We love celebrating strong, successful women here at The Caviar Spoon, which is why we’ve created ReBelles. These are the women who are working it and owning it! That’s why we’re putting Keba on your radar (if she hasn’t already sung her way into your heart).
During a recent visit to Coya London, Pra happened to catch Keba’s performance at the restaurant and was absolutely blown away by her soulful voice! Weave in her musical stylings and it was like hearing a new hybrid of The Brand New Heavies and N’Dea Davenport (have I dated myself with those musical references?). But in all seriousness, the moment I heard her perform with that rich, soulful voice of hers and saw her incredibly vibrant energy on stage, I knew she was someone we wanted to–needed to–feature on TCS. Luckily, being the gracious woman that she is, Keba agreed to do a Q&A with us!
Keba, born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, is the quintessential island girl. Give her tropical weather, the beach (her favourite place to be in the world), and some spicy food, and she’ll be pleased as punch. It makes sense, then, that she decided to move to the US to attend Florida International University and has remained in Miami since!
With Bachelor degrees in both Pre-Med Chemistry and Music, she had choices to make post-graduation. Coming from a family of doctors, studying pre-med seemed the obvious route but after landing an internship at a local jingle studio, it quickly became clear that med school was not for her. She decided to pursue music instead and discovered the joy of creating music in her own laboratory—the studio.
Songwriting is like therapy for Keba and when she performs, it’s her way of connecting with other human beings. This is something I can attest to based on my own reaction to hearing and seeing her perform. This girl has an energy that just radiates from within and you can’t help but be drawn into her world of rhythm and soul.
I asked about her “a-ha!” moment. When did she realise that she was doing exactly what she was meant to be doing? Keba revealed that it was during college when she had just finished the talent portion of a scholarship pageant. She’d just stepped off the stage after performing her original song “Irresistible” with a full band and found herself silent, taken aback by the moment. Keba describes it as an “out-of-body experience” full of feelings that she couldn’t quite pinpoint or put into words. Looking back, she thinks it was this moment, this performance, that so profoundly connected her to her purpose.
“Simply knowing your passion is something you should never take for granted. So many people go through life feeling like they’re not sure why they’re here or what their calling is and some of us even ignore it when it’s right in front of us.”
Even though Keba knew she wanted to sing at an early age, she never thought it was the “right” career choice and dismissed it for years before that “a-ha!” moment. In hindsight, though, she doesn’t regret the journey because it shows the power of dreams.
“It’s never too late to pursue your passion and if there’s something you can’t stop dreaming about, maybe you should make that dream a reality.”
Keba credits her family for instilling in her the value of hard work and integrity in everything she does. And then there is Eric Nuñez, her producer, who has been a solid supporter since day one and has continued to push her every day since to give her very best.
Pursuing her passion hasn’t been an easy path (is it ever?) but she’s proud of the person she’s become because of music. “Every day, I learn what it means to be an entrepreneur and as an independent artist in the digital music age, I’m excited about laying the foundation for a new way of doing music business.”
She’s been busy. Last year Keba partnered with Eric and invested in a music studio in Miami called Labrat Music. Since then she’s had a chance to work with local independent artists and also has plans for growing an independent record label there. She also just finished her first Eurotour, which she calls an “incredible adventure” that she can’t wait to continue next year.
When it comes to discussing her influencers, Whitney Houston tops the list of musical figures she admires. Keba says she grew up in awe of her talent and she remains her favourite vocalist to this day. When you listen to Keba’s singing, you can pick up the influence of Whitney Houston, along with touches of other classic divas like Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan. Her eclectic exposure to music (The Jackson Five and The Beatles from her parents’ old records, 80’s rock thanks to her sister, her brother’s love for 90’s hip hop, and Keba’s own classical studies in school) undoubtedly add the depth and soul present in each of her songs.
In her day to day life, Keba looks to strong women who are making a difference in their communities through their art, from Oprah to Janelle Monae, Misty Copeland to Beverly Bond. She strives to emulate them and admires their respective accomplishments. Keba herself is an avid and adamant supporter of justice for artists and the arts.
So what fuels Keba as a singer-songwriter? Hearing people comment on how much they enjoyed a performance or how her music never gets old. This isn’t about ego stroking, though, Keba points out. It’s that these comments mean something she sang or wrote had an impact on someone. Knowing that just by doing what she loves she can form a connection with a stranger or move someone to feel something, is her biggest source of inspiration.
Of course, we had to ask her about her biggest indulgence. Keba confesses that when she has her “home alone” days, she often spends them on the couch whilst devouring her 3 favourite TV shows—“Super Soul Sunday”, “Flea Market Flip”, and “Say Yes To The Dress”. She doesn’t watch much TV otherwise but she just can’t get enough of these shows! And if you want to see a guaranteed smile from her, just get her “the most delicious French Toast” topped with fresh fruit, berry compote, and Chantilly cream from a breakfast café near her studio.
Keba will be releasing her original EP Filmstrip in October, which she calls her most personal project to date. It’s delicate but strong, telling a story with themes of transparency, sexuality, and femininity and, she says, “the production takes on the direction of a soundtrack”. You can listen to her first single “Nothing But You” here.