Name: Sheila Brody Head aka Amuka
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Recent release: Sheila Brody's "Attitude" is out via Flying Carpet.
Recommendations: There’s so many this is going to be tough, so I may do more than two! The ones I’d recommend would be The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn and The Fourth Way by Pyotr Ouspenskii. Also, I’d definitely recommend Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra and various books by Eckhart Tolle.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osborne (Ironman) are some key initial influences. Back when I was first starting out, my cousin tricked me and said he wrote “Stairway to Heaven” when I expressed how much I loved it and I later found out that Led Zeppelin actually wrote it and I realized I loved them and their style.
Tina Turner is another major influence, as she’s extremely innovative, we’re definitely both rockers. Cher, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle (and the group Labelle), Sarah Dash and Nona Hendrix. Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick), Stevie Nicks, Heart. Really enjoy Lady Gaga and Aaliyah (miss her a lot).
My friend Charlotte Morgan mentioned that Sheryl Crow was singing background for Michael Jackson, but she was writing music and singing her own material too. This inspired me and helped me realize I could do this for myself. Steve Washington encouraged me to write songs with him when we were working with George Clinton and others.
He believed in me and this gave me the courage to start writing for myself.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Dance music makes me want to dance. A love song, I just feel it. Whatever music it is, I feel it from my toes to my head. I like the way music vibrates on my body and soul.
I let my ideas flow, using my “invisible pen”, a never-ending source of creativity; it just comes to me. Sometimes it’s partial songs and sometimes it’s complete songs. Can’t really control it.
I also love doing music for my children, Tse-Mach Washington and Oliver Brody. I want my music to be a part of their legacy. As a matter of fact, Tse-Mach’s Godfather is George Clinton the Father of Funk himself who is also my mentor.
I’m a P-Funk All-Star of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. George taught me everything about approaching my creativity with ease and excitement as well as teaching me how to be a professional performer after many hours of performing with him on stage and watching him completely enthrall his audiences night after night.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Part of my development as an artist was definitely in my experience with my son Tse-Mach on the set of the Spike Lee film “Crooklyn”, where he played a principal role as Joseph Carmichael. After filming all summer, it broadened my horizons. It made me realize how important it is to have music in film and television. I watched the process unfold and how it all worked which was a breakthrough for me. It really made me desire to put my songs into film, tv and commercials.
I want to be respected as a songwriter, lyricist, performer and vocalist. Definitely to be respected in all those different areas. To be appreciated for whatever frequency I bring to the table and to make a difference. It would be cool for people to understand I’m making an effort to do that.
I love that I can express myself through music and lyrics and have a certain camaraderie with other people that find themselves in similar situations. It helps them relate to the lyrics and helps soothe them with whatever they’re going through so they can get to the other side and not get stuck. The whole thing is not to get stuck, not to jam it up.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I see myself as a spiritual artist, I feel I’m one with God. I’m one with all that I desire and I’m very thankful for every miracle that I experience everyday of my life. I expect miracles, I know things are working for our good and everyone’s good and it’s just better to feel that way. Why would I want to feel any other way but the best way.
I’m a human that wants to help all other humans get to the finish line. I feel we are put on Earth to help each other get to the finish line, most importantly. I think when we help each other, we help the God in each of us and I truly believe we are all one with God. I don’t judge people for where they are in their spiritual journey and I will not be judged for mine.
It’s our own spiritual journey and the choices we make during that journey that create the life that we lead.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I just let it happen. I have been all over the world and experienced so many different types of instrumentation and cultures and mixed it all in a melting pot and I could feel the vibrations and as soon as I hear the music, it would flow right through me. It was beautiful, amazing, magical, supernatural and incredible.
I’m very inspired by Kamal’s music and it was easy for me to come up with ideas to it. At the same time, I was recording with Chuck D and Gary Renaldo of Public Enemy (Spit Digital Label). We did a song called “Everything” that went to 2 million views on Youtube which was an incredible breakthrough achievement.
Fast forward to today and I have another achievement with DJ Industrial Badger BOP (I Can’t Get Over a Badger) which hit close to 5 million streams.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I want to do something out of this world, space age music! The sounds and colors of that would be really cool.
If the feeling is right, it doesn’t have to be perfect. The feeling overrides perfection. It makes the hair stand up. When it does that, you leave it alone. George says “If you got the feeling, leave it alone. If it’s not broken, why fix it?” That’s way more important than perfection.
