Preface (or shall I say Premise)
I’m not a non-believer, but I’m also not in a confident space when it comes to my own spirituality. When Dove from Tygereye Entertainment approached me about interviewing one of her clients, Jocelyn AKA iNDIGO, who is an urban gospel artist, I initially had some reservations. Do I want faith to enter my blog world? Will people judge me by my decision to interview an Urban Gospel singer? As someone who has not been to church in years other than for Christenings, weddings, and funerals, would I be able to do a story on someone who is saved? Am I a credible representative for Christianity?
After weighing the above questions in my mind and reading more about iNDIGO, I pelted my insecurities to the side in pursuit of inspiration instead. I know there are plenty of people out there like me who may benefit from reading about iNDIGO…as told by someone who is Christian- denomination ambiguous, null set, undefined (nerd alert! gotta be me ). Besides, iNDIGO has an absolutely beautiful voice and is so multi-faceted and is so multi-talented that it would truly be silly or dare I say “sinful” of me to deny you exposure to an up and coming artist with a fantastic story to share.
So don’t do the “Jesus story, I’m out!” thing and move on to something else on the web. Give this a read, check her myspace page (myspace.com/indy1st), sample her album “The iNDI1st Project…Breakthrough” on CD Baby, and come back here and share your thoughts.
If this is already your cup of tea and you’re just waiting for me to fill you up, then you probably didn’t need my preface, but now you know the eyes, fingers, and mindset of the person bringing iNDIGO’s story to life in this post.
Introducing Jocelyn AKA iNDIGO
After speaking with Jocelyn AKA iNDIGO a few weeks ago, I was left with a few lasting impressions. Here is a young lady who seems to be someone who would prefer to stay away from the spotlight but whose life’s path has put her front and center of the spotlight. She never set out to be a gospel singer, as you’ll read. Even when it came to college, it was something she did because people said it’s what you do. Her bachelor’s degree from Bowie State in Sociology was essentially an exercise of “eenie meenie miney mo” as she put it. As such, this wasn’t one of those intensively self indulgent, self promoting interviews, rather very humble, modest words from a lady with a creative gift, amazing vocals, business savvy, and the willingness to take some leaps of faith as she molds her career as a singer and entrepreneur.
In the span of 2 years, iNDIGO has taken her life in unexpected directions. After finding her way back to Christ, a commitment that she made just a week after attending a church from a friend’s suggestion just 2 years ago, and ignited by the loss of her father, with whom she was very close, to lung cancer shortly thereafter, iNDIGO began to put her ideas into action. She launched a Christian focused social networking and fashion website called JesusGroupie.com and began recording songs for her debut album entitled “The INDI1st Project…Breakthrough” that was recently released independently on December 9, 2008.
iNDIGO’s leaps of faith have not been in vain. Her single “Search In My Heart” was picked up by Praise 104.1 FM, a Radio One station servicing the DMV area, and is in regular rotation. Her website JesusGroupie.com has expanded as well.
It was quickly apparent to me that iNDIGO had the most to say about her life from 2006 onward, but naturally, I was curious about her life prior to that point, and what series of events led her in this new direction. This part was like pulling teeth at first, but eventually iNDIGO warmed up to me, and I was able to gather some insight on the person she was prior to the past couple of years. I mean, inquiring minds want to know, right?
Did you grow up in DC?
I was born in Charlottesville, VA which is like 2 1/2 hours from DC, but I was raised in Prince George’s County since I was about 6 years old. So I’ve been local to the area since I was about 6 years old.
How old are you? Do you mind me asking?
I don’t tell! I’m old enough to have voted in the election this year. My thing is that the anointing does not have an age limit…I just don’t want the focus to be on age because my ministry goal is whoever I can reach, and I don’t want people to not be receptive to me because they think I’m too young.
Way to hit a home run, Affrodite! <– (that’s sarcasm folks) I decided to go in a different direction.
What were you doing before you got saved?
Before I got saved, I was singing in an RnB group…that was signed to Electra…That was like back in 2002, and we were signed for about a year and got dropped…I was still doing my thing by myself or whatever, but I was also in school. I graduated from Bowie State University. I was doing quite a few different things just trying to find my place.
