Forget what statistics and the media will have you to believe—Kindred the Family Soul is out to prove that Black love is alive and well. The Philadelphia based husband and wife duo, Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon, are just as passionate about their music as they are each other. Both starting out as solo artists, Dantzler got his start in the business as a songwriter, penning hits for Bell Biv Devoe and Pebbles, while Graydon earned a record deal at age 15. They soon met and began working together while writing songs for other artists, eventually recognizing their undeniable chemistry, on both a musical and personal level. They eventually married and started their own family, but it wasn’t long before their passion for music sparked back up. Heeding the call, the two began performing at the famed Black Lilly club, and generated buzz amongst the burgeoning underground soul movement. They then signed to Hidden Beach Recordings, and released their debut album Surrender to Love in 2003, with standout hits such as “Far Away,” and “Stars.” Their latest recording, In This Life Together, further explores the intricacies of marriage and family while working in the occasionally family un-friendly music industry, and reassures listeners that sometimes love really is all you need. Clutch had a chance to catch up with Fatin and Aja to chat about future plans with their music and life, together.
Clutch: It’s truly beautiful to see a husband and wife team working together and producing good music. For our readers who are just getting to know Kindred The Family Soul, tell us about your “story” and your work.
Well we started the group after being married about year. We both came up as “industry brats” if you will, having both been working in music in some capacity since we were teenagers. Marriage and family sort of fell in our laps and we happily excepted, however after working regular jobs and having a baby we reconsidered our true calling, music. We reentered the scene as a group, worked the club scene and caught the attention of some record execs.(along with some bigging up by friends who were already established)
Clutch: “Surrender to Love” was such an amazing album, and it helped to create a large and devoted fan base. What were you thinking when you started on the journey of putting out your first album?
We first tried to duplicate on tape what had become a fairly popular club performance. The Black Lily( a legendary open mic series in Philly) audience was our first loyal fan base and we did not want to disappoint. We also wanted the album to reflect the wealth of new experiences we were having (ex. marriage, parenthood, struggle).
Clutch: Your second album, In This Life Together, the name is a sort of tribute to Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Do you look up to them as a sort of blueprint of what it is to be married while in the business, and putting forth a positive image of black love?
Absolutely. We know that every couple is different but is inspiring to know there is a goal that can be accomplished gracefully and lovingly.
Clutch: Do your children travel with you while you’re out on the road?
We tend to travel with them when they are infants mostly because they are breastfeeding and we have never wanted to deny them that bonding experience. By toddler age they tend to benefit from the stability of home and pre-school. We’ve got two school age children and a pre-schooler now so all of them stay put when we work.
Clutch: Being partners in your craft, as well as in life, do you find it difficult to separate the two?
I’m not sure if we try to. Business conversations can come up between us at any time and we make room for them. We differ at times and even argue but compromise always seems to easily find its way in. Any marital issues are usually of a personal nature and rarely about business. A bigger challenge seems to be consistently making our children a priority over business without giving them a false sense of entitlement.
Clutch: Your music definitely seems to come from a real and sincere place, and sounds like things that could be going on in your lives at that time. Are there ever moments when one person wants to write about something and the other is like “I don’t want anyone to know about that!” or is your experience together an open book for your fans?
We have never censored ourselves but we kinda have an unspoken understanding about what is private.
Clutch: Who are some of the artists you’re listening to right now?
We are constantly listening to music of all genres and time periods so it is very difficult to narrow it down to titles or names.We just listen to great music as much as possible in order to stay sharp and fresh.
Clutch: In your song, Woman 1st, Aja you make reference to wearing many different hats on top of being a phenomenal singer/songwriter. Has it been difficult to balance motherhood with a career in the music industry?
Yes. I try to take a relaxed but aware approach to motherhood. I try not to take myself to seriously or put a lot of pressure on myself. But I try to constantly stay aware of who my children are and what are their needs. They grow and change so quickly that it is easy to fall out of the loop especially with the type of job I have.
Clutch: In today’s society, it seems like the sanctity of marriage isn’t honored the way it was back in our parent’s and grandparent’s generation. Why do you think that is?
Because for the most part there are no images to reinforce the position as being worthwhile..People look down on marriage as a broken institution so no one wants to attend.Besides there are a number of culprits. Slavery, The crack generation, under education and incarceration of black men, The over education and economic isolation of the black woman……pick one.
Clutch: When you’re not on the road or in the studio, what can we find you doing?
Just being a family…