Live from the Living Room
Wednesday, June 17
Tickets free with RSVP
Performing virtual concerts is odd at first, out singer/songwriter Be Steadwell says.
“You can’t see the audience,” she says. “There’s no applause or laughter. Still, when you really get into it, you can get that same energy. But it’s definitely a new language.”
Her next virtual gig is the upcoming installment of Strathmore’s “Live from the Livingroom,” (Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on Strathmore’s Facebook page) a free weekly online series of short concerts that showcase Strathmore’s artists in residence. Steadwell, a gifted and compelling performer, describes her music as “queer-affirming love songs with pop, soul and folk influences.” She utilizes looping, vocal layering and beat boxing to compose her songs on stage, or in this case, at home.
During a recent phone interview, Steadwell, speaking from her parents’ home in Northwest Washington, where she’s been staying during quarantine, explains just what her virtual audience may expect: “Essentially, I’ll be hanging out at home, most likely my bedroom, singing songs for about twenty minutes. There will be some banter between tunes, but mostly music.
“When I’m performing, I’m sensitive about where the audience is, energy wise what the space is like, so this virtual venue — a bedroom — is unique and relevant to my performance. I’ll probably do one song related expressly to quarantine, but the whole set will consider that we’re all a little restless, a little bored, and maybe a little depressed. I’ll try to speak to that and do a tiny bit of healing around that. That’s the goal.”
Steadwell’s love for live music making doesn’t prevent her from exploring other forms of expression.
After graduating from Oberlin College, she pursued a master’s in film at Howard University. Her well-received film “Vow of Silence,” the story of a heartbroken composer who takes a vow of silence to win back the heart of her ex-girlfriend, has been screened internationally.
“I really like storytelling, and part of that includes using the best medium to tell the story,” says Steadwell, 32. Last year, she tried something entirely new and made a musical “A Letter to My Ex,” the story of a queer black woman who finds self-love through the pain of separation. In short, her own experience.
When asked if she might consider making music that’s more mainstream or less specific to her own experience, the D.C. native who came out in high school replies without hesitation: “No. Pop music exists in its form for heteronormative audiences. They have a lot of stuff already. For me specificity is better.”
For a performer who’s typically on the road promoting her album “Queer Love Songs,” and has shared stages with names like Big Freedia, Nona Hendryx, Nikky Finney, Gina Yashere, and Toshi Reagon, it is odd to not be moving. Still, she has found quarantine to be a creatively fecund time.
“Of course there are those days when you watch too much TV, but I’ve found that I’ve been able to do a lot of song writing,” she says.
Looking forward, Steadwell is uncertain what the future holds. Her summer tours have been cancelled. And like all performing musicians, she’s uncertain about when and how people will be able to gather and listen to live music again.
“I have no clue. I do know that I miss it dearly and am more grateful for those spaces than I ever knew.”
Until that becomes clear, she’ll keep making music at home.