I attended an event in August where this soft-spoken music artist was performing. Be Steadwell approached the front of the room as everyone sat anxiously waiting to hear. With a small recorder in front of her, she started singing and recording different musical tones and fused and layered each sound in harmony. Once she got the perfectly blended sound recorded, she sang over it. Everyone in the room watched and listened in amazement as she created beautiful music with merely a recorder at her disposal and her voice. This is a prime example of how this artist has used little resources to make a name for herself as a ground-breaking film maker and singer in the District.
Be Steadwell has produced most of her work, including several music videos and short films, through her production company, Fatback Films, in which she collaborates with other women of color. Steadwell has utilized many of her talents to break the mold as a queer artist and empower many women in industries where women typically lack representation….
1. How would you describe the genre of music you create?
I usually call my music pop soul or folk soul. I love so many kinds of music. I grew up on Michael, the Beatles, sarah vaughan, Boys II men, Joni Mitchell, it’s difficult to choose just one genre.
2. What sparked your initial interest in music and film?
I’ve always loved music. I’d dance in my room singing the little mermaid to myself. My sisters and I used to harmonize in the car. We were all surrounded by music. Old and new. And I loved it. I started writing songs when I was 14, and I started performing on stage around that same time. My work in film was a bit more recent. When I started shooting my own music videos, I fell in love with film. The way rhythm, sound and images paint the story. It’s like singing a sick three-part harmony. It’s heaven.
3. What do you hope to convey through your music and/or film productions?
It’s my goal to create exciting images of women like me. Images that are not two dimensional. Images and stories of women who fall in love, who hurt, who are outcasts, and filly and strange. When I listen to music and watch films on TV, I want to see something that makes me excited to be myself. As an artist, it’s not my goal to “represent” lesbians, or women or any group of people. It’s my goal to bring magical characters to life that reflect the joys and the struggles we face in an exciting way.
4. How would you describe your experience as a queer artist in DC?
Being queer and an artist in DC is an interesting experience. DC in general, has little enthusiasm and support for the arts. The queer community in particular has even less enthusiasm. There is more energy around club nights and vip packages and free drinks than supporting local artists. it can be very lonely and frustrating. that being said, i’ve gotten a lot of love and support from individuals and organizations in DC. I’ve been very blessed for that.
5. What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
The biggest challenge I face is remaining true to myself and to the story I wish to tell. It’s important to me to stay humble, not to allow my work to be about impressing or pleasing anyone. To maintain sincerity. The most sincere, real songs I’ve written are also the most beautiful, and the most rewarding to share. Keep it real. I guess that sums it up.
6. It seems that with some of your business endeavors, such as your film production group, that you are passionate about establishing platforms that enforce women’s empowerment. Is that a big part of your focus?
Music production and film production are both very male dominated fields. The people that hold the camera, that produce the beats on the radio, that direct and edit. They’re nearly all white men. It’s bullshit. There are too many people with great stories to tell and no support to do so. I started FATBACK FILMS in an attempt to remedy that. Having a space to work together, and provide support may go a long way.
7. Most of your songs have a common theme….mainly about love. Are most of your songs inspired by personal experience?
All of my songs are true. Every detail may not necessarily have happened to me, but most of them have. I write about love because it’s exciting, and relatable and fun.
8. Do you think people have the ability to change the world through music?
If any medium changes the world, it will most DEFINITELY be music.
9. What can your fans anticipate, musically, from you in the future?
Experimentation! I’m going to invest more of my savings in software to make better beats. I’d like to learn to play the guitar, and I’d like to add more instrumentation to my live performances. I’m very excited about every day I have to learn more about music!
10. What’s one lesson you’ve learned from Happy Hour/ life in your 20s?
Be patient. It’s still a hard pill to swallow, but it’s what I need. When I was a teenager, I imagined myself in a flourishing career, a beautiful living space, some kind of beautiful image of adulthood that I may never achieve. I thought I’d have more “done” by now. Then again, I didn’t imagine being a singer and performer. I didn’t see myself going to Howard for grad school. I have had the opportunity to do so many incredible things. So yea. I don’t have a fancy place and a big paycheck. but i’m happy, and patient. Slowly, slowly, the seed I’ve planted are germinating and growing up from the ground!
To find out more about what Be Steadwell is doing, go to her websites: