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Above The Basement - Boston Music and Conversation

211 EpisodesProduced by Chuck Clough and Ronnie HirschbergWebsite

Above the Basement offers casual and candid discussions with musicians, artists, producers and others from Boston and beyond. Conversations will inform and entertain listeners with experiences from those shaping Boston's music community and for whom music is a passion. You will hear their stories, h… read more


Episode 138 - Melinda Doolittle

Ronnie 1:19 Above the basement awesome music and conversation. We are listening to Melinda Doolittle singing I'm a woman in 2007 with a voice that transcends not only genres but generations. It is fitting that Melinda has come back as a special guest performer for the third time with our friends at the Boston Children's chorus. We sat with Miss do a little just before the BCC his final performance of the season at the iconic Wang theatre. The theme for this concert was lift every voice with gratitude and celebration of the women in our lives past, present and future. While Chuck was taking the day off celebrating two young women in his life as they performed in dance. I was joined by friend and a TB co host Ike Walker, can I had the honor to share the mic with a couple of super women of the future? Our own daughters and BCC singers is the nlb.So here's our conversation with Melinda doula, along with my friend, her dad and my dad recorded at the box center, Duane cedar in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ronnie 2:22 Thank you for coming here at BCC again. Oh, of course.

Belinda 2:25 This is my happy place.

Ronnie 2:26 And it was 2012. You started with the BCC I think, right? I

Belinda 2:31 don't know, years. I'm really bad at that. But I know that this is my I think third or third time getting to sing with the BCC and it is literally one of my favorite things to do. Hands down. Anthony sorry, Dr. TK?

Ronnie 2:46 Yes. Dr. Anthony Teresa king. He is the director of BCC, right? Yeah,

Belinda 2:52 he has. He and his wife, Melanie has just become dear friends at this point. So it's just as simple as him texting being like, hey, I want you to sing with the kids. Again. I'm like I'm in. I mean, it's really that quick, because it's great. something so special to me.

Ronnie 3:06 So it's not a surprise that we're on the heels of a symphony hall concert that was about she persisted. Yeah. And so we're bringing the theme forward, really to talk about not just women, but about connections and about overcoming social problems in the world. Yes, we just heard you sing sisters are doing it for the self in the hallway. How did that set the tone for the evening? How did it feel?

Belinda 3:29 Oh, my goodness. Are you kidding me? I mean, first of all, they're introducing a sister's choir right now, which is like the moms and the audience and this and the Sisters of the kids. And so it's so powerful, because everyone's on that stage, giving it all they've got, I can't believe I get to be a part of that. So there's just there's just an energy. And if you know me at all, you know that I will be dancing everywhere. Probably messing people up because I always get in their face. And then they're like, what am I singing?

Ronnie 3:58 Whatever you do, don't look at your

Belinda 4:01 Close your eyes. But it's just I think it's just so powerful. And it's what we need right now. And I think Music has always had a way of speaking what mere words just cannot, you know, there's just something about music being coupled with your words, that just gives it a new power. And with that many people on stage singing that I mean, who can't be moved by it, you know? So I'm very excited.

Ronnie 4:29 Yes, we got a little bit of a sneak peek. We spoke to Jason homes before. And a little bit we heard about the sister choir, we heard about some of the songs are going to be singing. So we're very excited about it. So I wanted to ask you a question. I'd seen a quote that you said about American Idol. Because you were on American Idol. And the quote said that not only did American Idol change your life, but you thought it changed our culture. I don't know if you remember saying that. But I was really I was really intrigued by that. So I was wondering, you know what, you know, when your thoughts were there, by the way, it was 2007. I know.

Belinda 4:58 Wow, that was That's right. You don't remember year

Belinda 5:01 2000?

Ronnie 5:04 kind of remember that?

