Its been an incredible year for Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart, the two talented women who make up Neo-Soul group Floetry. Their debut album, Floetic has sold nearly half a million copies and has so far spawned two hit singles. On top of that, the group was recently nominated for three Grammy awards. Currently on tour, the girls took time out to talk with QV about their musical journey
The Floetry girls say they never expected the type of success theyve been enjoying. Marsha, the gifted singer/songwriter says, You never really expect anything. The best expectation is to have no expectations at all. We came to Philadelphia in 2000 hoping to do some poetry gigs, mainly. It kind of just took off from there.
Natalie, the poet of the group adds, Success is measured in many different ways by many different people. I suppose that because weve been honest with our art and go about it a certain way, success is what you get back.
Both young women have always had an interest in music. Marsha says she has been writing songs as a hobby since she was a kid, and she just stuck with it. Nat is also a poet and an actress who, just like Marsha, has been involved in the arts from a very early age as well.
As the story goes, Marsha and Natalie, who are both avid basketball players, met on the court one day. They played for rival teams back home in London and were friendly rivals. They eventually developed a friendship and learned of each others poetic talents.
Marsha explains that the duo was developed in 1999. She says, We actually decided to do the performance poetry circuit in London together. Nat had been doing it for a while already and she invited me to come along. I suggested we do it together. Thats how Floetry was bornin the performance poetry circuit in London.
The name Floetry itself was suggested by a fan of theirs on the London circuit. Marsha says, Wed been on the circuit for four or five months going by the name Nat and Marsh. It was never intended to be a group. We were just best friends who decided to share art sometimes. A guy suggested that our sound was like poetry in motionthat it was flowing. Its floetry. And we were like, Yeah, Floetry. We like that. So we just sort of stuck with that.
After eight months on the London poetry circuit, the girls decided to come to the US to see what they could do in the poetry scene here. So the girls packed their bags and made their way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
While in Philadelphia, they met the man who would become their manager, J. Erving, who happens to be the son of legendary Philadelphia 76ers basketball player Julius (Dr. J) Erving.
In Philadelphia, the girls also met many great musicians and the music kind of happened from there. Marsha says, I produced a track (that ended up on the album) myself just because we were all in the mood to create together. It was just a whirlwind of events that allowed us to be family and allow one another to give our own input.
One day that Marsha will always remember is when she was informed that a huge music superstar was interested in recording one of the songs she had written years earlier.
She recollects, I had written the song (entitled Butterflies) back in 1997 in London, and I submitted it to my company. They didnt necessarily think it was catchy enough, so I had kind of put it aside. When we got to Philadelphia, I recreated it, recut it, and put it on our Floetry demo, and the guy who signed us over at Dreamworks gave it to Michael Jackson, who was one of his best friends.
Marsha was overwhelmed to find out that Michael Jackson was interested in the song. She says, It was overwhelming for me to have him say that he really wanted to work on it and go into the studio. That meant I had to vocally convert Michael Jackson and that became one of the biggest things Ive ever done in my entire life. It was really exciting. We got to spend a lot of time with him and his children and just chill.
As far as Floetry itself is concerned, their musical style is a blend of smooth R&B/soul, jazz, and even a little bit of hip hop. But more than anything else, Marsha says their music is simply from the heart. She explains, Its pretty much a spiritual experience. If we were to do a rock record, it would be a Floetry record. Im a vocalist, so I am melodic. Nats a poet, so she pretty much can say anything she wants. It becomes about the truth and honesty and at the moment, the music.
Natalie adds, Its still developing. Its brand new. I just have a love for music and Im a poet. One day, I had the opportunity to put my poetry to music, and so its a work in progress. I dont know how I developed it, I just felt free enough to just do whatever. And that whatever turned into this.
Musically, Marsha says Floetrys sound comes from the era of groups like Soul II Soul, Loose Ends, and Omar. She says, Theyve inspired me and inspired the whole movement thats going on as far as neo-soul is concerned. Theres nothing new about soul, its been around for a long time. But were trying to take it to that next plateau.
Floetrys new music plateau has translated into enormous record sales and three Grammy nominations, including one nomination in the Urban Alternative category.
Marsha says, That was a new category that was just added this year to recognize artists who want to be true to the music, true to the soul, true to the spirit. Its about creating your own mood no matter who you are.
The girls were ecstatic to be at the awards ceremony back in February. Marsha remembers, It was beautiful. There were so many people I got to meet. I got some great advice from Patti Austin. I got to see Rod Stewart, Tony Bennett, Jay-Z. It was crazy. It was fantastic. We also attended the MusicCares Foundation party where Bono was being announced man of the year for that organization. It was good. Were kind of still fans in the industry. We fell to our knees when we met Prince the other day. Its like a dream for us. Were still asking for autographs and were taking pictures. It becomes strange when you have other stars asking you for advice and Justin Timberlake asking me to put down backgrounds on his single. Its wonderful.
the celebrity life and constant touring, Marsha and Natalie are still
very grounded and down-to-earth.
Natalie says they even get in a game of basketball whenever they can. She says, Its not often. Were on the road and all our energy is devoted to the tour. But we still watch ball and were avid basketball fans.
Marsha adds, Im 25 years old and Im in this thing with my best friend of 13 years. Weve never taken any thing or any avenue or opportunity for granted. I want all the fansthe people who recognize us for what we dothat were never going to change. We cant change. Weve come too far and our backgrounds are so similar that makes us one in the same person. We recognize as artists that we have a responsibility to speak out on things that others might not be able to do.
ask the girls if they have any words for their QV audience, the girls
both respond with universal messages of love.
Natalie concludes, I dont have a separate message. I have a message of love for everyone. Universal love. A message of love for humanity.
For more on Floetry, please visit their website at www.floetry.net