Rhonda Nicole
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Rhonda Nicole

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE
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"Rhonda Nicole--The Naked Truth"

Like most performers, Rhonda Nicole knew from the time she could speak that she wanted to be a star. From her early days of rocking sold-out shows to her stuffed animals to her breakout performance as part of the Montrose band on the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage in 2009, she knew she loved the stage. But when it finally came time to record a project of her own, the process was long and frustrating.


A bold, strong spirit, with her amber ringlets often blowing in the wind on cue, you can tell she’s a woman wants what she wants, when she wants it. Recording her debut EP, Nuda Veritas was a humbling process. After years of writing songs and collaborating with fellow Dallas musician, Montrose, she finally began to see her project take shape. Her stories are a series of highs and lows, tinged with the funk-rock-soul aura that radiates from her spirit the moment you meet her. When talking about the experiences that led to the songs on her disc, she often becomes very serious and reserved–but a smile, a joke, a sophisticated Southern-lady flair, all take turns peeking out, hinting at the depth of her character.


Working in the music business since finishing college put her within striking distance of her dreams for years, but despite her impatience, time was the biggest aid in her creative development. Now, with her first project completed, she is confident in pursuing non-mainstream means of getting her music to the masses. Today she shares what her music, Black Music, means within the frame of her life.


Soul Train: Tell us what Black Music Month means to you.


Rhonda Nicole: Well, it’s an opportunity to be reminded of the amazing variety and diversity of the kind of music that actually falls under the moniker of black music. It’s really cool to watch what the cable networks feature as far as different programming specifically during Black Music Month. All of the artists over the past however many generations– the Rock music, Soul, R&B, Hip Hop, Jazz, Gospel–and to be reminded that we have a rich heritage of music. In terms of mainstream radio and mainstream video programming channels, we’re given a very limited idea of what we do as African American artists, and where we come from.


Soul Train: If your life had a soundtrack what are a few songs that would be part of it?


Rhonda Nicole: I think my life does have a soundtrack, but the songs change every five minutes, depending on what’s going on.


Soul Train: It’s a mixtape!


Rhonda Nicole: For real! It’s the longest mixtape in the world. I think the songs that would be a part of the permanent soundtrack are, there are just so many, but I’d have “The Most Beautiful Girl In the World” by Prince.


Soul Train: That’s a pretty song.


Rhonda Nicole: I love it. It’s not even so much that he talks about the most beautiful girl in the world, but I enjoy the actual musicianship involved that makes it a pretty song–it makes me happy. Next there’s “One Step Closer to You” by Michael Franti, and “Tear in Your Hand” by Tori Amos has been one of my favorite songs since high school. If I had to pick one more song for my permanent soundtrack for my life I think it would be “Love is Contagious” by Taja Sevelle.


Soul Train: What are some of your favorite childhood memories set to music?


Rhonda Nicole: Music has been a pretty integral part of my life, all my life. My earliest memories are of being in my room listening to my different records. I had my own record player that had a tape recorder on it, and all my Disney albums and Sesame Street 45s. But Saturdays, my mom and I would do chores at home and she would play different 8-tracks, there was always music playing. My mom would pop in Diana Ross or Sly and the Family Stone or Peaches and Herb and I would bop around the house. I probably wasn’t doing very many chores since I was small. There was probably more playing and dancing and twirling going on than actual choring.


As far as creating my own music, I always had a tape recorder of some sort with me, so at a very early age I would record myself singing songs, making them up on the fly. It was freestyling, but singing. And at some point in junior high my dad bought me a Casio keyboard. I didn’t really master playing it, but I did master creating little songs, singing over them and recording them. I had all of these different tapes of myself. Eventually my dad also bought me this karaoke machine-type thing with two tape decks and a mic. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was actually learning how to produce because I was mixing sounds, blending, recording and dubbing over. I’d record a master, put that tape into the other deck, record over that and I’d have this layered thing… it didn’t sound very good because the sound quality would deteriorate, but that’s what I would do. Just making songs in my own little dream world, hoping that at some point Prince would get one of my tapes and say, “Oh my God, where’s this kid been? She’s only 13 but I’ve gotta add her to the band.” *laughs*


Soul Train: Nuda Veritas was a long time in the making, what were some of the experiences that led up to it coming to be.
SoulLover
Nuda Veritas on iTunes


Rhonda Nicole: Well I was born, and then–no, just kidding. *laughs* Most of the songs on Nuda Veritas were written between 2001 and 2006 at the latest. Montrose and I started working together in 2002, and right off the bat, in addition to me coming on board as the co-lead vocalist for his band, we started talking about a project for me. I began to put together an idea for what I wanted to do and Montrose suggested I do an EP. Because with an EP, you give them a little taste and then go into a full album. I said okay and I’m thinking to myself, “We’ll probably knock this out in about six months.” But that didn’t happen… it took several years. It was a process that was almost unbearable for me because I’m very impatient and I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long to finish five songs. But we’ve got full-time jobs, personal lives, families, and other obligations. On the up-side, all of the recording was done in Montrose’s home studio, so it wasn’t like we had to pinch pennies for studio time–we had the luxury of taking as much time as we needed. But life happens, you cancel a session here, reschedule one there and next thing you know, it’s been three months and you haven’t done anything, and you have to get back on it. I’ve threatened to kill the project on more than one occasion. Montrose can probably show you all of the emails saying “If we don’t finish it by this date, I’m not doing it, because I’m losing interest,” and it took a lot for me to say “focus on it.” We finally got all of the music together–and the musicians are brilliant, including Montrose. I’d basically sing something to him and we’d record a very rough a capella vocal and he would putz around with his guitar and put the music around it, and it sounded exactly how I wanted it to sound. That takes extraordinary talent and intuition. And then he brought in the other musicians and they just jumped right in and made it awesome. But I got impatient and I wanted it to happen quickly. Eventually everything was recorded and we started the mixing and mastering process, which began in spring of 2008. When that finally happened I was like, “Oh my God, I can finally see it coming to fruition, what I’ve been waiting for all of these months and years.” It was finally starting to take shape and look like something real as opposed to something just out there floating. It definitely was a long process, but I kind of enjoyed it.


