Exploring Life, Love, and Family Through Song

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 14:25

An Interview with Aja Graydon of Kindred the Family Soul

by: Casey Pukl

I have to admit, this interview may be one of the most interesting ones I’ve done yet from a completely personal perspective. Any time you get to speak to someone who is as open about their personal struggles as these two incredible musicians are, you’re bound to gain a new perspective on your own life and relationships. With that said, I hope that you all enjoy reading this interview just as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

Kindred the Family Soul is a husband and wife duo made up of former solo artists Aja Graydon and Fatin Dantzler. Their latest album is titled Love Has No Recession, and the concept is certainly something that many of us can relate to. Kindred has long been known for their deep grooves and conversational lyrics, and their latest album is no exception. The record explores their personal struggles as a family trying to make it through one of the most difficult financial periods of our time. Needless to say, it’s intimate. I had the opportunity to chat openly with Aja about her and Fatin’s journey through the music business, and just how they maintain a balance between their career and their family. Read on to hear about how they work together, what inspired their latest record, and how they explore their personal struggles.

CP: How did you and Fatin start working together? 

AG: Fatin and I started working together in New York. I was a solo artist at the time, and he was paired with me to write some songs for myself. That’s how our official meeting kind of took place. We officially started working together after everything kind of changed. We were running in the same music circles, and then we started to see each other and date. Then we ended up getting married, we had a child (laughs), and it was after all that time that we decided to go back to doing music! We had really gotten into trying to just be a family and being married, and about less than a year after we got married, my husband was fired from the job he had. That was when he realized that the straight gig wasn’t really his thing; it’s not really either one of our things. So that was when he said we should try to do music and the family thing too. That’s how we began writing together as the group. But before that, we had known each other for about a year and a half. We were part of the same scene.

Kindred really spawned out of trying to get away from the music business (laughs)!

CP: (Laughs) Isn’t it funny how that sort of thing works out? 

AG: Exactly! It pulled us back in! It’s just like The Godfather (laughs).

CP: You can never leave (laughs)!

AG: Exactly!

CP: You guys clearly had a great connection from the beginning. What’s the writing process like for you?

AG: Well, when we started out, we didn’t have a real process at first. Now, I think we have a rhythm together. The writing really begins with music. We usually have worked with several different producers over the years who have really become mainstays in what we’re doing. Either one of us can come up with what becomes the strong driving idea for the song. So that can happen with either he or I. Then usually the other person comes in with what the counter perspective is of whatever that subject matter is. That’s why our music comes off as kind of conversational. It’s always really exploring the attitude and opinion of both people quite thoroughly.

CP: Do you find yourselves working through personal issues in your family or marriage through writing these songs?

AG: All the time. We have discussed so many different aspects of our relationship and the changes and the growth, different obstacles we’ve run up against, all of that is in our music. The large portion of our music is based on our challenges as a couple and as a family. Even the first song we really became popular for, a song called “Far Away”, was a song about being in a new marriage and becoming new parents. It’s about having your relationship change from a love affair to something different. It’s about really trying to recapture the love affair aspect of your relationship after you’ve had children and gotten settled in. That was one of the first songs we ever put out, and it was all about our challenges. I think that’s really what’s resonated with people over the years— that ability to just put it all out on the line.

CP: It’s so unique that not only are you both so open with each other about your issues, but you’re open about them in such a public manner.

AG: You know what’s funny? We never really planned it that way, but I guess you write what you know. You write about your experiences. Fatin and I always felt a little bit more comfortable writing about our experiences, and so as the experiences were changing, so was the music. I guess we never thought of ourselves as doing anything unique or special until the feedback came. People would say things like, “I’ve been there,” or, “I’ve never heard a song about that before, but I’m going through the same thing.” Then it hit us that we did do something unique. It helps our relationship, and it’s very therapeutic for us. In the music business, it can be quite tough, so the fact that the music does touch a very personal place with people, it really encourages us to keep going through any difficulty that the business can throw at you.

CP: Your latest record, “Love Has No Recession”, seems to deal with that a bit. How did that record get started? 

AG: Well, the process of the album came about through a lot of personal turmoil. There was a lot of economic turmoil going on, and we know people who were suffering some very real challenges. They were losing long-term jobs, some were losing their homes, and for us, the entertainment business by nature is not something that people need by necessity. There was a decline in work in our arena, so as a family, we had to regroup and make a lot of changes. So it was a time where there were so many things happening to other people and us, and it just seemed like there was no way we could write a record and not address it. It literally was the reality we were living in at the time. We were so strong through our changes, and we were seeing a lot of other couples strengthening through the changes through what should be a really devastating time. So we decided to write about the idea that love conquers all, but we didn’t want to write it in a flighty way that people don’t believe because it sounds trite. It’s really true. Your close relationships really can’t be taken away from you. You can lose your job, your home, your money, but what you feel about yourself and your loved ones cannot be stripped from you. Today, we have to learn how to reconnect with the intangible things. When we do come up against losing material things and wealth, we need to learn how to not fall into losing it all. We felt that the record was timely.

CP: Definitely— I think everyone has been affected. 

AG: At this point, I think everyone has heard the term, “recession” so many times, but when we started the record, it was still new. Now everyone is familiar with it, but I do still think people understand where we were coming from with it.

CP: For sure. Since you and Fatin are so committed to being a family and involving your family in everything you do, are your kids musical?

AG: Yes, the kids are very musical. Music is around us all the time. I wouldn’t say we have anyone in the house right now that wants to be a singer, but we all enjoy singing together. We talk about a lot of different music, and we listen to a lot. The kids enjoy dabbling in our life, but they don’t want full parts of it. My older kids are just becoming aware of what it is that we do. My daughter just told me she was at school on computer free time when she and her friends Googled us (laughs). It was neat to find out that she was proud of what we do. 

CP: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

AG: We are touring currently, working straight through the summer. We’ll be everywhere. We’ll be doing the Essence festival this year, and we’ll really be all over. We’re still out working, and we’ll be premiering the 4th season of our web series soon called, “Six Is It”. It’s about our family and the dynamic between work and family.

We’re also working on another project that’s more on the theatrical side. We’re currently in project with now. We’re actually thinking about getting started on a new record, but we’re really quite happy with this album, so we’re going to keep pushing it for a little while. We’re just happy doing us right now. We’re always around. 

We just featured a new video for this album actually! Our new video is for track 7, “Authentically You”. The video is on Youtube, our website, all that stuff. It’s somewhat of a departure from what we normally do, but it’s really fun and upbeat. 

Special thanks to Aja for her time! Don’t miss out on this incredible couple March 29th! Tickets can be purchased at the link below!

Kindred the Family Soul on Spotify

WHAT: Kindred the Family Soul
WHEN: Thursday, March 29, 7:30 & 9:30 pm
TICKETS: $10-$47 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile