TH: Who are the musicians you work together with on your new EP? How did you get to know them, and how have they influenced you?
KC: There’s only one song on my EP that other people were present for; everything else I wrote by myself, in my room, in my apartment. And I brought it to other people to help it come alive, but yeah, everything starts with me. I’ve only been recording my EP with Steve McKie and Naz Ebo and myself. I’ll probably have some guests playing on my stuff – I’ve got Jermaine Holmes on a song with me, he is a Grammy Award-winning artist with D’Angelo and the Vanguard. But yeah, I try to keep everything really tucked in. (Omar’s Hat drummer) Austin Marlow has helped me write some stuff, as well as Eric Sherman. But outside of that, just for recording purposes, myself, Steve and Naz have been shaping everything. Because that’s the sound that I have on stage, that’s the sound I want to have on my record.
I met Steve because somebody used to drive me by his studio all the time and be like, “that’s Steve McKie’s studio,” so I’m like, “who is Steve McKie?!” And Hiruy Tirfe – we play together a lot, he also has a project coming out soon that I’m playing on – I was like, “yo, can you put me in touch with Steve McKie?” And so he did. I came by Steve’s studio one day, and the next thing you know I was at Steve’s every day. He was just telling me every little thing about recording and making music. And best believe I do my Googles, so I know he’s worked with everybody that I grew up listening to; he’s the reason why that sound is dominant the way it is in today’s music. So I’m just grateful I had the courage to even ask who he was and go find him myself, because now we’re here making all this dope-ass music and he plays a huge part in what my sound is today.
I’m thankful for that because one thing about Steve McKie, he is not gonna settle for anything that sounds bad. And neither will I. We have that understanding and that great relationship, and he’s a great big brother to me. I appreciate all that he does for me on the music side. He also has his own stuff coming out that is incredible, and I can’t wait to see him being awesome doing his thing.
The fall of 2021 was when we first started kicking it and getting cool. It was fresh off the pandemic, and honestly, he gave me somewhere that I could record and just be. I was going through a lot of bulls*** at the time with relationships and all of that. And this is when I was living in New Jersey, I was coming from Camden all the way to Steve’s studio just to be there: Pine Studios, on 48th & Pine. I’d be there all night and day; there were some days I just emotionally didn’t even want to go home. And I had a place to go because he would just let me be there. He would leave me in there; he would go home and I would just stay. And I appreciate him because now I have music that’s ready for the world, you know?
I’m pretty sure I met Naz through Yesseh Ali, because that makes the most sense. The day I met Naz, that was probably the same day we were like – locked in. We’ve gotten super close over the past year just because he’s been playing a lot of music with me. Naz is such a great guy, he’s an amazing player, and a lot of people don’t know that he plays bass! I picked up on that sh*t because nobody knew. I need him in my band while nobody knows that he f**ks up the bass. Naz is one of one. And now we’re here, we got a li’l crazy trio between myself, him and Steve, we just get up there and we hit it. No questions asked. They’re both amazing drummers so they have that language between them already, so there’s a lot of things I don’t have to worry about when I’m on stage with them.
I met [Omar’s Hat saxophonist] Yesseh [Furaha-Ali] my first night in Philly ever, which was May 2019; it was at a jam session. My professor Jojo Streater, who teaches in Camden, he told me to come this little shed with him that was gonna be in West Philly. I showed up and that night I met Yesseh Ali, I met Austin Marlow, I met Max Hoenig, I met Eric Sherman, Ajay Shughart; I met everybody in Omar’s Hat who would later be my band, they would be my bandmates. And that’s kinda scary that I met all those people that night, my first real night being out in the scene. And what’s more funny is that Orion Sun performed that night as well – so who knew that I would be on tour with her a couple years later? This was at what used to be known as District 38, now they call it the Friend Zone, owned by Josh Thomas.
Black Buttafly | photos by Victoria Wilcox
TH: I want to talk more about the music on your upcoming EP. Can you describe the experiences that inspired the lyrics on “Imagine”?
