Goapele has gotten grown, y'all. Back to promote her upcoming album Milk & Honey and no longer sporting her signature locs, she looks and sounds rejuvenated by her time away from the spotlight. The delicate songbird performed for hundreds of urban professionals and music lovers at the Park at Fourteenth's Unplugged series, a concept engineered by Beny Blaq Entertainment. This event regularly features soul and R&B artists in an intimate setting doing what they do best -- bringing great music to their fans.
Goapele has taken very good care of herself during her hiatus. As good as she sounds on the radio, she sounds even richer live. She took the stage in a cocktail dress with her natural hair perfectly coiffed and exuded a warmth that radiated onto the crowd.
Goapele's desire to connect was reflected by the intimacy she created with her audience, who swayed obediently to her rhythm throughout the set. Her most popular (and achingly resonant) songs "Closer" and "First Love" were met with delight as people sang along in the amber glow of the room and waved their backlit cell phones in the air. The Bay area native also gave us a taste of Milk & Honey, her new project, which finds her taking on love and life with a maturity that only comes from a deep knowledge of subjects. At her core, Goapele is a storyteller. She has a way of delving into the romantic experience that can only be described as incredibly honest -- she makes you feel her song, whether it is wistful, yearning, sexy, or just downright sweet.
Taking time to talk to SoulBounce after her electrifying set, Goapele opened up about her evolving style, the difficulties of jumping back into the music, and what she wants her fans to take away from Milk & Honey:
SoulBounce: First of all, you cut your hair and changed your look, what inspired that? As a woman, cutting your locs can be just as radical as growing them out, so what was behind that decision?
Goapele: Well, I had a short natural right before I started growing locs. [My locs] were a part of me for close to 10 years, and I felt locked in and they felt very permanent. I wanted to open some things up in my life for change. It took me a while to let go, but I was like, "I can do it."
SB: You are covering some new territory with Milk & Honey. Tell us more about the project and what you want your audience to walk away with.
G: I want people to walk away with the understanding that as men and women, we are complex people. We aren't just one way, and we shouldn't have to be. I want to express strength and vulnerability and sensuality.
SB: What was the most difficult about getting back into music? Especially being both a mother and a musician?
G: I would say it took me a minute to get my undying drive back. I was putting my energy in some other directions, and with music and with motherhood you have to give 200% every time with both. (Laughter) So I think I just kind of had to get myself back to the point where I felt ready, where I could get in the studio and record songs that I felt were worth sharing.
Friday night Goapele brought the weekend in with a sexy start, breaking the District off with sensual sounds that surely set the mood for someone that night. Without betraying the essence of who she is, Goapele has grown up to be a class act.
[Photos: Daniel Logan]