I believe in music that is transforming and evolving. I love music that evolves and take new shapes. Things that keep the mainstay but also is innovative and make the music better. I’m interested in the music of the future and also continuing tradition as well. Change is good but you can still keep what works, the traditional.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I like tambourines, playing a little bit of percussion. I like percussive instruments.
I’ve played piano by ear (not necessarily the classical method). I usually play percussive and feel them and let the music flow through me, all over my body. Accent instrumentation is important.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
In the morning I get up early, get myself together and drink some water. I chill for a minute and then get in the car and see if my Mom is awake and if my husband Gregory Head is not awake, I go to the park and take my walk. It feels safe when I walk with a big stick. Ever since I went to Mount Vesuvius and they gave us a stick for you to walk up the mountain, I liked that. Afterwards, I head home to my husband who is very supportive in helping me take care of my mom after her recent brain surgery.
My husband is also very supportive in encouraging me to finish my book Never Buy Texas from a Cowboy, God’s Got Us and my other projects. My goal is to finish my book and release it with a CD and some merchandise. My friend Greg Dunmore, an amazing journalist from Detroit said I need a benefactor behind me to take me all the way to the next level. I don’t really know how to go about that since I’ve always been very independent but now I need to be independent and realistic.
I’m working with some local musicians from Detroit and presently putting some shows together for dates around the city and other projects.
I look forward to hanging with my husband and having a little pow-wow in the backyard to discuss things and I get to hang out with my puppies. Working on getting the plan together for streaming, a website, new business ventures and promoting our artistry. My husband is presently working on a four-act play about my life and adventures.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
The Prince and the Revolution: Live concert is particularly special to me. I love live performances. I love the way Prince would control every aspect of the performance and presentation and it really inspires me to dominate the creative process and be involved in every aspect as much as possible. His performance was amazing and was a beautiful thing to watch unfold and very influential for me.
My creative process is more impromptu. I have books where I’ve placed ideas, so I don’t forget them. When I hear something that I really like or get a feeling, I write it down and somehow weave it into a song eventually.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I actually do like to work with other people. I like when they have music and I can come up with the lyrics and melody and we can put it all together. But then sometimes I like to come up with the lyrics and melody by myself too and then I’ll find music that goes with what I’ve created.
I like to use both processes, whatever the spirit moves me to do. I’ll always know which way to go.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
First, we should talk about “Appreciate Me”. It really spoke to people who felt unappreciated and a lot of people would put the song on to let others hear and many didn’t realize what was going on with them inside and they used my voice to communicate their feelings to others. Based on a true story … to be continued (find out about it in my book!)
The role of music in society is to get people to think and to experience all types of emotions and open their hearts. With love songs for example, the vibration and frequency soothe the soul and comforts the being of humanness. It helps to comfort you like a big hug to help you get through whatever it is you’re going through.
Music is absolutely necessary to our being, the vibration and frequencies are desperately needed, especially today.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
When I wrote “Miss You”, I was talking about Gerard (my late brother) and my dad Rufus. I miss my dad and my brother! It really helped me deal with their passings. “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye really spoke to me as well.
It helped me go through my divorce with my previous husband. I was able to relate to that song so closely, totally got me through that tough period.
“Everything Changes” was a powerful song that I did for Pokemon and really spoke the truth to me as that is the nature of life, right before your eyes.
The song “Outstanding” that I did with the Gap Band, is a great song too and warms my heart.
It’s powerful to tell someone that they are outstanding and hype them up. I hear it all the time too.
“Never Buy Texas from a Cowboy”, “You Always Break My Heart” and “Do Fries Go with That Shake” with George Clinton were all milestones in my life that gave me opportunities to write and gain publishing etc. Steve Washington and George gave me that opportunity. I was really able to see that I was good at this and started believing in myself, in my talent and my ability to be professionally creative.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Music definitely has an effect on the body scientifically speaking, especially the vibrations which can have a profound effect on a person. Certain vibrations create certain reactions in the body’s chemistry that have been recorded scientifically.
In people with synaesthesia, it has been shown that music can cause them to see colors and shapes visually which I find very interesting.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Music is a universal language, it speaks to peoples’ souls and speaks to people in all kinds of ways, keeps us well-rounded as human beings, and keeps us moving. Music makes you move and feels good, it’s beautiful! Music can even taste good haha.
Just let music be you. It’s awesome and necessary for our survival.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
The vibration and frequencies of music play a very intense role in making you work. It keeps everything moving, keeps everything real because you can feel it.
You can’t fake the funk. Music is real and we can feel that realness.