Behind The Music: How Ari Lennox Found Creative Inspiration During The Pandemic
The global pandemic due to the outbreak of COVID-19 has put a halt on everything --- especially creativity. For many people, including artists like Ari Lennox, it's been challenging to find creative inspiration with all that's going on in the world, from the pandemic to continued police brutality to natural disasters. The chaos around us makes it hard for creativity to thrive.
However, the right opportunity can find you when you least expect it and help re-spark your creativity. That was the case for Ari Lennox when she was approached by Crown Royal to remake the song "If You Want Me To Stay" by Sly & The Family Stone.
Courtesy of Crown Royal
"Crown Royal came to me with a beautiful opportunity to work with Anthony Ramos and I couldn't turn that down. They're amazing, and Anthony is amazing. I just felt like it'll be an honor to work with them."
On the track, the Shea Butter Baby artist collaborated with singer and actor Anthony Ramos (Netflix's She's Gotta Have It). Their rendition of "If You Want Me To Stay" seeks to support businesses that help us heal through music and entertainment, such as bars, clubs, and venues. These spaces are in danger of closing due to COVID-19.
"I'm thankful that this cover happened because it's hard to find inspiration during this time to create about what I normally create about, which is love and romance. How do you find anyone or get some during this time?" she laughs. "I'm not sure how it's possible at all."
Courtesy of Crown Royal
"It's nice to be led by the greats, the legends, like Sly & The Family Stone who can offer words and his beautiful song so that I can find inspiration and try my best to do his song justice."
When asked to describe the process of creating this record in one word, Ari called it "refreshing", similarly to Peach Crown Royal, one of her favorite flavors of the whiskey.
If you need to refresh your creativity during this difficult time, here are three lessons you can learn from Ari's experience remaking this classic track:
Study the greats that came before you.
Courtesy of Crown Royal
After Crown Royal approached Ari with the opportunity to remix the song with Anthony, she intentionally analyzed the lyrics. "I studied the record because I wanted to properly execute and be respectful to Sly & The Family Stone. So I did my best in learning it."
The internet gives us access to so much information. To re-spark your creativity, go beyond merely reading about the greats and take the time to really study their work like Ari did to prepare for the record. Read articles, watch interviews, pay attention to the social media captions of those who you admire to better understand their journey and how you can apply it to your life.
Make a human connection and feel the vibe.
Courtesy of Crown Royal
One of the biggest lessons that we've learned from 2020 is that we truly need each other to get by. The forced isolation of quarantine makes us appreciate authentic human connections more than ever. Ari built a genuine relationship with Anthony while recording the song together that was based on good vibes from the start. "First, we had a Facetime call, and he was so funny, always cracking jokes. I could tell he was good vibes. Then it was the same thing when I met him in real life."
During the studio session, they decided which person would sing which part of the song and how to do the remix justice. "It was great, good vibes. It was fun, he's so hilarious. It was good, good energy... Anthony really helped me stay kind of calm, and it was nice. In the studio session, we really got to know each other and focused on making sure we respect Sly & The Family Stone with each word that we sung."
Courtesy of Crown Royal
"Outside of the fact that we had on masks, it just felt supernatural. It was like a relief -- it kind of felt like outside was open again because it was good vibes and everybody was just so sweet, thoughtful, and had good energy."
Ari's experience is a reminder that energy is so magnetic that nothing can interfere with it. If you're struggling to find creative inspiration right now, consider bouncing ideas with someone else. Set up a coffee chat on Zoom with someone you've been wanting to get to know and learn more about their dreams and aspirations to see if there's an opportunity for you two to collaborate or support each other.
Think about the bigger picture and how you can impact others.
Courtesy of Crown Royal
Ari and Anthony's remake of "If You Want Me to Stay" is backed by a bigger purpose. Crown Royal partnered with The Main Street Alliance, an organization dedicated to supporting small businesses in the United States, to launch a national relief campaign that supports bars, stages, and clubs that are in danger of closing due to COVID-19. For every stream of the track, Crown Royal pledged to donate $1 (up to $500,000) to The Main Street Alliance to help music venues that were impacted by the pandemic.
