“Welcome to Hollywuud!” Says the man up front wearing the mic headset. “Everyone who comes to Hollywood has a dream. So what’s your dream?” He asks the latest set of flip-flopped punters to hop on. Just as a red haired outta-town hopeful hops off in tan suedette cowgirl boots, an acoustic guitar case strapped to her back. “Hey! Baybee!” He hollers after her. “Wass yo’ DREAM?”
Soon the bus will head back from Hollywood to the station at Santa Monica, passing the cribs of Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry and Taylor Swift en route, stalwarts of La La Land – the entertainment capital of the world. Pulling up to a stop light there’s already a car sitting in the nearside lane. The radios on and a Raphael Saadiq song is playing through the air, up to the top deck of the tour bus and above the pine trees. Behind the wheel, is a brunette named Taura whose brown eyes are transfixed, though she’s not looking at her phone, as is the custom when a car is stationery, but instead looks straight-ahead, in a world of her own. The light turns green, but her car still doesn’t move.
Returning to HQ, the bus creeps past Third Street Promenade as dusk settles. Amongst the mimes and walkers on stilts a blonde, blue eyed busker called Chrissy can be seen gathering together her remaining stock of CD’s, counting her tips. Though they had yet to meet both brown and blue eyes shared something in common, perseverance. Unlike many hopefuls, Taura & Chrissy are both artists who have stuck with it, to live and work in the entertainment-slash-dream biz.
Taura Stinson, brown eyes/ebony skin, is a multi-platinum selling, Grammy nominated writer who hails from Oakland, North California. A former artist herself, Stinson had long retreated from the front cover to liner notes & album credits. “She has an ability to conjure up relatable or resonating moments through song lyrics,” says Andre 3000, one of the many superstars she’s worked with. “Whenever a song says that to me that’s when I feel like I’m dealing with a powerful writer.”
Despite the success and acclaim, Stinson recently considered her options. “I thought about moving away and doing something different, something easier, because music isn't the most faithful lover.” Says Taura, adding: “I was in a temp agency for personal assistants and considered working for yet another mogul, but, when I got in the car, Good Man (a song Taura co-wrote and appears on with Raphael Saadiq) was playing. I felt that it was a sign. Soon as I heard the words "How could you ever walk away after all I've done for you." I turned my ignition off and cried like a baby.”
Across town, singer-songwriter Chrissy DePauw, a San Diegan with blue eyes/ivory skin, had sold over 30,000 copies of her album Somewhere Sweeter, not via online marketplaces like CD Baby or Amazon, but the direct route, from her hand to that of passers-by on 3rd Street. Eventually placing Set It On Fire (a song she wrote with Gary Sprigg & Sean Richard Marshall) onto the soundtrack of Honey 2.
“Doing the Promenade full time was getting rough.” Says Chrissy; “In the winter, being right by the ocean your fingertips lose feeling and you're somehow supposed to keep strumming the guitar! So I waited tables. Waiting tables was always my safety net when I needed a break. Anyways, I started (a firm called) Love Shack Designs for the sole purpose of being my own boss and having that flexibility. I eventually started getting so many orders that I could quit my job.”
Love Shack was a little ol’ place where Chrissy designed bedstead headboards and is, the story goes, where both she and Taura first met. “One lazy yet fateful Saturday afternoon, Taura googled ‘Serape Headboard …” Says the press sheet, going onto explain how Taura browsed the www, eventually finding Love Shack on the local pages of Craigslist. Straight away, it was a cosmic thing - the two artists clicking like Charles & Eddie on an NYC subway train.
“I asked Chrissy if she'd consider bartering for the headboard.” Taura explains.
"Sure, what do you do?" She replied.
"I'm a songwriter." Said Taura.
“I was like ‘Whoa!’” remembers Chrissy. “I mean, people ask me to barter all the time, but it's usually stuff like website building - photo shoots - shout outs on Twitter or Instagram etc ... never for a song! I was caught off guard and pleasantly surprised, especially when I checked out her credits and saw that she is the REAL DEAL!”
The first song they wrote together, as part of the bespoke serape headboard agreement, would be good enough to earn a placement on the Beyond The Lights motion picture. Titled Airplay the lyrics call out the superficial demands of the mainstream music industry gatekeepers - concerned with keeping the default settings of the cookie cutter mold in place: appearance, age & autotune over art - betraying both ladies weariness of the business whilst asserting their love of simply creating music that could, if given the chance, be appreciated by a wider audience.
“My worth is not determined by how many likes, I get/ just wanna hear my record played.
In the next car at a long red light/Oh yeah, that’ll make my effing day!”
It was an auspicious and anthemic debut, one that demanded a follow up. Recognizing they had something, and with Chrissy’s encouragement, Taura elected to step 20ft forward and share the spotlight. Calling themselves ArtPeace, after the serendipitous collaboration that sparked their hook-up, the two ladies, one with black skin and the other with white, are an atypical proposition in the current marketplace. Not that that should even warrant a mention - however in these times, this era, where it’s wholly necessary to state Black Lives Matter, there are those that continue to peddle responses where division reigns supreme. That two kindred souls can come together and naturally make music together is as vital a message now as when Sly configured his multi-coloured Family Stone.
Like Sly's work, ArtPeace's debut set Free Music is musically adventurous, written with craft and dreamt up beyond the norm of the mainstream. Labelled as “Folk&B” (a term and brainchld of the duo) it’s kinda like R&B mixed with acoustic, melodious folk, with lashings of pop-soul and a pinch of SoCal chill-out. Predominantly produced by the Berklee College of Music trained Darien Dorsey, along with the occasional input of maverick-super-producer Raphael Saadiq (notably on Heaven Down Here the second single) plus Eric Colvin, the first single chosen for the project was Hi:) a haunting, Balearic soul trip (FYI there’s also a cool Ali Shaheed Muhammed remix available). The tobacco spitting Son Of A Gun (produced by Saadiq) sounds like it should be on a Tarrantino made southern-hoedown-shoot-em-up-chick-flick. The delicate, string accompanied Don’t Break Anything wouldn’t sound out of place on a Babyface produced Waiting To Exhale sequel, and the apocalyptic - yet rapturous - Electric Footprint is a carpe diem for the social media generation; just a portion of the 13 strong cuts that inspired Jay-Z’s subscription service Tidal to immediately snap the album up, as Tidal also did with the latest album by superstar and La La Land local Taylor Swift.
'That’s Hollywuudd’ the tour bus driver says as he drives past all of the lavish cribs and those big white letters on top of the hill. “Some dreams come true. Some don’t. But you gotta always keep on dreaming.”