Nicole Wray and Terri Walker Unite to Form Lady
For those who have been glumly fretting over the increasing electronification of R&B, the classic feel of Lady will be intoxicating. But they are by no means a throwback.
Nicole Wray and Terri Walker haven't known each other for very long, but they already bicker like sisters. No wonder the name "Lady" seemed the perfect title for their recently release self-titled retro-soul record. It's their first collaboration as a duo, but neither are strangers to making music—Nicole's worked under Missy Elliot's tutelage from a young age, she’s also been featured on tracks with Kid Cudi, Cam’ron and The Black Keys collective Blackroc.
Terri has released three full length albums in the UK that met with critical acclaim, and worked with the likes of Mos Def. When I met them at a cafe in the Lower East Side, Nicole and Terri were finishing up a day of interviews, but that didn't stop them from insisting I sit between them in the diner bench. I quickly found out that the two met while Walker was working on a disco record for their label, the small Brooklyn-based Truth & Soul Records, the chemistry was palpable, their union inevitable.
So Lady was born, and for those who have been glumly fretting over the increasing electronification of R&B, their classic feel will be intoxicating. But they are by no means a throwback group or pilferers of the past—Wray & Walker seamlessly integrate the spirit of Diana Ross into 2013's sonic landscape. "Tell the Truth" is a power ballads with horns and growling bassline, but it's no more retro than anything off Adele's 21. In fact Adele is a good point of reference here, especially for those who are timid when it comes to meatier Soul and Blues records—Lady are Adele times two—and with a backbone to go along with the tears.
Noisey: How did you guys meet? London and the South seem a little far away.
Terri Walker: We met in New York. I was working on a project in New York, so was Nicole, with the same people, and we just hit it off as friends straight away. And from then, we kind of hung out a lot, I was working with Truth & Soul doing a disco record with them. And I said she needed to meet them and they needed to meet her. And from there…
How did you guys come up with the identity and the name?
Nicole Wray: We were going to go with our last names, Walker Wray, and some people at the label come up with the name “Lady” and we loved it because it called us girls, ladies… and it looked cute, we thought it was nice—it flowed.
T: Sometimes it’s about just giving something a name that makes sense. We are both ladies at the end of the day and I think it helps to make that statement.
What are the characteristics that you would assign to the term lady? What are the things that are definitive of that for you guys?
T: Strong, independent, free-thinking. Has a mind of her own. Ambitious. Classy.
N: Driven. Don’t take no shit.
T: She’s robust, she’s unnn!
N: She’s grown.
There’s a little bit of backlash to this term, a desire to be freed from that assigned gender role. What are your thoughts on that?
N: Everybody’s free to have their own opinions of whatever the hell they want to be.
T: That’s what I’m talking about lady!
N: You can be whatever you want to be in this world, it’s your thing. You’re free.
T: We don’t go into those stereotypes about what’s wrong or right… whatever feels good to us. We are all ladies, regardless. Whether it’s good or bad, there’s ladies of all types. We don’t put too much emphasis on that, it’s more of a powerful statement for us. That’s what we want to put across. When people listen to Lady, they’ll think of an independent, powerful woman.
When did each of you realize that you wanted to sing as a career? Was there a specific moment?
N: For me, I was very young. Yeah like 10 or 11? Watching different acts on TV, seeing the acts trhough the television. As a child being like ‘wow are they really in there? How did they get inside the TV?’ Really, honestly I thought they were inside of the television, and I wanted to be inside of the television.
T: Me too! I remember seeing “Fame” When I was younger I loved anything with Doris Day in it. Doris Day, I saw her, and I thought I want to sing like her! Then I saw Judy Garland, and then when I saw Whitney Houston for the first time, I lost my mind. I was like ‘Who is this amazingly beautiful woman with this incredible voice talking about how she wants to help us kids?’ What are you doing for our kids? You’re old! I’m a kid. [Laughs] You know, I was like wow! For me, from a young age. You just know.
N: You know it, then it takes the world to see it. You got your parents… you have to know it first.
I know this is your first album but do you have plans for the future or other songs that aren’t on the album or are you working on new stuff?
T: Well there’s songs that haven’t made the album yet, so there’s a complete bonus cuts that you haven’t heard yet!
N: It feels good right now. Riding the wave. We’re on tour right now, we’re getting response, great reviews. The energy onstage with both of us together is amazing.
I can imagine!
N: We’d love to keep the momentum going.
T: It’s early stages right now, the world is so big we want the everybody to hear this album. We’re always going to do our own solo stuff, but we’re always going to get together and make great music.
There’s been a trend in R&B lately with traditional music mixing with newer, electronic sounding music. Coming from a more traditional background, how do you feel about that?
T: Well, I do a lot of that stuff anyway in my solo projects aside from Lady. I do a lot of Afrobeat stuff, Electro-House, Soul-Cloud. I mean that stuff has always been around and it will always be around. I think we’re going to get remixes done for Lady, that way it hits every market. Because we come from that world anyway, it’s taken us back to our roots too working with Truth & Soul. But I love that stuff, I’m always listening to it in my headphones and they’re like ‘Terri what the hell are you listening to?’
N: I mean, do you realize, when you have your headphones on, we can hear? I’m really not into it, she does a lot of the electronic stuff but not me. I listen to a lot of different music. I like classical music, I listen to a lot of hip-hop, I love rap. I think if you’re going to be creative and try to reach everybody, to be in a different category, to take soul and infuse that with some electronic I think its okay. Just so the crowd can hear that, at that moment.
T: Soul music is everything, it’s the main ingredient of most genres! R&B, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, it comes from the same source. There’s only so many chords in a sequence.
Caitlin White's favorite animal is the Siberian Tiger. She's on Twitter - @harmonicait