Welcome to the eighth edition of The Intellects. Today you’ll meet a dear friend of mine. She is an extraordinary jazz vocalist, a songwriter, and a vocal coach. This phenomenal woman has performed in more than 20 countries within 25 years. Her passion for music grows stronger each and every day. You can definitely hear it in her deep and melodic voice. I’m overjoyed to share her inspirational thoughts with you all. Without further ado, please put your hands together for the one and only, Coco Rouzier.
Coco started her professional career after performing onstage at the Apollo Theater, in New York City, as a contestant for the TV show “Showtime at the Apollo.” After getting a taste of the Big Apple, Coco immediately made a decision that would change her life forever. She decided to move to New York where she discovered swing style Jazz while performing with The Jerry Kravat New York Orchestra, now called Tribeca Rhythm. Her ability to make grand leaps, all for the love of music, afforded her many opportunities, including offers to perform in France and Norway. At the age of 51, Coco is still making big moves.
The Washington, D.C. native is living her life to the fullest by truly embracing her talents and not being afraid to go after her dreams. Coco has toured in England, Scotland, Sweden, Iceland, Shanghai, Beijing, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. She has also graced the same stages as the iconic jazz performer, Ella Fitzgerald. Coco is proof that anything is possible if you have more belief in your spirit than fear.
Read and share our fun interview below. Even if you’re not interested in becoming a traveling performer, I hope Coco’s words empower and inspire you to live life with purpose.
Q: How did you become interested in Jazz music?
A: I had been working with one of New York City’s premier wedding bands when the requests started rolling in for me to perform Big Band Swing music. The first time I sang Moon Dance, Blue Skies, and so many other popular tunes in that era, I fell in love. Jazz forced me to find my own voice. I changed my entire way of living when Jazz kidnapped me. The sacrifice and discipline in this genre are different than most. I find it difficult to exist in a world where many people don’t and won’t understand you and why you love this American art form.
Q: Who are your musical influences?
A: My first concert was Rufus featuring Chaka Khan at the age of seven. They blew me away. I looked up at her and knew that that was all I ever wanted to do. It was a secret that later came to fruition. While Chaka influenced me with her funky soulfulness, Natalie Cole’s voice and lyrics allowed me to sing out my feelings as a teenager.
Q: What wouldn’t you live without?
A: Shea butter for my Afro and skin. Garage Band app is the software that I write songs with. My iPhone for the ability to record lyrics and/or vocals anywhere or anytime. One black dress. With these items, I can go anywhere and sing.
Q: What do you do to fire up that creative spark?
A: At any moment, a melody will come or lyrics will come to me. The more I trust myself the more I simply write what I feel. Writing takes so much time, patience, love, forgiveness and a special rawness.
Q: Do you have a musical family background?
A: Yes I do. My mother sang every day and encouraged me to hit the high notes. She gave me room to grow and never made me perform if I didn’t want to. I didn’t have that kind of pressure. My uncles, I had eight, played musical instruments, but it was all for fun. When I visit Washington, D.C. to see my family, those same members greet me warmly and give me praise for continuing on.
Q: What advice can you give aspiring artists who want to travel the world but may not think they can make it work?
A: After two decades of traveling and touring the world, it became quite natural for me to share my experiences — good and bad– with other artists. I found that it takes more than just the ability to sing. There has to be a healthy amount of wanderlust to want to travel as it can truly test your faith.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: To be a solo traveling performer requires strength, integrity and so much patience. A willingness to learn others cultures is a major plus to creating a home life abroad.
Photos courtesy of Coco Rouzier
Click on the links below to follow Coco and stay current on what’s next for her. You don’t want to miss out on the launch of her debut book, A Jazzy Life.
How are you pursuing your dreams? Leave your comments below and dare to inspire someone with your #blackgirlmagic.