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American music is one of those titles that means so much, while also is completely meaningless. Music doesn't concern itself with borders or governments. If I play a G major chord in Australia, it's going to sound the same as if I played it in Arkansas. So then how and why do we constantly use the title "American"? Take one listen to our newest NEXT session with Muddy Magnolias and you'll understand why this title is important.

The group is made up of Jessie Wilson and Kallie North, two glorious singers from different musical and geographical backgrounds who met in Nashville and decided they needed to make music together. Wilson was born in Brooklyn, raised on soul and R&B before she started a singing career of her own in the big apple. North grew up in Texas, going to music joints in Austin, before moving to the Mississippi Delta and falling in love with the deep culture and music of the delta.

Those geographic identifiers collide in the music featured both here in session and on their debut album, Broken People. "Our music really represents who we are as woman...our childhood, our background, where we've come from", explained North during our conversation. "So we get to have a lot of fun because the space we have to experiment and create is really wide between the two of our influences," adds Wilson. Here, joined by a single guitarist, the two singer's voices lock in on powerful and passionate performances of "Broken People", "Devil's Teeth", and "Leave It to the Sky".

Transcript

- And we are the Muddy Magnolias.
Tell me what happened to this world We just don't love anymore
- When people ask us how to sum up the music we make, I always let Jessy answer that.
- Our album and our sound, people would try to categorize it and we said that it's built on all of the great American music.
- Our music really represents who we are as women and our childhoods, our backgrounds, where we've come from.
- So we get to have a lot of fun because, like just how much space we have to experiment and create is really wide between the two of our influences.
Broken, broken people walking around
She's been working Trying to feed that baby's mouth
Yeah, Hallelujah
She's at the church house every Sunday morning
People talking and talking trying to tell her something real
But ain't no talk going to pay the bills
Whoa, whoa ain't it something? Whoa, whoa ain't it true?
Been having trouble sleeping Got a thousand worries creeping
The biggest one I got, I got, I got is you
Do you go to bed hungry? Tell me, do you?
Yeah, yeah
Murder There's more than one way to murder
He's a dealer, yeah Selling death on the corner
Retribution Don't exist south of angels
No, people talking and talking trying to tell him something real
But too much talking just might get you killed
Whoa, whoa ain't it something? Whoa, whoa ain't it true?
Been having trouble sleeping Got a thousand worries creeping
The biggest one I got, I got, I got is you
Do you go to bed hungry? Tell me, do you?
Tell me, do you go to bed hungry? Tell me, do you?
I wanna know now Do you go to bed hungry?
Tell me, do you? Hey, do you go to bed hungry?
Tell me, do you? Do you go to bed hungry?
Tell me, do you?
Whoa, whoa ain't it something? Whoa, whoa ain't it true?
Been having trouble sleeping Got a thousand worries creeping
The biggest one I got, I got, I got is you
Do you go to bed hungry? Tell me, do you?
- My husband came home from work one day and gave me an acoustic guitar, and I sat on the porch and connected these chords and started writing music.
Songs were just pouring out of me, and people encouraged me to go to Nashville and I wanted to be a songwriter full-time.
So I drove to Nashville and I walked into an office on Music Row, one of the first meetings I had when I got to town and this one man, in particular, helped me a lot and so to tell him, thank you, I gave him one of my photographs framed, it was of an old rundown juke joint piano on Highway 61.
- I called my BMI rep in New York and I told him that I was kind of like going in another direction as a songwriter, and he told me about this man in Nashville that might be able to help me.
And so when I drove to Nashville, I arrived there and I walked into his office and I was playing my music for him, and I looked over to the left and I saw this photograph.
And I was completely just taken by it, I don't know why to this day.
I mean I do, It reminded me of my grandmother's childhood home, but still, something else happened that day that really, like, snatched me and snatched my spirit and my soul, and I asked who the photographer was.
And I found out that it was Kallie and we ended up meeting and hanging out and honestly, we've probably been hanging ever since, every day almost.
Ooh, there's something about you baby
You're setting me loose You're waking my spirit, baby
Good Lord, have mercy My heart's in a hurry
I got to get my eye on you And love you 'til my levy breaks
Come meet me down where the sun goes Out where the roots run deep
Come lay me down like an angel Caught in the devil's teeth
Come lead me into the shadow Until the sparrow sings
Come lay me down like an angel Caught in the devil's teeth
I, I've never been afraid of the fire No,no
I inspire to take it up a little higher Good Lord, have mercy
My heart's in a hurry I've got to get my hands on you
Don't fight it I won't be denied
Come meet me down where the sun goes Out where the roots run deep
Come lay me down like an angel Caught in the devil's teeth
Come lead into the shadow Until the sparrow sings
Come lay me down like an angel Caught in the devil's teeth
Ooh, yeah!
Come lay, lay me down, down Why don't you come on, come on and lay,
lay me down, down Come on, come meet me
down where the sun goes
Where the sun goes Out where the roots run deep
Come lay me down like an angel Where the roots run deep
Come lay me down Caught in the devil's teeth
Come lead me into the shadow
In the shadow Until that sparrow sings
'til the sparrow sings Come lay me down like this angel
Caught in the devil's teeth Come meet me down where the sun goes
Out where the roots run deep Come lay me down like an angel
Caught in the devil's teeth Come lead me into the shadow
Until the sparrow sings Come lay me down like an angel, yeah
- Before the Muddy Magnolias, I spent about four years touring with John Legend.
I just went out on a limb one day and I asked him could I come to the studio with him.
I was like, "Oh, I'll get you coffee, I'll be your assistant, I'll do anything.
" And he was like, "You don't have to do all that.
You can come.
" And one day we were sitting there and he asked me, "Do you have any lines, like what would you say in this song?" And I was like, "Me? Okay.
" And that really opened the door for me as a songwriter, and I started just zeroing in more and more and started thinking creatively more and more.
And eventually, I gave up singing background to pursue songwriting full-time.
When you're pulled around and shaking But you're holding on Everything around you's changing
Like revolving doors Picking up the broken hearts
I know you hide And I've been everywhere you are
I know you're tired I see the tears you cry
One day they will dry Yes, they're gonna dry
And every question why That keeps you lying awake at night
Leave it to the sky Leave it to the sky
Leave it to the sky No redemption inside
But the light's not gone Something in you know the lines
And wants to sing along I'm never gonna be too far
Too far away Troubles rolling in like waves
I'll stay, I see the tears you cry One day they will dry
Yes they're gonna dry And every question why
That keeps you lying awake at night leave it to the sky
Leave it to the sky Leave it to the sky
Oh, leave it to the sky
That star hanging in the sky Is keeping a close eye on you
And I'll do my best to try and do the same
I see the tears you cry One day they will dry
Yes they're gonna dry And every question why
We'll answer in the sun Leave it to the sky
Leave it to the sky Leave it to the sky
Leave it to the sky All of this, all of this
Would be better If we lived together
All of this, all of this Would be better
If we lived together All of this, all of this
Would be better If we lived together
All of this, all of this Could be better
If we lived together
- Broken People.
- Yeah.
The title of our new album is, Broken People.
- One thing that is a threat and why we called our album, Broken People is what we learned as friends.
Our friendship really shaped our sound, and our story, and our message.
- So many of these songs have healed me just from writing them and then... - Pass.
- ...getting the demos back. Like truly she has watched it happen.
I will just like cry, to so many of these songs and... - Train.
- Yeah, Train and... - Leave it to the Sky.
- ... Leave it to the Sky and Take Me Home and I have so many other artists like all the time.
The list just grows where a certain song helps me get through this certain time in my life, and/or a certain record does and I just hope this record can be that for somebody else.
... if we lived together All of this, all of this could be better
If we lived together

