…I hate to say it like this, but it’s like momma, we made it. It’s like is this happening? It’s unbelievable. This is beyond my wildest dreams. Like you think you know when things are going to happen and then…it’s like I keep getting these little emails about places that I’m going to go to and I’m like…really? Me? I’m on a ride and I’m enjoying every moment.”
Dennis J. Freeman: How did this all come about for you?
Quiana Lynell: “I started believing. I started believing and working. I started working and believing in myself and just doing the work. The belief had started, and when I plotted out and planned what I wanted to do…it became more tangible. You know like you want to play at the Hollywood Bowl. So it’s like how do you get there. You scaffold that down and you start regionally and then we’re going to go for the state, and so when you scaffold that and start knocking off these little locations that have different depth at different levels, you go okay.”
Dennis J. Freeman: How much did Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan influenced you musically?
Quiana Lynell: “Those ladies…I’m standing on their shoulders, walking in their footprints, trying to…it’s like you’re on your momma’s heels. You’ve got to practice. And so my momma would tell me, ‘You’ve got to walk like you’ve got diamonds on your toes.’ So you have to know that you belong. I’m rambling right now, but I can’t contain my excitement. I can’t contain it. I’m elated. I feel like I’m going to blink and it’s all going to disappear.”
Dennis J. Freeman: When did you know this (singing) was something that you wanted to do?
Quiana Lynell: “I’ve always known. I’ve always wanted singing to be my thing. I didn’t know how. I don’t come from a family of professional musicians. Most of my family we sing, but it’s always in church or communal type of thing. It’s funerals, weddings, the big events in life as a good southern African American family does. We sing at almost everything, but nobody in my family is a professional musician. Anybody’s uncles, aunts [that] I can think of..they’re really, really religious. Growing up …that whole devil’s music thing is [something] that I can relate to, but I pursued music in college.”
Dennis J. Freeman: What was your first big break?
Quiana Lynell: “Winning the Sarah Vaughan competition (Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition). It was like I’m vetted now, and meeting Terrence (Blanchard) that was the first step. And once I won the competition and started working with Terence and him mentoring me, those two things together have been a fire that you can’t put out. Terence always says luck is preparation plus timing. I was preparing, and I know now. I’ve been on the road a little bit this year, and what I’m learning is now is not the time to be practicing. You don’t have time. Once you get to the places you want to be finding the time to practice is hard because you’re jumping from here to here. You’re not practicing; you’re rehearsing for a gig, but you’re not learning those foundational skills that you work on while you’re in college or before you go where you want to be. I’m learning that all that those years that I spent trying to figure out where I want to go and what I want to do by doing the work of learning more to be ready is like I couldn’t time this stuff any better.”
Dennis J. Freeman: How would you describe your relationship with Terence Blanchard?
Quiana Lynell: “I am a teacher. I’ve taught for the last 10 to 12 years. There’s a line on my email that says teachers teach more about what they do than what they say. That was on all my emails when I taught in the public school system. That is the kind of teacher that Terence is. Whenever I’m around him, he’s got an opera, he’s got a commissioned piece, he’s got three shows. But he’s balancing this stuff and working at this high level and it’s not like that you’ve made it. [It’s] like, this is the work. This is what you’re here for…to do these different things. So it’s always this constant reminder of don’t get comfortable; it just got started.”
Dennis J. Freeman: As a former elementary music teacher; what type of advice would you give to other aspiring artists?
Quiana Lynell: “All I can say is set a goal and make a plan. If we didn’t have iPhones and you wanted to go from Los Angeles to New Orleans, you’d look at that map and you’d make a plan. You’d trek out how far…and I’m talking specifics. I want to sing at the Kennedy Center, what are the places that lead up to that. Who’s signing there? What do they have? Do they have an agent? Do they have a website? All those things those people have, start working on that. Start breaking down that plan, but also, keep learning. There’s never too much knowledge. You can never have too much knowledge. So, keep sharpening your ax so that when the time comes, you’ll be as good as you can be. Don’t ever stop learning and trying to grow.”
Dennis J. Freeman: How would you best describe your album and style of music?
Quiana Lynell: “I feel like I am a quilt for a good pot of gumbo. There many different pieces, but when you put it all in that perfect bite or when you look at that quilt, and it’s like aagh. So, there are pieces of me from all of my different facets. I grew up (in) a very traditional church, harmonizing, so there are some gospel aspects, and I’m a child of this generation, so there’s some soul, there’s some feel-good. All the people I grew up listening to, you can’t take that away from any current artist right now. I wasn’t somebody who grew up listening to jazz all the time. That’s something I started getting a little later influence in my life. So, it’s a mixture, but it’s a definite clear picture of who I am. It was very important for me to show all the different pieces of me. My classical background, you can hear some of that on there. Even in my shows, that’s what you’re going to get; you’re going to get all the pieces of me.”
(Editor’s note: Feature image of Quiana Lynell appears courtesy of Mathew Imaging/Hollywood Bowl)
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”