On Saturday, August 20, the Local Show’s Artists to Watch event will feature 10 of my favorite up-and-coming acts in Minnesota performing across two stages at the Cedar Cultural Center. As we gear up for the showcase, you’ll be hearing from the performers in segments on the Local Show and here on the Local Current Blog.
I first saw Lady Midnight performing in the Afro-Cuban band Malamanya, and shortly afterwards caught her singing with the sultry electro-pop group VANDAAM. In both cases, I was mesmerized by her presence on stage. Regardless of the style of music she’s playing or the language of her lyrics, Lady Midnight holds court with what can only be described as a vibe; she emanates calmness and confidence, like she is truly centered when she is on stage surrounded by music.
Although she’s been active in the Twin Cities for years, now is the time to turn our attention toward Lady Midnight’s abilities as a solo artist. She’s started releasing new music at a promising clip, including a new single produced by ZULUZULUU’s MMYYKK; a short mixtape-style EP that features a cameo from Maria Isa and reimaginings of songs by Beyonce and Anderson Paak; and a sweet summer jam called “Wax Line” that she created with the producer Afrokeys that hints at a bolder, poppier new direction.
Andrea Swensson: To get people caught up, let’s talk first about your background — you’ve been in a lot of different kinds of projects over the years.
Lady Midnight: I’m St. Paul born and raised, West Side for life. I’ll claim that forever. I initially started doing music through a band called Malamanya, and that is an Afro-Cuban band that’s still playing out a lot, they’re amazing. They’re with a different vocalist right now. But I was with them for about four years. And kind of simultaneously, I also joined a group called VANDAAM. And that is an electronic trio with a couple different producers, Adept and sloslylove, based out of Eau Claire. And other than that I’ve done different collaborative projects with people on compilation discs or conceptual projects. I’m kind of just available and willing to make work, all the time.
That’s something I’m really intrigued about; you’ve worked with so many different people. What do you look for in a collaborator?
What really draws me to a collaborator is their vibe. I really have to respect them as a human being, number one. And then I have to agree with their message or what they’re putting out. It doesn’t necessarily have to be conscious, but it does have to sit well with my values. How I was raised was to always be impeccable with your words, so if I’m putting my face out there or I’m putting my words out there, I want to make sure that it’s something I can back up.
That makes sense. It’s such an intimate thing to make art with somebody; you’d want to have that level of trust.
It’s like dating. It’s built off of chemistry, and it’s also, how much of yourself do you show? And how [many] compromises do you make? And when can you go in? Like, I would equate that to the first kiss. [laugh] Or more than that. But it’s just a magical time when it happens, when it synthesizes.
One song we’ve been playing is “Wax Line,” which is a collaboration with Afrokeys. Tell me more about that project.
Yes! We have a project that will be coming out this fall; a five-song EP that we’re working on. That project started when he hit me up, he was really just looking to expand his repertoire and work with specific singers whose message and vibe he supported. So we got together last fall, and did a couple tunes, a couple jams, and realized that we had really good chemistry together. These songs felt special, in the sense that they were familiar, but also new. I almost felt that there was some type of opening that happened to the creative divine pipeline, where we just started creating all this work.
Tell me more about what people can expect at this Cedar Cultural Center show.
A variety. I think I’m one of probably many artists who are difficult to define as a genre. I play a lot of – I make music with a lot of different producers, a lot of different musicians; I come with a background in Afro-Cuban music, hip-hop, pop, R&B, experimental; so I don’t necessarily know how to describe what you’re going to hear when you see my set, but I think in the end, what you should feel, and I what I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll feel, is really good vibes, and a connection that opens you up to yourself and to other people.
That sounds super intriguing, and lines up really well with my vision for this showcase: You may not know what you’re going to get, you may not know all these acts yet, but if you come with an open mind I guarantee you’re going to have a good time.