Artist Bio

American music is a mile-wide river that beckons black and white, urban and rural, dreamer and doer alike to launch their vessels. All the streams of style and genre flow into it; its tributaries are blues and jazz, mountain and folk, rock, soul and R&B.

The release of the debut album by Muddy Magnolias, Broken People, marks the launch of a great new vessel onto that waterway. The album showcases a confluence of style and sound as colorful as it is unlikely, steeped in that river of influence, yet bracingly fresh.

With Broken People, Jessy Wilson and Kallie North take us on an 11-song journey with its origins in two widely divergent backgrounds that came together in a friendship and creative partnership with world-changing resonance.

North was raised in southeast Texas and began singing with her family and studying piano at an early age. She grew to love rich vocal harmonies singing in church choirs and listening to artists like the Carpenters, Alison Krauss, James Taylor and the Eagles. By her early teens, she was singing lead parts in church and in musical theater productions at her high school. Her palette grew when a friend turned her on to the Grateful Dead, and after high school she spent every spare moment in the clubs of Austin, absorbing everything from alt-country and jam bands to New Orleans funk. She met her husband at a concert and moved with him to his native Mississippi. There, on their isolated farm, she had her awakening, starting a career as a photographer, capturing the spirited, deep history of the Mississippi Delta.

To me, the Delta is the most overlooked and mysterious place, she says. It was the birthplace of Americas music, and all the legends were influenced by everything that came out of it. I went on this personal exploration to learn about the Delta blues and the region's history. I picked up a camera and started taking pictures, blogging about what I was experiencing, and I tapped into all the creative energy lying dormant inside me. When her husband gave her a guitar, she began spending her days on the porch of their farm learning how to connect her first chords. From there, the songs began pouring out and she knew she had to find a way to get to Nashville and write songs professionally.