What did you study at Bowie?
Sociology. I really didn’t want to go to college but it’s one of those things that people tell you ‘you have to go to school’…(pauses) School, I got through it. I did well, but I didn’t have a major. I just basically did like eenie meenie miney mo, and that’s how I picked Sociology.
So help me connect some dots here. You said you weren’t interested in being in the forefront. Was that after the group folded?
Ya, that was after…I definitely wanted the forefront at one point. The group was hot. It was a 4 girl group. We were like a Destiny’s Child meets En Vogue type because everybody in the group sung lead, and everybody had really good star quality. It was a really, really good group, but a girl group is a girl group. It’s a lot of work and they just don’t last. They just don’t.
What was the name of the group?
4BIDN, but it was spelled with a ‘4’ and a ‘B-I-D-N’. It wasn’t spelled the regular way. The group was hot, you know, but…it just didn’t work out. I mean I’m just an artsy person, in general, not just singing. I paint. I can do interior design and all that kind of stuff.
So you have the creative gene. Is somebody in your family creative?
My mom. Ya, my mom is really creative. So its’ like either way I would’ve ended up in some type of artsy, low paying job.
I interject with advice “Follow your passion! I’m learning about that daily. It’s not about the dollars and cents sometimes.”
And then somehow you just landed at 2006?
I think somewhere between 04 and 06, I just felt this emptiness. I didn’t know what it was. I mean my life was going great. Everything was on the up and up, but I just didn’t feel like something was there…I drifted away from church and all that in my teen years like a lot of people do. You go to college and you just don’t really care. You’re just like ‘I’ll go to church when I get there.’ You go for Easter or something. So I just had this longing like ‘You just need to go to church,’ you know? So I started going to some different churches…some nice churches, some really big huge beautiful churches, and…I wasn’t finding what I needed. So a friend of mine said that he visited a church in DC which is the church I go to now, and when I pulled up to the church, it’s like in a warehouse type of environment. It’s small…spray paint on the walls. I was like ‘I don’t wanna come up in here’ but I had promised him that I was gonna go. When I got in there. I mean it was so much love in that church…and once the pastor preached, I was like ‘This is what I need,’ you know?…The following Sunday I gave my life to Christ. It was that impactful.
2006: A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins
Tell me more about your spiritual journey.
I grew up in church. I’m a Christian by default ‘cause my mom is Christian and my grandmom is a Christian. The whole family is Christian. So, I had a good idea about what church was all about, but church and relationship is totally different. So, I didn’t have (pauses) I didn’t have a real relationship with God. Like I always say, I believed in Him, but I didn’t believe Him until I got saved. So, I can’t say there was one thing that led me there. It was just time…Everything was leading me in that direction and I kinda was fighting it because I didn’t wanna really do it God’s way. I wanted to do it my way. I wasn’t really interested in being and example in that way. And that’s why I didn’t really wanna, you know, sing anymore because you’re held to a higher standard when you can be seen…when you’re visible, and I wasn’t interested in that. I just wanted to join my choir and do outreach ministries…I’m a part of the women’s homeless shelter ministry with my church, and you know, stuff like that was exciting to me…The whole thing with wanting fame went out of the door with me getting saved. I didn’t really want to do it…but it was like a calling…it was on my heart like really seriously, so I had to just go with it.
What’s the name of the church that you attend?
About My Father’s Business Outreach Ministries.
Where is that?
It’s in northeast Washington, DC, right on New York Avenue.
What do you like about your church?
It’s basically in the middle of 2 men’s shelters a women’s shelter. I mean, like, at any given time you can look out the window of the church on Sunday service and see homeless people walking up and down the street. It’s prime for missions…we go out in the streets and it’s…I don’t really know the words I’m looking for, but we do a lot of outreach stuff…We don’t have a lot of programs in church [as they would likely have in larger churches]…It gave me a new respect for…Jehovah’s Witnesses. They evangelize. They go out. They get on your nerves. You see them coming, you lock your door, you don’t answer. I just gained a respect for what they do, you know what I mean? That’s basically kind of the mentality that we have is just to evangelize and be out in the street and just to bring people, we’ve had lots and lots of homeless people in our church. They come to church on Sunday morning because we go out into the street and evangelize during the week.
