Mister D Interviews “Gypsy Moonshine,” Kamilah Marshall

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing the beautiful and talented Kamilah Marshall who just released her new CD, “Gypsy Moonshine,” a genuine work of love for this popular, former Harlette for Ms. Bette Midler. Many of us have gotten to know this sassy, effervescent bundle of energy over the last 5 or so years”¦she’s been incredible with the fans. I found her to be the same way for this small email chat we did several weeks ago. I hope you enjoy. And don’t forget to buy the CD, which you can find on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and other outlets.

Mister D: How did you get chosen to be a Harlette?

KM: I had to go to an audition. I remember I got a call from my agent on Easter Sunday evening saying the audition was the next day and to wear heels! Bette didn’t attend the first audition. We went through a very long dance audition and then we learned some music. We then got called back later that week. Bette showed up and I remember everyone freakin out. That was funny. Anyway, by the end of the week I had gotten the call. I was a Harlette!!!

Mister D: How did Bette and the Harlettes prepare for a show?

KM: Well Bette was in her own dressing room getting ready. As for the Harlettes, we did our make-up while listening to music together. We’d stretch and warm up. Lots of laughing and maybe a taping of the ‘video blog its’. Every blue moon. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

What is the best advice Bette gave you?

KM: The best advice I got, hmmmmm, she would always say tons of things. I know she would always encourage us to try and do our own thing. Like make up projects or shows or vehicles for ourselves. She is one of the reasons I have a CD today. She truly inspired me.

During the both tours, who was the best bowler and who was the worst? Any funny stories?

KM: Wow. Those days were a while ago. Hard to recall. I know a lot of the Crew guys were really good. I sure wasn’t very good but I got better. I loved it…it was great bonding time for a cast and crew of like 80 people. Our tour manager got bowling shirts made for us!

At what age did you first realize that you liked country music and who were your earliest influences?

KM: I fell in love with country music in high school. I carpooled with my best friend at the time and when his mom drove we got to pick the radio station. When his dad drove us we had to listen to country. At first, I didn’t love it so much…after a while I found myself listening to the country station on my own. Loving it all!

What was it about the music that touched your soul, so to speak?

KM: I think I’ve always loved the storytelling. In country, its so descriptive. Stories about people’s lives. I love the simpleness of the music…it’s just good music and great songwriting. I think Bette is an amazing storyteller. It’s why I also fell in love with the blues…storytelling and simpleness!!!

If country music was your first love, what led you down the path to Broadway?

KM: Country music wasn’t my first love really; it was really straight acting. Haha. I went to a performing arts high school and thought maybe I’d be on a sitcom or something. Then I started doing tons of musicals. So Broadway became the natural path for a while.

On your new CD, Gypsy Moonshine, you (co)wrote all of the songs, except one. Can you describe your songwriting process.

KM: Well, the songs I wrote alone…I would sit and think of a subject and kind of come up with lyrics and a melody in my head and complete the song, then I’d take it to my writing partner (Jamieson Trotter) and he’d put the music to it. With, Shayna (Steele) or Shoshana (Bean) we’d usually do the same thing…kinda sit around and throw out lyrics and ideas and then I’d end up taking the song to Jamieson and same thing. That’s my favorite system!

Do you have any particular favorites on the CD yourself? If so, why?

KM: Ummmmm, that’s so hard. I know people always say it but I love them all! If I had to choose a couple I’d say ‘Sis Shaw’. Because its the first one I ever wrote and it reminds me of a solid country song and ‘JAMI.’ I looooove ‘JAMI’ because its the essence of my sound, FUNKABILLY, which is a true mix of blues and country and funk!!!

You do a fabulous version of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is.” Is there a particular reason you chose this song to be on the CD?

KM: I have loved Bruce Hornsy since high school. I have been in love with that song since the day it came out so I’ve always thought if I do music that’ll be the first song I cover. I knew it made a statement that was relevant to everything happening in the world today. Its such a sad song so I thought to slow it down…..I cry everytime I hear it or sing it. I can thank Jamieson Trotter for that arrangement!!! Thanks Jamo!

I must say that you’re music is not typically what one would call “country” music. In fact, your music is quite unique. Would you mind describing your music to the readers as best as you can? I believe you have a term for it which you mentioned earlier.

KM: I describe the music in one word, FUNKABILLY. A phrase coined by Nashvilee singer Joanna Cotten. To me, it is a mixture of the blues with some country and a dash of funk. I also say it’s funky Country music or modern Blues. Either way it’s just fun music that makes you feel good.

I did find some songs that seemed like they could be written for a video or theater production. Do you find certain songs that play better live than say on CD? Or rather, which ones seem to be crowd favorites?

KM: Someone once said that my CD could be a musical so its funny that you say that. I think crowd favorites are JAMI and HELL IN YOUR SUV. People really love the Bruce Hornsby tune…most people say they never liked it before til I did it. hahaha.