Belinda 5:07 I definitely I know. I said that. I don't remember when I did. But I know I said, because I feel like American Idol was kind of that first show that allowed America to go ahead and vote and then give their voice to something. Yeah. And I think it was kind of a good and a bad thing. To a certain extent, because you have people who have never sung a note in their lives voting on whether or not you can write and it's it's so interesting. It's made us all kind of armchair experts. Yeah. And sometimes that goes well, and sometimes it doesn't. But it did kind of expose us to being a part of something and being a part of something together. And I think that is the beautiful

Belinda 5:51 thing about yes, I do love that. It's such a shared experience in a way that we don't have as much right, you know, in our modern culture that you know, tonight when everybody's in the theater together, that's a wonderful shared experience. You know, on TV, everybody's streaming and things like that, you know, the idea that everybody's watching American Idol when it lives. Yeah. And that's like, still a shared a shared moment.

Ronnie 6:10 Yeah, exactly. And, you know, we used to watch live TV all the time, and having American Idol and other things like that, that are alive, like a baseball game. It's like a novel concept. It's like, wow, we're all doing this together. Like I said, you know, so we have two guests hosts with us on above the basement. And I wondered if they had some questions for Miss do a little What do you think? First of all, remind me your name and how old you are that kind of stuff. And who you singing with?

Abby 6:40 Hi, my name's Abby, and I am 11 years old. And I'm in western house training choir. Awesome. Hi, I'm SZ I'm 11 years old. And I'm in the western house training choir Europe, etc. Awesome. So tonight is a tribute to a woman who are heroes. We call them heroes, who is your hero in your life.

Belinda 7:05 My hero is actually my mommy. My mom is just my rock, she always has been she's a strong woman, she raised me as a single parent. And so it's literally just been the two of us since before I was one years old. So she just moved in with me about a year and a half ago. And I'm so happy to have my mommy around. And I take her on the road with me sometimes if I can. And she just embodies what it's like to be strong and not to let any adversity stop you. So anytime things were hard, her attitude is what changed the picture for me. And what helped me to see the good in things instead of looking for the bad first. And she remains my hero to this day. My she wrote,

Abby 7:54 what was it like? Do you performing at the White House in 2007? Oh, wow.

Belinda 8:01 First of all, one of the coolest things ever, of course, I was so excited. And one of my favorite parts of being a part of that is that before we even saying, there, there was a dinner in the State Dining Room and President Bush at the time, he came up with the seating charts. And he sent me right next to him, because he wanted to know what it was like to be on American Idol. We talked over soup and dinner about the judges what Simon was really like and all of that. And it was maybe one of the coolest experiences ever. And then I got to sing Somewhere over the rainbow with an amazing Children's Choir that just completely blew me away. And it was quite the experience. I was so nervous. I was shaking like a leaf. But I'm so glad I got to do it.

Ronnie 8:52 Alright, we have another question.

Abby 8:53 Ready? When you think back to your American Idol days, what is the song that most come that comes to mind that makes you smile? The most?

Belinda 9:02 Oh, that makes me smile the most? That's a great question. First of all, um, gosh, I think I'm going to have to give that to I'm a woman being on American Idol was very scary for me. And so I would always be really nervous backstage. And something about that song empowered me to just, I mean, walk it out and give it everything I had. And I think I needed that to kind of take me to the next level of performance even, it's just have some fun, and get in Simon's face and sing it to them, you know, like, that kind of thing. And it also, I used to be a background singer before I went on American Idol. And that song in particular, had the background singers featured at the end. And so I got to include them and walk back to them and kind of be one with them. And so for me, I needed that just for that strength.

Ronnie 9:56 That gives me kind of a chilled here. Because there's you know, you probably saw 40 feet from stardom or whatever. But to have that bond with them of the years that you work and you're incredible singers and have a support team. But then for you to be literally under the spotlight to have that kind of nod to them.

Belinda 10:15 It was it was pretty huge for all of us because I think I've been so comfortable being a background singer that it means stepping out was really scary. And they knew that and they were so kind to me the entire time because we were like sisters in this and so they were doing it for themselves. Exactly. So they were way supportive. And I was like can I walk back to you and and sing with you and they were like please come we'll give you all the strength you need. And so that song was literally a song that I repeated later on and even saying when I got voted off because I needed that and I still had my women with me even when I got voted on Oh my

Ronnie 10:53 gosh. What a just a beautiful story for this for this evening tonight to definitely I think is he has one more right I'm ready is the

Abby 11:01 millions of people got to know you on American Idol in 2007. Tell me a fact about yourself that your fans would find surprising.

