[EXCLUSIVE] A Conversation with Brave Williams
There are interviews and then there are chats. Interviews are when I ask questions that the interviewee answers. Chats are when we just talk. I love to chat and so does singer and R&B Divas LA cast member Brave Williams. I had girl talk with the Baltimore raised songstress recently and we chatted about the Baltimore riots, her experience on reality TV, her new EP “Fearless” and more. Check out our indepth conversation below.
Keyauna Chantel: Okay. I see you have been really busy and I commend you on what you were busy doing. Cleaning up in Baltimore [after the riots and protests resulting from the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray who died in police custody in Baltimore].
Brave: Thank you. I appreciate that. It was my pleasure, honestly. It was really my pleasure. Our city is beautiful and I just think it takes us to come out together and just unite for the cause of healing.
Keyauna: Definitely. When this whole ordeal started, I was thinking about a lot of different celebrities or people in the limelight, public figures who could have used their platform. Maybe if some other influential people were to just put it out there…they could set an example. I was really happy to see that from you. You were sharing it first hand. Letting everybody see what’s going on out there.
Brave: Thank you.
Keyauna: Let’s talk about you being from Baltimore and how you got started with your music in the DMV.
Brave: I started out doing poetry, spoken word and rapping. I was really hitting the spoken word circuit really heavy in downtown Baltimore. I was always at open mics and performing with different bands and really trying to get my music heard. At that point actually, it wasn’t even about getting my music heard it was about just a love of performing. It wasn’t until I turned one of my poems into a song where I realized I can sing. I really started to focus on that aspect of the performing and really trying to develop my voice. I went out for ‘Making the Band‘ and then from there I wanted to put myself in a realm where I could expedite the process of growing vocally. I created a group called Rich Girl. We were signed to Jive [Records] and we toured with Beyoncé. Now I have gone solo and I’m putting out my EP called ‘Fearless‘ and just rapped up actually tonight is the finale show of R&B Divas LA. I Just gave you a lot lol
Keyauna: I was going to say you’ve answered a couple of my questions all at once but that’s all good lol.
Brave: I’m sorry lol.
Keyauna: It’s totally fine lol. We’re going to go a little deeper into it because first off I know about Rich Girl and I was a fan of you back when you were doing that. I was very happy to see you go solo, do you own thing and not let that be the end of Brave. That was really in itself inspirational. Talk about how you made that transition…being in the group, things not going the way you would like and then it all coming to an end. How did you transition from the disappointment and move on to do your own thing.
Brave: It wasn’t an easy transition it was actually very hard. Not just because of the disbanding of my group but because around that same time I lost my manager from a heart attack. And then I lost my father shortly after that. It was really these back to back big moments that were life changing for me. Each of those entities in my life were there for the five plus years I was with the group developing that idea and birthing what felt like my baby. I had this vision and I was so invested in it and I was working at it for five years. My manager, I was with him for seven years, and my father was obviously with me my entire life. At that time it was really rough and it was hard and it wasn’t an easy transition because of all those things back to back. But then slowly but surely…I’m not even trying to put a play on words but I just feel like I really had to live up to my name and figure out what it was that I was going to do creatively and musically.
Keyauna: I’m sure it wasn’t easy losing those people and then finding the courage, like you said, to live up to your name. But I think that’s what it took. I think it was a very courageous move. Because some people face adversity, and maybe not as much adversity as that, and can’t muster the courage or the strength to continue to move on. That’s incredible. Is there a difference for you? How has it been to go from being in a group and to being solo as far as spending everyday in the creative process. is that different for you to be solo creating as opposed to being in the group?
Brave: Fortunately I have a great team around me. Although I’m solo, in retrospect of not having other band members there, I still have a great team that I’m able to still creatively bounce ideas off of. Being solo it really just gives me the freedom to do whatever it is that I want to do. If I want to incorporate rap, if I want to incorporate the poetry, if I want to sing, I’m able to share all those different sides of me. It does give me a freedom that I maybe didn’t have as much while I was in the group. But I definitely feel like the group is what taught me how to endure becoming a solo artist. It really showed me the type of stamina an artist has to have if they’re really serious about their craft. I’m completely blessed to have experienced that group for as long as I did.
Keyauna: Part of the freedom I’m sure that you experience in being solo is being able to do things like R&B Divas LA. Because I know when you’re in a group and you have to consider other people’s personalities and the backlash that may could come from other things, you tread lightly or you’re like, how’s this going to impact everybody? But you can make those decisions on your own when you’re by yourself. Doing R&B Divas LA, you don’t have to think twice. You can just say this is what I want to do, I’m going to do it. How did that even come to be, just you deciding to do the R&B Divas LA.?
