“I’m currently aware of that sound and
the direction I was appointed to deliver”
a few pictures.
lemon, ginger, garlic tea.
discussion on Brandy, accountability, belthy murphy, and the singer’s latest film release: (Crying Entity: The Film - Part II)
photography: anthony jamari thomas
photos shot on Apple IPhone SE
A: Tell me in a few words, why music?
B: It’s my escape. A language, which connects to my audience - a safe haven.
A: Who are you today, from the vocalist who began pursuing a career in music a few years ago?
B: I’ve evolved musically and have more
of a personal relationship with my gift. I’ve taken a leap from initially being extremely timid - unware of the sound I needed to express. I’m currently aware of that sound and the direction I was appointed to deliver. My current stage with music presents growth.
A: Every performer, at least those I’ve met; each have their specific take on how they view presence. How would you define it?
B: My definition of presence is similar to a paperweight...I envision it to be very heavy and impactful, yet silent. This speaks in my visuals; my overall everyday appearance and how I project my character as BarringtonELECT; something that hits you as soon as you encounter its essence...like a potent smell coming from your NY hallway.
A: Do you ever feel like you’re on a timeline and if so, how do you react to the flow of ideas versus the demand for content in our Information Age?
B: Yes. Every time I collaborate it heightens the demand. However, I tend to stray away from time constraints. I refrain from forcing the work, unless under contract. In that case, I’d be willing to adhere while ensuring it doesn’t conflict with the project’s authenticity. I’ve learned that forcing my process can jeopardize its integrity. Having the opportunity to rest, live life in the mist of creating and mull over the project is valuable to me and my preferred process.
A: As you say this, I start to think about the power of collaboration in your practice? Is it beneficial? Do you use it as a tool, do you care to collaborate? How do you live with the fact that music is a collaborative sport during certain stages of the process. How do you reconcile this when thinking of the integrity of your work?
B: You and I have worked together for a few years, it‘s a warming process and I‘m honored to always have support building a rapport with different artists. I understand this and in return, I embrace collaboration. Seeing the music and visuals solely through my eyes can hinder the project, limiting the horizons for the work to reach the masses. I stay true to my vision while receiving feedback - trust goes a long way.
A: Why is it important for you to release the film now?
B: The work is done and I’m thrilled my vision has come to life. I‘ve been queuing up all of this footage since 2018 and now that we’ve molded the work into a three-part film, it’s ready to be shared.
A: I always feel this sense of confrontation when I hear you sing; accountability, ownership of your identity, etc. Do you feel endowed with a gift that can push your community forward?
B: Being a gay black man, I found that there are not a lot of individuals speaking our truth and projecting real love...you know our trials and tribulations. With this platform, I’m making way for us to be heard. Let’s say I’ll be a beacon; ensuring I don’t shy away from the subject and blatantly speak on it, while making love songs for us to live through.
A: Perfect smell?
B: Madagascar Cedarwood
Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille
Tom Ford Black Orchid
A: Perfect fabric?
B: Felt: feels weird...but the texture, I love it and definitely silk.
BarringtonELECT wearing Christopher John Rogers during Crying Entity listening session (2018). photo courtesy of Delwin Kamara.
A: Perfect sound?
B: Silence, there’s joy in the sounds you hear within. I recently started playing with keys attempting to produce, I’ll share those momentarily.
A: But what’s yours?
A: Now that we are on the concept of sound. How about we discuss instrumentation?
Yesterday I worked with a saxophonist for the first time. Typically, I jam with a band as I did for Crying Entity. Being able to switch gears from the band to working with this singular musician was phenomenal, I resonated with the sound as it sparked a feeling I was too familiar with - bringing me back to why I love music.
My voice is an instrument and since working with the band I’ve learned how to compliment musicians. I’m taking that approach on production and a few instruments, the feeling of making music is undeniable. This particular session was a mission to not compete with the sound, but to release the ball as the quarterback would on a Hail Mary - you either catch it or you don’t.
A: In the same vein, how do you view songwriting?
B: Words are very powerful, it is all based on arrangement. Three words can mean so many different things, each word has its own meaning and position, but when they are together - they can morph. Playing with words is lovely, some of my lyrics are nostalgic - they ask you to take space with me. There may be challenges in the midst but we’re in it together.
