ESENCE.com’s “New and Next” column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we meet Lady, a soulful duo made up of London-based vocalist Terri Walker (left) and Nicole Wray (right), whom you may remember as Missy Elliot’s protégée.
ESSENCE: Nicole, a lot of us know you from working with Missy Elliot a few years back. Where have you been?
NICOLE WRAY: I’ve been hearing that since then. Where you been? For me it’s a beautiful thing. I’ve been writing under the radar and producing records with other artists. The Black Keys were one of the groups that really made me get back in touch with my gospel roots. When I was with Missy it was more R&B laid back songs but I’ve always had that kind of strong ability to really belt it out. I’ve refrained from that over the past years and I think it was Black Keys that let me know that it as okay to do that again. So I haven’t really been gone, just under the radar and doing a lot of songwriting and features.
ESSENCE: How did you two hook up as a group if Terri is in London and Nicole is in the States?
TERRI WALKER: I’m always working in America. We met in New York a couple years ago and we got on and from there we became sisters. Transatlantic sisters.
WRAY: They fly her all around the world. They fly me to get to her. They fly her to get to me and it’s beautiful because I get to go outside of the country.
ESSENCE: You’ve known each other as vocalists for a long time but now you’ve decided to become a group. How did that come together?
WRAY: When we met in New York, we became friends first. We just started hanging out. I met Truth and Soul [records] and that’s when we decided to sing together, harmonizing in the studio. It sounded good and it felt good. The music was amazing and before you knew it we had four demo songs done. Before we know it we’re sitting here talking to you, we have an album out; we’re doing shows on tour. It’s beautiful. The music felt good and we just started singing. [Laughs] Singing and sanging.
WALKER: It went from us hanging out to there being a product. So when people ask us, it’s so difficult to answer because there wasn’t really a, ‘Today, we’re going to become this.’
ESSENCE: What story are you telling on your self-titled debut album?
WRAY: I think the story is colorful. It’s really about life and the struggle. We really sing to the 9-to-5 people getting up for work. The single moms, people who are struggling, people who identify with real life day-to-day situations. We came to the studio, we heard the music and we just started writing about what was going on in our lives.
WALKER: We believe it and we’ve been through what we write about.
ESSENCE: How would you describe the sound?
WRAY: The sound is soul, our birthright. It’s raw, real and natural. It’s soul, it’s heart felt, it’s free and it’s not being weak. It’s showing true pain, true love, true joy, and true struggle.
WALKER: People call it retro, people will call it Motown status but to us it’s just soul. Soul and blues.
ESSENCE: Both of you were famous at a young age. [Walker has released three albums in the U.K. and has been hailed by some as Britain’s answer to Jill Scott] What do you think you’ll do differently or change because you’ve had that touch with fame a few years ago and things are happening again?
WRAY: We’ve been driving everywhere on this tour. We went to Chicago, Little Rock, Cincinnati and I’m looking out the window and thinking this is happening for me again and I ask myself, ‘What I do believe for me now? I’m definitely more connected to my dreams. Before, I was young and I was on stage and I didn’t connect with me or the crowd. I wasn’t feeling anything then, but I know I’m feeling something now and it feels really good. I know who I am, I can go to sleep at night and say I’m proud of who I am. I feel good. It’s all connecting to me now.
Check out the video for Lady’s first single “Get Ready” and let us know what you think.