Image: Solange Knowles for Interview Magazine. Image source.
Interview Magazine has just released a glorious interview with indie pop queen (and queen of our hearts) Solange Knowles, who is in conversation with none other than her superstar sister Beyoncé. The interview lifts off in the aftermath of a parent teacher conference, which reminds us simultaneously just how normal celebrities like Solange can be, but also how far their lives exist from our own realities. Because, you know, when Beyoncé is “your biggest fan,” life just ain’t the same.
What unfolds throughout the interview is a candid and soul-affirming discussion between two very close sisters that also happen to be best friends. Their differences really come to light here, as Beyoncé points out that her sister was “always attracted to the most interesting fashion, music, and art. You were obsessed with Alanis Morissette and Minnie Riperton and mixing prints with your clothes”. Moments like these seem to give us a rare and intimate view into the lives of these women who we are so used to seeing pictures of and listening to through our earphones but, in reality, know very little about.
Solange speaks about her “yearning to communicate” through her voice from a young age and the importance of following your gut — which she says is something she gleaned from their mum. “As far back as I can remember, our mother always taught us to be in control of our voice and our bodies and our work, and she showed us that through her example,” she recalls. “If she conjured up an idea… she was not going to hand that over to someone. And I think it’s been an interesting thing to navigate, especially watching you do the same in all aspects of your work: Society labels that a control freak, an obsessive woman, or someone who has an inability to trust her team or to empower other people to do the work, which is completely untrue.”
Girl power moments like these carry on right throughout the interview, especially as Solange gets deep about female emotions and how she has used her music to navigate her way through them. She speaks about Cranes in the Sky, for example — the only song on A Seat at the Table that she wrote independently of the album itself. “It was a really rough time… I was just coming out of my relationship with Julez’s father. We were junior high school sweethearts, and so much of your identity in junior high is built on who you’re with. You see the world through the lens of how you identify and have been identified at that time. So I really had to take a look at myself, outside of being a mother and a wife, and internalize all of these emotions that I had been feeling through that transition.”
She speaks of the self-doubt and “pity-partying” that she went through during this time in her early twenties, which is something most young women can probably relate to. “I remember looking up and seeing all of these cranes in the sky. They were so heavy and such an eyesore, and not what I identified with peace and refuge,” she says. “I remember thinking of it as an analogy for my transition—this idea of building up, up, up that was going on in our country at the time, all of this excessive building, and not really dealing with what was in front of us. And we all know how that ended. That crashed and burned. It was a catastrophe.”
According to Solange, A Seat at the Table is all about emotional journeys such as these really; like working through her self-imposed pressures to be a better mother, wife and sister. “For this record specifically, it really started with wanting to unravel some truths and some untruths,” she explains. “There were things that had been weighing heavy on me for quite some time. Because the album really feels like storytelling for us all and our family and our lineage. And having mom and dad speak on the album, it felt right that, as a family, this closed the chapter of our stories.”
Aside from the candid and empowering way in which Solange discusses her creative process and the way she wades through very normal (but at times very overwhelming) human emotions, the admiration her sister Beyoncé clearly feels towards her just seriously makes our hearts sing. Because there’s a deeply inherent sense of personal and professional respect there — which provides a pretty damn good role model for all female relationships, if you ask me. Beyoncé asks her sister, for example, what inspired the tone of her voice on the record. “The vulnerability in your voice and in your arrangements, the sweetness and the honesty and purity in your voice — what inspired you to sing in that tone?” To which Solange explains “it was very intentional that I sang as a woman who was very in control, a woman who could have this conversation without yelling and screaming, because I still often feel that when black women try to have these conversations, we are not portrayed as in control, emotionally intact women, capable of having the hard conversations without losing that control.”
In other words then, it is a hugely inspiration interview charged with moments of emotional honesty and insight. If you have the time, you can give the whole thing a read over here.
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