Interview with “The Duchess” Jureesa McBride - one of the sexiest, sassy, classy, and soulful artists

"When you got the Blues there isn't any boundaries regardless of, ethnicity, age, pain, joy love, happiness, caring, giving, family, money, and lost."

Jureesa McBride: The Duchess of Soul

“The Duchess” Jureesa McBride born February 20, 1982 in Port Gibson/Pattison, Mississippi area is one of the sexiest, sassy, classy, soulful artist befitting the name “The Duchess”. Jureesa, as many call her, is a small town country girl with big dreams, big heart, full of talent, strong ambitions, drive and blessed with an unbelievable, soulful voice. She becomes Royalty with a microphone in her hand an innocent smile, and a voice of pure soul. Jureesa has always been inspired by music as long as she can remember. The art of music always played a major impact in her life. She grew up listening mainly to Blues, R&B, Gospel, and Soul music in her home and always on the eight tracks while her dad fumbled around under the hood of his old car.

She began around 9 years old writing poetry, singing her own penned songs and acting in Peanut Butter Jelly Theater, (a children’s theatrical company) throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. These adventures allowed her, at a young age, the opportunity to sing, write poetry, and act; while promoting reading among young disadvantaged youth.  “The Duchess” Jureesa continues to push her interest and skills in drawing, writing poetry, spoken word, singing and photography.

“The Duchess” is personally grateful and humbled by the great artist she has listened and learned from. There are many such as Tyrone Davis, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Benny Latimore, Bobby Blue Bland, Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Taylor, KoKo Taylor, Z.Z. Hill, Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle, Peggy Scott-Adams, Etta James, and many others. She recorded her first album, “I’m A Woman First, tales of The Duchess” in July of 2013 under the independent label J.S.S Records formed by Jureesa and her mother manager.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Soul & Blues culture?

I learned my strength and power of words and expression through Soul & Blues culture. I learned I could find a peace in the midst of life storms and pleasures. It encouraged me to be free and expressive through music.

What does the Blues mean to you? 

The Blues is precious to me. It is a part of my fore parents and so many generations before them. This music tell the stories of  a people from all walks of life from the cotton fields in Mississippi to recording studios, conferences rooms to large arenas throughout the world  in what is called the  music industry of today. When you got the Blues there isn't any boundaries regardless of, ethnicity, age, pain, joy love, happiness, caring, giving, family, money, and lost.

"I feel that the women in Soul have some struggles, not with their talent, but the political aspects of the music industry like any other business. The women are faced with fewer opportunities to present themselves to the world."

How do you describe The Duchess sound and songbook?

The Duchess sound is soulful, sassy, classy, fiery, deep, strong and unique. Its everything that makes me a woman and who I am. My songbook to me is a secret treasure being exposed. There are so many songs in it that are just waiting for the world to hear. It describes my strengths, my lows, my heartbreak, my happiness, my funny side and much more. Its a diary of my thoughts, my actions and conversations with others.

What characterize your music philosophy?

My music philosophy is characterized as a counseling session, a friend that knows what you're going through. It's characterized as hope and understanding that whatever goes on in my life or someone else life that I can create something beautiful with a thought, pen and paper and produce it into music.

What has been the relationship between music and poetry in your life and writing?

From the first time I picked up a pencil and wrote a poem and realized it could be music, created the relationship between the two for me. From reciting poetry at programs and acting in Peanut Butter and Jelly a young people theatrical group at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads in my hometown Port Gibson, Mississippi USA, I knew then my life would never be the same. It changed my whole way of thinking, because no longer did I have to just write it down, but I could create music from my own poetic perspective. I thank God everyday for this gift that He has given me.

Why did you think that the Southern Soul & Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

I think the followers and fans are so devoted because this genre of music is so different from all of the others. Southern Soul to me is a mixture of blues, and soul. For example, blues has feeling that ignites a foot tapping of emotions, phenomenal storytelling, and the soul gives that groove with a touch of funk. That gives followers just what they need and that's why followers continue to come back for me. To sum it all up, its real music, full of life and lessons learned, no auto tune, that keep them devoted to our style of music.

