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Long blonde dreds pulled back into a chunky ponytail beneath a cabbie hat, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, Divinity Roxx entered the Viper Room’s Media Lounge flanked by two of her bandmates: Matt McMoots and Omar Gusmau. Although one of the festival’s headliners, the down-to-earth bassist with out-of-this-world accolades greeted me with a friendly hug.
It was only an hour before the first of over 74 bands hit the stages of the Sunset Strip Music Festival. Despite the pre-event madness, Divinity Roxx, the bassist extraordinaire, made time for an interview with MXDWN to discuss “The Roxx Box Experience,” working with Beyonce, defying stereotypes and how the Bass gave her a new life.
AH: Alright, so who do we have here? Let’s get your names.
DR: Divinity Roxx.
Omar: We’ve got Omar here! On guitar!
Moots: Moots on Bass, Guitar and vocals.
AH: Thank you guys for meeting up with me.
AH: Congratulations on making #4 in the Reverbnation Alternative charts for Atlanta, GA!
DR: Thank you! I’m excited. #4 has a nice sound to it!
AH: Hopefully, that will soon be the world, right? #1 even!
AH: I would LOVE to point out that you don’t fit the generic mold that society has for black women in music. Especially since your art is rock music. Have you noticed any flack because of that?
DR: Thank You. Well, I once did a show and there was a woman in the audience giving me looks and whispering to her friend. She was skeptical about what I could do when they saw me get on stage. But, by about the third song, she was clapping and getting into it. After the show, she came over to me and said, “I have to apologize to you, I didn’t think you were going to be any good.”
AH: That’s amazing! I guess you showed her then! I don’t want to repeat the great interviews circling around about how you began musically, but I haven’t seen much about WHO or WHAT inspired you to become a bassist. Can you tell us about that process?
DR: When I was going to [University of California at] Berkeley, I had a friend named Paris King who was really into the bass back then. At the time, I wanted to learn a new instrument. I wanted to learn guitar, actually. Paris convinced me to play bass. He told me “You look like a bassist, you have the swagger of a bassist, you need to play bass!”. So, I learned and now, I LOVE playing bass. After that, I was mentored by Victor Wooten.
AH: How did you decide to combine rapping over playing bass?
DR: I used to rap in High School [where the nickname Divinity originated]. Paris was the one that encouraged me to rap and play bass. What’s funny is that he hasn’t even touched the bass since. He’s heavy into the guitar now.
AH: He basically passed the torch on to you. And here we are!
DR: That’s right!
AH: So, I read that you auditioned to be in Beyonce’s band, just like everybody else. Now, you’re not only the bassist, but the Music Director. Did you audition to be the Music Director (MD)?
DR: No, I auditioned to be the bassist and later Bibi [McGill, Beyonce’s guitarist] and I were asked to be the MDs.
AH: Was that a surprise to you? Had you ever been MD before?
DR: Actually, this was my first MD gig. Initially, I was nervous about it but it ended up working out very well.
AH: What’s it like being the MD for Beyonce’s band? Is there a lot of chart reading?
DR: The band is a great group of musicians. Bibi and I work together to make sure things run smoothly, delegating parts and making sure everyone’s on the same page musically. There’s really no sheet music, we all primarily play by ear [for this gig].
AH: Wow, that’s very inspiring! What else is inspiring is that you’re working on your own project right now…
DR: That’s right! The Roxx Boxx Experience! I’ve got two singles out on iTunes and Amazon now, “Get Here” and a remake of “Black Betty”.
AH: I heard it and it’s ROCKIN’!
DR + Band: Wait until you hear the REMIX! It’s even HEAVIER!
AH: I can’t wait! How did the Rock, Rap, Rock hybrid come together? Was it an organic thing that just happened?
DR: It was organic, absolutely.
AH: Is your band a part of the process? How long have you guys been together?
DR: Actually…we’re all relatively new to each other.
Moots: I actually met Divinity for coffee in December 2010 and we hit it off then. I realized that everything I’d been doing in my life musically up to that point had lead me to working with Divinity and where she was trying to go. Musically, we feed off of each other.
Omar: I just started the band in April of this year and it’s been working out really well.
Moots: It’s all been very organic.
DR: There’s one more member, the drummer [Ron], but he couldn’t make it to the interview
AH: You’re performing tonight at the Whiskey A Go Go for Sunset Strip Music Festival. Is this a stop on a tour?
DR: No, we’re not on tour right now. We’re doing shows here and there, but we’re mostly focused on getting the singles out, so the world will know about them.
AH: Tell me about The Roxx Boxx Experience. What should we expect to hear on the album. Any musical guests? Producers?
DR: We’re currently in the studio, still working on it. My last project had guests like Fergie and Will. I. Am. But, I want to keep you in suspense for The Roxx Boxx Experience. You never know who might show up on it!
AH: Does this mean that you may have special surprise guests performing in your shows like Prince did for his 21 Night Stand concerts?
DR: Well, I’m not Prince, so…*laughs*
AH: I know, but he did perform with Larry Graham at his shows and I know that you’ve performed with Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins and all those legends.
DR: Yeah, that’s true. We’ll see. I guess you never know!
AH: So, what’s next for Divinity Roxx? Clothing Line? Self-Help Books?
DR: Maybe in the future.
AH: You’re such an inspiration. You think outside of the box, you follow your heart and stay true to your art as a musician. If there were words you could share with the readers of MXDWN, what would they be?
DR: “Never, ever, ever, EVER give up!”
The singles: “Get Here” and “Black Betty” are now both available on iTunes.
Divinity Roxx’s official Website – http://www.divinityroxx.com/