Q&A with Houston based, Keeshea Pratt - possesses the skill and artistry reminiscent of old school Motown

"Music has always and continues to be a universal language. At my shows and the festivals we’ve played you can see people of all nationalities, religions, age, ethnicity and class grooving and moving together. And for those few minutes, we are what we were intended to be… humans-loving individuals. "

Keeshea Pratt: (We) Believe (Her)

Singing since the age of six, Keeshea Pratt has shared the stage with several notable national figures including bluesman Bobby Rush, Eddie Cotton, opera singer Grace Bumbry, soul singer Musiq Soulchild, and gospel icon the late Reverend James Moore. Pratt has accomplished what few Mississippi based singers before her has ever achieved: The ability to attract fans from all walks of life without ever straying from the intricate roots that nurtured her awarding winning voice in the first place. About Keeshea Pratt - Keeshea face closeup looking directly at cameraAbout Keeshea Pratt – Keeshea face close-up looking directly at camera Pratt’s impressive musical range and undeniable charisma changed the landscape of local entertainment by displaying the kind of vocal immediacy and vulnerability possessed by few singers and leaving you wanting more. There has been an elite array of influences with unique sounds and styles that has cultivated Pratt’s alluring and spirited presentation. She’s an artist that appreciates all genres and refuses to be put in a box, and her connection with her audience allows her to tap into whatever their mood is and render an offering of shear vocal pleasure.

Her road to the top of her musical game in Jackson has been filled with the type of conviction that now causes a younger generation to look to her as a musical influence. The Blues Foundation out of Memphis, TN crowned Keeshea as the Queen of the 2018 International Blues Challenge (IBC) on January 21, 2018 as the 34th annual edition of the blues competition wrapped up at downtown Memphis’ Orpheum Theatre with Pratt and her brass-heavy Texas ensemble taking home 1st place in the best band category. The Keeshea Pratt Band, a little over 8 months old, went to Memphis and left a mark that will forever be talked about. The Keeshea Pratt Band released their brand new album “Believe” (2018). The Houston based, award winning Keeshea Pratt Band possesses the skill and artistry reminiscent of old school Motown; a rarity among bands of any genre today. The 8-piece, musical collective lends its energy and passion to traditional blues, contemporary blues and offers a prevue to the future of blues. The musical artistry and dexterity of The Keeshea Pratt Band allows it to journey unapologetically across the genres of classical, jazz, Southern rock, soul, gospel, and country and back again. Keeshea Pratt is the siren featured on the microphone with soaring and soulful lead Mississippi inspired vocals. Houston, Texas' Mayor -where Keeshea lives- will named the June of 15, 2018: "The Keeshea Pratt Day"!

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues, Gospel and Soul people and culture?

I learn that I can survive and overcome anything. The Blues was born out of struggle. Gospel born out of pain. Soul born from the survival of that pain and struggle. The people and the culture are a tale of America...of African Americans…how to build something, make something out of the very least and make it beautiful and useful.

What does the blues mean to you?

Freedom/Release… I can take everything happening in my life and put them in this music. I can release the pain, unhappiness. I can express the joy, and happiness in this music. Falling in love, its in the blues. Falling out of love its in the blues. My empowerment..its in the blues. 

How has the Blues and Gospel influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

My world has always been through the lens of music. I can relate almost every major event in my life, my family to music...to a song. The influence in my view of the world is that there are tragedies that happen but the human spirit still survives. I come from a very spiritual family. Gospel is my foundation. When I need peace—I go to gospel. When there are world events that shake my belief in this world- in these humans—Gospel helps me see the good in the people. 

How do you describe your band's songbook and sound?

Diverse. I think our band, our songbook and our sound can appeal to a wide range of people. We have songs from the Mississippi Delta, Texas blues, rock, and we can easily shift across genres.

Where does your creative drive come from?

My life experiences. My reality, from what I’m living day to day, the joy, the love, the disappointment, contentment, the shame, the heartache, the pain, the survival and exhilaration of truly living.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences?

Bobby Rush: he has so much knowledge about the industry and life experiences. He’s like my blues father. Eddie Cotton-he made me realize I had a place in the blues. He helped me own that space. Shawn Allen: he makes me dig deeper than I ever thought I could. He pulls things out of me I never knew where there.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

In Business, there are no feelings. Business is business and B.S. is B.S-

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I performed a jazz number- Summertime- with this group of young musicians. It was amazing to see these young men and women performing this music and doing it well. That’s what we need preserving the jazz and the blues. It inspires me and makes me proud to know there are these young people who will carry this on. I met B.B King in 2009. I had the opportunity to sit and talk with him. He told me I would go far because I know who I am.  I think about the words he said to me on a daily basis. I have to remember who I am… who I am in this business and never forget who I am in this music and that allows me to be who the fans need me to be.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past?

The originality. The camaraderie. The energy of it all. 

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I have too many hopes to list here. But I hope for a bright future for our children, my children, yours… our nation. I hope my band which is my family, that their dreams and aspirations come true. I hope to leave a legacy through my music. I hope to provide opportunities for other women in music like those before have done for me. I have no fear. Fear is not of God. I leave all those concerns with Him. KPB would not be where we are if we operated from a position of fear.

What has made you laugh from the 2018 International Blues Challenge in Memphis?

The IBC was an emotional roller coaster. There were some major obstacles...the weather being one. Just getting to Memphis was a challenge since an ice/snow storm and blanketed Texas Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee. We weren’t sure if were going to be able to get out in front of it to get to Memphis. Many of our fans traveling from Houston weren’t able to get to Memphis. Our saxophonist Dan Carpenter was very sick. He fought through and I was so worried about him. I look back on that time and think about the gospel song “how I got over”.

"I learn that I can survive and overcome anything. The Blues was born out of struggle. Gospel born out of pain. Soul born from the survival of that pain and struggle. The people and the culture are a tale of America...of African Americans…how to build something, make something out of the very least and make it beautiful and useful." (Photo: The Keesshea Pratt Band, IBC Memphis TN, 2018)

What touched (emotionally) you from Texas blues circuits?

The love. The Texas blues circuit has really been gracious and opened their arms and embraced us. I am so touched by the fans that come up to us after the show. 

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says?

The music industry has been a man’s world for a very long time. But there are and have been some very talented women who have made their mark. Of course, I would like to see more women and women of color taking to the Blues, but I can’t disregard the contributions of those before me -Trudy Lynn, Diunna Greenleaf, Ruthy Foster, KoKo Taylor, Bessie Smith, Denise LeSalle. And those who are continuing those legacies-Annika Chambers, Shameka Copeland. 

What is the status of women in music?

There are tons of opportunities for women in music. Again, there are some very talented ladies out there who continue to make new paths in the music industry. I would love to see more producers and engineers and that’s something I will champion. 

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Music has always and continues to be a universal language. At my shows and the festivals we’ve played you can see people of all nationalities, religions, age, ethnicity and class grooving and moving together. And for those few minutes, we are what we were intended to be… humans-loving individuals. 

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Maybe Harlem in the 20s. To see the excitement when all of this beautiful music was being birthed, nurtured and perfected. I would love to feel that creativity and energy.

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