Which collaborations and meetings have been the most important experiences?

I haven't musically collaborated with other artists at this time, but I do have plans explore options in the future; but my first radio interview collaboration on WMEL 104.1 just a month before I became the host of The Duchess Soul Sessions, I had the honor of talking with Gerald Austin of The Manhattans and Lenny Williams. I remember, I was so excited that day because two very important legends were there hosting to interview me. I felt like that was such a huge step in my life.

I feel attending Jus Blues Music Awards and Conference each  year for the past 2 years to present year has open my eyes to how vast and deep the music travel the world. This experience allows me the opportunity to meet so many legends that have pave the way. So many of them I grew up listening to on my dad’s 8 track player in his old car. I have felt the love and the drive that these legends have and it leaves me each year with a fire ignites in my soul. Most of the time I cannot wait to find a little piece of paper because it doesn't take much to start a song to brewing in my head. I love being in their presence and the energy that I feel from them.

What is the best advice ever given you?

The advice that they gave me was to always remain humble, because that is what it is going to take for  me to succeed the top along with my pure talent. Those are words that I will always live by.

For me the best advice ever given me was stay humble, work hard, stay steadfast remain honest, perform whatever you want but when you hit the studio stay true to who I am.

"The Blues is precious to me. It is a part of my fore parents and so many generations before them. (Photo: Jureesa with Bobby Rush & Silver Shirley)

Are there any memories from shows, festivals and recording time which you’d like to share with us?

Oh  my let me see where to start (laughing) my first outside show, The Hermanville Family Fun Day/Blues Show in my hometown, it was so hot in Mississippi that day, but so many people were there to see me the little girl that they all called Jureesa or Reesa. It was amazing to see how shocked and exciting the audiences became when I walked on stage. I stop being hot when the drums struck the first beat. It was showtime!!!! I knew that day if I made it through that heat without any cover over my head and a small trailer to perform on with my band located behind me, on a lower level there would never be a time I could not rock the crowd. My thoughts were Oh Lord, Let’s Go!!!!! Every show I have ever done the love of the people is breathtaking. Everyone wants a piece of you.

    Now, its October in Jackson, Mississippi The Tommy Johnson Blues Festival whew!!! it is cold so cold I could feel it down in my throat and when the band fired up I went for it with Rock Me Baby and the wind was  blowing and the microphone was glued to my hand and we were letting the good time roll. I was so humbled and gratified  to see people still came out with their chairs, blankets, hats etc. and enjoyed my show support, and show the love for good music  from a little country girl with big dreams. I was astound to find another well known artist dancing her legs off to the music. Now we are on the highway my manager and I driving 8 to 9 hours to a show in Austin, Texas first time sharing the stage with a legend (Bennie Latimore)  that was a good show that night. It was not the crowd all expected, but I always been taught the show must go on and perform like there is standing room only. It is not always the size of the crowd, but the power of the music and you giving your fans what they came to hear 150%. I watched the people just have an awesome time. I must say it make you really thirsty for more and bigger crowds to tell your stories to in mind, body, and spirit. You feel so free and everyone is on for the ride. I just love it.

     Atlanta, Georgia show “Up Close and Personal, with Bobby Rush and Special Guest artist, The Duchess Jureesa McBride yes!!! The venue was packed wall to wall people of various ethnicity groups coming to see Mr. Rush and all of a certain the host walks up to the microphone and introduced a young recording Blues artist  all the way from Vicksburg, Mississippi the crowd gave a big round of applause and as always my feet got light. I claimed the stage that night with an opening song entitled, “Steppin Out Steppin In” by the late Z.Z. Hill (audience expressions) oh!! a woman singing that tune Yes!!! My band (The Dukes) went rare that night.

