American singer Crushed Velvet . But then her record deal fell through, after being touched by sexual harassment, and when she refused to sleep with a high-powered record executive. That power imbalance eventually empowered her, and she cites that experience as what got her to start her media company.
After stopping performing for a while, because that experience made her feel there was no place for a black woman such as herself in the music industry, Crushed Velvet got back to writing and performing, eventually empowered by the experience.
Trying to get the word out about her powerful rock voice, drawing on her love for vintage garage and punk records as the main inspiration for her music.
A couple songs can be found Reverbnation, with the chugging rocker Always as the lead candidate for a hit single.
Lisa: What first got you into music? What did you wanted to become when you were a child?
Crushed Velvet: My mother as a New Yorker was an avid culture junkie. Between broadway show tunes and Leonard Bernstein records, music was the one constant in our lives. My dad was in the Navy and we moved a lot. As I became a teenager the radio & my father’s bootleg jazz tapes took over & I was addicted. I originally wanted to be a ballet dancer but I was way too lazy.
Lisa: How do you describe your music to people?
Crushed Velvet: I just say it’s some sort of rock.
Lisa: Would you walk me through the process on one of the ideas that became a song?
Crushed Velvet: Well, it depends on if I’m writing for myself, for others, or if I’m collaborating. Work For Hire is the most difficult and honestly, it’s like writing code. You have a basic idea of what is wanted & then it’s trial & error. But I write every day for myself. I have since was about 10 and I read this book about songwriting. 2 major takeaways were the importance of hooks and writing every day to improve your craft. But most songs come to me pretty much written. I sometimes feel like I’m merely translating them from the air. But then other songs such as Something Like Jesus is me sitting down and writing what I feel.
Lisa: I feel some New York Dolls vibe in your music. Am I wrong? What are your biggest influences and why?
Crushed Velvet: Lol. I’ve never heard that before. While I like the NY Dolls I was probably more into MC5. However, I am heavily influenced by Todd Rundgren who produced their first album so I can see the reference. As a writer, I’ve always been drawn to lyrical music. Simple phrases that can convey so much. Todd Rundgren was a huge influence in that regard, the economy of words. Vocally my biggest influence is, believe it or not, is Patsy Cline. There was no filter from her soul to her voice. Heard her once as a kid & that was it. David Bowie & Tom Petty are major influences as far as rock music. But Nina Simone and everything Motown taught me not only must you be real, but people need to be able to dance to it.
Lisa: I really liked your song “Always”. Can you tell me more about it? What is it about, and how did you get inspired to write it?
Crushed Velvet: Always was written for someone for whom I had an extremely deep connection with but he really couldn’t have cared any less about me. It’s about acknowledging that love is real in no matter what form it takes and sometimes that’s enough.
Lisa: What types of change do you feel your music can initiate?
Crushed Velvet: First of all, I want to give people a sense of hope. When I was a kid, music literally saved me. When you’re in pain you often feel like you’re alone but when you hear something that speaks to that pain you feel connected. I want people to know that things can get better. You can win. But you have to start with yourself. I put a lot of time into fixing my life. Healing is possible, I want my music to be a catalyst for that.
Lisa: What is one message you would give to your fans?
Crushed Velvet: First and foremost I would like them to know how grateful I am for their support. It means the world to me when people tell me that my music has touched them. For me that is the definition of success – my songs moved someone. How amazing is that?
Lisa: You’ve had some real bad experience with high-powered record executive, which, I’m so sorry to hear. But after a period of struggle you’ve managed to come back stronger. Do you think anything is going to change long-term as far as women’s danger being taken more seriously?
Crushed Velvet: The only way it will change is if there are more women in positions of power in the industry, period. But that being said it wasn’t just men who sexually harassed me. The industry is full of predators. And women in the industry tend to be real bitches to each other as well although the younger generation of musicians is thankfully calling this crap out. Because the saddest thing to understand is that it’s not just the high powered music executives you have to watch out for, sometimes, many times, it’s your own bandmates. The issue is societal.
Lisa: And what advice do you have for upcoming artist that are just getting in music business?
Crushed Velvet: Everyone needs to understand that the industry as we knew it has gone bye-bye and it’s not coming back; I’m not sure that’s a bad thing either since it was built upon exploitation. I would them to practice their craft and never give up on their dreams but to trust absolutely no one. Work on your mental health issues and understand that fame is bullshit but success is measurable. I believe going forward the music industry can be more of a reflection of the creators but you have to approach it as a business and not as a drunken rock star.
Lisa: What non-musical entities and ideas have impacted your music?
Crushed Velvet: I was a journalist for a bit so I’m a real news junkie. Having been exposed to so much information all of it goes into my music. But being a black woman in the USA is a trip all unto itself and just about everything I write is from the perspective that I am never truly seen for who I really am.
Lisa: Are you planning to collaborate with any other artist?
Crushed Velvet: I love collaborating. I’m not a soloist as I prefer to be in a band. However, for me, it isn’t easy & I’m not sure why. I think I intimidate people.
Lisa: What’s next for Crushed Velvet?
Crushed Velvet: Well, life is taking an interesting turn as I’m now an Influencer on a streaming site called MICO. Not only am I getting paid for my content but I’m performing several times a week. It’s nothing that I ever even thought about and it has turned out to be an incredible experience. I can’t wait to play live again but in the meantime, this opportunity is fantastic.
Before COVID I was finishing my EP so Better Late Than Never is one song short, then I will begin my album Message From the War Zone. I started it decades ago but somehow it’s just as timely now as then.