Call it a feeling. An artistic intuition. Whatever sparked the idea to write the song “Stand,” a standout track from her forthcoming EP “Dreamseeker,” Bay Area songstress Goapele felt the urgency of its message, a concern over societal issues simmering just beneath the surface and threatening to boil over.
And to think, that was before the Trump Era.
“[Stand] was written well before the election,” said the Oakland-born singer-songwriter, speaking to the Dig via phone from Los Angeles ahead of her performance Wednesday night at Brighton Music Hall. The track, which she said was written in reaction to observing incidents of police brutality and the justice system’s failure to punish those accountable, was written during the recording of her last album, “Strong As Glass,” in 2014. “I kind of lived with it for a while, and just felt like it was finally the time to put it out. I put the music to the lyrics that I’d already written and it just felt so much for fitting now, the idea of ‘if we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything.’”
Yet besides the prescient “Stand,” “Dreamseeker”, Goapele’s first release in nearly three years, is hardly fueled by a sense of righteous anger. The EP finds the artist exploring a range of aesthetics and influences; on “$ecret,” her delicate vocals echo against a sparse backdrop of piano, bass and drums, while “Cool Breeze” brings them to the forefront, floating gorgeously above a lazy guitar groove. More than any one thing, Goapele explained that the project, recorded over the length of her hiatus, was fueled by individual moments of inspiration.
“I enjoy talking about and singing about love,” she says with a laugh. “And that’s what most of the project is filled with. But I just feel that as an artist, I want to express who I am a whole person, so I like to give glimpses to all the different sides of me. I feel like when I feel a little more settled and OK with what’s going on around me, I’m a little more free to talk about love and kick it. You’ve got to have a balance.”
Achieving that balance has been something the former Berklee School of Music student has been seeking since she broke through with the single and album “Closer” in 2001, a lush slice of modern R&B that placed her within the emerging neo-soul movement of the time. During the decade since, Goapele has consistently challenged that categorization over the course of four albums through dynamic collaborations (Snoop Dogg, the Hieroglyphics crew) and an evolving style that combines the regal cool of Sade with the seductive nuance of Aaliyah.
Her music career has also yielded opportunities to pursue other artistic endeavors. In addition to designing clothes, the singer has also appeared in films and television, recently starring alongside Gabrielle Union and Alfre Woodard in “Selma” director Ava DuVernay’s short film “The Door” for fashion line MUI MUI. Those responsibilities, to say nothing of being a mom to a ten year-old daughter, have influenced her musical output, but also the process itself.
“I just have to really focus about being in the moment so I can give 100 percent to each thing that’s in front of me,” she said, noting that late night recording sessions have been replaced by early days at the studio. “But I think whether I’m in the studio or not music is just kind of something that lives in me. I can get an idea while I’m just running around thinking of something totally different, then maybe record something on my phone that may turn into a song later. Sort of like a middle glimpse of a moment that then grows into something.”
Some sixteen years after her debut, “Dreamseeker” represents something of a full-circle return for Goapele. Having gone from independent to major label and back to now her own imprint, Skyblaze Recordings, the singer is eager to continue writing new chapters in her artistic legacy — whether inspired by love, injustice or something in between.
“What’s most important to me is that people who enjoy my music can hear it and that people are at the live shows and I get to connect with them,” she said. “That’s what it’s really about at the end of the day. Just getting to have that exchange with people and hopefully touch them in a way that we can inspire each other.”
GOAPELE. WED. APRIL 19, 7:30PM. BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL, 158 BRIGHTON AVE., ALLSTON. $20.