Brave: After the group, once I decided that I was going to continue in music and at that time wanted to pursue it solo, I really took what money I made in that situation and basically invested it back into myself. I started my label and I just assembled a really strong team around me. A street team, a PR team, my management team and my production team so that the music could be the quality that I wanted it to be. Then once I recorded my single I really pushed it to radio independently and I was able to garner a lot of radio stations and DJs that were playing my song. From there, that is what pretty much what gained the attention of the producers of R&B Divas L.A. They called and asked if this was something; they saw the movement, they were hearing the music and basically asked if this was something that I would be interested in.
Keyauna: Of course it’s always good to have another level of exposure and a platform for the music, but it’s also, I’m sure, a very interesting dynamic as I saw on the show. With being involved in reality TV and a show of that magnitude, how did it impact your life personally and also musically?
Brave: It definitely has impacted it. The show in itself is just a whole experience that I couldn’t have fathomed it would end up turning out the way it did. I guess I had my own particular ideas about what I thought reality TV was going to be, but it’s actually a lot harder than it looks. But in that area of it being hard I was able to learn a lot. Not only about myself but just being on a platform with these other amazing accomplished women. I was learning so much from them and even from their musical journeys. I knew that the reality was I have yet to put out a body of work and a lot of these women have and they’ve gotten awards etc. Their exposure is far greater than mine, so I really looked at it as a blessing. Musically I was able to learn a lot and take from them. It definitely impacted that side. In my life now, it’s just opening a lot of doors and it’s really doing what I hoped it would in terms of allowing my music to reach a broader audience. For me, I just feel like my music is the source to make people want to stop and pay attention and once I have their attention I just know the ideas and the things I would want to service them. It’s really just given me the platform to do the things I’m really passionate about and I’m able to do that now, because of the show.
Keyauna: Expand on that a bit because you are one of the only women on the show who didn’t have a body of work out nationwide or globally prior to being on the show. I think that it speaks volumes to you as a person, you as an artist for them to be interested in you before any of that. How did that really feel? When you’re in the room and you’re like, “Oh my God. All these women have done these things and I’m here.” Or you can look at it as being a terrifying moment, but it can be very liberating.
Brave: No, it was. Liberating is definitely one of the words that I would use but it was also very humbling. Because it just showed me that I can never take any victory or any moment for granted. It’s almost like I know that I’m still learning and I’m still growing and I’m still developing. I just felt like it was, not to get spiritual or anything but I just feel like I had…
Keyauna: You can get spiritual with me. I’m a spiritual person; I’m one of those, okay lol. So go right ahead lol.
Brave: Okay lol. In that case, it felt like I was able to be obedient. I was strong enough to do what I felt like my purpose was and for me, my purpose was being on the show. I felt like I could offer a different perception of what reality TV looked like and I wasn’t all the way certain if I was going to move forward with it until I heard a particular sermon when the pastor said “you’re the one who has a specific issue in life because you’re the one who’s going to be the solution to it” and I knew I had issues with reality TV and how women were depicted on reality TV. I wanted to change the perception, that’s what inspired me to really want to do it.
Keyauna: That’s a big deal because I did an interview with Brie Bythewood from ‘Blood, Sweat, and Heels’ and I remember she was telling me how she did it because she wanted to be the girl who was not into the cattiness that everybody thought reality TV women were about and she did it to negate the stereotype. It sounds like that had a bit to do with you being inspired to become a part of the show. Being the positive one that people can look at and say this is not always what you get when you look at reality TV.
Brave: Right. Absolutely. Let’s just be real. Not every woman is that. Not every woman is ‘the catty’, is ‘the messy’. I don’t have that in my real life. For me, it would be very hard for me to try to mimic something that I’m not naturally, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of women out here who really just are working hard and who are just trying to take care of their families and who are just trying to survive. That’s a large majority of us. Sometimes it’s actually okay to show that on TV minus the messy. Do you know what I mean? I think that I just really try to stick to what my focus was and my purpose and I definitely feel like I accomplished that.
Keyauna: I do, too. Because I am, like I said, that kind of woman as well. I always feel like what God has for you is for you and I think that’s why your story touches me in the way that it does. Because I feel, like I said before, some people can look at things that have happened in their lives and the adversity that they’ve faced and get discouraged by it, not knowing that what God has for you is for you regardless. For you to end up on R&B Divas LA before having a body of work as far as your album is concerned, I think that on top of you being a positive person on the show, a lot of women of can take that as inspiration like, “This is what Brave’s story is and she’s on R&B Divas LA and she doesn’t even have an album out; I can do this.” I’m sure a part of what you work toward too, is to inspire young girls. Do you encounter a lot of young women who take from your story in that way?
