Soul singer PaviElle talks musical heritage, what being an artist means to her

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PaviElle French takes a selfie while singing.
PaviElle French takes a selfie while singing.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Soul singer PaviElle French and her band stopped by The Current studio to do a session with MPR News host Tom Weber and Local Show host Andrea Swensson as a part of the Summer Music Series. PaviElle is currently in the midst of the songwriting process for her next album and took the time to chat with Swensson and Weber about her inspiration, her musical heritage and what being an artists truly means to her.

The session started with the premiere of PaviElle's new song, "Me Being Me," providing a glimpse of what to expect from the upcoming album. According to PaviElle, the inspiration for the song came from lessons she learned from her childhood and the revolutionary power of being yourself.

"People say that one person can't change the world and I just don't believe that, because we've seen it time and time before. And so when you are yourself, it is revolutionary because it's saying, 'I stand to be who I am as opposed to what I've been conditioned and you told me to be,'" she said.

Coming from a rich musical heritage that includes not only her family, but the Rondo community as well, PaviElle described her childhood as steeped in music. As a teenager, she did all she could to grow from her musical surroundings, including sneaking into the Loring Pasta Bar as a teenager for open mic night and learning from the various musicians in her life. One of those musicians was the late Sonny Knight, who played in the same band (Haze) as PaviElle's uncle, and who was good friends with her mother. PaviElle herself even performed with Sonny Knight as one of his backup singers.

PaviElle French plays keys.
PaviElle French plays keys.
Evan Frost | MPR News

"Sonny, he was just something else. I would enjoy watching him and there's not a whole bunch of singers that I really enjoy watching, but I enjoyed watching him," she said. "Even being his background singer on stage, I was more focused on him than even the fact that 'oh my gosh, we're playing First Ave' or 'oh my gosh, look at this sea of people;' I'm just watching him ride his light because he was another one that was like that. Once it turned on he was just magnificent. There was just no other real performer that has mentored me or raised me up that when I see them get on the stage they light up like that."

PaviElle credits this rich musical background as the influence behind her unique and spiritual brand of soul. In fact, in many ways, she uses her music as a way to stay connected with this legacy.

"There's just something to be said that when I sing, I go somewhere else and I like to think it's with the ancestors," she said.

Music is not solely a means of spiritual release for PaviElle, however. She sees it as her duty to use her music to communicate those ideas of love, spirituality and connection to self that she holds so dear.

"This is what you have to do as an artist, this is what I have to do. This is something that is a moral thing, it's a moral thing. If I have a vehicle to talk to the people and I don't talk to the people, then there's something wrong with me."

You can hear more sessions from the Summer Music Series on Tom Weber's show on MPR News on Fridays at 11 a.m.; and on The Current's Local Show on Sunday nights at 6 p.m.

Songs Performed

"Me Being Me"
"Be Right There"
"I Miss You"
"Runnin'"

Hosted by Andrea Swensson and Tom Weber
Produced by Julie Siple
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Visuals by Evan Frost
Web feature by Lilli Speakman

More from the Summer Music Series

Living legend Cornbread Harris shares stories and songs

Manchita performs emotional new solo EP

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