A lot of people in the African-American community are raised by grandmothers, and that relationship is a special bond and circle.
I call myself a singer-songwriter influenced by the gospel and jazz tradition. Naturally, because of my lifestyle and love for nature, there's a lot of folk and Americana there because that's just my life.
I have no ancestral link to the mountains. But I really do feel close to mountain culture. Their ways of food, of thinking. The way they hang out with no recording devices and just sing songs with each other.
Whoever is playing with me, they participate in the arrangement; I learned from Craig Street to really pool the stories and the skill and the voices of everybody around you on the bandstand to build an arrangement in the moment.
My father was very strict, a very militant parent, because he wanted us to be very focused kids. He sold the televisions, so we didn't watch TV. And he didn't want any music playing that wasn't gospel or inspirational music. In fact, he didn't even like a lot of gospel because he thought it was too bluesy.
The whole musical institution of the church involves a lot of different styles of communication at the same time. Things like call and response. Sometimes they use the music to pray and work things out. And there's so much repetition in gospel, it's like churning butter.
I didn't wait around for my parents' opinion about my venture out into contemporary music.
Singing in church is a very different approach to music. It's very much about transcending the idea of self. It's about finding something greater that connects all of us. Gospel music is about tapping into that.
My mom has a couple great tricks, but my father is consistently a good cook. He's extremely avid about health and fitness and a bit obsessive. He always talks about garden-fresh food.
I come from a lineage of ministers.
I'm a real Otis Redding fan, and I just think he sounds so good. He sounds like he's always at the end of a long day, and he just won't give up. I just love his wearied devotion - that beautiful, beautiful, weathered sound.
If we work on it, we can absolutely refuse any notion that suggests that after generations of contributing to this country, being a part of the bones and the marrow, that I'm supposed to be uncomfortable here.
I studied opera for a year at Georgia State University, but I wasn't interested in that meticulous, technical approach to music. So I left school and went back to jazz.
Music is primal: when it's done without pretension, you can really feel the shape of someone's soul.
'Salt' is like this snapshot in midair, an action shot. It's about my relationship with the church, the classical and choral music that I dealt with in school, and my new introduction to jazz. It's very hard for me to listen to from beginning to end, because I hear how lost I was.
I'd listen to the radio, especially when my parents were out on house calls to pray for people - you know, shut-ins. Sometimes, if we were incredibly sneaky, we could do it at night when everyone was asleep.
I've always been genuinely interested in the spirit world. I've seen things I will never talk about because I'd be a fool to. You can't lay out that world in words.
There's a beautiful, kind of seductive trap in being autobiographical in our writing of songs: We just get stuck in our own syrup, and it's so personal that it almost can be embarrassing to the listener.