So what made you even start to say that you’re going to record a song?
Um, it’s funny…I was solo after the group had broken up [and] I started working with Kwamé for a while. That is right around the time he did ‘On Fire’ for Lloyd Banks, and he was in a little small apartment type studio in Harlem. I got introduced to him through my lawyer at the time, and we started writing some songs together. and everything was, you know, coming along really nice, but a lot of my songs started taking on this kind of positive empowerment song type stuff…One of the last songs that I did with him…was called ‘Talk to Me.’ I did it to try to get on Angie Stone’s project at the time that she was working on like a few years ago…It didn’t make it onto the album, but I kept it…‘Talk to Me’ is not on the album, but I’m just letting you know that it was very spiritual. Like, I didn’t say the name of God but anybody with a brain would know what I’m talking about when they hear the song. It just felt right to do that type of music. I was like ‘Ok, let me try do another song like that and see,’ and it just kinda started formulating into a sound…I actually recorded that song before I got saved. It all kind of started linking up. And then once I got saved, I was thinking ‘Well, maybe I’ll just record some more songs and this time I’ll say Jesus’s name and see how it comes out.’
A year before all of this would you have thought you’d be where you are today?
Not at all. A gospel singer? Like me? Un-unh, no way.
iNDIGO’s song, ‘Talk to Me’ reminded me of what I call Christian ambiguous music, so I explained how back in my college days when The Sounds of Blackness and The Winans were very popular, they often used words like “you” and “my love” where it could take on different meanings for different audiences (basically for the mass music world and the Christian gospel world).
What’s your opinion on just saying “I love Jesus,” “I love God,” “I love being a Christian” in a song? Do you think it matters?
That’s a really good question. I’ve never been asked that before…
<Insert journalist equivalent of “ca-ching!” I just love to get someone thinking about something they hadn’t been asked before.>
…For me, I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself a gospel artist and not using the name of God. That’s just me. You know what I mean? I mean like I said, once I recorded a few songs before getting saved and they were kind of taking on that direction. I mean, I was still in the mindframe that if I continue to still sing solo, I want to be a female empowerment type of artist, but I wasn’t in the mindframe of a Christian artist even though I knew what I had written that song about. But I’m at the point in my walk. You know? I think everybody has to be comfortable in their own walk…nobody is perfect. If you need to build yourself up to that, then the point is you’re on your way. For me…I have to say the name of God. I have to ‘cause I want people to be very clear about this transformation that has taken place in my life and not to guess who it was the result of. It was because of this person and his name is Jesus Christ. I want you to know that. I don’t want you to be confused.
Continuing from the last question…
At the same time, I know you have the website JesusGroupie.com, and that doesn’t sound like someone staying away from the limelight.
(laughs) The way that it started, it wasn’t about me. It was one of those things where I had an idea. I felt like it was divinely inspired, and I was really intimidated to be quite honest. Nothing really intimidates me, but the idea of starting a company, I was like ‘I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I won’t be successful. I won’t know what to do.’ So I had the idea like early in 2007, and I kept writing down little ideas and stuff, but I never moved forward, and then, when my dad, right around the time he really got sick and took a turn for the worse in July. It just lit a fire under me, like once he died [I realized] you only have 1 life to live. You’re not promised tomorrow. What do you have to lose? You can bring attention, if nothing else…to the gospel in…your own unique way. I wanted to basically platform people who are doing positive things, who are saved, who are hip. They’re trendy, they’re not frumpy, you know, they have a lot going on, a lot of good things going on. That’s where it all started…With the clothes, it was just one of those things. I really had it in my mind that I really want to do Christian clothes, but I don’t think anybody’s gonna want it. So, I tried one thing, and then one design led to two, and two designs led to three, and people were really receptive to it.
So this has been a whirlwind couple of years?
