|Photo by Raquita Henderson at|
Not many people will exit an interview, encouraging a reporter to portray them as crazy. Then again, Blue doesn't claim to be like many people.
"There are a lot of free people among us," she says. "We see them every day. We call them crazy."
One of the first things you'll notice about Blue is that she's unapologetically honest. The self-described "music baby" is about doing art her way, as well as helping other artists express themselves as freely as they choose. In addition to making music, she hosts a radio show, runs a nonprofit focused on interactive music making and facilitates workshops for independent artists.
Freeing the mind is the theme of Blue's latest album, "Breakage: A Hitchhiker's Guide to Babylon, The Musical."
"Babylon is the grid," she says. "It's the grid where you have to purchase freedom with a price. Reality is a place in your mind more than it is any physical place because we are born free. We just buy into the Babylonian lie as soon as we get here and everybody around us is constantly reinforcing that lie.
Photo by Travis Stanton http://travisstanton.com
"You've got to learn to recognize the difference between who you are and who you've been told you are. Who you are is the person that imagines things and dreams and wants to be friends with everybody. All you have to do is spend time with kids and old folks and you'll know. Kids and old folks, they know what they're supposed to be doing."
Blue was raised in the historically Black town of East St. Louis, IL. She started formally training in classical music at the age of six. Her musical upbringing also included jazz and singing in the church choir, among other experiences.
Although she was immersed in music, she says she was the only musical person in her family. As a result, she had to find influences.
A young Blue would go to the library and check out music, often based on the cover art. She says it helped her gain an eclectic idea of what music and creativity are.
She rejects the idea of putting artists into a box. For example, she praises Bjork.
"She just screams randomness into microphones but there's a structure to it," says Blue. "There's a serious science to it.
"I really enjoy artists who tell stories with their entire breadth of work. It's not just hit, hit, hit, hit, hit. From the first song they sing to the last one they sing before they die, you can see a story. They are singing about their life. They're not just trying to appeal to an audience."
Blue says some of the music can be good and some can be terrible, but at the end of the day, it's about being honest on your journey. You can always tell when an artist is just trying to appeal to the audience and it's sad because the artist ends up looking ridiculous, she says.
"If you're not being honest you have no good answer for why you're doing crap," says Blue. "That's really what it comes down to. I want to justify the crap that I do in life so I've got to be straight up."
One thing that makes her approach different than many of her contemporaries is that she no longer does public shows. Instead of dealing with middle people, she wants her fans to hire her. Blue says her fans can contact her business partner Molly Ross to book her or get involved in any of her other projects.
"Everything I'm doing, there's a way for you to be involved," she says.
Photo by Raquita Henderson at Pinxit Photography
One such venture is her Internet radio show Uranus is Blue. The show, which is available on YouTube, features independent artists and community members who do work in their respective areas. The idea of the show is to help these people share their voices.
"Art is intended to move society forward," she says. "If art isn't heard, society isn't going anywhere."
The show plays music from guest artists or music that corresponds to the topic a community member is discussing. Due to an agreement with YouTube, artists get compensated for whatever music of theirs is played on the show. It also has a corresponding blog.
In addition to using her show as a resource, Blue also does artist workshops.
She has a nonprofit called Discovering a Voice that helps community members interactively write songs.
Blue started the organization with Ross after she realized she was becoming a cynical artist. The response to her "pungent" lyrics was often negative in Oregon, compared to the Midwest states she had been performing in, she says. After a while, she was beginning to feel drained.
Discovering a Voice became a way for her to continue making music in the state she decided to settle in without hating it.
"I wasn't going to change what I was doing but I had to figure out how can I love the mountains and waterfalls and still create with people," she says. "In essence, we are meeting them where they are with art."
The nonprofit started out with a grant proposal. Blue and Ross, however, didn't get the grant, which ended up working out in their favor because it allowed them more creative freedom.
Maintaining your vision is a theme Blue stresses in her workshops with independent artists.
She emphasizes that they don't have to trade their creative freedom for a business approach to their work.
"They work so hard to try to do their art as opposed to just doing their art and then working on their marketing," she says. "In the five hours you might spend traveling to do a show for free, you could put together an entire marketing plan that will carry you for the next ten years.
"If you're in Babylon, their ball, their bat, their rules. You play the game and you play it well. That's called pimping the system. Use it to your advantage."
Besides refusing to compromise her vision, she gives three basic pieces of advice. Don't ask anyone for help twice because there are too many opportunities and entities that want to help you to continue knocking on doors that don't. Also, get paid for everything and read.
Photo by Dail Chambers
"In order to use the system to your advantage, you've got to know it," says Blue. "In order to know it, you've got to read. The library is your best friend. Everything you need to know is in books.
"I'm a learning person and I'm the type of person, when I see a new piece of information, I try to think of all the ways I can exploit that new piece of information.
"If you are making art just for the sake of making art and your friends and family love it and you like doing shows, then do that. But if you want to make money, you have to treat it like a business."
For more information on Blue, go to her website Bluefolktronica.com and check out her blog.