Good music whispered echoes a hundred miles. Take for instance singer/songwriter Graham Knoxx. I’ve seen Graham out and about at a couple of events in Atlanta. Making her way through a sea of hipsters and posers she greets me with a smile as sweet and earnest as her voice. Her natural style, poise and statuesque beauty gave her a glow that was hard not to notice, even without the brief introduction from promoter Wil May.
Rewind to a year ago and Graham was dealing with what she calls “typical music business complications.”A trial management situation with Los Angeles based start up company Blue Cinamon Group, while lucrative in the learning experience, funds were limited for all parties and the long distance relationship definitely added to the trials and tribulations.
“It was a difficult to make things happen,” Graham explains. “It really was no one’s fault; I think we both just had needs that were difficult to meet given the circumstances.”
Her time at Blue Cinamon introduced her to music producer Alex Goose, anther client under their roster at the time. Together they created the song “Dollar” and ended up having a great sound together. Chemistry aside, the distance and different schedules wasn’t what Graham wanted from a producer/artist relationship which in today’s market calls for a constant stream of content for an artist.
“Again, distance and priorities kept us from being able to pump out content the way one has to to launch a career,” Graham explains. “So, after trying for a year, we just hadn’t made enough progress for the partnership to continue to make sense…But Alex and I have several great song ideas started that will be revisited.”
Fast forward to the present, Graham was able to quit her job as an architect and self-fund her EP Echo and is currently a part of Smirnoff’s music initiative. After a random message on Facebook from an associate at Hip Hop Since 1978 (Management for Kanye West, Drake and more) who insisted she’d be good for the Smirnoff gig. Graham was introduced to Hardy Indiigo, producer for Madonna among others and after hearing Graham’s voice he thought she’d be perfect to create a dance version of Kiss’ “Crazy Nights,” which is now the Smirnoff theme for 2012.
“The most amazing art happens when people stop thinking about money, split sheets, credits… and they just CREATE,” Graham Knoxx.
“Two days later I was in NY recording, having a blast, and getting paid [which] is always good,” Graham says after the initial connection “The tentative plans are to do a 20-city international Smirnoff tour that they’d like me to be a part of, once things are solidified. Hardy and I will also be experimenting with some solo work as I develop more original material.”
No doubt this experimental cover led to her latest project ECHO. The four song EP, shows a deep range and finds Graham covering Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and creatively mashing it with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” She also gives her version of Etta James’ “At Last” and riveting rendition of one of my personal favorite songs by Depeche Mode “Personal Jesus.” The idea sounds like solid gold looking at the artists that have simply sung a cover on YouTube and achieved instant stardom on top of record deals. But Graham isn’t your ordinary artist and was never “comfortable” with that notion. For her it felt, “uninspired and unoriginal.” So she made a point to add her unique flair to ever track she recreated.
“As an artist who isn’t rapping or singing R&B, it’s really important that anything I put out have a sonic quality that reflects the original material set to come,” she explains. “ECHO was an intimate introduction to me, my influences, my inspirations… So to just sing on somebody’s beat would have felt like introducing you to a chick with fake hair, nails, ass, and titties, then you get home and I’m a scalawag.”
“Instead, I took songs I loved from every genre…and made them uniquely me with my band and my friends TheWhatley and Prem Midha; with new arrangements, melodies, and progressions… the only original element is the lyrics,” she later explains.
Playing off the title, Graham has made a point to make both the instrumentals and acapellas for the songs freely available. Expressing a deeper intention to create a larger social dialogue, she’s seemingly encouraging supporters and producers to create echoes of her work.
“The most amazing art happens when people stop thinking about money, split sheets, credits… and they just create,” Graham explains. “…[So] why not provide tools for that to happen, see where each iteration can take each song; until it becomes a limitless monster of its own making.”
“The nature of social media and the Internet has created a huge opportunity for artists to create, be exposed, and infinitely share with others….The Internet is forever. 20 years from now, I can’t wait to see what some kid has created with Graham Knoxx’s first free project. It becomes an ever changing, ever evolving echo, as it should be,” she later explains.
Another aspect of the current industry, that Graham falls into is being multi-faceted. You may know her as singer/songwriter Graham Knoxx, but as a former architect and a visual artist she’s been designing all her promotional material from the jump.
“I won’t pretend that I popped out the womb singing,” she says. “But I did always love to create. Art is theater, its multi-sensory, you should get to hear, feel, see… I don’t think that’s optional.”
Visual art has just as much impact on Graham as music has. So much that when she writes or creates music, the visual is first and serves as the inspiration for her lyrical and sonic concepts.
“I often imagine that I’m the mysterious woman in a 1924 Chanel suit with a hat and sunglasses, sitting in the back of a French cafe; smoking a long cigarette, waiting to watch an explosion unfold across the street that I’ve planned as part of some huge espionage mission,” she later explains. “Lame, I know, [but] I grew up on Turner Classic Movies. I’m an artist, I want to tell you a story; create the world in my head that you can escape to for 15 minutes, and see what I see.”
In the coming months, Graham plans to roll out a few videos for some of the standout tracks on ECHO. According to her, a visual for “Personal Jesus,” is already in the works to become a philanthropic song after being heard by someone who wants to use it for some really great causes in 3rd world countries. Be on the lookout for original material as she plans to roll out single by single, video by video, until her full project is released in the Summer. For now, she’s Atlanta’s sunshine dealer pushing her angelic voice like the much sought after drug it is. But, as she preps for a move to Los Angeles this June, the self-described “musician by trade, architect by training, artist by temperament” leaves me with these last words, “Just be true to your heart, true to your passion, and true to yourself. I had to learn to do that, and its the happiest I’ve ever been.” That’s a declaration worth echoing.