Soul Train: That was really insightful, especially for people who do have full-time jobs and have to work around real life while they’re concentrating on being an artist. What have you been doing to promote Nuda Veritas since its release?


Rhonda Nicole: I’m learning quite a bit about how to be my own marketing team. I have a Facebook page, which I’ve had for a while, to talk to my fan base and advertise gigs. That’s been my primary source of promotion in addition to sending emails out to everyone I know. I did have my first single, “Soul Lover” added to the Texas mix on KXT 91.7 FM in Dallas. That was pretty exciting. I’m hoping I’ll get picked up by other independent radio stations. I think that’s a great opportunity that a lot of artists, especially a lot of African American artists, don’t consider. We’re kind of plugged in to mainstream radio and television and there are all of these other opportunities that are a little bit easier to maneuver when you’re brand new and unsigned at this stage in your career. And people who are interested in learning about different kinds of music and different kinds of artists listen to those types of stations, whether it’s public radio stations, if it’s terrestrial or on the internet, or even satellite, so I’m definitely pursuing those kinds of opportunities for myself.


Soul Train: What’s going to make people come see Rhonda Nicole?


Rhonda Nicole: I think one of the things that definitely will make people come see me is that I’m genuine. I used to wish hardcore that I could have been a big, famous star when I was much younger. I often thought it’s so late in the game, I’m not as young as these pop stars that are popular now, but I know who I am and I know what kind of music I’m supposed to sing. I spent years imitating others, singing other people’s songs, trying to sound like other singers–and every singer does that. Every artist has some element of somebody else’s style and vibe that they incorporate, it’s how you find yourself. But now that I know who I am, I know what I want to say, I know what kind of music sounds right coming from me. I think that’s a nice thing that people can get into. I’m not putting on airs, I’m not saying that other artists don’t have this quality, but I know that I do. It’s something that I have worked very hard to do. I want to be truthful in my writing, truthful in my performance and to be as engaging as I am truthful, so people will come and see me, and they will enjoy me. They’ll like what they hear and like what they’re getting.


Check out Rhonda Nicole’s debut single, “Soul Lover.”


- SoulTrain.com


Discography

"Nuda Veritas" (EP, 2010)

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Bio

Dallas native Rhonda Nicole is an independent artist whose debut EP, "Nuda Veritas", was released on Candle House Records in late winter 2010.

A prolific songwriter since her “tweens”, Rhonda Nicole honed her craft as a lyricist by ingesting music by a multitude of artists across a variety of genres. Her early musical influences--Prince, Sly & the Family Stone, and any number of Motown artists--blended seamlessly with music by the likes of Sinead O'Connor, Lenny Kravitz, Jimi Hendrix, Tori Amos, and countless other artists to whom she was introduced while sharpening her vocal skills studying musical theatre at Dallas’ famed Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Upon earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in TV/Radio from Southern Methodist University, Rhonda Nicole spent a year in Los Angeles as a fellow in the Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program, and later scored the once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the inaugural cast at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, Japan. It was during her time in Japan that Rhonda Nicole wrote most of the material she would eventually record for “Nuda Veritas”.

In 2002 Rhonda Nicole teamed up with Dallas-based musician Montrose (co-producer of "Nuda Veritas") and began performing around the city with him and his band at local live music venues and festivals. The band’s big break came in 2008 when they were tapped to perform on the annual Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage Cruise, and in 2009 Rhonda Nicole made her solo performance debut on the Fantastic Voyage. She has also performed as a solo artist at the Red Vic Sessions in San Francisco, CA, and the 2007 and 2008 GoGirls Music Festivals in Dallas.

2010 was a watershed year for Rhonda Nicole. On the heels of the release of "Nuda Veritas", “SoulLover”--the lead single from "Nuda Veritas"--was added to Dallas public radio station KKXT 91.7’s “Texas Mix” program in early summer, and the newly relaunched SoulTrain.com featured Rhonda Nicole as one of its Sound Check artists. She closed out the summer of 2010 performing before an audience of 80,000 at musician/activist Michael Franti's 12th Annual Power to the Peaceful Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and followed her PTTP debut with a cameo appearance in Michael Franti + Spearhead's video "Hey, Hey, Hey". That fall Rhonda Nicole took the stage at the ATL Live in the Park music showcase as part of the 2010 Soul Train Music Awards in Atlanta, GA.