Jazz interview with jazz singer Chanda Rule. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Chanda Rule: – I grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Hazel Crest. I’ve always loved music. I used to sing with my mother at home, and my father loved to play music from his vinyl collection when I was younger. We listed to tons of Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, Stevie Wonder … and also gospel hits from The Hawkins, Mississippi Mass Choir, Keith Pringle …
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?
CHR: – All the cartoons I watched as a kid featured jazz music – like Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and others that I can’t remember! I didn’t realize it, but that was the beginning of my jazz education. I actually studied Journalism but when I decided I wanted to take music and singing more seriously I studied privately in New York. At the time I wanted to sing R&B and pop and gospel. I really wanted that strong belty voice but my teachers would tell me that I was more of a jazz singer. Eventually, I realized that they were on to something! I started to notice how good it felt when I sang jazz, and I also started getting work as a jazz vocalist. My foundation is really gospel music though. I grew up singing in choirs but I love the lushness and versatility of jazz. My teachers have been many…I learned so much studying bel canto with Diano Corto and vocal flexibility and ease with Jeremiah Abiah. I also learn a lot from singing along to songs I love. I used to sing day and night to Oleta Adams, Ella, Shirley Horn, Rachelle Farrell, Kim Burrell and Sarah Vaughan and try to imitate them. My neighbors have been really tolerant over the years!
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
CHR: – I’ve been a part of a lot of projects, worked with many great musicians and those experiences have naturally become a part of me and have helped me evolve. And music is a sacred practice to me. Sharing music in this way as well as teaching has also evolved my sound over the years.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
CHR: – I don’t have a special routine – but I do sing all the time! I’m big on repetition when I’m learning new material as well as making my “singing practice” a part of my life. That means shower time singing, dish washing singing, harmonizing with traffic sounds while walking, making up rhythms to the sound of the trains, etc. I also learn tons from working with my students.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
CHR: – I think I am influenced by all that is around me in some way or the other. Even the choice to not react is influenced by a cause.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
CHR: – Human. We are thinking feeling beings. The way we express our music reflects that.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
CHR: – It depends! I think people want to feel deeply. I love ushering in that connection with music. I also like to please – it is a challenge and a gift. I think it’s okay as long as it remains authentic and doesn’t compromise my integrity.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
CHR: – There are too many! But my most memorable times are when audiences sing together. I know we’ve had a great gig when people are still singing after the concerts, huddled in small groups, happy and just … singing together.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
CHR: – Jazz artists continue to breathe new life into standards by changing them, twisting the harmonies, adding modern touches and by letting the music inspire them to write new songs. I think that’s great. And the best thing is improvisation never gets old!
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
CHR: – I don’t! But I love the journey and for me music is my prayer and a huge part of my spiritual practice.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
CHR: – That music be considered not mainly an art for pleasure, but that it be known as a necessary practice that we need to be whole and healthy humans. Just listening to music is as beneficial as drinking water. And playing music is medicinal.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
CHR: – I can listen to Lianne La Havas’ Blood Solo album all day every day. I also love Bemyoda.
JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
CHR: – That we can feel and love and heal each other deeply with our music.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
CHR: – I’d love to see what the world would be like when my son is an older man – out of curiosity (I wonder what sort of technology we’ll be using as humans) and to make sure he’s had a good life.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan