Instruments: Voice and piano
Genres: Soul, Urban and Pop
Flo and I met back in December 2014 when we were both performing at a Holiday Party. It was one of the first times I ever performed solo and was really nervous. Flo did an excellent job calming me down and encouraging me. (Her performance was also absolutely stunning, by the way.) I knew she would be a great choice to ask to interview because she would have great advice and feedback about the music industry. Her bright and energetic personality was amazing to watch and listen to as she passionately talked about her musical experiences. You can tell this girl absolutely adores music.
Ashley: What made you decide to do music?
Flo: For me, it was the one thing that felt right. I felt this fullness, this connection. It not only felt right, it felt good. Everything else I tried and looked into, when I was looking into different careers and fields, nothing felt like really and truly me. [Music] felt like a great fit for me because it was effortless. I loved it.
A: How long have you been professionally singing?
F: This sounds hilarious but I always joke around when I “came out of the closet” with music; because I was definitely more of a closet singer. Growing up, myself and my sisters and my cousins all loved to sing. I always believed because of the way I grew up that the arts like dance, drawing, writing stories anything artistic was a hobby. It’s not something viable.
Now that I look back on it, I was naturally always artistically driven. My sisters and I sang since when were like who knows. I have a memory of the three of us being buckled up in the back of my dad’s car and the radio would be on and we would be singing and I remember him turning around and being like “How?! Who taught you guys that?” We just sang, we just imitated what we heard on the radio and we still sing all the time.
I used to love dancing. I watched those shows like ‘So you think you can dance?’, I love it. Singing, dancing and I still have my old sketchbook. I love writing stories. All the stuff came so naturally to me. Nonetheless, it was something I tried to repress or throw in the closet or under the bed and not open it up. I thought if I would sing it would be in a choir or in the shower or in the car. But it wasn’t until 2003 or 2004 where I got to the point where I said “enough!” Be you. Be real. You cannot live the life other people want you to lead because at the end of the day if you’re miserable it’s you that you have to account for. So in 2003 or 2004 I promised myself that I was going to take steps and cross paths with people, figuring out what I can do to actually take it seriously and pursue it. Since then it’s been a journey.
A: Whom do you listen to? Who inspires you musically?
F: Okay, if I have to narrow it down my favorite are the American R&B songstresses or soul divas. Everybody from Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Brandy, Monica and who am I missing? There are so many. John Legend, I was just setting off all these females but also Stevie wonder. My favorite are definitely the rhythm and blues and soul. That’s my language. That’s what makes my heart beat. There are many more, but those are the main ones.
A: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
F: If I’m going to be real and sum it all up. I’m happy that I decided to take that leap and pursue music. It was a scary thing for me. But it’s changed my life and I’m happy I did it.
At one point I’ve wrote a list of venues that I’ve dreamt of performing on. Stages that I dreamed of gracing, and would you believe it, about a year ago I looked at that list again, and I got goose bumps. I’ve done it! Things like that, it’s just crazy. I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn or bragging. I view myself as a regular girl-next-door, a regular person. But some crazy things have happened to me on this journey that wouldn’t have happened if I had not pursued this. I love Lauryn Hill, and getting the opportunity to open for her at the concert hall or getting the opportunity to perform at the Burton Cummings theatre. There was a benefit concert at the MTS Centre and singing on that stage was insane.
If I told Flo from the past that these things will happen I would have laughed at Flo from the future and said “Come on, let’s be real.”
Those things have given me the faith and the boldness to be like “okay if these things can happen, the sky’s the limit. All things are possible.” Sometimes when I have those down days or down moments. I think to myself, “don’t forget what has happened before. Hold on to your faith, keep on looking forward because the best is yet to come.”
Don’t get into those pity party moments because we all go through those up and downs when we have our vision in mind and we know [it’s] going to be our Mount Everest or our large goal. Sometimes when we look that big goal and it’s so much greater than you, so larger than life and you wonder how you’re going to get there. Baby steps. Which is why when I look at myself and where I’m at, I think “Oh my gosh, this is going to take forever” I need to remind myself that it’s step by step and bit by bit. From where I started to where I am now, things have happened and more is to come.
A: How do you deal with nerves before a performance?
F: Well, I actually heard something that I will never forget that I tell other performers too. I think I as watching an interview on E talk or something. They were saying the greatest performers like Cher, Adele, Madonna get nervous before shows.
