The SoulBounce Q&A: Such Reflects On Life, Music & ‘American Idol’ And Shares Her Journey To Loving Her ‘Wide Nose Full Lips’

SoulBounce: Congratulations on the new project! It is truly flawless, and I know that you are over the moon. We’ll get into the album a bit later, but for those who may not have been as familiar with your work prior to this project, who is Such?

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Such: Well, thank you so much! I am a singer/songwriter. I’m the daughter of a pastor, so I grew up singing in church. My parents emigrated here from Haiti in the late ’60s or early ’70s. I grew up listening to Haitian and gospel music mostly up until I was 7 years old and then my house burned down. My parents were pretty strict before then, and I feel like sometimes when tragedy strikes, sometimes you just loosen up, and things that you thought were so important just aren’t that important. So after the fire, the first thing my older sister asked for while we were rebuilding the house was a boom box. I feel like that’s when my musical education really began. This was in the ’90s and ’90s R&B is so nostalgic and means so much to me because that was really the first time I was introduced to secular music. I grew up singing in church, and in elementary school I started playing the flute and joined every choir imaginable.

When I was 15, my band teacher suggested that I audition for the GRAMMY High School Jazz Ensemble, which is now called GRAMMY Band. I auditioned for the jazz choir and got in. Basically, you get a 10-day, all expenses paid trip to L.A. You get to perform with the choir at clubs all over the city as a special guest, you record an album, you perform at the GRAMMY nominee party and then you get to go to the GRAMMYS.

SB: Wow! Sounds like an amazing opportunity and experience.

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S: It was! But I remember when I got there I was intimidated because all the kids there were “seasoned” musicians, some had already recorded albums, and they had all gone to performing arts high schools. I was just a girl who went to regular high school who liked to sing. So, to be in that super intense environment was really dope and was like a slice of a musician’s life. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I created an entire PowerPoint presentation for my parents about why they should let me transfer to the nearest performing arts high school, which was about an hour away. When I was done with my presentation they were like, “Nah, baby.” [laughs]

Though they supported me, they didn’t want me to become a struggling musician. They didn’t want music to be my “Plan A,” and I don’t blame them. Growing up, they didn’t know any musicians, and I didn’t have any friends whose parents were musicians or artists. It was such a foreign concept, and they just wanted me to do better than them and reap all the benefits of being in this country.

SB: So, basically they were like, you can sing your heart out in this little choir but… [laughs]

S: Right! They didn’t want me to struggle so they were like go get a degree and get a good job. My first degree was in Exercise Science/Pre-Physical Therapy. I graduated and was working with Physical Therapists in Denver, who promptly told me that the market was oversaturated and that I would be in school forever. I ended up doing an intense 1-year BSN program and got my degree in Nursing. I worked as a nurse for four years, and then the earthquake hit Haiti. I went down there to work like 10 days after the earthquake, and that experience reminded me that life is short. Even though I never stopped doing music, I sang and directed choirs, that experience was life-changing. I cut my locs and shaved all my hair off. I needed the change I felt on the inside to somehow be reflected on the outside. When I returned from Haiti, I began to phase out of nursing. Then I got pregnant with my son, and I would say he was my biggest catalyst. I wanted to be an example for him and not just lip service. I didn’t want to live vicariously through my child, I wanted to live out my dreams.

When he was about 3 months old, I saw a commercial for American Idol, and they were coming to Denver. Something came over me, and I knew I had to audition. I camped out with my baby and made it through all the producers’ and judges’ rounds. I made it Hollywood and to the end of Hollywood week. They eliminated an entire room of vocalists, and I started crying before they even announced it. I am not a cute crier, and this was the part they aired on TV! [laughs]

SB: You started bawling before they even said anything? [laughs]

S: YES! I just knew it. In the room, there were really bad singers and there were Black female singers that could really sing. They caught a lot of flak that year because no black singers made it to the top 40.

SB: And what season was this?

S: Season 11. The judges were Steven Tyler, J.Lo and Randy Jackson. When I was crying, Steven Tyler hugged me and told me not to give up and I will always remember that. I laid low for a bit, but it dawned me that even after such a crushing blow on a monumental platform, I still wanted to do music. To know that hearing “no” wasn’t going to stop me from doing this was empowering.

So, I began recording my entire first album, Stretch Marks, in my basement. I had no idea what I was doing, no contacts in the music industry. I just knew this is what I had to do and that I would figure it out. I look back and think, wow. My former self was super brave! Sometimes I go back and listen and I cringe because of my vocal choices or because the production is not that great. But the reality is, if I hadn’t done Stretch Marks, I wouldn’t be here. If I had been too afraid to release something so that it could be critiqued so I could improve upon it, this wouldn’t exist. It’s been a fun journey. Music has opened up so many doors for me that I could’ve next imagined, like traveling abroad, appearing on others’ albums, acting or doing commercials.

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