What kind of reactions do you get to your music? Are people surprised? Do you get the sense that people are getting what you are trying to do?

KM: I think most people who know me arent really surprised. I think no one ever really expected me to make a record and if they did they knew it would be unique. I tend to always go against the grain. I hear most people say you have to see me play LIVE to really “get it” but I think if you like good music youll love it just listening to it on a Sunday afternoon just as much. Im a storyteller and I tried to make that come across on the record but obviously seeing me in person helps.

Do you ever plan to try out your music here in Nashville? I think the people would love it!

KM: I’d love to play Nashville. It is a dream of mine. I love the music community there. It isn’t straight up country music but I know it would do well there. Im dying to play all of the South really…Memphis especially.

What are your current plans for the future?

KM: Just to continue to play live, sell records, and touch as many people as I can. Maybe one day make another record.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I may have overlooked?

KM: No this is great stuff! I adore you for doing this for me. xoxooxox THANK YOU AND A BIG HUG!! oxox

To learn more about Ms. Marshall, check out these sites:


Love, Mister D

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7 thoughts on “Mister D Interviews “Gypsy Moonshine,” Kamilah Marshall

  1. Mr. D!

    WOW! What a great interview! I’m so glad you had a chance to showcase her!

    I really get a kick out of seeing Kamilah follow her own path. As a Harlette, she has always been so sweet and accommodating to us Betteheads and I feel certain that she’ll be no different as she finds her own moment in the sun.

    Having grown up surrounded by country music (and in a community in which Ned Beatty was forced to squeal like a pig in “Deliverance”–seriously, I personally know the “special” banjo player that dueled with Jon Voight!) I must admit that I used to cringe at the sound of a slide guitar. I remember country music when it was mostly George Jones and Conway Twitty, and the genre never really moved me until someone like Dolly Parton or Reba McEntire took the stage. (What can I say? I’m a drag queen!) But, on the flip side, over the last decade or so, some country has gone SO far from its roots that it’s hardly even recognizable as country music.

    There are also other artists who have managed to hold true to country music and mold it into a genre that encompasses the ideology while still bringing something new to the table. Kamilah is one of those people. AND HOW!

    The fact that Miss Marshall is a woman of color is something else that I find particularly refreshing she is offering to the genre. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but aside from Hootie & the Blowfish front man Darius Rucker (who is himself a crossover artist) country music isn’t exactly filled with African-American artists, and I think that’s a shame. As a southern queen, I know that these artists are certainly out there, but it takes a special something to really get your heel through the door in an industry that is hard enough on a woman alone, much less a minority. Kamilah has that “it” factor, whatever that really is, and I am so excited to watch her bloom and grow.

    I have listened to the entire album, and my personal favorites are “Funkabilly”, “Hell in Your SUV”, “The Way it is” (And it IS, in fact, better than the original, which I already loved as well!) The production values on the sassy “It’s Not You, It’s Me” are AWESOME (and I’m gonna’ be lipsyncing THAT one!) “Sis Shaw” is so gorgeous and makes me cry, and “Jami” is flat out hotness. It is one of the few times that I put a CD in the stereo and never hit a button other than “Re-Play”. It is great from start to finish, and the sequencing is perfect.

    The whole album is unique in such a way that just about anybody will love it, no matter what their musical tastes. Her vocal stylings are such that you can definitely imagine Kamilah holding her own on a Broadway stage, but she doesn’t get as “jazz hands” campy as the other Broadway to country crossover artists out there. She’s got real pipes and doesn’t beat you over the head with them, while reminding you that she has power behind that sexy frame.

    It’s the first “country” album I’ve bought in almost two decades, and it’s the best I’ve ever purchased. I really think she has the capacity to change the face of the genre in a big, good way. I loved every minute of it. It’s good driving music, it’s good cooking music, and it made an especially wonderful Saturday afternoon warm while curled up on the sofa with a good blanket, a bunch of gay-assed candles around the room, and a glass of wine as the cold fall rain fell outside! It’s tender, but also empowering as a son of a b*tch! And if Kamilah liked Bette’s music for her ability to “story-tell”, I certainly hope that she see’s the same ability in the mirror!

    She’s going to be HUGE!!!

    And it couldn’t happen to a nicer person!

    I encourage everybody to buy this album! Seriously!

    Your Friend,

    The Divine Grace

    1. Girl….you should’ve done the interview….what a fabulous review you just gave…I know Kamilah’s gonna love reading that!!!!! I just love you!!!! Love, Don

  2. I “just” love you too!

    And I’ll tell you something else: If you ever decide that you have to bring this site to a close for ANY reason, I’ll follow you to the ends of the Earth and off a cliff if need-be! This site is pure JOY!

  3. Thank you so much to the both of you. Mr D for taking the time to do the interview and to Divine Grace for your lovely, kind words. I will be beaming all week from this! So wonderful!!! xoxoxo

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