Wilson, raised in Brooklyn, was in love with music from her earliest days. She was singing before she could talk, and was 5 when her mother recognized her passion for music. "I would cry because I couldn't hit the high notes in Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey songs," she says. Influenced by greats from Aretha and Smokey Robinson to Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige and The Notorious B.I.G., she began auditioning in the highly competitive New York entertainment scene and was working professionally in musical theater by the age of 10. Her mother took her to nightclubs where she experienced a variety of live performances. She attended New York's top performing arts schools, including La Guardia High School, the Fame school, where she discovered her love for gospel music and took part in the gospel chorus for four years. She worked at Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village, making $500 a weekend while still in high school.

She sang backup for Alicia Keys in her teens, then worked four years with John Legend, and through him with legends like will.i.am, Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq and Babyface. Legend mentored her in songwriting and recording before she began writing songs on her own for American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino and others. Inspired by her evolving love of songwriting, she too moved to Nashville, looking for a wider creative palette. There, while meeting with then-BMI executive Clay Bradley, her eye settled on a photograph of a rundown juke joint piano in his office.

I want to meet whoever took that photo, she said. The photographer was Northit had been taken during her creative awakening in Mississippiand the subsequent meeting led quickly to collaboration and an epic friendship.

The first day we wrote together, says North, there wasnt much thought that we were blending genres and worlds. That never came up. It was just natural. She had never written a country song and I was writing them every day. We sat down to write one but when we listened back it was a country R&B song. And we decided to become songwriting partners. Before long, they had their first cut as collaborators, and they were off and running.

The spirit of the Muddy Magnolias existed from the moment we met, says Wilson, but we didnt know we were the Muddy Magnolias yet. North was toying with the idea of a solo career; Wilson had aspirations of making history as an African-American female songwriter in Nashville. Their new friendship was a game-changer.

We spent a whole year writing, trying to understand what our message was when we combined our stories," says Wilson. Then one day over afternoon wine at Burger Up, their favorite hangout in the 12 South section of Nashville, both admitted to be being at a crossroads. The next thing you know, says North, Jessy said, 'What if we made a record together? It was like all of our dreams in one.

We went back to that same office on Music Row where I saw the photograph, says Wilson, and sat down side by side in Clays office and said, 'Weve got something to tell you. Were going to make an album together. Bradley believed enough to sign on as their manager. They held three days of band auditions and found four best friends who had been playing together since college, primarily doing jazz. The fit was perfect, providing just the right sonic backdrop for their soulful approach and high-energy delivery.

As they continued to write and perform, opening for the likes of The Zac Brown Band and Gary Clark, Jr., they put together a project that crosses genres effortlessly, showcasing two voices that soar together in a blending of cultures as electrifying as if Janis Joplin and Tina Turner, or Whitney Houston and Lee Ann Womack had joined forces.

Broken People combines poetic imagery and vocal passion, with the musicianship and production of Motown or Muscle Shoals by way of the raw honesty of Sun Records. Of course it deals with love, longed for and unleashed, in songs like "I Need A Man," "Why Don't You Stay" and "Devil's Teeth," but the album soars as it reaches for bigger themes, dealing with the need for hope in "Take Me Home," for love on a societal scale in "Shine On" and "Brother What Happened," and hope for the future in "Got It Goin' On." With "Leave It To The Sky," the two, joined by John Legend on vocals and piano, make a powerful case for spiritual solutions, and few songs in the modern lexicon are as steeped in present-day reality as the gospel- and R&B-tinged title track.

"Ultimately," says North, "this album is a result of an unlikely friendship and is a testament to what can happen when you diversify your relationships."

"It's about getting out of your comfort zone and being rewarded with a great friendship," adds Wilson. "We've both felt the power of that."

"Our path is so much better and our lives are so much richer because of it," says North, "and we want to bring people along on this journey."

"We want to see what society would be like if we all reached out in ways we normally wouldn't," adds Wilson.

And that is the magic and the message. The music of Muddy Magnolias, live and on record, comes from a place where the Mississippi meets the A-Train by way of Nashville. Whether yours is the back porch or the front stoop, Spanish moss or window box garden, dusty country lane or crowded subway car, rural honky-tonk or uptown club, this is music that beckons. Muddy Magnolias are collaboration without boundaries, musical healing in a landscape of the heart, and all of us who treasure creative energy, honest art and the possibilities of love and unity, are better for their arrival.


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Muddy Magnolias

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