Brave: Absolutely. It’s funny because that’s what I was touching on with the response two questions ago when I was talking about what I think my bigger purpose is. I feel like the music is just to allow me to garner people’s attention, so that when I have the attention, I’ll be able to service them with what I really want them to know and what I really want them to feel and that’s to be inspired. That’s something that I’m just very passionate about from going to their high schools and I’m involved in a mentorship program. I never want us, not even just girls but our youth in general, to ever feel like they’re powerless. I don’t mean to digress but even with what’s going on here in the city and the riots, granted it’s getting more peaceful but I just feel like there’s a lot of kids out here and a lot of our youth, they feel like they’re powerless. I just want to always remind them of my story. That you have all the power that you need to become something and to do something but you have to know how to align that focus to do it. Otherwise you’ll just be distracted and nothing will ever get done. I’m always talking to my girls about that. Just staying focused on doing what you’re supposed to do so that they can become something.
Keyauna: I completely agree and I feel like that’s a big part of what going on in Baltimore and around the country. I actually wrote about that. I wrote a piece that was less about the actual protesting and riots and more about the impact on the Youth. A young lady named Taylor in Baltimore, she’s a blogger but different than me. She’s more like a personal blogger and she talks about how she feels about certain things. She wrote a long post in the midst of everything starting to happen and how she felt about it. Being from Baltimore and being a young person. I think she’s twenty-five. I decided to include a link to her post and some excerpts that I really thought were important. I feel like that, what you said, is the most important thing. There was some anger and profanity lol, but I just got frustration and powerlessness from her post and I just wanted to share that with other people because this is what they’re feeling. The only way for us to address and to make it better is to know this is what they’re feeling and do our best to remind them of their power. They can make changes and do things and they have a voice. Especially now with girls, because guys I think are pushed towards leadership, pushed to do those things and girls are not as much. I think that even though, like you said, all of the youth are important, but it’s important to make sure girls know that they have power.
Brave: Right. Absolutely. For me it’s just constantly trying to remind them where it starts and stops. The power is not between your legs. The power is not by using your fist to show aggression and even burning down CVS’. That’s not where the power lies. The power lies within your mind and in your heart and the way you choose to channel those things. I’m in complete agreement with you.
Keyauna: Speaking of CVS, what did see out there [in Baltimore after the riots and protests]? Because I feel like the mainstream media, of course they always do but this situation is just so evident how they spin situations and how certain media outlets focus on negative when it comes to our community. What did you see out there positive? I’m sure you encountered more positive than others would expect.
Brave: Definitely. I saw all walks of life coming together. It was just an amazing day. I was so blessed that I felt what I felt by the end of the morning when I woke up and I knew I needed to be in the city to help and I listened and I just went. I just dug in and I stopped at Home Depot and I just grabbed the brooms and garbage bags and gloves and didn’t even know where I was going in the city. I just knew once I got inside the city I would see something that needed my help. When I got on the street, I just felt communities of white people, black people, Asian, Indian, teachers, police officers, pastors, social workers; everyone coming out to really try to begin the healing process and I saw fellowship. I saw hugs. I saw conversations. I was a part of conversations that were just so… It was so many things that just triggered so many different elements inside of me that it was all things beautiful. Do you know what I mean? I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if it was going to be another riot. I didn’t know if we were going to be protesting. I just knew that everyone out there was all on the same accord and we were there to clean up. We were there to restore what had pretty much been damaged from the night before. It was love really. That’s what I saw.
Keyauna: That’s dope. You touched a bit on things that you want to do outside of the music and that the music is the way you are getting things moving and getting the attention. What else do you want to do? Do you plan to do major things as far as young girls? What do you have on your mind to do outside of music? Business? Modeling? Everybody does everything now. What do you have in your mind?
Brave: Yes. One thing I’m really passionate about is acting. That’s really how I started. I started that way before I started singing and just being in theater and doing different monologues. I have these comedic characters that I do. I was actually able to dabble a lot into that throughout the duration of these last five to ten years and that was really what help me sustain being able to still stay in music. Do you know what I mean? Being able to book different acting gigs. Now I definitely want to dig into that just a little deeper and on another level. As you mentioned, I have so many ideas in terms of how I want to just gather, I wouldn’t want to say convention centers size. But basically I want to… I’m sorry. I’m at a loss for words. Basically I want to gather my girls together and I want to do different venues where they can be inspired and bring in other public speakers and bring in people that can teach and show them. Whether it’s about being a college professor or doctor.
Keyauna: Seminars and stuff like that? Expos?
