In our August-September issue, we spoke with four Black artists based in Montgomery County about their creative endeavors. Each artist draws inspiration from their own personal experiences and childhood upbringing to craft pieces that speak to themselves and others.
During Black History Month we will be revisiting those stories. Here, musician Natalie Jean of Kensington shares the meaning behind her artwork.
I am a singer, songwriter and performer. I am a multi-genre artist. I’m very versatile, and I can sing in French, Spanish, Haitian Creole and English. I actually didn’t know that I was going to be involved in singing. I grew up in a family of musicians; my father Guy Robert Jean is a famous Haitian singer and my aunt Sandra Jean is also a famous Haitian singer—she started the first all-female band in Haiti.
Growing up, I used to love Elvis Presley, and I’d watch him all the time. I knew that I might do something with music because I really liked to dance but it was really in the back of my mind. But I found joy in it. I also suffered from depression from time to time and what I noticed was when I made music, I was at my happiest. It felt like I had finally found my niche in life where I can be the very best that I can be.
Normally when I’m thinking about writing a song, I go deep into my own emotions about the topics that I want to bring out. Or sometimes it’s about sitting somewhere, looking at something and being like, oh, that would be an interesting topic! There’s something about how artists don’t write about the things that are going on, like racism, the environment … things like that, and I was inspired. I want to be an effective player in life. It’s not just about charting. It’s not just about making money or winning awards. It’s more about how I can be a part of the plan to make the world a better place.
So I decided to create this album, “Where Did We Go From Here?,” of the different social issues that are going on in the world. It’s not about changing somebody’s mind but getting the listener to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes. And then I came up with these existing themes that I could work with and I wrote them all down.
The [first song on the album] is called “I Told You No,” which is a story about my own sexual assault. I thought, why not bring this out to light? I’m not ashamed and people need to understand what a person is going through during that time.
“Heroes” and “Numb” are about gun violence in America. “Heroes” is a different perspective on it. The song basically says that this is not how heroes should be made. It’s about one young teenager who threw himself at somebody else so that others could live. This person should be enjoying life and should not have had it cut at such a young age. “Mother Earth” is about the environment. “We Rise” is about women’s rights and issues.