Music Is My Life: Divinity Roxx | Episode 6 | Podcast

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Take note of Divinity Roxx– [MUSIC PLAYING] –for she is the subject of
this edition of the Music is my Life podcast from Berklee Online. On this podcast, we follow the
musical journey of our guests from the very first time they make
contact with their instrument of choice to the present. Divinity Roxx is an unusual
case, as she hadn’t played bass for very long when she
went to bass camp run by Victor Wooten, who is pretty much
a bass player’s bassist if ever there was one. And he then invited her
to come on tour with him. And then the big time called. She went on to join Beyonce’s
all-female band from 2006 through 2011. But something didn’t feel right. A solo career was calling,
educational pursuits were calling. We’ll get to all of that. She stopped by the Berklee
Online office in Boston on a recent windy day, which I
mention because you might sometimes hear the wind in the
background of this recording. And she was in town to perform a 10th
anniversary show with the Beyonce band. And to check in with
us at Berklee online, because she begins studying
with us next semester. But her first instrument was
not bass, it was clarinet. Let us begin when Divinity
Roxx was a very small child. As a very small child, I remember
just riding in the back of the car, listening to songs,
and how they moved me. They would touch my heart. And I would sit in the back
and just sing my heart out, singing these grown people’s songs. And I could just feel this emotion. And I didn’t even understand most of
the time what I was singing about. But it just touched me. So when the band director came
around to all the classes and asked, who wants to play in the band? My hand shot up in the air, like,
yes, I want to play in the band. Who wants to play– then the
chorus teacher would come around. Who wants to play in the– who
wants to sing in the chorus? My hand shot up. I used to love music class. Once a week, Ms. Rosalyn
Louis was my music teacher. She’s amazing. I just loved it, just
loved singing and playing. But as far as knowing that I could be a
part of it all, I guess in high school. Well, in middle school
I started rapping. Rap changed my life. So that’s like mid-80s, late 80s. Yeah, late 80s. So it’s an interesting
point there, where it’s still some of the old school. Like, the newer way was
starting, like PE was. Absolutely. MC Lyte, Slick Rick,
Slick Rick the Ruler. Who else did I used to listen to? Queen Latifah, Monie Love,
all the old school hip hop. I mean, I used to record all
the shows when I would sleep. I would turn on my little tape deck,
turn the volume down and hit record. So basically, you were– [INTERPOSING VOICES] [BOTH LAUGHING] So you said your hand went up when
asking who wants to play instruments. What were you playing then? What did you– I played the clarinet. The clarinet? OK. That was my first instrument. I loved it, though! I did! When’s the last time you picked it up? We were in– gosh, what
country were we in? We were somewhere. And somehow, we were in
the lobby of some hotel. We being the Beyonce band? The Beyonce band. I don’t remember even what tour it was. Some of the girls always
know all the details. I never remember any details. We were in the lobby of some hotel. Tia was playing the clarinet, I think. And I was like, give me that clarinet! I took it and boy, I couldn’t
even get a note out of it. Really? Really? So you played clarinet, then
you start rapping for yourself. Are you recording your raps or anything? Oh, yeah, man. We recorded. We went in the studio. We made an album. Oh, OK, so this was serious stuff. Yeah.
We were serious. We started our own record label. We pressed up our own tapes. What was the label called? CD’s– Foolproof. Foolproof. Yeah. Foolproof Records– me and my homeys. And we had a group called Datbu– Divinity and the Breakfast Unit. Nice. Nice. Yes. Is this available anywhere now? You know, some people will every
now and again, pull out a tape and post it on Instagram–
say, look at this. It was a little green tape. I still have it. We had some really good songs. We were always positive. We wanted to promote positive rap. So it was beautiful. We had a song about AIDS on there. Oh wow, I forgot about that song. It was some really cool stuff on there. Yeah. And if the people you made that
music with were in this room today, and you had to rehearse for that–
for a show like you’re doing now– would you be able to
remember all the words? No, but I would be able– we would be able to remember the intro. So tonight, on this very night,
you’re about to hear, we swear, the best star rappers of the year–
you know, it would start the show like that– a cappella– the three
of us going in and out of each other. And then our DJ– DJ [? Kennett ?] would drop the beat. And then it would just be on. That’s awesome. Yeah. OK. So it’s interesting– this is a great
filling in the blank that you’ve done, because in your bio it mentions
that you go to journalism school and that’s where you discover bass. But it’s interesting to know
the chapters before that. So you’re rapping in middle
school and high school and then what’s your involvement? Is that the extent of your involvement? You’re putting these things out, so
you’re obviously serious about it. Oh yeah. We were very serious about it. Well, when we were in high school– when I was in middle
school and high school, we weren’t putting the albums out. So what happened was I go to college
because I was accepted to UC Berkeley– The other Berkeley. The other Berkeley. How ironic is that? That’s funny. I loved how you say, at one point– I went to the wrong Berkeley. No, not really. I mean, I really wanted
to go to this school. It was far away from home. And I didn’t know I was a musician yet. I mean, I didn’t consider
being a rapper, a musician. So my parents– I had to honor my
parents and go to school. And I loved education. And I loved school. And I needed that experience. But that’s where I picked up the bass. So I started playing bass there. What was the first bass line you– Wow. Tell me about the
first time you actually started playing– like when somebody
said, here is a bass guitar. Well, you know, a friend of mine– and it’s so funny, his name is Paris– that year, he was lugging
around this upright bass. And we were having these
jam sessions in my– I moved off campus, moved into this
apartment with all these crazy people, and met this guy, Paris
and this guy, [? Ajai, ?] who played the drums up in the Bay
area, and they were doing jam sessions. So we were like, hey, you guys should
just come to our house and do them. They were like, OK, cool. I thought it was going to be
like maybe a few MCs, them– he’s playing upright,
[? Ajai ?] on the drums. We’re just freestyling, [? cyphering. ?]