"We need these venues. They're therapeutic for who's watching and whoever is on stage delivering the music," says Ari. "Also, all of the staff. [It's important to] make sure people stay employed once outside opens. Whether it's the owners, the bartenders, security, technicians, electricians, backstage people, caterers… There are just so many people involved."
Crown Royal will also continue supporting these music venues as they reopen their doors by providing updated point of sale assets, training staff on how to leverage brand ambassadors, and sponsoring events to further raise charitable funds. One of the reasons why Ari jumped at this opportunity was because she recognized the impact that the song could have and how it can give people hope during the craziest year this generation has experienced.
Similarly, you can find creative inspiration by thinking about your role in the bigger picture. If you don't know what your purpose is, spend some time analyzing what people ask you for and what comes naturally to you. If you already have an idea of what you're supposed to be doing, lean into that and try to be inspired by your divine calling. The ideas that you're sitting on because it doesn't feel like the right time can change someone's life, or at the very least, give them encouragement to keep going.
"One day outside will be open again. I think it's important that we come together and let the therapy happen," says Ari.
Stream Ari Lennox and Anthony Ramos' new song "If You Want Me To Stay" on all major digital platforms to support cultural landmarks, like bars, clubs, and stages that've been impacted by COVID-19 and learn more about Crown Royal's commitment to these businesses at crownroyal.com/generosity.
Featured image courtesy of Crown Royal
Teyonna Lanez is a brand strategist and producer with a love for doing the inner and outer work -- mindset shifting and marketing. The Atlanta native is passionate about social media storytelling and sharing positive affirmations to help people maintain inner peace despite external chaos. Connect with on Instagram @TeyonnaLanez or on her site TeyonnaLanez.com.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Ari Lennox Says She Wouldn't Hesitate To Leave Her Career Behind For Love
Imagine having the worst luck in love. Dating all the worst men but also being superbly desired in the process. Having to tell your truths, like how you became famous because you decided to focus on your talent after an old boyfriend left. Imagine putting all the hurt in your music through songs titled "Broke," "Waste My Time," or "Blocking You."
And imagine still being willing to trade everything you've worked hard for, for love. That's a hopeless romantic. More specifically, Ari Lennox.
Our fave hasn't had the best journey of finding her person, and she still wholly believes that it will happen for her.
On the heels of the release of her fourth album, Courtney Shanade Salter, known professionally as Ari Lennox, is entering her self-proclaimed 'Eat, Pray, Love season.' For context, she stopped by the R&B Money Podcast with hosts Tank and his business partner, multi-platinum songwriter, and executive J. Valentine, for almost two hours of raw conversation. And of all of the gems she dropped or the experiences she's had over time in her short time as a household name, it was the conversation surrounding her love life that drew me in most.
After Tank asked her if she always knew she would be famous, she responded, "Never. I just always just kept doing it, and I was ready to leave it all for this man, but he went to the military, and so I was forced to kinda like focus on my dreams. But really, I always want to leave this for love and start a family. I don't want to keep doing this." As the co-hosts digested what was said, she continued, "I don't want to give that much energy to this man or dream man, but it's like, I want a family. I feel like that's true life or true love. To have a family is beautiful, it seems, so I want that."
Lennox was last tied to a "mystery man" that it didn't take long for fans to figure out was Married At First Sight star Keith Manley II after sharing photos on IG. The duo split after a month of dating.
She is now prioritizing therapy and crediting her progress to going to help her navigate love to her breakthroughs on the couch. And despite being open about her dating life, even speaking with Huffington Post last year about how finding a significant other hasn't been the easiest journey for her, she is appreciating the tools she's gained to make that progress to having her family.
"[I'm] in a space where I've ignored the red flags too much for the last time, and now I'm so hyper-aware. And it's been a blessing to say, 'You know what? This is not right. This doesn't feel right. It's time to move on,'" she explained. "So it's cool learning about myself, learning my flaws, becoming more self-aware, and just realizing there's a lot of healing I need to do before I can even consider being in a situation with someone."
Self-love attracts love, ladies.
Watch the full podcast episode below:
Ari Lennox • R&B MONEY Podcast • Episode 024
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET