Multi talented triple threat, Singer, Songwriter and Filmmaker Be Steadwell is currently in the UK from her home in Washington DC, promoting her album Jaded and debut film Vow Of Silence – The musical, magical modern day queer fairly tale.
The film is about heartbroken composer Jade who, after a break-up takes a vow of silence to win back the heart of her true love. The film takes you on a journey with Jade where you find out whether or not she finds her voice again.
The music throughout the film marries perfectly with the scenes. That paired with the amazing acting skills of the cast will at times leave you completely moved. There’s also some great comic relief for an otherwise heavyhearted tale that anyone who’s had their heart broken can relate to.
Be noted in a Q&A after the screening that after seeing the film Pariah when she was 19, it inspired her to go to Film School so she too could make films of women with black skin; different types of black, that looked like her. That’s exactly what she’s done! She’s produced a film of the highest quality and cinematography with Queer women of colour in the center of the narrative. That’s no mean feat.
After the screening, Be blessed us with some of her tracks as requested by her loyal following. It was an intimate affair – She sang Netflix, Bad (Wale cover), Yoga (Janelle Monae, cover) and Worthy to name a few. Seeing her and Asha Santee – her partner – perform was a real treat. Be sounds beautiful live; her voice carries and you really get to hear first hand that Jazz and Folk influence in her voice.
I caught up with Be after her screening on Monday at Whirled cinema in Brixton.
Congratulations on the debut of your film and UK Tour! How long did it take to make the film?
Vow of Silence was my Thesis film for my MFA in Film, I had about a year; a few months pre-production and then 6 months. We shot most of it for 5 days in the winter and then another 2 days in the spring. Production was quick.
You have an amazing mix of females in your cast, how did you find them?
The cellist and main love interest Solsis is a friend of mine and we’ve been sharing
stages in music for years. We went on tour together in 2012 The Revival so I knew her well.
The Protagonist Tattiana was somebody I had never met but was a friend of a friend. She came to casting and completely blew us away – her voice – she really feels it.
Some of the cast was from New York but mostly Queer and mostly friends of friends
Being an independent artist, what were some of the obstacles you faced during the film making process?
They say everything that can go wrong, will go wrong and it did. The biggest most obvious obstacle was money. We fund raised and I used all of my savings. But I wanted it to be Industry great and high quality.
The first day our lens jammed and we had to send it back. Then a generator busted through my car door and shattered the window and we didn’t even use the generator, we were driving it back to the rental house and it shattered my back window!
We had a U-Haul for all of the equipment and my Cinematographer was driving it and he went to see a friend. He came back with this stone cold look and he was like “I went to an apartment complex and the over hang was too low and I hit it and cracked it – I have the Managers number” I didn’t have any insurance on it but somehow, it didn’t come up again, it just disappeared!
But every day there was something and every day I had to tell myself “Just do what you need to do today, one foot in front of the other, get through this shot, get through this day.”
So yeah, everything *laughs*
Do you have any other films in the making at the moment?
I’m working on a feature; it’s very slow going. You know when you’re not in school and you’re not surrounded by a community of people who are workshopping with you? It’s just very hard to motivate yourself. But a part of me feels like until I do this feature, there’s something missing. I really feel like I have do it. My goal is to produce it by 2017.
How long have you been singing/ song writing for?
I started writing songs when I was 14 – I went to a writers program when I was 14 and I applied for poetry and they put me in song writing. My poems were really bad I guess, they were just like “This could only work as a song” [laughs] but I loved it. I didn’t pick it up seriously until I was 22, it just became my therapy and I needed it to keep going.
Who are your musical influences?
Prince, Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Emily King, Bon Iver – those are the main ones.
What are your fondest musical memories?
That’s a good question…anytime that I lose myself in a song is the best, it’s ecstasy. It happened tonight. Ideally it happens every show but not necessarily. Sometimes there’s a lot of thoughts that keep you from that place.
Who do you rate at the moment?
Right now, I’ve been listening to Tiffany Gouché a lot. She just came through. I don’t know where she played but she’s from Inglewood California. Very sexy, she’s like a Queer, female Usher. All her music is sexy and I just met her 2 weeks ago and I was blushing [laughs] because it’s like, I’ve shared an intimate moment with you- you don’t know it, but you’ve been in my bedroom! [laughs]
Can you tell us a bit about the In Residence Program you’ve just received from the Strathmore Performing Arts Center?
Strathmore is this beautiful music center that’s non-profit in the DC area. They’re huge but they have this Artist in Residence program for young artists in the area. They give seminars on how to be a better business person, as an independent musician, how to get gigs, how to do your taxes. It’s very well rounded, and then at the end of the residency we have 2 shows and a workshop. My shows are in June. It’s a very generous sharing of information and opportunities.
What are your plans for the rest of 2016
I want to grow my audience, I love what I do and I love doing it myself. I loved creating this tour and this event myself. If I grew my audience I would have a little more freedom to book gigs more easily and sell more CD’s online – just have a little more room to breathe. I just want to keep gigging and keep connecting with a lot of people.
Be Steady is not just a pretty face, she’s a pro at the loop pedal, vocal layering and beat boxing. She’s produced an album and a film as well as organizing this UK tour, which she funded herself. Yet she finds the time to give back and teach the skills she has, and share her craft at Workshops back home in Washington. It’s no wonder why the Strathmore Performing Arts Centre has recently selected her for their Artists in Residence Program. Steady’s hustle is real as it gets and we are here for that!
For bookings email – BOOKBESTEADY@GMAIL.COM