Basically. Everything basically started last year . Jesus Groupie wasn’t technically established. The website was launched in August of 2007. I was kind of learning my way around. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing still, but you know, God is in control, and I just keep that in mind.
What success have you had with Jesus Groupie? Is it more than you expected?
It’s definitely more than I expected, but I’m not getting rich off of it or anything at this point…It just feels good. I’ve been at the hair salon…just different places, and I’ll see somebody with the shirt on and I’m like ‘Wow!’ That’s just amazing to me. People I don’t even know. [The tee shirts] are enough to cause a conversation. It’s not about the website or the business itself. It’s about Jesus. So that’s the part that makes me smile on the inside. Whether or not somebody says ‘Hey, you can get this shirt at JesusGroupie.com’ I don’t really care about that, but if it inspires some kind of conversation, a dialog between 2 people, and people are like ‘Oh, that’s cute. What does that mean?’ then I’m happy with that, too.
What about Christians who question Jesus Groupie and the message? Even since my promo post about you, I have seen at least one other blog write something questioning the use of Jesus and Groupie within the context of Christianity where they were basically offended. What do you have to say to the people that feel that way?
Christ doesn’t care how you come to him. He just wants you to come. Like, sometimes, you have to get knocked on your face…we do so much stuff for us, for us, for us, and we don’t give God the glory. We’re so busy giving ourselves the glory so sometimes He has to…say ‘Look! You’re gonna have to really call on Me. I’m the one who gave you all of this. I’m the one who gives you life and gives you breath to breathe.’ So when you’re laying there and you and you’re on your back, who do you turn to? Who do you call on? Like when you’re sick, you’re like ‘Jesus,’ ‘God’ help me…That’s how most people operate.
So I’m saying all that to say that I don’t really trivialize and…try to go in those little areas because to me, whether it’s tee shirts or jewelry or people out in the streets with signs and banners. Like whatever it takes to cause a dialog about Christ…It can’t be a bad thing to get a conversation about God. You know what I mean?…I had this one lady send me an [offensive] email…because…I have a shirt that says ‘Pretty Girls Love Christ Too.’ She took offense to it because in her mind, ‘Oh you know you think because you look a certain way, you give back to vanity, and God is not smiling on that,’ and I’m like ‘Lady, you don’t even understand. Anybody can wear this shirt.’ It’s so many people with like low self esteem and have gotten further and further away from the gospel and thinking that, you know, you can’t be cool…You have to look a certain way to worship God. Totally, not the case. There’s a lot of teenage girls that I’ve come across that…didn’t know that you…could still look cute and be a Christian and be saved. People actually think that.
I’m like not trying to make disciples out of disciples. I was unsaved 2 years ago. If God can save me, he can save anybody, but you have to reach the people who aren’t in the church or who aren’t already there, who aren’t already saved.
Debut Album: The iNDI1st Project…Breakthrough
Tell me about your album.
The whole album is my creative vision even from the cover art. It’s just a picture of my face, and it’s just totally black around me because I’m kind of saying that I’m coming out of the darkness into the light type of thing.
How do you plan to promote your album?
The album…I’m putting out independently. I don’t have major distribution or a deal at this point, but tomorrow December 6th, I’m having an album release concert at The Temple of Praise in Washington, DC…at 6pm. I’ll be selling the cd’s tomorrow for the first time that particular night, but officially the release is Tuesday the 9th [of December]…
I don’t have a plan per se. Things cost money…I’ve been so blessed. One of the most major radio stations in this area for gospel, Praise 101.4 which is one of the Radio One stations, has picked up my song ‘Search In My Heart,’ and it’s been in regular rotation for about 2 months now…I basically sent the Program Director an email. I wasn’t realistically thinking he was going to hit me back. I mean, nobody hits you back when they’re at that level. ‘Hey, I’m an artist! Can you play my song?’ It wasn’t quite that simple but, in a nutshell, you know what I mean? I gave him a link to the myspace page on the email, and he hit me back 2 days later and said he wanted to have a meeting with me, and from that point then we did an interview together on air and about 2 days after that, I started getting calls from people like ‘I just heard you on the radio!’ and I’m like ‘What?’