KC: The experience really just comes from people assuming things about me, who don’t even know me and don’t know what I’m capable of doing. I grew up heavy on faith in a Christian household, went to church every Sunday, and they teach you about literally believing in the thing before it comes to life. You have to have faith in order to even make something happen; you gotta have the mentality, act like it’s already awarded to you, already available to you. So, I definitely wrote the song in that spirit. I’m big on visuals; I’m a very visual person when it comes to who I want to be, how I want to be able to give back to people of my kind and where I come from. And I take that stuff super serious, because just changing how you think about stuff could really change your life, and how you wake up and approach your days and approach your tasks. All that stuff changes when you have something in mind about where you want to be, and how you want to be able to be available to other people, and use your gifts to open more doors, to have access to more things to share with other people. That’s my biggest thing.
I feel like I also really took a risk because I was being real about a lot of sh*t. Because people always do assume that it’s something for a female to sit down at a keyboard, a bass, anything. They don’t know. They don’t view us on the same level all the time, and it’s not even something they do on purpose, that’s how the industry is. There have been a lot of moments, growing up as a young Black woman who plays music, in the form of production, singing, songwriting, and playing other instruments, that’s not a regular thing for people to see. And a lot of the time I write music, I just want to know why. Why do we feel like this is not possible?
So, I definitely try to debunk that. Because if you close your eyes, regardless of whether you know me or not, you’re not going to see a woman, or a man, or anything – you’re just gonna hear music. You’re gonna hear music that’s bright, that has feel to it, that’s from somebody’s heart, and that’s all that matters to me at the end of the day. I just wanted to take time to talk about how that sh*t doesn’t even matter. So let’s dead that now, before I start something. This is the standard of music. It doesn’t matter that I’m a female. But the message is very positive; I still wrote it in a positive spirit because this is also a manifestation for me. This song is a manifesto. It’s sealing the deal on what I said I wanted to be, and what I’m gonna do in my life, in my career with music. And I don’t take that lightly; I feel like I have a responsibility in my generation of young musicians to say the hard sh*t. And that’s the most important thing to talk about in your music; you can definitely believe that a person is gonna play music wanting to be touched by something. And why not share truth? In those few minutes that you have to really reach somebody, while they’re choosing to listen to your song.
TH: How do you plan to perform this new music live? Will the show sound similar to the EP, or different?
KC: It might sound different but it’s definitely gonna sound better; everything sounds better when it’s live and bigger, especially when you have people like Steve and Naz playing. But typically, I have bigger bands when the budget makes sense for that to happen, and when the moment calls for that. Typically I’m playing with Quintin Zoto on guitar, Yesseh Ali [on tenor saxophone] and Michael Spearman [on trombone]. We’re playing on April 14th at Milkboy opening up for Braxton Cook. I’m really excited for that show because I met Braxton Cook– I met him on a session at Time, I think it was Max Hoenig’s session, and Braxton dropped in. Then we stayed in touch and he hit me up like, “I would love for you to open the show.”
TH: What will you be working on the next few months after the EP is out? Anything you are able to share?
KC: Yeah, I would love to share. I’ll have more Black Buttafly gigs after April but that’s all stuff we’re still planning. And I’ll be working on a beat tape to come out for my birthday in November, in between the EP and my album. I want my album to come out a year after this single, which was in March. I really want to be able to take my time with this album because I feel like a lot of great things can happen in between then and now that will connect all the dots I need to get my album sounding what I need it to sound like. I’d like it to be a little experimental, not steering away from what my EP sounds like now but just adding to that sound, and finding new things to talk about. Also, just having other minds involved. When it comes to the actual sound, I know I want all my stuff to be run through tape machines; I really want to get the warmest, tightest sounds possible for my album. And yeah, more guitars – you can never have enough guitars. [Laughs]
I also just won a grant through WXPN, WRTI and REC Philly called the Black Music City grant, and they awarded me a great budget to record my first instrumental project, which will be in the likeness and inspiration of Shirley Scott and Trudy Pitts– Hammond B-3 legends, also Black women. That’s what I’m gearing up to do while the EP is doing its thing. And I have Ari Hoenig who’s down to come help me out with this, and Lenny White. Lenny White’s one of my great mentors, we talk every week about music and life, and I actually just went up to see him last week; we were talking about what I want this project to sound like. He’s helping me executive produce this project, so I’m excited to have him get down to Philly and be in the room.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Black Buttafly’s new EP comes out in May, and her single “Imagine” came out in March. The band playsMilkBoy Friday, April 14th with Braxton Cook and City Winery Sunday, April 23rd with Gene Noble.