Brielle | phot by Curt Soul | courtesy of artist
How Brielle became Philly’s flute bae
Philadelphia is the home of many soulful songbirds, but one songbird from West Philly decided to add that soul into her flute. Singer / flautist Brielle is that song bird. Projects like The Rough Breakup, Flight and her recent album IKYDGAF (I Know Y’all Don’t Give a Fuck) show how she’s been able to gain the ears of listeners from Philadelphia all the way to Los Angeles creating melodies by combining her passionate voice with the soothing sounds of her flute for the past nine years. As she gets ready to perform at an open mic event The Juice Jam Friday night at 10 p.m., I got a chance to sit and talk to Brielle and reminisce about the journey that her flute and voice have taken her.
TK: So when did the West Philly girl from Overbrook become Flute Bae?
Brielle: [laughs] The evolution of Flute Bae, You’ve known me for a long time, so you already know.
TK: Yeah man, every time I saw you at James‘ crib making music, you always had your flute case by your side.
Brielle: Facts! I don’t, I started playing flute in fourth grade, and I think around the time we met, around 2010 and 2011, I realized I had to incorporate the flute in my art in some type of way. Honestly it’s weird everyone is saying “Oh I use to play the flute,” and I finished their sentence “In middle school” and they be like “Yeah.” No one ever sticks with it, except for me and Lizzo I guess.
I don’t really know, I guess it wasn’t something I decided to pick back up because I realized it was going to add value to myself as an artist, and I’m glad I did because it really has become a part of who I am. I sing through my flute now and I never thought that would happen, but now I can sing a melody in my head and express it with my flute. The growth of it too, learning how to incorporate it in my music without overpowering the music.
TK: I read that your godmothers are Natalie Cole and Phyllis Hyman. Did any of those legendary singers help shape you to the artist you are now?
Brielle: Natalie helped me with stage presence because when I was young, my dad used to drive me out to Atlantic City to get on stage with her and do my thing and that really helped me express myself and feel comfortable around an audience. As far as Phyllis, God rest her soul, she died when I was like really young, so my memories of her are very brief. But when hear people in the music industry tell me stories about her I feel our personalities are similar. She was very direct, a very masculine energy, very assertive, just a power presence. The difference between her and I is that she had more trouble engaging with women because of her masculine energy, I think she was a little misunderstood. So for me when I did my art collective Women Are The Water of the Evolution, I’ve been able to connect a little bit more with women than her.
TK: I remember writing about your first project The Rough Breakup and found out that it was a bunch of rough mixes that were left after a producer stole a bunch of material from an album originally called The Cycles of Lyfe. What was that experience like?
Brielle: That’s crazy, wow we going back! I think at that time, I do not remember the conversation I had or who it was with, I think it might have been my best friend. But basically I was so distraught, I think it was her because we all went to school with the guy who stole my music, and I was like “Yo, this is the third time this has happened. What should I do?” And he was like “You should just call that jawn The Rough Breakup and put out the rough mixes because why not? It’s a part of the story, it’s a part of what makes the music authentic.” That was testament to my passion as an artist because I don’t know if I would do that now, you know what I mean? Because of the quality of music I’m making now.
TK: You bet on yourself and came up big afterwards. You were doing a lot shows in the city then moved out to California. I think that’s when you made “Mangos.”
Brielle: So I moved to Oakland in 2015 and that’s how “Mangos” came about, and it’s just funny with that song I didn’t promote it or do anything special. We made it and five days later we put it out, I was throwing an event and was like “Fuck it, why don’t we just put this shit out?”Next thing I knew I’m looking back at it and seeing it get mad likes, comments and listens. We didn’t even try and I think that’s been the best thing for me as an artist is to not try and be more of myself. Like even when I put out The Rough Break Up I’ve always been myself, never really tried to be anyone but myself but I think I’ve put this film over myself in certain situations to dim my light a little bit to give people less, when in reality I should’ve just been the goofy person that I am so you see a lot more of that in my artistry, and I think “Mangos” was the beginning of that.
TK: So taking the film off helps take pressure off of you?
Brielle: Yeah and just putting music out and not worrying about who’s receptive to it and who’s not, especially when I know who my audience is. My last project that I put out in is called I Know Y’all Don’t Give a Fuck, right? So that project says it all, there’s so much content all the time, not even just music but in the world, and we’re just clicking on stuff all day long. So the point of that project was I know y’all don’t really give a fuck, so I’m just going to put it out anyway and I’m still going to feel great about myself because it’s in the world.
TK: interesting because I heard IKYDGAF before I heard Flight and it was interesting because I saw that you released it last winter, is that right?