    The crowd seems to be a little tough for a few minutes and I step back and bellow out Willie Dixon song “I Got A Little Red Rooster to Lazy to Crow for Day” the blues lovers let it be known that they were in the house. What a show!!! So many pictures, so many autograph request, pinch yourself girl (laughing). On that night Mr. Bobby Rush told me I have the stage presence, great attitude and a powerful voice. He went on to tell me sing what your people want to hear, but stay true to yourself and do me when I walk into a recording studio.

Recording sessions were good, hard work, disciplines, and dedication. You get use to the long hours in the studio sometimes rearranging the original lyrics that you have already written. You find yourself in situations such as, (would this be better this way or I need to hear more rhythm guitar or maybe upbeat in  keys). So you are finding that proper marriage between the vocals, lyrics and instruments. I find you have to work with someone that respect your talent, music and your dreams. If the person doesn't have the respect for your music, dream, and your team it might not be best to do a project with that person in that environment. I have learned so many things from that time. I know my future project will build off the things I learned and experienced from the first project.

"I learned my strength and power of words and expression through Soul & Blues culture. I learned I could find a peace in the midst of life storms and pleasures. It encouraged me to be free and expressive through music."

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

I miss the uniqueness of the music from the past, because everyone had their own sound that was fresh. They gave everything in expressing their music. Artist such as Sam Cooke, Willie Dixon, Howlin Wolf, etc. created lifetime music that would last even when there were no longer with us.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

My hopes for the future are simple. I hope that real vocalist will continue to emerge. I hope that real music will emerge once again. I hope that real singers and musicians will no longer be shadows in small towns, but emerge for the world to see and enjoy.

My biggest fears are that the soul of music will no longer exist, because younger generations are listening to music that has no feeling or positive message. That's scary to me just to think about. We react and interact with a lot of things that are tuned into our hearing and if they continue to spread the airwaves with meaningless music, I'm afraid real music will die out.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would like to see more support for women in Blues and Soul exposed more to the world through radio airplay, shows, festivals etc.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to R&B and Gospel music?

For me, the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continues to R&B and Gospel would be hardship, unkind circumstances, feel of freedom, love, dance expression, music and faith.

"I miss the uniqueness of the music from the past, because everyone had their own sound that was fresh. They gave everything in expressing their music. Artist such as Sam Cooke, Willie Dixon, Howlin Wolf, etc. created lifetime music that would last even when there were no longer with us."

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

I find it to be very challenging and sometimes unbalanced, but this world wouldn't be nothing without a woman or a girl (laughing) WE are the favor that makes the world go round. You just have to love us and let us do our thang (laughing)

What is the status of women in Soul?

I feel that the women in Soul have some struggles, not with their talent, but the political aspects of the music industry like any other business. The women are faced with fewer opportunities to present themselves to the world. Sometimes it seem like they are gradually being pushed aside. I thank God for the Manager/mom I have; she is always there for whatever takes place, unfortunate so many women in this business aren’t that blessed. We are often swimming against the current of this man’s world but, I know women of Soul are strong, gifted, talented and has what it takes to keep things moving. So my answer is simple, we will strive. We will survive; we will stay in stride in Blues, Rhythm and Soul.

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

I would use the "time machine" and go back in the past. I would sing a song with Big Mama Thornton, have Willie Dixon to write me a song that I could sing with Muddy Waters while he play his slide guitar. I would want to sit at the feet of Howlin Wolf blow his harmonica and singing Smoke Stack Lightning. I would love to see Stevie Ray Vaughan play his guitar and sing Tin Pan Alley. A moment in time with the great Sam Cooke rock the stage and Etta James watch me perform her song, “I’ll Rather Go Blind” with a big smile on her face of approval, just to name a few (smiling). To end this wonderful time we would gather in a very luxurious place that’s beautiful and exotic. They would all share with me exactly what I need to do to keep their legacies alive and fulfill my dreams. Finally, ending that wonderful evening sharing a meal and a drink together as others document all of our singing, laughing and talking. That would be so epic!!

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