A: Okay, let’s say I’ve never heard “music” before - never heard someone sing, or use their voice as an instrument but I want to understand, describe to me the physical/spiritual feeling that occurs when you sing…
B: To sing, first off you have to sing from your stomach oppose to your nose. Pull that air from the stomach, to support the delivery of breath. As you sing, hold your stomach to feel the air push through - rising up. When the air comes to your throat, your muscles move to create waves and then your sound comes out. This process can be intimate yet spiritual.
It also depends on the song, for example: a heartfelt song revealing pain can evoke emotions where I conquer pain, but then also feelings of excitement; hurt and excitement parallel on a plane - that energy is amazing.
It’s also best to let the music flow, similar to Fantasia’s rendition of Aretha Franklin’s Respect for Black Girls Rock 2018. During that performance, she embraces “it” releasing her sound as she sings a note or two, exposing the bravado on her lips, energy pushed through like a spirit you can’t control.
I also feel singing is personal.
We can sing the same thing, and we can have different experiences that can lead us to sing the same notes differently.
Fantasia Barrino during Black Girls Rock: Aretha Franklin Tribute. courtesy of BET Networks. 2018.
A: In preparation for this interview, I asked you to give me concepts that could embody your practice and you mentioned perseverance. What does this word represent in connection to your practice?
B: Perseverance is key for me - I have to be persistent. Like I said before, I work with a team and if I am not consistent the pace won’t progress. I move in the tone knowing that if one door has closed there is another door somewhere that I can pass through.
A: Do you consider yourself a real singer?
B: Yes! Yet, there’s room for growth as our potential is unknown until we acquire it. I’m still transitioning into that singer... I’ll know when I’m sitting it in. Hm, how can I put this....I’m a prince next in line for the throne. Equipped with the power as I fall backwards into it.
Barrington sitting in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn studio.
I have all the qualities.
I am the quality.
A: If you can, give me a sentence that describes this moment for you...
B: We are sitting in our new normal.
A: Favorite album?
Brandy performing ‘Never Say Never’ 1998. courtesy of YouTube (2008)
B: My favorite album from start to finish is Brandy “Never Say Never” (they’ve forgotten about the vocal bible, and her infamous runs).
A: Where do you want to take the next stages of your vocal career?
B: I am open, I am really pushing to go into theater doing more showcases - maybe something with a one hundred piece band. I am really inspired by “We Are The World” and other pieces in support of protesting for our rights! Fighting for myself and others who do not have a voice.
A: In terms of the film, what kind of references were used to drive the aesthetics of the film from movement, to editing, color palettes?
B: A lot of imagery was organic, however I found peace in Paris & a few images that spoke to me. Since Paris kicked of the shooting of the film, I thought it was ideal to bring that energy back to the states. In efforts to bringing a sense of cohesiveness to the story. I designed a backdrop to play on the regal aesthetic made with various shades of blue silk. Constructing the piece took merely less then an hour while listening to THE GOSPEL.
excerpt from Crying Entity film: Part II 12:34; behind the scenes. BarringtonELECT wearing Bobby Day; hair styling by Sean Bennett.
excerpt from Crying Entity film: Part II Double Dutches; BarringtonElect wearing Stephen Jones, Gucci and artist own vintage.
excerpt from Crying Entity film: Part II Bird Call BarringtonELECT wearing custom design: Mason Webb, DualityJunkie with tulle treatment by Theophilio.
Childhood, Hilma af Klint 1907.
A: Favorite photograph?
photo of a portrait of Mrs. Belthy Murphy by Barrington.
B: This photo of my grandmother, in a sky blue two-piece dress she constructed wearing a white kitten wedge. I styled her in that same dress nearly 40 years later for part III of the film. I embraced the photo because of its powerful energy. A strong black woman and matriarch of my family - we’re best friends, I’m her baby and everyone knows it - our connection remains unbreakable.
portrait of BarringtonELECT, photo courtesy of Tahir McKenzie (2018).
B: Another photograph, is from a shoot I did for a two-day celebration for the album release. I worked with photographer Tahir Mckenzie. This was the first time I’ve seen myself as powerful in an image; the energy the styling, all of it spoke to me.
A: I think this is nice and sweet, and I don’t want to make the people, too informed.
B: yeah, they nosy...
A: But do me a favor, think about the very next thing you’ll do after leaving here and sing it to me….