by The People’s Minister of Information JR
This Sunday Yoshi’s in Oakland will be hosting Richmond songstress Deja Bryson to grace the stage. From the same Bay Area as colleagues Ledisi and Keisha Cole, this niece of the great ‘80s and ‘90s crooner Peabo Bryson is set to make a name for herself without standing in anyone’s shadow.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell people, when was the moment in your life when you knew you wanted to become a professional singer?
Deja Bryson: I never really had that moment. I always wanted to sing. I’ve never thought of or been inspired to be or do anything else. I was the kid at home watching Jody Watley videos singing into a brush as a pretend microphone when I was 5. I remember going to a ton of concerts from a very, very young age.
M.O.I. JR: What is it like being the niece of the very famous crooner Peabo Bryson in the record industry? How does being from Richmond affect your songwriting and singing?
Deja Bryson: It’s a lot of pressure from people who see him as the famous crooner Peabo Bryson. The expectation is that I at least reach where he left off – that we make the same music and have the same image.
The questions of his involvement never cease to exist. The comments always come. Some people find out we’re related and they say, “Wow, that’s amazing.” Some people could care less. It’s been a very draining aspect of my life in the sense of expectations.
On the contrary of that perspective, it’s a lot of fun being the niece of Uncle Peabo, the person. We share a lot in common, we think alike. We have a really good understanding of each other and, most recently, I’ve learned to love him as the person more than the artist.
Through this relationship with him, I’ve learned to look at a person, no matter their status, and understand that they are human and to lose the concept of celebrity worship that so many of us are consumed with today.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us about your sophomore album, “The Revolution”? How does it sound different from your debut? Are you afraid of the sophomore jinx?
Deja Bryson: Making this project has been a lot of fun. That’s the biggest difference. The first go, I was very concerned with what people liked and what was current. I was very inhibited.
And every new thing you do as an artist, it has different levels of evolution. So each new song I think just goes higher and higher and, as the creator, your last song will never be as good as the one you love right now.
This time, I went into my home studio where I’m most comfortable and I just did things that made me feel good. I got to get into that place that happens when you’re all alone and no one’s watching and you can fly.
Most of the music is all live too and so the feel is so much more reactive. The place I am in life is always reflected in my music and I look back afterwards and say wow, this is what I’ve been dealing with. So you’re definitely going to get a real playback of my life for the past few years.
I’m not afraid of the sophomore jinx ‘cause I don’t even know what that is. Lol. All I know is, all business to the side, I just love to create, sing and perform music. Everything else I just trust will fall into place. Like I said, this passion chose me.
M.O.I. JR: You have a date at Yoshi’s coming up soon. What can we expect for you to do there? Who will be performing with you?
Deja Bryson: This Yoshi’s show is all about vocal performance. Every show is a challenge to outdo the last show. I’m trying to reach a new peak each time. Each show I wanna give more Deja. Not Deja, the girl with the big hair and make-up, but the Deja that feels these feelings to write and create. The true and authentic Deja.
So I’m hoping to showcase myself in that way and sing my heart out. I’ll be sharing the stage with a host of wonderful musicians. And also a singer by the name of Dejuan Love who is reminiscent of Luther Vandross.
M.O.I. JR: What is your perspective on the Bay’s soul, R&B and rock scenes? Who are the artists that interest you?
Deja Bryson: I think the Bay Area is full of talent. And home is the place to hone your skills and get better. So I think we’re very supportive of each other in that aspect. Some artists I like from out here would be Thomas Pridgens, who drums for his international rock band, The Memorials. And I really like Locksmith because he’s from Richmond and he’s like a Bay Area Nas.
M.O.I. JR: For people who have never heard of you, how would you describe your voice and songwriting?
Deja Bryson: It’s so difficult to accurately describe my sound because art is such an eye-of-the-beholder thing. However, some of my influences are Aretha Franklin, Peabo, Ron Isley, Marvin Gaye, TLC, Jay-Z and SWV. I love background vocals so I try to use them as often as possible.
My most dominant genre is Soul. But I love R&B and I love a good Rock song. Electric guitar is my favorite instrument. I love Rhodes; I love stacked harmonies. I like content-driven music. My music has mainly been about empowerment, but I’m venturing into a more subservient stage in life, so it’s actually mellowing down and becoming a little bit more sweet and feminine for lack of better words.
M.O.I. JR: How could people stay online with you?
Deja Bryson: You can find me on Instagram or Twitter @dejabryson. My website has all my social media info and links. It’s www.iloveyoudeja.com.
The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every other Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.