Photo courtesy of John Lappen
By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News
“If you want to understand electricity, get yourself a seat anywhere Rhonda Ross performs!” – NightLife Exchange
Singer-Songwriter, Rhonda Ross is an African Diasporic Woman of the World. Bilingual in French and English (and raising her son to be fluent in four languages), Rhonda knows how to communicate with audiences around the world. Her original music lives in the gap between Jazz, Neo-soul, Funk and Gospel. Her lyrics live in the pause between life’s most important questions and their answers. Rhonda is one of the rare artists today using her music to examine the society she lives in – from racism to sexism to homophobia to the need for self-love and spirituality, Rhonda’s songs look through all of it and ask “In the midst of THIS, how can I still live the best life possible?
Rhonda has great power on stage and her refreshingly personal and moving performances set her apart from other vocalists of her era. Rhonda’s music flows straight from her essence and her bright spirit uplifts everyone in the room. With a crown of natural hair, Rhonda graces the stage with the gravitas and glamour of a modern-day queen. As the only child of Diana Ross and Motown Founder Berry Gordy, it has become evident that Rhonda not only has the talent, but the significance to carry on her parents’ legacy, all the while establishing her own unique musical destination.*
Through Rhonda’s individual and creative expression, the legendary Ross influence continues to live on and expand. While gearing up for the long-awaited release of her newest CD, expected to launch in July, Rhonda is currently touring the U.S. with her mom. The Tulalip Amphitheatre was fortunate enough to book the talents of Rhonda Ross as part of the Tulalip Resort Casino’s summer concert series. Rhonda will be sharing the stage with her mother Diana Ross on Saturday, July 2 in front of a sell-out crowd of faithful fans.
Rhonda took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for the Tulalip News readers:
Where does this interview find you today?
RR: I’m in my Harlem apartment. It’s a gorgeous new summer day and there’s a breeze blowing in the window! So wonderful! Reminds me of my song Summer Day; ‘Walking out of a deep freeze. My heart is healing and I finally feel at ease. The sun is breaking through the trees. Like the first summer day in the park. Like the first summer day in the park”. Ha!
How has your spring/summer tour shaped up thus far? What has been the highlight of the tour?
RR: Our summer tour hasn’t officially started yet. The first day is Friday June 24 in Aspen and I can’t wait! Touring as part of my mother’s show is a very new occurrence and it provides me with not only wonderful opportunities to share my music and message with audiences across the country, but also it affords my mother and me special family time. So I can’t wait!
When did you know you wanted to be a performer in the music industry? How did that decision come about?
RR: I have known all my life that I wanted to be a performing artist. Perhaps it is in my DNA or perhaps it’s because it’s what I witnessed, but I have been singing all my life, all the way through high school and college. It was during my last couple years of Brown University that I joined a jazz quartet and started performing professionally. I never looked back.
When you are backstage preparing to perform what motivates you? Any superstitious rituals a part of your preparation?
RR: I like to quiet myself, align with the Spirit of God. The Spirt of Truth. I remind myself that none of this is about me. I am just a vessel for that energy and I relinquish to it and prepare to be danced and sung by it. It’s so fun. I feel beyond blessed to have that opportunity night after night.
Who were some of your biggest role models that you looked up to in the beginning of your career?
RR: Of course my parents, my mother and my father. They are trail-blazers. They believed in themselves when no one else did. They were single-focused. They stuck to their values and kept their eyes on the prize. They have work ethic like I have never seen before and I believe it’s because they love what they do. They both created careers that they enjoy so much, they don’t need to take vacations away from them! Even from a young girl, I knew I wanted to create a career that was organic and authentic to who I am so that it lifts me up, not burdens me, so that I can pursue it, joyfully, for the rest of my life.
Photo courtesy of John Lappen
You will be performing at the Tulalip Amphitheatre on Saturday, July 2 opening for you mom. Can you tell us what audiences can expect from this performance?
RR:My mother’s show is a high-energy, feel good 90 minutes. All the songs that people love from the Motown days through her film career, and her hits from the 80s, 90s and 2000s. People will be on their feet for the entire time!
And my part of the show begins in the evening. I’m a singer-songwriter and I write songs that help me to live. They are about life, how to navigate it, and how to digest so much of what we see around us. I like to say that my music is for “Grown Folk”, adults. There is meaning and there are messages. That said, it’s also fun. I got a grooving band behind me and we have a ball! All told, it’s a fun, meaningful night.
Think you will find time to play some slot machines or table games at the Tulalip Resort Casino while you’re in town?
RR: I’m not much of a gambler, but I do love to explore. I will definitely be walking around seeing all the new things there is to see and experience.
Who would you love to collaborate with musically that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to do so?
RR: Oh my! There are so many. I’d love to work with Jill Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu! Right now I (like the rest of the country) am completely obsessed with Hamilton: The Musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of our geniuses. It would be incredible to collaborate with him one day.
What is the most outrageous fan interaction you’ve ever had?
RR: My mother’s and my fans are the best! The most loyal! Truly! When we go “on tour” they go “on tour” too. It’s remarkable! And truthfully, I have learned so much from them, they really know how to enjoy their lives. They pursue the things that bring them joy. It’s fantastic! Nothing is too outrageous if it brings joy into our lives. In this day and age, we need all the joy we can get.
Who is currently in your music playlist? Any artists or genres we would be surprised to find there?
RR: Like I just wrote I am obsessed with the Hamilton Soundtrack. I listen to it (from beginning to end) almost every day (I was just listening before I started this interview). I think people would be surprised to know how much I like musical theater, but it’s because I am a storyteller at heart, a poet. I am really turned on by smart lyrics.
What’s on tap next for you? What are you most excited about?
RR: My new CD should be out in July and that has got me really excited. Been working on it about a year and I’m really proud of how it’s turned out. So stay tuned for that. It will be everywhere; iTunes, Spotify, you name it. Of course, I’ll be selling (and signing) it after my shows!