Celebrate Good Times

Local soul music success story Goapele talks about getting to the top, and staying at the top

Goapele: Yeah -- I definitely like working with different kinds of people and finding different productions that are more fulfilling to me. And I just like being unpredictable.

TP:You had a lot of lasting support from [urban radio station] KMEL for your debut single, "Even Closer." KMEL is not always celebrated for its support of local artists, so did that happen by design or by accident?

Goapele: I think by both. There have been a couple people at KMEL that have been supportive for a long time. [On-air personality] Chuy [Gomez] and [on-air DJ] Mind Motion and [Music Director] Von [Johnson] we knew from a while ago, just from DJ Namani doing parties and stuff. And I think I didn't know how much it was gonna grow, and I think it was just really good timing that people wanted to hear something from the bay and that the station was willing to make the choice to support an act from the bay. They received some pressure, the public was calling in to support it. I think it was a planned effort, but I also didn't expect what happened, and I was really happy.

TP:Now it's a couple years later and the landscape has changed a little at KMEL. It still comes under fire for not having so much local content, but there is a difference.

Goapele: Yeah, there's a huge difference. There's, like, hours and certain days of the week that are dedicated to playing hip hop artists from the Bay Area, and I think that's different and it hasn't been that way for years.

TP:Do you feel like there is more attention being paid to the local music scene by major labels right now as opposed to the last 15 years?

Goapele: I do. I definitely feel like we are building a stronger presence in the Bay Area and starting to get recognized for it.

TP:Do you find it hard when trying to break out of the area? Is there a stigma to being a "Bay Area artist"?

Goapele: I think there really can be, and for me I never really just wanted to be considered a local artist. I think it's really important to get outside the Bay Area. I mean, I love the Bay Area and love living here, but I would never really wanna only perform here. And it would be kind of impossible to support a career that way. You kind of have to record, get your stuff out there, and perform as many places as you can.

I think even me moving away from the Bay Area and going to school on the East Coast for a little bit opened my eyes a little bit to that in just seeing the standard that people operate on when they have to compete and it's not so laid-back. It's pretty amazing, and I think it's just good to go to other places and just see what's going on. I think we definitely have something unique going on here in the Bay Area and it's great to mix that [with other impressions] and bring the bay out to other places.

TP:What's the best general advice you can give to talented local people who want to give the music business a real shot?

Goapele: I would just say building the live show and getting the core audience is pretty important. Getting a supportive team around you that you can trust and really believe in you and either has experience in the music industry or can learn fast -- I think that's also really important. And just trying to record the music and produce it to the best of your ability. I mean, the recording quality of Even Closer -- I mean listening back to it I'm not necessarily proud of it but I know I did the best job that I could then. The people that I was working with did a good job and we basically tried to do it to the best of our ability. Each time, try to grow.

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