Brave: Seminars. Absolutely. I’m sorry, it’s been a long day.
Keyauna: I got you. Seminars. I assumed that was where you were going with it I said,” There we go. Seminars, Expos”, that kind of stuff.
Brave: Thank you! I’m sorry. My brain is fried lol. Yes, I definitely want to. I already have the name for it and I don’t want to speak on it yet. Because I want to get it all together and tight. But by the end of this year, I definitely see me really just diving into that and just touching and inspiring as many girls as I can.
Keyauna: Now ‘Fearless’. Saved that for last lol. Tell me about ‘Fearless’ and how it’s coming together and the project and the music and everything.
Brave: Yes. ‘Fearless’ is my new baby! [she yells]
Keyauna: Yes. I feel it. lol
Brave: lol I’m so excited to release a body of work. ‘Fearless’ is hip-hop. For me, it’s the perfect measure of hip-hop and R&B. It’s the singing, it’s the rapping, it’s the spoken word. It’s just me trying to give an honest version of myself and all different sides of myself. The sexy side. The newest single off of ‘Fearless’ is ‘Road Tripping’. It’s definitely a lot sexier than I’ve ever done before from the group and other solo things that I’ve put out. I just wanted to give all sides of Brave. I wanted to give you the sexy, I wanted to give you the cool, I wanted to give you the fun. Let’s go out and just party. I wanted give you how I feel when I’m hurt and when I’m sad and if a man just broke up with me. I just really wanted to make sure there’s something on there for everybody and I definitely feel like there’s something on there for everybody.
Keyauna: Is this going to be one of those albums I can put in and I can play the whole thing? Because I can not stand two songs in the beginning and then four songs in the middle mixed in lol. Is it, I hope, I pray. I believe it probably will be because of you, a full album that I can play start to finish. Can I do that in the car?
Brave: What you’re going to do in the car is it’s going to change your vibe. Let’s just say you’re having a bad day. You’re going to be having an awesome day and you’re going to listen to all the songs all the way through. That’s the type of vibe. There’s a lot of feel good music on there that makes you just want to get up and do a two step or make you just want to ‘bob’ your head and just roll out. You can chill to it. You can party to it. I definitely think it will be good. You can hit play and walk away.
Keyauna: Okay. Cool. If I put an album in, if I buy your album as a body of work, not singles. If I buy it as a body of work I want to listen to it like that. I love when I can listen to the whole thing from beginning to end.
Brave: This is the thing with ‘Fearless’. It’s an EP that I want to release to you for free. I want to give you me for free. I don’t believe in making anyone pay for this this go around because I want you to understand who and what I am as an artist. For this you’ll just be able to download from my website BraveWilliamsWorld.com and you’ll have it. Now the album, which I’ll plan to release a few weeks after, it will have a lot more content on it. That will be for purchase, but for this one I just want you to come into my world and just really see who and what I am.
Keyauna: Okay. I’m telling my age but I remember when Rich Girl was out. Is that because you think that maybe the first time people have seen you in this generation is on the show [R&B Divas LA]? You want to re-introduce yourself musically?
Brave: Absolutely. I feel like the show did an awesome job trying to still incorporate music. They incorporated R&B and incorporating what each woman offered musically but at the same time it’s seven different story lines that they have to accommodate. That sometimes can take away from the studio sessions. It’s like a balancing act. I think that if you watched all the episodes you were able to get to the end and you hear two of my songs and you got to see us perform together as a group. But for me I still want a more concrete understanding of who Brave is musically. I just think this is the best way to accomplish that.
Keyauna: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I’ll end with two last questions: One, if you’re a person who has never heard of Rich Girl, didn’t watch R&B Divas LA, what would you want them to know about you in thirty seconds?
Brave: In thirty seconds, that Brave is a dreamer. Brave inspires. If you buy into Brave, you’re buying into an idea that there is never a day where you should ever feel hopeless or powerless because you’re alive and there’s always a reason. There’s always something in you that you had to pull from and you’re not alone. There’s people out here that care about you and you’re needed. I would just want them to know that they’re loved. As crazy as that might sound, but they are.
Keyauna: No that does not sound crazy at all. Tell people how they can find you? On social media and everything and how they can get into Brave and get into ‘Fearless’ and everything that’s coming with you.
Brave: Absolutely. You can also see me on my Instagram, because I’m always posting videos and I’m very active on my social media. That’s @BmoreBrave. B-M-o-r-e-b-r-a-v-e and my website BraveWilliamsWorld.com. Tweet me, Instagram me, Facebook me. Everything is BmoreBrave
Keyauna: Thanks for chatting with me Brave. Best of luck.
Brave: Same to you, thanks mama.