Adele, actually, when she had just released her album 21 she was saying how she got so nervous that before a few shows she would projectile vomit. She had a story where she was in Germany on her balcony and she was so nervous that she ended up puking on a fan. From her perspective she’s thinking, “What if I’m not good enough? What if I disappoint all these people who have come to see me?” I was shocked, I couldn’t believe Adele felt the same way.
What really got me was that other than these legends still feeling nervous; I think it was either Cher or Madonna, one of them said that it’s good to feel nervous, like an Olympic athlete before their big feat because that nervousness gets converted into adrenaline. A lot of times, when you have the best killer performance, it’s that adrenaline surging through your veins and arteries.
On top of that, what I got from the show that I’ll never forget, when you stop getting nervous get worried. It means you don’t care anymore, right? And sometimes maybe for smaller performances, where my heart might not be in it, I do okay. From my perspective and from what I know I can do, if I lack lustre and feel that’s it’s a mediocre performance I know I can do better. I find the performances where I’m nervous, and I HATE that nervous feeling, I HATE that feeling where, forget butterflies, BATS are in your stomach and you feel like you are going to puke and you are overthinking. I find those performances that I care so much that I want to do well. That nervousness, as soon as you hit the stage becomes adrenaline and you just kill it.
I don’t like those pre-jitters. But from what I hear everyone; actors, comedians, dancers, professional athletes, they all go through it. It probably won’t go away but that’s okay because it’s normal.
A: How do you balance music with any other obligations you might have?
F: I think it’s a constant juggle. I think there are few people who have mastered the art of balance. They need to teach the rest of us. Some months or some days I’m better than others. It’s definitely a struggle. I’ve heard so many stories and I know there are artists where their careers are so successful but their family lives are just brutal; that really get’s my heart because I want to learn from their mistakes. There are some people who have won Grammies, American music awards, Junos and are constantly touring but they’ve had two or three divorces. Or they will feel like crap because they look in their sons or daughters eyes and they are never there for their soccer games or tucking them in at night. Or even their friends who only get to see them on TV but never in person.
Garth Brooks took a hiatus from his career because he wanted to raise his daughters and wanted to be a dad. He ‘s not just a recording artist; he’s a dad too. I really respect that because I feel that’s important. At the end of the day when you are celebrating your accomplishments with your music, you don’t want to be celebrating them alone.
Success in life isn’t about having a successful career but having a successful family and friends. One thing that I have been hearing lately that really resounds in my spirit is that family and relationships are the most important thing in life. Again, I’ve heard so many stories of successful people who are rich but they are so miserable and so lonely. At the end of the day let’s say, not to be morbid but at your funeral you don’t want one or five people there, not that it’s a popularity contest but you want to know that you’ve impacted and touched the lives of many people through relationships.
For me, I want to try my best to balance. Sometimes, if that means that certain aspects of my music career are going to be sacrificed, at the end of the day I want to sleep well at night knowing that I didn’t mess up when the time comes [something like] marriage or kids because I was so 100% focused on my music career. So to be honest, it’s something I want to master. Balance is so healthy and important. But it’s something that I’m continuing to learn more of and try to be very conscious about.
A: What is your songwriting process?
F: I learned that there are so many different types of artists but I find that artists fall into different pools. There are some people who are constantly multi-tasking. When they are on touring a specific album, they are writing their next album. They are finding bits and pieces of time while they are performing to record.
Some artists do things specifically in seasons. That’s me, I’m one of those people. I’m all or nothing. I have a season where I just focus on songwriting and after that, it’s the season of taking the songs and start recording them. After that I focus on marketing and pushing that album, then touring and so on and so forth.
For me, I have learned that I’m a melodically driven person by far. Melodies come to me like out of the blue. I can be in the shower, where it predominantly happens which is the most annoying thing in the world because you’re sopping wet.
I’ve tested it where I’ll finish my shower before getting out and recording the idea as soon and I’ve either forgotten it or it’s changed. I can be driving or at the mall and ideas will just come to me. Thank goodness for our cell phones with voice memos.
It’s great for me to collaborate. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses, it’s great to collaborate with people who are lyrically driven. I’ve met people; it’s funny how things connect naturally, who are opposite of me where lyrics come naturally to them but not melodies. I find that it works best to work people [who are like that.]
Not to say that lyrics don’t come to be, because they do, but I find melodies come to me so much easier. I used to start with chords, melodies and then a couple words will come to my minds or a concept or idea then plug it in and then morph the chords around the melody.
Yeah, melodies are out of my wazoo. It’s at the point where I’ve got tons of melodic ideas and I need to start putting some words to some of them.