Belinda 11:08 Oh, really good question too. Okay, wait, that's hard. Okay, that my fans would find surprising that I don't like crowds at all. Like, I don't like big groups of people. So

Ronnie 11:22 like, if you're in like a train station type of thing, or

Belinda 11:25 anything, it's almost just humorous that this is my job like that my job is with an audience because, like, people make me nervous. And so like really anything over four people, and I freak out. So the fact that I singing for thousands is a little freaky for me. And

Ronnie 11:45 well it says a lot because music has made many people overcome many things and it doesn't matter what your challenges are, you know, whether it's personal or social or something else. I think it says a lot about your connection to music you don't doesn't surprise me that you are your craft and your incredible talent is actually get you to do that,

Belinda 12:07 right? It's true. It's true music can make me do what nothing else can it gives me energy that nothing else does. It gives me courage that nothing else does. So music for me is just a godsend.

Ronnie 12:21 That's wonderful. So you brought up your your past as a background vocalist? Yeah. So I'm curious, you know, performing with the the BCC with the children's chorus today, you know, which is kind of a really big group of background vocalist. I'm curious, you know, for Izzy and Abby, and everybody in the audience, you know, what are some of the commonalities of singing in a chorus versus being a background vocalist? And what are some of the differences?

Belinda 12:43 Well, what I love about the BCC is that they work on blending with each other, listening to each other, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. And that literally is what being a background singer is, you're listening to other people, you are manipulating your voice to make a certain sound like, he will even ask Dr. Anthony trust that King will even ask you, you know, to give a more round sound or a flat sound. And that kind of thing is the stuff that you have to listen for as a background vocalist, right, is just changing your voice to fit a situation. And then being basically you guys are like the rock of what is happening. You guys are the bed that the artists gets to lay on when they go on stage. And it's such a great, great thing to have created. You're

Ronnie 13:33 standing on there. Well, yeah,

Belinda 13:34 I get to stand on what you guys have created, which is so powerful for me. Because I need that I need that underneath me to really give everything I have. And I can feel it when I don't have it on stage which is which happens often. But to have the BCC behind me. It's just something so wonderful for me. And it gives me just a new courage to I don't get scared when I've got 200 people on stage. Yeah, cuz I've got people

Ronnie 14:02 before we hang it up. What's next for you in in general? What are you working on?

Belinda 14:08 I am actually working on my next record right now. So I'm very excited about that. Because it goes with the show that I've been touring recently.

Ronnie 14:17 Great American Songbook. Yeah, right. So

Belinda 14:19 it's all classic soul music. And it's the music that has a message behind it, you know, like the Marvin Gaye's and the SAM Cooke's and the Aretha Franklin's and Gladys Knight and that kind of thing. And so I'm recording that record. Right now. I'm still touring. I'm actually getting ready to get on a ship on the Norwegian Escape and do the Broadway show after midnight. Oh, man, I get on the ship tomorrow. So I'm getting ready to do that for the next eight weeks.

Ronnie 14:46 Wow. And do you need backup singer on the ship?

Belinda 14:50 They do have a wonderful cast on stage with me, which is well, that's great. And I'll do my own show once a week on the ship. So it's it's a really great experience. And then I do Symphony shows. And I'll be recording my next record

Ronnie 15:03 will look forward. It's Melinda Doolittle. com.

Belinda 15:06 That's it. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. And girls. Those were great questions. Thank you, Chuck. We'd like

Ronnie 16:07 to thank Belinda do a little for sharing your time and talents with us. And thank you to all the staff at the BCC. Please check out what they are up to and how you can support this very important organization at Boston Children's And many thanks to Ike Walker for sitting in for Chuck and of course our special women of the future co host is the nlb please visit us at above the basement calm where you can join us on Patreon. Sign up for our newsletter. Listen and subscribe to our podcasts like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter and look at all the nice pictures we post on Instagram. We are everywhere. On behalf of Chuck and myself. Thanks for listening. Tell your friends and remember Boston music like its history is unique.

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