Half of Oakland showed up to my house. Cool. Me and my roommates were like,
who are all these people? We don’t know who these people are. And you’re a freshman in
college, at this point? I was a sophomore at that point. Oh yeah, you were a sophomore. We’re like, what happened? But it was awesome. I was the MC, and I would
pass the mic around. We had this one guy– he
had a little turntable. He was scratching, upright bass, drums. It was amazing. So Paris, ironically, only played
bass that year of his life. He was a guitar player. So we hung out a lot. I don’t know– we just had
that– we just had chemistry. We’re hanging out and I remember I was
painting my room, and he came over– in the middle of the floor, and he
would just be practicing upright. And I’m painting the walls– painting my room red or something crazy. And I go, you know what? I think I’m going to get a guitar. And he was like, why? He’s like, no, you should get a bass. I was like, why should I get a bass? He was like, cause you
like– you come off– you’ll come across as a bass player. And I was like, really? He said, yeah. He’s like, and if you get a bass,
I’ll show you some stuff on bass. But he was a guitar player. So I was like, OK. So I went home that summer and
I bought a shiny red Washburn. Nice. Because it was shiny and red– sparkly. And I went back and he
showed me these exercises. And they were tough and
they were long and boring. But I would turn on
records– like, Goodie Mob was a big deal, from Atlanta. And the me and you bass line– boom, boom boom, boom,
boom, boom boom, boom– I could play that. And I would just sit at home and turn
on records and just try to play along. And I bought a Mel Bay
book, because I said, I should probably
learn how to read bass. Taught myself to read bass, because
I remembered how to read treble clef. And I would sit there and
practice those scales. And turn on music and play. And I just fell in love. So I called my parents. And I think I was running
out of money for school. And I was like, you know, I think
I’m going to come home for a year. My rap group– those guys
were sort of struggling. And we kept trying to figure out
how we were going to connect. I’d moved so far away from home. I was like, let’s come home. I’m going to come home. Let’s make an album. And that’s when we started the label. And put out the record. So we started it when I came home– Foolproof Records. So yeah, that’s serious stuff. That’s– I’m changing my
MO and going to do this. That’s not kids in high school. No, no, no, no. We were very serious. We used to call the labels, and pretend
like– my boy had a real deep voice, so he would pretend
like he was our manager and start like trying to get
in touch with A&R and was like, you need to listen to this group. So this is probably, what– mid 90’s? Yes, mid 90’s– mid to late 90’s. And then, do you go
on to j-school or is– were you just studying
journalism at Berkeley? I was studying journalism at Berkeley. That was my major. And then comes the
Victor Wooten Bass Camp. Crazy. And I don’t imagine many
students at Victor Wooten Bass Camp get to go on tour with him after? I don’t think anybody’s been
able to do that since then. How did that happen? Dude, so I had this
personality in Atlanta where I was a rapper to
some people, and then I started bringing out the bass, every
now and again to little jam sessions. You know, there were so many
musicians at that time– Tarus Mateen was a really big influence. And it’s ironic, because
Tarus was a bass player and he played on a lot of
outcast and Goodie Mob records. So I would see him play,
and he was really good. So I was like, I play bass– and it was like my secret
thing, me playing bass. And he was like, really? I was like, yeah. He’s like, why don’t you come out. My brothers and I play together. Why don’t you come out to one
of our sessions and we’ll see. So I go out to their session. And I don’t know much about bass. So Tarus would show me a bass line. He was giving me lessons on–
you know, in the session. [INTERPOSING VOICES] It was a like a practice bass. It was not like a live session? No, not like a live session. When we were outside
of this– seriously, we were outside of this fried fish
restaurant in the west end of Atlanta, and they were playing
outside for, I don’t know, for themselves and for
the customers who would come up, so they were just playing outside. So he would show me a bass line. So I was like, OK. He’d wait till I got it. I would get the bass line,
and I would just sit on it. And then he would just solo all over it. That’s what he wanted to do. He needed somebody like me in
his band so that he could just take solos all the time. So he was like– he was like, OK. You’ve got a groove. You’ve got a pocket. He’s like, you should
start doing gigs with us. I was like, what? He was like, yeah. We have a gig at the
comedy corner on Sunday. We were playing for poets. And after we play, and the poets do
their thing, there’s a comedy show. So he’s like come on Sunday,
and we’re going to play. I’m like, what are we going to play? He’s like we’re just going
to do what we just did. What? So I’m nervous. I’m trying to figure out
how to get out of it. I can’t get out of it. I show up with my bass. And this is still the
sparkly red Washburn? The sparkly red Washburn– yep. And he– the whole show, he would just
play a bass line, wait until I got it. I would get it. His brother, Omar, was playing drums. His brother, [? Roggie, ?]