As the Beatles did with Paul McCartney and John Lennon, I think it was Let It Be. They started by just saying “Green Eggs and Ham” and they had the melody. Also John Legend said he does [that for] the songs he writes. For All Of Me, maybe the first thing in his mind was the word ‘roses’. He would just sing with the chords he had “roses and roses” until sentences or more concepts came to him.
I’ve found that helps sometimes, I’ll be at the piano and I’ll have a chord progression, then all of a sudden some words will come and I’ll put other words together with other stupid words. Something eventually comes out. For me always start with the melody or chord progression.
A: What advice do you have for beginner singers?
F: Follow your heart. Never sell out and be true to who you are. I love what Sam Smith said at the Grammys. He was trying to form himself to what he felt what the world’s view of the male pop artist. He was trying to lose weight, sing a certain way and he got to a certain point where he was like “screw this.” He was exhausted because he would sing a certain way, create a certain image and would go knocking on the doors of labels and people and everyone was ignoring him and not paying attention. He got to the point where he was so tired of it and just started being himself. If people like it great and if not, they don’t. He was who he was and the rest is history.
Be true to who you are. Soak in as much as you can. Learn from those who want to teach you or go to workshops. Forget just music. Some of the most brilliant minds. have all said that the foolish one is a person who feels that they know it all, but we are all still learning. Learning is so important.
Keep the vision in sight, never stop keeping it clear. Don’t let other people pop it or break it down. Be careful who you share it will because some people who want to tear it down. It’s ridiculous but some people do. Work hard and keep really good people around you. Keep your eyes on the prize and your nose to the grindstone. That’s one of my favorite sayings. Surround yourself with people who are good and people who are stronger in certain areas than you. That’s how you grow. You become more like the people you surround yourself in. There is just so much to say, but that’s the closest I can get to summarizing it all.
A: So you sing and perform, how do you approach people to join your band for performances?
F: The same way as making Facebook or twitter contacts. Initially, when I started off with putting the band together I was a little nervous because what if they didn’t want to join. When I see a musician that inspires me or who is freaking amazing, I’m like “What the heck do I have to lose?” I’ll go up to them and give them my email or maybe if they are into social media I’ll Facebook or tweet them. Telling them “I would love to work with you, let me know if you are interested. Give me a call.”
Of course, it happens where people are busy with a ton of other bands. Or some people, and I’ve told them “Much respect, thank you for your honesty” they will be like “Look Flo, we aren’t really into the R&B soul thing, I’m definitely more country or folk or rock musician.”
I’d rather someone tell me they aren’t feeling it because I’ve worked with musicians who are so good for certain genres or styles of music but it doesn’t blend well with the genres I’m doing. Or someone is playing with me but there heart is not in it. You can totally tell the difference between someone who is passionate and who loves what they are doing with you and someone who doesn’t. I love working with musicians who have their heart in it and will be like “heck yeah, let’s do this.” Just test it out and just don’t take it personally if it doesn’t work out.
A: What is the most stressful part of being a professional musician?
F: I’d have to say unlike people we know who have the 9-5 or 8-4 job; it’s instability. As people say, it is one in a million who get to that real spot of success. But then again, success is what we define as success. [For] Some people success is being able book coffee shops across the country or continent. [For] Some people success is being able to book venues the like the West End Cultural Centre. Other people, success is selling out arenas or stadium or concert galls and getting nominated for Junos or Grammys.
I guess there are some dry spells. There are periods where it’s quieter with gigs and you have bills and stuff. I’d have to say for me, the instability and for somebody who is a little Type A who likes to have things planned out. The spontaneity can be cool but other times it can be like “crap” how do you plan your life when there are surprises that pop out.
For myself and my goals, as I mentioned, my definition of success is big and out there and so keeping my eyes on the prize is sometimes hard. Meaning I do know what I want but perseverance and persistence and staying on this road [can be challenging] because I know some people who are so talented but got tired and exhausted and sick of [it]. Continuing to have faith in what I believe and to make it and get to the end of the road is the end goal.
The instability with the little surprises that come along and holding onto that dream and knowing it may seem invisible to a lot of other people but understanding it will come. Those two things are the most stressful.
Support Winnipeg musician Flo!
If you liked this interview please help support the #WinnipegMusicProject and being the first to know when all new interviews with Winnipeg artists are posted by following me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Also, if you have any feedback please let me know in the comment section below. Do you know any artist or band from Winnipeg that you feel deserve some spotlight or attention and should be interviewed? Let me know and I'll get into contact with them as soon as possible!