Kam Franklin is a sista with an adventurous heart. She is courageous, outrageous and committed to living life well. She anchored a career in investment banking to live her musical dream stepping into the shoes as the lead singer of The Suffers, an explosive multi-cultural eight-piece band with their collective roots embedded deep in the heart of Houston delivering a sound coined Gulf Coast Soul.
Self-described as a “big girl who loves to eat,” Franklin’s vocal styling has caught the industry’s imagination with the New York Times saying she has “devastating Chaka Khan-like vocals” and icon David Letterman, summed up her power by simply stating this: “If you can’t do this, get out of the business!”
The Suffers’ single “Do Whatever” is making audiences around the globe groove and in their new CD [album], Everything Here, dropping today, the songs tackle many themes ranging from Hurricane Harvey (August marks the one year anniversary), falling in love, living life on your own terms, following your heart, defying negativity, a powerful tribute to mothers and more.
I caught up with Kam between gigs — literally seconds after she walked off stage, and was running to catch a flight to her next gig.
What’s the inspiration for the single “Do Whatever”?
“Do Whatever” deals with taking the time, as adults, to do whatever the hell you want to do. So many of us think that we have to wait until after 5 p.m. on a weekday for a happy hour, or that we have to wait until the weekend to find our joy. The big message in the song is: ‘It ain’t got to be a weekend to find the joy that you’re seeking’!
What’s the origin of your band’s name—The Suffers?
The Suffers is a reference to the 1978 Jamaican film “Rockers” starring Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Jacob Miller and Burning Spear.
Describe The Suffers sound?
We call our music Gulf Coast Soul. The easiest way to describe that is taking traditional soul music and fusing all kinds of genres into it. We will throw in a heaping dose of soul, a dash of reggae, a splash of jazz, a pinch of salsa, a hint of rock ‘n’ roll and a dollop of hip-hop and funk — and that is just a few ingredients simmering inside our Gulf Coast soul sound.
What did people think when you first stepped out on faith in 2015?
In the beginning, it was hard. Some critics would say ‘your band is too big,” or make comments about me adding ‘Your body is too big,’ and asking why we had not left Houston for Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville yet?” But we walked out on faith and we never looked back. We are making music on our own terms and in [our] own time.
What is your inspiration?
We make music for ourselves, but the performances are 100 percent for the people. They are the reason we are on the road. They are the reason we get to eat. They are the reason for what we do. We would be nothing without them, and it’s something we remind ourselves of every night.
What is your definition of Soul?
Honest, sincere, emotional music. A lot of traditionalists might not necessarily agree with me there but emotion expressed through true musicianship. The true foundation that comes from gospel, if we are talking about traditional soul music.
How do you feel when you step on stage?
When I step on the stage… I feel alive. I feel more like myself than I ever have been and I feel like a superhero. I feel like I can do anything… I can encourage people in a way that I never thought possible. It brings me to a place that I always knew was in me but seems to only come out when I am on stage.
What is the power of music?
The power of music is healing. It’s transformative. I feel as though music has the type of power that can make you feel emotions that might have been suppressed.
In Houston, I should eat where?
Well, it depends on what you want but for me, I always seek to support local businesses. The top of my list is the Breakfast Klub with a “K”. That’s one that stands out for me and I love, love, love, to eat.
True or false: You left a job in investment banking to pursue music full time?
True. I was working on a financial analyst for an Australian owned investment bank for about five years and we (The Suffers) decided to quit our jobs (January 2015).
True or false: The Suffers were one of the last unsigned bands to play the David Letterman Show?
True. In fact, in order to play that show, we had to create a new LP and tour with that and to do that we had to quit our jobs. We just took a risk not knowing what would come from it and we’ve been on the road ever since and you know what, we’ve never been happier. I am blessed.
Where do you find your joy?
There are so many different ways to find your joy, to find your happiness, to find the ending to your story that makes you feel like everything that you’ve been working for isn’t for nothing. I want to be an example to young girls that think that there is only one way to be a star. I want to let them know that there are no limitations as long as you believe in yourself. Because there is only one you. As I get older and I get to see who I really am it gets more exciting, for me, to keep pushing. And even though my bank account might not match what it was when I quit my (investment banking) job the joy that I have, right now, is incomparable.
Kam Franklin and The Suffers new album Everything Here available on July 13th.