was on saxophone. And we were just
improvising behind poets. Tarus was so good at that. He would catch their vibe off
the first line and just go in. And then we would just
create this magic. And he would solo and play all
these cool licks on top of it. And I would just– my back to the audience, scared,
playing my little bass lines. It was so funny. And then he paid me at the end
of the night– the first gig. I was like, yo, you can
make money doing this? He was like, yeah. And don’t ever let anybody
not pay you to play. So I said, wow, I can do this. So that’s the moment, I
think, when I realized. And did you never go back to school? I went to Georgia State. I was accepted into the jazz
program at Georgia State, at the urging of my family because
they started saying, OK, you want to play bass now. I mean, imagine this– I had never played a bass as a kid. I come back from one of the best
schools in the world with a bass guitar, and they’re like, what are you doing? Who are you? Why did you leave school? So the only way that my grandfather,
or grandma, my parents, my dad– my dad was so just disappointed. Are you the oldest? I’m the oldest. The first one to really
go off to college, so– they were like, OK, we can accept this. If you want to stay here, you can do
music, but you got to go to school. If you want to do this– and I agreed with them, because there
was so much more I needed to learn. So somehow, I got accepted. I couldn’t read. I remember the audition. He was– this guy was so nice. I cannot remember the director’s name. He sat a piece of music in front of me. It was a chart. And he was like, OK, read this. And I was like, uh– So he’s like, OK, just play. So I just played something. And he was like, oh. He was like, you can play. He’s like you just– you just need to learn. So I’m going to put you– you just have to be in
my ensemble classes, and I’m going to accept
you into the school. So I stayed there for a little while,
and everything was so over my head. I didn’t understand the
theory and all these little– and I was older at this point. All these little young kids are
blowing me out of the water. They’re giggling at me when I’m
called on as solo in the class. And I was just feeling
really bad about myself. And one of the professors asked
me once what do you want to do? I was like, man, I just
want to write my songs. I want to get out and play, and be on
stage, and do my rap and my playing. And he’s like, go do that. And I was like, really? He’s like, yeah. He said, go do that. I said, OK. And the next time I saw all those
kids who were laughing at me, I was on stage with Victor Wooten. That is a really good moment. So at that point, you’d been able to
be an MC, and you’d been playing bass. And listening to your
music now, it’s astounding that you’re able to put such a concise– you’re able to provide the bass
foundation and freestyle rap over that. Was that a challenge to get
those two skills together? Yes. Because the bass is just so rooted
and has to be rooted, and free styling requires being out there. Absolutely. It’s almost like two different
parts of your brain I’d imagine. It is. And it’s still a challenge. I don’t think it ever
stops being challenging, which is probably why
I enjoy it so much. I like to be challenged and pushed. Yeah, it took a while. I mean, the very first song I
wrote was the D-I- V-I- N-I- T-Y, and that’s the song I played
at Victor’s base camp. Vic has to tell the story, because from
my perspective, I’m standing there, I’m just playing my song,
and I got all this attitude. I’m in the pocket. And you know– MC’s, you know, all we
do is brag on ourselves. So I’m like, bragging on myself
about how great I am and like– and then the song is about
my name, which is ridiculous. Vic is like– he’s in the back like,
we should take her on the road. But he never let on throughout
the rest of the camp. OK. That’s great. So I go throughout the whole
camp, and I’m thinking, man, I’m learning so much. It was really great. It was an incredible camp. And this is shortly after dropping out? Yeah, after dropping–
after leaving Georgia State. I ruptured my Achilles tendon, so
my– the thing with the hip hop group sort of fizzled out a little bit. I couldn’t tour. I was down for a year. So all I could do was play bass. And a friend of mine gave me
a Victor Wooten CD, and said, you want to play bass– Jermaine– you should listen to this. I listened to that CD. I was Iike, I ain’t gonna never
be able to play like that. Who is this guy? He’s amazing. And then I went through
all the liner notes. And I remember the liner
notes saying, this record– with a show of hands, this record
was recorded with no overdubs. I was like, he a liar. He’s lying. There’s no way he played
all that with no overdubs. So I needed to meet this guy. So I started low-key
stalking Victor Wooten. Kind of low-key, going to– doing his shows. And the internet was not– YouTube was not a big
deal– big thing back then. So you couldn’t just pull
him up and watch videos. So you had to– people had to pass you a VHS tape. So this is like early 2000’s? Yeah– early 2000’s– late ’90’s-early 2000’s. I think it was ’98– when did he put that record out? I feel like that was late ’90’s. ’99– ’90– That’s around the time
he and Béla Fleck– Yeah. –came to prominence. Yeah. So I toured with him
