Alicia Olatuja has a pure, soothing tone that is as shapeless as water. The St. Louis native has been singing for a long time in a variety of contexts. In 2011, she released “The Promise” with Michael Olatuja as the Nigerian jazz duo, Olatuja Project. She followed up that album with her solo set, “Timeless,” in 2014. That project showcased her seamless transition from jazz to pop covers.
But the mezzo-soprano is best known for singing at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. In the cold of January 2013, Olatuja sang “Battle Hymn of The Republic.” Her voice was operatic as she effortlessly hit high notes. The massive choir sounded triumphant, but it was clear that Olatuja was at the center of it all.
72 Hours emailed Olatuja questions about her upcoming project, “Intuition-Songs from the Minds of Women.” The Kickstarter-backed album was funded by more than $21,000 in donations. In our conversation, Olatuja discussed her upcoming album before her Friday show at the Weinberg.
With your upcoming album inspired by women composers, I would like to ask which women composers have deeply moved you?
There are so many influential women composers that have moved me but I really love the works of Imogen Heap and Joni Mitchell. Both women accompany a depth of text with an accessibility of the music that I believe transcends the confinements of genre.
Will your new album address gender dynamics, either past or present?
This album tackles huge issues that are as relevant today as they were when the songs were written. While many of the songs celebrate love and romance, others definitely address the abuse of women by individuals in positions of authority as well as the perspectives of women in relation to broken relationships, what we want out of relationships, motherhood, and the stigma of divorce. This album covers so many dynamics of a woman’s experience in life.
What do you try to capture when you’re recording in a studio?
I try to capture the personal intent of the text. I am always singing to the individual, the person who finds the words applicable to their life and connect through that common experience.
How have you grown as an artist since The Olatuja Project in honing your own sound and voice?
Life can teach you so many things in a short amount of time, especially if you let it. I believe this music is a direct reflection of the things I have learned and continue to both dance and wrestle with as a woman and as an individual.
What do you have planned for your Weinberg performance?
I plan to perform a mixture of tunes from my new album and tunes from my previous album, “Timeless.” Each audience is a new opportunity for me to express my heart with courage and conviction through the music. I’m so looking forward to sharing that with the people at the Weinberg performance!