So how was that moment for you?
I didn’t hear it. I was in the movies and I was getting texts and people were like you’re song is on the radio, and I’m like ‘I’m in the movies!’ but I’ve heard it several times since then, and every time I’m kind of in awe, like ‘Wow!’ like God is so good, you know? It’s kind of like everything that I’m trying to do has been shown and proved because God is kind of making it really simple for it to happen. On the RnB side, it was like struggle-struggle-struggle, years-years-years…and I finally believe that this is where God wanted me to be all along. I just wasn’t in tune enough with Him to see it.
I can relate to that.
Ya, it’s like, why doesn’t everything pan out for me? Why is this not working? I’m doing everything right…and it’s still not taking it to this point, and then after only a few months of doing something on the gospel side, God is just opening doors-opening doors-opening doors as if He were saying, ‘I was waiting for you to catch up with Me.’ Like ‘What took you so long?’ I’m just (pauses) I don’t have any worries. There was one point at the beginning of this year that I was like ‘I really, really want a deal.’ I took a couple of meetings or whatever, and…I kept procrastinating. I had this album done for months. I was just afraid to put it out by myself. I wanted a stamp of something major [as in major record deal], but God kept telling me that ‘You just need to step out there on your own faith and trust Me.’…I’ve had so many interesting meetings. Finally, God was like …’Just do it, and all of this other stuff will come,’ You know what I mean? ‘The distribution in the stores that you want your stuff be in all across the country. It’ll come, just do it now. Just start now.’
I like the song ‘Thank You For Giving Me You’. That’s the song I listen to the most when I go to your myspace page.
I like the melody in it and the message.
That’s actually one of my favorites, but it didn’t make the album.
No…I recorded about, um, I don’t know like 30 songs and I had to pick like 12. It was really difficult to pick songs, but you know some stuff is political or whatever. Sometimes people have samples in their music that, you know, as an independent artist…you can’t afford to clear…There were just some songs that I just couldn’t use this time around.
Well, that was my vote.
Aww, well once you hear the entire album, I’m very sure you’ll hear something that you like. (laughs) That song ['Thank You For Giving Me You'] is really hot. I’m trying to ask and see if maybe I can sell it to another gospel artist on their project or something and see what happens with that.
Do you write all your own songs?
Not all of them, no. I try to be involved. I probably wrote or wrote on about 75% of the songs on this album, but there were a lot of other writers involved. [Tyra McKinsey] wrote about 7 of the songs…she’s very talented, and then Isaiah D. Thomas who is a stellar award winning artist and producer. He did 2…songs.
I read on your myspace page that your father passed away recently. Did you write anything on the album in his honor?
No, I didn’t do any music on my album dedicated to my dad or anything, but the music video that I shot in January of this year was dedicated to him. At the end of the video, it actually says dedicated to his name, and it has his birthdate and when he passed. I was like mad close to my dad. He had lung cancer…he was smoking cigarettes since he was 15 years old. He died relatively young like 52 when he passed..
I noticed that you and Jamie Jones are friends.
Ya, we’re mad cool. I’ve actually worked with her quite a bit. Her manager is my business partner. His name is Reggie, and we’re all a part of his [company] X-posure Entertainment. So we’re pretty close knit all of us…I think that 2009 might be a big year for X-posure entertainment. We’ll see.
Where to find more info on iNDIGO
Where can us fans get a hold of your album?
CD Baby, iTunes, Yahoo! Music, all those digital outlets as well, and then when I go from church to church and different events, you know, I’ll have my product with me.
iNDIGO’s myspace page: myspace.com/indi1st
Album on CD Baby: Jocelyn AKA iNDIGO
Album on DiGStation: iNDIGO
Jesus Groupie: jesusgroupie.com
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Thank you, Dove, for setting up another great interview opportunity with one of your clients.
Thank you, iNDIGO, for being the first interviewee to ask for me by name rather than “this is your 4 o’ clock”…lol. You are very talented and just beginning your journey. I wish you much success.