Meet Goapele

Meet Goapele
Shelia Goss: Can you pronounce your name for me?
Goapele: Gwa-pa-lay.

Shelia Goss: When did you decide that you wanted to sing professionally?
Goapele: In 2001. My family and I started an independent label, “Skyblaze Recording,” and got distribution and started putting out the album nationally. It’s been kind of growing since then. Got a deal with Sony and re-released that album. Just released “Change It All” on Skyvoice Sony.

Shelia: Did you write all the lyrics?
Goapele: Yes.

Shelia: So you always wanted to have creative control or did it work out that way?
Goapele: I always wanted to sing music that truly represents me and I didn’t know what that was going to mean. I didn’t plan on being involved in the business side originally, it just kind of happened that way.

Shelia: If you weren’t singing, what would you be doing?
Goapele: I would be something in the arts. When I was younger, I liked singing and dancing, painting and drawing. Maybe I would have pursued dancing and the visual arts side more…maybe also something working with kids.

Shelia: When you’re writing Do you prefer ballads or more up-tempo songs?
Goapele: I’m always more drawn to ballads.

Shelia: Why?
Goapele: I think because I’m just moody. I like songs that make me feel something. Slower songs usually have more feeling to me; but I still like for the drums to hit. I don’t feel like the production needs to be soft just because its slow. Something I’ve been experimenting with more—incorporate more uptempo songs that still have a lot of feeling.

Shelia: How would you categorize your sound?
Goapele: I don’t know how to categorize it. I think that it’s soulful with jazz influences and R&B influences, hip-hop influences and even rock and new wave.

Shelia: So there’s at least one or two songs on your album that a person should like, no matter what type of music they listen to?
Goapele: Yeah.

Shelia: Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?
Goapele: I always wanted to do something with D’Angelo and I would love to collaborate with Outkast or Ghostface.

Shelia: Have you been on tour with anybody?
Goapele: This time around I did a short tour with Lyfe and Vivian Green. I’ll probably go out in March and April and people can go to for updates on the tour, because I’m not exactly sure right now.

Shelia: Do you ever get stage fright when performing live?
Goapele: Not like I used to. I really used to get nervous when I first started performing. Over the years I’ve gotten more and more comfortable. I just know how to deal with it more. Sometimes in the middle of my performance, I look at the audience and say “is this real” and get through it the best way I can (although it seems unbelievable sometimes).

It’s kind of amazing to stand in front of hundreds or thousands of people. In the summer time, I did a summer jam show for the first time in the Bay area with about twenty thousand people, mainly young people. The energy was really high. It was just so unreal to me. I was a little nervous, but people were really supportive and I don’t think they could tell I was nervous.

Shelia: What do you want the listener to walk away with after listening to your album?
Goapele: With my music, I’m telling my own story. I’m expressing my own view. I want for people to not feel like they’re alone. I want people to reflect on their own lives and think about the things that they want and figure out how to obtain them. Also for people that aren’t satisfied with what they see around them and in their communities, I hope it motivates them to start taking small steps to change those things. One of the things we did with this album was create a website The website features different organizations and individuals that have already been working towards positive change.

Shelia: Who are some of your favorite singers?
Goapele: Stevie Wonder. Donny Hathaway…Al Green…Aretha Franklin…Rachelle Ferrell…I got old school…new school…I could go on and on.

Shelia: How has your life changed since your success—family/friends/environment?
Goapele: I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out. For me, I still live in the Bay area where there’s not a major music industry and where I’ve gotten the most support. It’s interesting. It’s a little different walking down the street, but I haven’t changed where I live.

Shelia: What advice would you give other young ladies who want to follow in your path?
Goapele: I would say that it’s a long road. Just have patience and persistence. Practice your craft. I think it can be challenging being an artist. It depends on what route you want to go or what goals you have. If its songwriting, just start writing. If a singer, perform as much as you can. …

Shelia: Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?
Goapele: Thank you for the support and I hope they all check out the new album—“Change It All.” It’s in stores everywhere and hopefully I’ll see them on tour.

Interview by Shelia M Goss a freelance writer and the Essence Bestselling author of My Invisible Husband, Roses are thorns, Violets are true, and My Three Beaus. To find out more, visit her website at

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