the December of 2000. That was my first tour with him. Wow. So you do the camp. At the end of the camp, he makes
this overture and you’re like, yes. Do you automatically know
that you’re able to do this and that this is your calling? No. No? Absolutely not. When Victor called me and said– so he calls me– Hi, Divinity, this is Victor Wooten. He was like, so that thing you do,
you did at camp, is that what you do? I was like, yeah, that’s what I do. He said do you have
more songs like that? I was like, yeah. I didn’t have anymore songs like that. That was my one song that
I had just figured out I could rap and play together. So he’s like, OK, so,
I was thinking that it would be cool if you came on tour with
me and opened up the show doing that. I like, literally, laid down on the
floor, and it was like, OK, yeah. I can do that. But inside, I’m like– my stomach is churning. I have butterflies. I’m thinking, what am I going to do? I need to write some more songs. He’s like, well– I
think it was October– he’s like, we’re going
to tour in December. We’ll bring you to Nashville,
and we’ll have some rehearsals and I want you start the
show just like that– what you did at the camp. And we’ll have a section
in the show where you can do some of your other songs. You can play with the band. And that was that. And then I went on tour with him again. Course then he called me again. OK? Then I would talk to Anthony. And Anthony would say,
hey, you know, I think we getting ready to go on tour again. I would be like, am I going? He’d say, yes, you’re going. I was like, oh, cool. And after that tour,
some time would pass, because he would go on tour with Béla. Anthony would be like, yeah, I
think we’re gearing up to go again. I was like, do you
think I’m going to go? He’d be like, yeah,
fool, you in the band. I was like, I’m in the band? He’s like, yeah. What you mean? Of course you’re in the band. I didn’t know I was in
the Victor Wooten band. That’s great. So between that lying on your
back phone call, just terrified, do you think if that call
hadn’t come, you wouldn’t– do you think you would have
written more in that style? Absolutely. Yeah, you were headed that way anyway? Absolutely. That’s great. So it just gave you the extra– Push. Now– do it now. So how many songs did
you end up churning out? I think four songs. Yeah. I had a section in the show
where I did four songs. OK, so it wasn’t like, I have
to put together 12 songs. No, no, no, because he was– you
know, it’s Victor Wooten’s show, but he allowed– he gave me this space within his show. He would have me, and on
the spot, Vic would say– you know, because they were all
improvising a lot during that show, so they would start a groove and Vic
would be like, Divinity, come out here and bust a freestyle. So I would come onstage and freestyle. And sometimes, he would
be– he would– they would play something that was so cool,
I would pull out my pad and start writing. And he would see that I was writing. He’d be like, Divinity, come out
here and tell everybody– share with everybody what
you’re writing right now. And I would literally have
my notebook in front of me, spinning what I had just written. Oh that’s awesome. We had so much fun. That’s great. It seems like– was that– you know, you leave studying music– you leave an institution
studying music and then you go and get this
real world experience. How much of what you learned studying
did you apply in the real world there? I don’t think I had studied
enough to really apply. I wasn’t thinking about– I was playing with my heart. That’s what I’m going to say. I wasn’t playing with my head. I hadn’t learned to think
about music structurally yet. I wasn’t thinking about chords and
scales and all these different things. I would practice those things. And somehow when you
were practicing something it finds its way in your playing, even
without you being conscious of it. So I wasn’t conscious of it yet. I’m just really becoming conscious
of it now, when I’m playing. I’m just starting to
think more in my playing. I’ve been playing with
my heart for a long time. And that’s part of the reason why
I wanted to enroll at the school, was so I could start melding
together my heart and my head. The school being Berklee Online? Berklee– Berklee Online, yes. That’s amazing that you’ve
done what you’ve done and you’re still seeking more education. Oh man, I want to be great. Yeah. I do. And I feel like when you do, you
start reaching for those things that you know will make you better,
and will grow you, and challenge you. And I feel like this is going
to be the ultimate challenge. I remember Victor Bailey coming to
one of Victor’s camps and talking. And one of the things he
was saying to the students– I was always around students who
were so much younger than me. He would say this is the time
for you guys to practice now. You guys don’t have to worry
about taking phone calls and promoting yourself and keeping
up with your social media, or just your business. You guys don’t have to worry about
yourselves as a business yet. All you have to do is practice. But once you become a
certain age or you get to a certain point in
your musical journey, you have to start doing business. So I’ve been doing business and