Brielle: It came out in November, my stepdad had passed.
TK: I’m sorry to hear that.
Brielle: Thank you. I wasn’t going to put that album out at all, those songs came out because of that.
TK: That’s crazy, because to me it felt like you brought Philly’s cold winter to California with that album. With IKYDGAF it feels like a carefree vibe, you really out hear just doing what you want to do so I look at that as an attitude meant for the summer.
Brielle: Exactly. So I guess yeah, I didn’t even think about it that way, my music is seasonal. What’s crazy is that those songs on that Flight project was a compilation of music for the year from shit I was going through. Not a lot of people know this, but last March I got a call that my stepdad had a terminal illness, that he wasn’t going to be here much longer, and that my dad had Parkinson’s. Back to back calls, so I was floored, sitting in my friends’ back yard so emotional and I really struggle with being an emotional person because of the business I’m in. That project really helped me tap into myself more, because I felt like I was on a clock. I knew my stepdad was going to die soon. So the last song on the project I recorded in London, my boy from Philly had the beat and literally I got back here I played it for bro and he died a day later. It was crazy because we didn’t really have a relationship like that but when I played him the song he was like “I was really nauseous, but now I feel so well and peaceful,” so I just put the project out when he passed. I just did it with purpose and I was nervous because I didn’t know if it would translate because it was so R&B, so neo soul, and I’m not doing that anymore.
TK: I saw on Soundcloud you have the project categorized as alternative R&B, but when I listen to “Amy Winehouse” it has a bop that sounds like something from the 90’s. I also read that Amy is one of the artists who has influenced your foundation. What are some things from her that you added to it?
Brielle: Seeing her story and journey as an artist and not sabotaging myself. I’m a sabotage queen when it comes to my personal relationships, so like watching her story, being a big fan of hers and seeing all of the documentaries about her these past couple of years, I use her as an example to grow and spread my wings. That’s why I put that on Flight because it’s all about transforming and elevating. Also, just her ability to just be herself, even though she was self sabotaging she didn’t give a fuck, she was totally herself. She came to any event wearing jeans and little white tee, her make up was everywhere, and even though she was a mess she would still get on stage and sing better than half of these other bitches. It was just some real raw talent, being raw and being real.
TK: You were using personal voicemails as skits on Flight. How do you get a willingness to be as raw open as possible in the studio?
Brielle: Life experience, man. When you caught me with The Rough Breakup I was really trying to figure it out. Do this this way, do that that way and now I’m just like “Fuck it,” because I’ve seen and been through enough shit. People have to feel you, you can be talented as fuck and be an amazing singer, but it doesn’t really matter if people don’t feel you, know what I mean? I think I had just got to that place in my life throughout all my struggles and experiences.
TK: That’s real. I love the producers that you’ve worked with but the one that stood out the most to me was Kayin, because he produced on both Flight and IKYDGAF.
Brielle: He from Philly! So bro and I would run into each other all over the city, he would always be on his bike and we would both be like “Hey,” and that was that for four like four years. He used to live with Bets from Ill Fated Natives and one day I came over was like “Bro we finally gotta make music,” and we did just that. We made “10,000 Hrs.”on Ikydgaf, like he’s just got a special pocket.
TK: He does, I I liked that song because it sound like you sprinkled a little Philly soul over Los Angeles and it’s ironic that the sound came from a producer from Philly.
Brielle: The next project that I’m going to put out, the whole thing is literally produced by this kid from Philly called Cloud Atrium and it’s probably the most cohesive sounding body of work that I’ve done. It’s so raw and I’m excited! It’s a visual project about mental health and I think if you liked that sound from “10,000 Hrs,” then you’re going to like this project.
TK: That’s dope to hear. You know what I like about your music as well as many musicians coming from Philly is how soulfully raw your music can be. I think the soul that comes from a gritty environment is what makes the world so attracted to music that comes from this city. You’ve traveled and performed in different places in this world, what is it to you about the music from your city that differs from other places that you’ve been?
Brielle: Great question. Well my favorite artists from here who’s just raw, different and organic where it feels like we’re in a different time bubble is Tierra Whack. She’s the perfect example, putting out a visual project that made people think. Love her or hate her — and I think that’s what I love about Philly. They either going to love you or hate you, I don’t think there’s a lot of in between but it’s appreciated, you know what I mean? And I like how the artists here are making a lane for themselves and sticking to that and being genuine to that, because it really shows people what Philadelphia is like if you’ve never been here.
Brielle Aprilfoolchild Flute Bae plays The Juice Jam in West Philadelphia; more information can be found here.