Credit: Domo Jenkins

Soulful rising star and D.C. native Art Auré has a voice and energy that are unmatched. A singer-songwriter who attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, she recently released her motivational single “Keep On.” She spoke with City Paper about the message behind the song, and provided a glimpse into her musical influences. 

Washington City Paper: Where did your stage name come from?

Art Auré: My stage name is something we took our time with. Art is an acronym for always remain true, and Auré is like an array of light energy [and] we just put it together. My music is true, genuine, it comes from a good place, and it’s real. My manager David came up with Art and my brother came up with Auré and we just put them together. 

WCP: When was the moment that you knew music was your calling? 

AA: I knew music was my calling around the age of 6 or 7 years old. My parents are originally from Gary, Indiana, so Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 have been in our household, playing in the stereos and car and everything. I saw The Jacksons: An American Dream. Once I saw Jason Weaver and all of the other amazing actors, I was like, I have to do that. I started writing songs actually when I was 6, and when I discovered that I can sing, I just kept doing it. That was the thing that made me happy, and when something makes you happy, it’s like, you gotta roll with it.

WCP: What role has D.C.’s musical culture played for you as an artist? 

AA: As we know, D.C.’s musical culture is different from anywhere else. You can’t mention D.C. without mentioning go-go music and of course mumbo sauce. Chuck Brown is that name that you hear when you think about D.C. When you think of D.C., it’s not just one thing. As an artist, I felt like I could be myself. I don’t have to just do one type of music because D.C. is so diverse, even with the people. There’s so many different types of people from all over the world that come here. So I feel like that lives inside of me. I am D.C. 

WCP: Who are your biggest musical influences?

AA: Of course anybody from Gary, Indiana. I was like 8 years old and I had my Walkman on and there was this song by Janet Jackson called “Escapade,” and I literally thought that I was Janet Jackson. We lived on a military base and it was very conservative, but you know, I didn’t care. I was jumping around. I was dancing in the streets, that was my thing, so I’ve always looked up to her. Earth, Wind & Fire, a lot of my music is inspired by them because of all the live instrumentation. All my music is live on my upcoming album. Sade, Prince. I love Lucky Daye’s music. I love Anderson .Paak. There’s a lot of dope artists. Kendrick Lamar. Those are definitely artists that influence my music. Stevie Wonder, too. 

WCP: How did “Keep On” come to be?

AA: Well, “Keep On,” we wrote in October. It’s really crazy because I have endometriosis and I wrote that with Ronnie Collins right after my surgery. Endometriosis is something that I’ve lived with my entire life and the biggest thing is it causes pain. Sometimes I was just in so much pain I would just want to give up. I came in the studio and he was already playing the guitar riff that you hear in the beginning. And then I heard something inspirational. A lot of people feel like they’re in that place where they want to give up, but you just gotta keep going. I’m getting text messages all the time where people are saying, “This song has changed my life. Thank you for writing it.” 

WCP: Your song was chosen as a theme for Black Women for Biden leading up to the election. How do you feel about his choice of running mate Sen. Kamala Harris? 

AA: I love it! I love the fact that Joe Biden chose a woman of color to be his running mate. For one, history is being made. You don’t see that. We’ve never seen that in our country, at least. That means that change is coming and we have to keep on. I really feel like people are going to use their common sense and change is inevitable, especially now. How do you not choose somebody that’s for the people?

WCP: Do you have a savior song—a song that you listen to when you’re going through tough times?

AA: Absolutely, I’m all about positive music. One of my favorite songs is a song by Donny Hathaway called “Someday We’ll All Be Free.” It’s talking to the Black community and saying, even though we’re going through this, you gotta keep going. Just the chord progressions and the way he’s singing it resonates. Earth, Wind & Fire, “Keep Your Head to the Sky,” that’s one of my favorite songs as well. All positive music, that’s what’s in my head.

WCP: What is your creative process like?

AA: It’s always different. Sometimes we start with the lyrics. Sometimes we start with music. It all depends. 

WCP: You’ve been a show opener. How do you mentally prepare for a performance knowing that you are setting the tone for the rest of the show? 

AA: It comes with years of doing it. You’re always going to have nerves. It’s just like practice, the more you do it, your muscle memory becomes more prevalent in your body and starts to form its tone and shape when you do it for so long. The nerves are never going to go away. I’m sure you heard people say if you don’t have nerves, it’s not a good thing. 

WCP: What is the best advice you’ve been given musically or personally?

AA: There’s an artist by the name of Eric Roberson. I went to one of his shows maybe 10 years ago, and afterward, he took the time out to speak to everybody, and I asked him, “What advice do you have for someone like me trying to get my career started?” He said, “You just gotta do your own thing. Live in your own lane. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.”

WCP: Where do you see your music career going in the next five years?

AA: I see my music helping so many people. I want to start a couple of foundations for endometriosis. I want to open up my own schools. A school of the arts and for underserved communities as well. I want to help those people out. My manager and I also just started a record label called It’s Art Entertainment, and underneath that I want to have a lot of positive and empowering things. I want to be known and respected within the industry and a successful business woman and artist.

WCP: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to pursue music?

AA: It takes a lot of hard work. You have to believe in yourself and be confident with who you are as an artist. Don’t try to be like anybody else. People don’t want to see the next Michael Jackson or the next Beyoncé, they want to see the next you. That’s what makes you unique. Also, keep positive people around you. Keep people around you that want to see you thrive. Keep people around that are honest with you, that will tell you when you mess up and you’re not on your best.

WCP: What can we expect from you next?

AA: I have my new single “Good Times.” It’s up-tempo, so the complete opposite of “Keep On.” Also, we don’t know if we’re going to do an album or a couple of EPs, because there’s just so much music that we’ve been working on over the past couple of years. We are taking our time and making sure that the quality is the best that it can be. But look out for that.