I’ve been doing it for a long time. It interrupts practice. Even now, I’m practicing, and I’m
working on something that I’m really loving and I’m, you know– and then my phone is ringing
and the e-mails are coming in and they’re talking about shows,
and these different things, and you have this interview,
and you have to did this. And as soon as I get into it,
these things are pulling me away. And oh, you know, you have the show. You haven’t been promoting the show. You need to start promoting the shows. And people are going, oh yeah. [INAUDIBLE] put this down. So I need to make time. That’s great. I’d argue, though, that all those hours
you spent onstage with Victor Wooten that those are practice. And with Beyoncé– all those
hours practicing with Beyoncé. How did that all come about with– you’d said– so it was
before Sasha Fierce, right? Yes, it was the Beyoncé Experience– the album she released on her birthday. Right, right, right. It was such a great band, too. And it’s so awesome that you guys are
reuniting for the 10 year anniversary– not just great as a concept. It was a musically powerful band. It was. It is. It is– yes. So tell me about the nucleus of that
and how it all came together, and– Well, everybody came to this
place from different paths. So you know a little
bit about my journey. I’m in Atlanta. I’m performing. I’m doing my thing. I’m rapping. I’m playing. I’m writing songs. I’m recording. I had been out in LA trying
to get a record deal. And, you know, that whole thing. So wait– just to refresh, it’s 2005– 2006? Yeah– 2005. So 2000– from– I’m touring– I’m still touring
with Victor at this time, so maybe around 2005. I can’t remember. Beyoncé put out a press release. She’s looking for an all-female
band and she’s having auditions. And at the time, I’m still struggling–
really struggling– musician and doing my gigs. Because I’m touring with Victor,
but Victor is touring with Bella and doing his own thing. So he’s juggling all
these different things. So we didn’t tour a lot– maybe two or three times
a year at the most. And he had to spend
time with his family. So in between touring with him,
I’m still doing my own thing and trying to build my brand
and learning about marketing and learning how to produce
and making beats and you know– Are you just teaching
yourself all this stuff? Yeah, dude. I mean, I would have
producers– because people were trying to take advantage of me. They wanted to sign me and make
me give away all my publishing. And I had gone to Georgia State,
so I had learned about publishing, and learned about the music business,
and really became business minded. So I was like, I’m not
giving you all of that. And then I would go in the
studio with different producers, and they would try to shape my sound,
and I didn’t like the way it was going, and it didn’t feel like me. So I was like, I’m going to
learn how to use Pro Tools, and I’m going to produce myself. So I’m doing this, and I’m
really serious about it. And I would have days
where I didn’t shower, and I’m just making beats all day. And I’m into this song,
and I’m structuring it. And I’m spending hours on
end, up all night doing this. My sister sent an email
and said hey, you know, Beyoncé is looking for
an all-female band. I think you should go audition. I was like, whatever. That’s the truth. Like, I thought it was a gimmick– did not believe it at all. Then people started calling
me from around the country who I had met on tour with Victor. Did you hear, this Beyoncé is having
auditions for an all-female band? You’re the first person I thought of. What was your awareness
of her before that? I mean you– Well of course I was aware of her. You couldn’t not be. Couldn’t not be. I mean, she was a huge. But from that distance– But I’m not a–I wasn’t into pop music. I was, you know, real
underground hip hop. You know what I mean? Keeping it 100% real. So I would see her, and
I loved–I remember see– like, I would see videos. Every now and again I would pass by a
video. ”Check Up On It” made me stop. I was like, dang, that beat is dope. And of course, she was on all the radio. And so all her beats were always dope. The songs were always amazing. And but I just was never–
it wasn’t on my radar. I’m super hip hop hit. So I was like, eh. People started calling and
they’re like you should go. And I was like, eh– OK. I’ll think about it. I was working on this song. It was really good song. I remember it was called, “OK.” It was a really great song. It was called “OK?” Yeah, it was called, “Are You
OK” and it was really personal. I remember the hook was, are you OK? How your mam doing? Are you still dreaming? What are you pursuing? Some days I’m OK and other days I’m not. I really miss you, man. It was like this– I needed to say sorry to
some people in my life. And that song was the
way I was doing it. So I was very–and I’m
all sentimental right? I told you this. So then I had some other
friends, this other producer, who had really been
hooking me up with sounds and he believed in me as a producer. And he was– he really
took me under his wing to teach me things about sound design. And he’s like, Divinity, you know
Beyoncé is having auditions for an– I’m like, I know. He’s like, you should go. You should do it. I’m like, man, but I
don’t think it’s real. I was like, she could call anybody. I think Rhonda Smith is
