GARDEN VARIETY: "I have to turn up my A-game," says the songbird, whose new EP drops later this year.
Though she fancies herself a woman of substance who's seen and experienced cultures of all kinds in her thirty-odd years on the planet, songstress Nickeisha Barnes is happy to report that she still gets a kick out of discovering new things, people and places. Come October, she'll set foot for the first time in Mama Africa. "I am super-excited, not just because it's my first time but because everybody wants to visit Africa at least once in their lives and live to tell people about it."
But Barnes might have to curtail her sightseeing plans as the trip is work-related, specifically a concert tour that will take her to several cities and townships. "Normally on tour you get to start off with some nice, small and intimate venues. I hear these venues are huge. We're doing stadiums, and I'm opening for quite a few African superstars," says the singer, who is planning a set spiked with extra oomph. "I have to turn up my A-game because I'm carrying Jamaica on my back."
Like so many keenly aware folks of her class, Barnes has been carrying on a torrid affair with the Motherland (and its most heroic figures) dating back to her college years. "I studied political history and one of my concentrations was African politics. So I got into people like Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah," she confesses. "I like that what they preached was Black love. People say Black power, but I don't like the idea of Black power because it can be a little bit racially intense."
The only intensity you'll find in Barnes' music these days is the melodic kind, a bare-bones authenticity that informs her spare, well-crafted new singles (like "Reach Out" and the uplifting "Champion." Mainstream visibility might prove elusive for Barnes at the moment, but the Rising Stars alumna has been quietly building a body of work that she's confident will stand the test of time.
November brings her sophomore EP, Layers of My Soul, which will remind folks of the emotional depth and passionate vocals she brought to her Rising Stars appearances back in the day. "I wanted to go back to that original and authentic one-drop sound," she says of the record's vibe. "You feel the guitar, you feel the bass, you feel the drum."