Cover Story: Goapele

“Aside from being über talented and hella-gorgeous, Goapele is a shining example of how to rock the indie artist lane in a shifty industry climate”.

–  89.9 FM KCRW DJ and music industry key influencer Garth Trinidad



By Teryl Warren


Photo Credit: Kawai Matthews

We traveled from every part of the city to see her.  We filled every nook in the dark, smoky club on Sunset Boulevard.  We made small talk, sipped our cocktails and, as patiently as we could, we waited. It had been six years since we’d last seen her, and when her band finally began to play, we rose to our feet and welcomed Goapele back to the stage.

She was stunning – lean, tall and donning a simple off-the-shoulder black and gold sequined dress.  I looked around the club and marveled at how fitting the setting was for an intimate encounter with a sultry chanteuse whose beauty, elegance and pure vocals harkened back to the days when Horne and Holiday serenaded their captive audiences.

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Goapele was heralded in the early days as the heir apparent to the thrones of sensual songstresses like Erykah Badu and Sade.  But after launching her own independent label, Skyblaze, Goapele has firmly established herself as both an artist and a savvy businesswoman in her own right.

Photo Credit: Kawai Matthews

“When you own your own label, you really have to be involved in every aspect of the business,” she said.  “I’m a songwriter as well as a performer, and I also enjoy art direction.  I love being directly involved with every part of the creative process.”

Goapele is, as it turns out, as complex as she is talented.  While classically trained at Berklee College of Music, her music oozes a raw emotion that can only have come from living life out loud.  She seamlessly blends genres and moves effortlessly between her roles as an artist and as a business owner by keeping abreast of what’s current and leveraging the technology and resources that are available to her.

“The internet and social media have really leveled the playing field as far as artists being able to share their music.  It’s exciting and very empowering.”

It’s no surprise that Goapele would have a variety of interests as they relate to the business of making music.  The depth and breadth of her capabilities is apparent in the diversity of her music and, sometimes, in the variations of her vocals within the same track.  She is, in short, mesmerizing.

Whether wittingly or not, Goapele deftly leads listeners down a sensuous, melodic pathway and we gladly follow.  When she gently launched into the hit single “Play” from her new album, Break of Dawn, she seemed genuinely surprised that we were prepared to sing along. “You guys know the words?” she exclaimed.


She seamlessly transitioned from “Play” into a soulful, blues tune from the new album called “Tears On My Pillow” and she shyly asked us “Do you mind if I sing a little blues right now?”

As she eased into her signature song, “Closer” we literally drew nearer – to one another, and to her.  She is, all at once, sweet, demure, powerful and alluring.  Goapele is a goddess with childlike enthusiasm and an infectious joy that flows freely from her when she performs.

Offstage, Goapele was warm, engaging and poised as she graciously signed autographs and posed for a myriad of fan photos.  Shortly after her show, I sat down with her and I asked her about how she’d spent her time during her hiatus.

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it a hiatus,” she gently corrected.  “I took time off and started a family.”  She credits her daughter, who is now four, for being an integral part of her evolution as both an artist and a woman.

Photo Credit: Kawai Matthews

“Being a mother teaches you so much.  It’s made me more grounded, more responsible and taught me to live life more ‘in the moment.’”

On this, her third album, she says she made a conscious effort to leap outside her comfort zone and, in her words, be “more uninhibited.”

“I wanted to show more of my sexy side.  And on songs like “Money,” I’m singing stronger and harder than I have in the past.  I felt like on this album I could take a lot more chances.”

It seems as though those chances have paid off, because Goapele’s return to the limelight has been nothing short of triumphant. These days, her life is filled with moments that cover every end of the spectrum.  From tour dates to movie sets, she has reclaimed her spot at the forefront of the music world’s consciousness and the buzz in nearly deafening.

Just days before her Los Angeles show, she’d been in Detroit filming her cameo appearance in the much-anticipated reboot of the classic film Sparkle.

“It was amazing to see stars like Derek Luke and Carmen Ejogo on set. I was thrilled and honored to be a part of this because Sparkle is a film that celebrates wonderful music from the 1960’s era.  It’s iconic and important to women, to African-Americans and to music lovers.”

To hear more of Goapele’s new album Break of Dawn, please visit iTunes.


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