going to get the gig. I was like, and what about Meshell– Meshell Ndegeocello. Who else? I had a list of great female bass
players who would probably play this gig with Beyoncé. Certainly I was not on that list. Seriously, so– I was like, she
could have anybody in the world, why would she want me to do it? And they were like, you
should go to the audition. They came over to my house. They really did this– him and his good partner came
over to my house one day. And I was in producer mode,
which means I hadn’t showered and I’m like in my
pajamas for three days. And they’re like, we’re
not leaving your house until you say you’re
going to the audition. So I was like, well, sit down– turned on the TV. If you guys want to eat,
here’s the refrigerator. I remember, like, I’m all dramatic– you
guys can hang out as long as you want. I don’t think I’m going to do it. Go back in the room– start working. They hung out, too. And I came out and they were like– I’m like you all are still here. They’re like, no, seriously,
Divinity, you should go. So is this the day of the auditions? No, this isn’t the day of
the auditions– probably, maybe, three, four days before. And they’re like, you should really go. I was like, all right, I’m going to go. I’ll do it. I didn’t think I was going to get it. I was just going to do it. So she had auditions
in different cities. So I was– You’re in LA at the time? I was in Atlanta– I was in Atlanta. Oh, you’re back in Atlanta? Yeah. So I show up to the Atlanta audition. I pretty much know most of the–
most of the girls there, I know them. Yeah. How familiar with her material– like playing her material– did you
like sit down and be like, all right, I’m going to listen to– Yeah, because they recommended that
you get the Dangerously in Love DVD. And we were playing the arrangement of– it was like this James Brown-esque song. So I learn it. And I was getting ready to go on
tour with Victor at that time. So I go in the audition, play the song. When I get there, CNN is there,
because this is a big deal. Beyoncé is having auditions. And somebody says, oh,
you should interview Divinity, because they knew me and
because I’d been all around Atlanta. So it was like, would
you do this interview? I was like, sure, why not? You had finally showered, right? Yes. I had a showered. I was looking cute. You know, I had my hair, and the makeup. I had a cute shirt on– got all dressed up. And it started becoming exciting– did the interview. And– How was the audition itself? She wasn’t there. No, she wasn’t there. She had some musical directors and
people she trusted who were there. I played the song. And then they just asked me to play. And then I left. I was like, OK. I did it. And I go home, and I’m getting a little
anxious because around midnight I didn’t get a call, but I didn’t even–
it was like, oh well, didn’t get it. It’s OK. My phone rang after midnight. And his deep voice on the phone– like, Divinity, you’re
going to go to New York for the second round of the auditions. I was like, oh, cool, OK. So we’re going to get a plane ticket
for you, hotel, blah, blah, blah. I had no money– After midnight? After midnight. I had no money. I didn’t even know how I was going
to pay the rent in the next month, honestly. I had negative $200 in
the bank, literally. So I’m like, I’m going
to go to New York. How am I going to eat? What am I going to do? Called my mom– like mom, I’m going
to New York for this Beyoncé audition. I’m like, I don’t know. It still wasn’t that big of a deal. So I get up to New York. I’m nervous– so nervous, so scared. I couldn’t eat anyway. Just– Then we’d go through
the whole audition process. I remember the first time I sat
down with Nicki and played with her. I turned around and was like, yes, OK. We were playing “Deja Vu,” I think– “Work it Out,” that was the song. Yeah, OK. So we play “Work it Out–”
play “Deja Vu–” killing. Slowly, the girls who were going to be
in the band started coming in the room together. Because at first, they were just
putting different configurations of girls together– give
me the girl from Atlanta, give me the keyboard
player from Houston, give me the saxophone
player from New York. Finally, they found this combination
on the second day of rehearsals. And we were like humping. Like, it was feeling good. We were having fun. We were encouraging each other,
talking to each other, like, yeah. You know, like– And what are you playing? Is it– We’re playing “Deja Vu,” pretty
much over and over and over again, because it was her single. And of course it had
that crazy bass line. Can you give me the “Deja
Vu” baseline though. [BEATBOXING] You know? So killing, right? That is a crazy bass line. Ooh, it’s so killing. And I knew the guy who
played on the record– Jon Jon. Jon Jon played that bass line. I had just been hanging
out with him in Atlanta. Anyway so, whatever. We played together and then we’re tired
of playing that song at this point. Like, we have given everything we have. And people are watching you, too? Yeah. You know, Beyoncé and Jay-Z showed up. Oh, they’re there? Can you imagine? Man, that’s pressure. Yes. I remember them sitting there. And I’m just like– that’s when it became
really real for me and I started thinking this could be cool. After all of my, eh, whatever,
