She’s smart, savvy, spiritually sophisticated, and remarkably human. And she is Rachelle Ferrell, a writer’s dream. Once you enter the circle of this exceptionally engaging entertainer, it’s no longer about entertainment or the show. It’s about real human expression, introspect and making deeper connections with the world.
But whether or not you aspire to the transcendental philosophy of the universe, the Raechelle Ferrell experience is one to be embraced no matter where you fall on the metaphysical scale.
She laughs easily, and in a matter of minutes you’re engaged in friendly discourse about everything from family to fusion energy. Ferrell is at once as beguiling and serene as the music is enchanting and thought-provoking.
When asked the age-old question regarding how she cultivated her distinctive sound, she responds frankly and without hesitation.
“That’s a long process and if I divulged that I would have to charge you. That’s not the kind of information you give for free,” she says with genuine laughter. But Ferrell resumes the dialogue with an easy air and discusses the underpinnings of her immense talent. “It took a great deal of discipline … first and foremost on the part of my parents. They supported me, in terms of my father being the progenitor of the musical talent … and then on my mother’s side she sang in the church choir, and her extended family, her aunts, her uncles and her father were musical.”
Ferrell began singing at age six, and developed a six octave range as she matured. Unabashedly honest and free of the ego-driven constraints that all too often accompany fame and accomplishment, she shares an insight into her musical process.
“I incorporate some of the things that everybody else incorporates in their field of endeavor, you know, like food and hydration. Taking a nice hot shower and connecting with my breath before I have to use it in a whole other way, and being consciously aware of that.”
But Ferrell explains that her daily regimen and her process for preparing vary significantly depending on the day and the destination.
“My days are kaleidoscopic. A day in the life of Rachelle Ferrell can look very, very different and not just look differently, the feel and the experience [differ] depending on what day it is. When I am on the road and I am performing a concert … there is a very different type of discipline employed in that day. It’s a day focused on and dedicated to the generation of energy.
“It’s almost like I am getting a picture in my mind’s eye, the third eye, of a rocket ship like NASA having to power up for the launching. It takes a lot of generation of energy and fuel and fusion to launch the rocket ship into orbit and it’s very similar with me on concert dates is dedicated to that process, so when I step on the stage it’s there for me, and the connections can be made.”
She continued, “If it’s not a [performance] day … and I’m working in my office, that is a whole ’nother story and whole different quality of day. The discipline and energy are spread out over a long period of time as opposed to stored for a specific point in time.”
Hard to believe from the singer who in 2014, appeared on a new web series called “Now What with Kevin E. Taylor,” where moved by spirit, she sang her entire interview and at one point, reduced the host to tears.
But with all of the many facets of Ferrell, composer, lyricist, arranger, musician, vocalist and musician, she compels you to probe deeper in search of that thing, that secret to her longevity and her ability to remain relevant year in and year out. “Well, for all of us we don’t ever approach it from the outside. We don’t say what do I have to do to stay relevant? That is a disaster in the making right there. It is something we all have as human beings, and it’s a basic part of our humanity. We can sit here and break it down in terms of elasticity in the brain and one’s ability to transform and transmute our own personal energy into whatever is happening in the moment which brings its own relevancy.”
From her critically acclaimed performances with the George Duke, Patti LaBelle and Dizzy Gillespie, and the seasoned songstress’ much lauded impromptu performances with Jennifer Hudson and Ledisi, Ferrell is still one of the greatest stand-alone talents of our time. She can scat like Jarreau, crescendo like Riperton and gently bring you back to earth like Simone. But she accomplishes that feat with a sister-woman kind of finesse, sparing nothing to get you to your destination … as a person.
“I [make] music because I was called and appointed to do not just the music, but the music that I do. Every person comes to the planet to both give something and receive something. To teach something and learn something. It’s a spiritual contract, so what another person has come to give no one else can do, and it’s the same thing with me … artistry reminds us of ourselves and that’s why we celebrate anyone who excels and breaks beyond the current paradigm of boundaries … that gets our attention and reminds us of who we really are,” she explained.
Great performers share themselves to inspire the listener to reflect on our humanness and embolden us to take the next step toward a life well lived. Ferrell’s wealth of talent and her generosity of spirit not only adds her to the list of great performers, it moves her into the realm of living legends and a real tour de force for the ages.
When Ferrell says she attributes her longevity and staying power in a complex industry to “being human,” she means it. Humans are uniquely adept at utilizing systems of symbolic communication such as language and art — for self-expression and the exchange of ideas.
Tickets for “An Evening with Rachelle Ferrell,” taking place Thursday, March 23 at the Sound Board at MotorCity Casino, range from $36 to $48 and are available by phone at 800-745-3000, or get tickets 24 hours a day at Ticketmaster.
Opening for Ferrell will be Detroit’s own TEM LeMAY.