I was like, wait a minute. This could be really awesome. So I would go in the bathroom, look
at myself and say, you, just dig in. You got to get this. You can do this. You know, like all these pep
talks I would have with myself. But I remember– so they– so,
Beyoncé and Jay-Z were there. And I think that’s when they
made the final decision. Now, are they talking with you? Or are they like– Not really. Sitting behind a table,
American Idol style? They’re sitting behind a table,
American Idol style, smiling. She’s just checking us out. And we’re all like– [INAUDIBLE] We don’t know each
other so we aren’t really– we don’t know how to
act with each other yet. So it was just really– it was just–
it’s kind of dreamy in my mind. It’s so this dreamy thing, you know? So they leave. And I’m thinking, oh man, I don’t
know what’s going to happen. They call us back in the room. We think we’re about to play again,
so we put our instruments like, OK, we’re going to do this again. And Matthew stands there–
her dad, Matthew Knowles– stands there and says, Beyoncé
has chosen all of you to be in her all-female band. And I remember just looking around the
room at each one of the girls, slowly, just getting a– this moment– just having this moment
looking at everybody and thinking, wow, that just happened. And he says, and you guys are
playing the BET Awards in two weeks, so go home, get packed, get ready, and
we’re going to be doing a lot of work. Crazy. I call my mom, of course. Mom, call [? Erica ?] on three-way. We called my sister on three-way. She’s like, what happened? I was like, I got the gig. And then I start crying. Yeah. Well, it’s a huge moment. I started crying. And she’s like, why are you crying? I was like, because I’m so
used to everybody saying no. She’s like, well,
somebody had to say yes. And we were off. Crazy. And so when did you become– you were the musical director? Not then, no. After we’d been– I think it was when the tour– when
we started rehearsing for tour. Because we were just
rehearsing for the promo. We did so much promo. Oh my god. We would fly to every single TV
show that there was in the world. We played it– Japan, London. I mean, this is our first time
going all of these places– Germany, New York, LA. We were just flying all the time– Good Morning America,
Ellen, Oprah– everything. It was just like– we’re doing this. And so that’s also an incredible
bonding experience for all you guys– for the band. Is Beyoncé right in there with you? Absolutely. She was there, yeah. She was coming to rehearsal. I think she was excited. I think she had been wanting to have
an all-female band for some time. And she really, literally,
chose each and every one of us. So she was in rehearsals. I mean the Beyoncé experience–
when you watch that show, you can feel the love and the energy. And I mean, we put our
blood, sweat, tears– you know, we fought. We argued. We cut things. We added things. We rehearsed forever. We were tired. We were hungry. We were hung over. We were partying. We were all these things. And you could feel that in that
show, to this day, you can feel it. It was really a
beautiful, beautiful time. And we bonded as sisters. Yeah. So this goes on for a number of years. How many albums in total? I think I was on the tour for the
Beyoncé Experience, Sasha Fierce, 4. And you played on the
albums as well, right? No, we didn’t play on the albums. I think Nicki played
on one of the records. The horns may have played
on some of the tunes. We were in the Irreplaceable video. We played on that. They used our recordings on that. But we released live albums, I think,
from the shows, which was really cool. Now why is that? Is it just she had her studio– I think it’s producers– I think it’s the
producers, a lot of times. They pretty much are creating the music. And they have their guys coming in. And they’re presenting tracks
that they’ve done some time ago. You just never know. So then that runs its course. Blue Ivy is born and then
there’s a little bit of time off. And then she starts something
new, as she often does. Well yeah. When she was having the
baby I kind of thought– there was a part of me, I
think during the 4 tour– During the Sasha Fierce tour,
this person inside of me started to creep up. Your own little Sasha Fierce? Yeah, you know, that girl I left
in the bedroom making beats. She started to tap me on the
shoulder, sometimes, during the show and be like, what are you doing? What do you mean, what am I doing? You see me. I’m on stage with Beyoncé. She’d be like, yeah but,
I thought we were going to be making songs and doing our thing? And I’d be like, shut up, it’s cool. But she really started to pull at me. And then when Beyoncé took a break, it
just seemed like the right time for me to get back into doing
what I’d been doing. And I’d grown so much and I had
so much to say, and write about, and I had to honor that person. I had to see if I had it. I didn’t even know if I
could do a show anymore. I remember coming off tour and
calling my best friend and being like, I don’t know if I could
get on stage and perform. She was like, what? I was like, I haven’t
done it in so long. I don’t know if I could
get up and do my thing. She was like, you’re crazy. I was like, no, I don’t. I remember the first
show I had coming back and I didn’t know if I could do it. That’s interesting, because it’s
doing part of something you already were doing for millions of people. And but doing another part that
you hadn’t been doing for them. I didn’t– I just didn’t know. I think, I became a bass
player on Beyoncé’s tour. Before Beyoncé I wasn’t
a bass player yet. I was an artist who played bass. I didn’t really know what it meant
to be a bass player in the band. I remember in one– after one
of the rehearsals thinking, oh, I’m a bass player. This is what– this is the
role of the bass player. This is what the bass player does. So, cool, that’s what I am. That’s what I’m doing. So I left the– the artist sort of– that’s
when she sort of went to sleep. So you weren’t– you– I mean, I’m guessing
the hours were grueling, so you probably didn’t have time
to write on your own at all. No. I mean, I would write
sometimes, but it wasn’t at the forefront of what I was doing. The performer in me wasn’t out. And now, after that tour ended
and you got back to the– getting back in touch
with the performer, are you reconnecting with any
of these people from the band? No, because we lived– everybody left
and went to their different cities. Because we didn’t– nobody
else lived in Atlanta. I was the only person in
the band from Atlanta. Right. So is this now, this anniversary
performance– performances– are they the first time you guys have
played together at all, since then? I think Nicki said that the last
time we all played together was 2010. Wow. Yeah. So tell me about, finally, being
comfortable with this artist within you that you have ignored, who’s tapping
you on the shoulder on stage. Yeah. I had a little studio in
my basement in Atlanta and I would stay up and
write all these songs. And it’s so funny, because that
stuff is actually on this album that I just released
called, I’m Possible. But before that, I moved to LA. I still had this– all these
other songs I had recorded that were really rock and hip hop. I had found this lane where I wanted
to meld and mesh rock and hip hop. That seemed to match my intensity
as a performer and as an artist and as an MC. So I figured I needed to go to LA– moved to LA, hooked up with some cats,
recorded an album called The ROXX Box Experience. And then the band broke up. So I’m just kind of out there. I went back on tour with Beyoncé
after that– the ROXX Box– after releasing the ROXX Box Experience. And then the 4 tour– after she had Blue–
no, I can’t remember. And then that’s when I finished, stopped
altogether, to give myself the space. So I started touring in Europe– started doing a lot of stuff in Europe. My bass company Warwick is German
company, so I spent a lot of time in Germany hanging out with
them and going to their clinics. And they were doing ads of me in
a lot of German bass magazines. So people in Germany really had
a sense for what I was doing. And the rock and the hip hop thing
was really happening there, I guess. So I was touring a lot. And this last tour I did, maybe
two years ago, or a year ago, with these musicians, Lamar
Moore and Julian Litwack. We were in the van and I
was saying, man, I really need to record a new album. And they were like, we should do it. We should do it. So I started letting them hear all
these records that I had been sitting at home, late at night, playing. And none of them were
like rocked out hip hop. It was all really pretty stuff. And it was soulful and jazzy, and
just all these snippets of ideas. And it was this side of me that I had
not really shown anybody on stage– had not been onstage. And they said, hey, we
should record these songs. So we went in the studio and
recorded this album, I’m Possible. So you’re starting Berklee Online. And we spoke a little bit before about– before the mics were on– about
how you’re going to be on the road and you’re going to be taking classes. You can’t bring a full-sized
keyboard with you. But how do you plan on incorporating
what you may learn in these courses into your profession? Well I’ve been doing a
lot of master classes, and going to universities throughout
Europe giving master classes, and it really gave me this penchant
for teaching that I never felt before. It was super rewarding. My dad, years ago, had said
to me, you should teach. I was like, yeah right, dad. I’m not a teacher. He said, if you really want
to know something, the way to know it is to teach it. And so I had this wanting and
needing to know more about music, and somehow people are inspired by
what I’m saying in these classes. So I started thinking
what’s next for me? I’m going to continue making music. I can’t stop. I love it too much. It means too much to me. And I feel like I still have more things
to say and some more things to express. And I feel like I can– I still have some growing to do. When I started playing bass, I put
a bass clef on the back of my neck, because I says, it’s for my life. It’s a lifetime of learning. [MUSIC PLAYING] Music is a lifetime of learning. And Divinity Roxx continues
that lifetime next semester at Berklee Online. You can pick up her solo
album from last year, I’m Possible, from wherever
you buy good music. And you can always find me, Pat
Healy, on Berklee.edu/takenote. Thanks for listening. Talk to you soon. [MUSIC PLAYING]

 

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