EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ari Lennox speaks on her new partnership with Crown Royal.
In just a few weeks, Fall will officially be upon us, marking over six months since we've been under quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the world has returned to normal—or at least adjusted to a new normal—yet, many in the United States are still struggling with employment as businesses remain closed. We've watched as entertainers, especially creatives in the music industry, have implemented inventive ways to reach their fans, but often, venues are forgotten and many have had to permanently shut their doors after decades in business.
Ari Lennox isn't shy when it comes to advocating for causes she believes in. She's spoken out in support of Black Lives Matter, about protecting Black women, and she's inspired her fellow rising R&B singers when others criticized their talents. The First Lady of Dreamville makes her voice heard when she believes it is absolutely necessary, so as a singer who has a deep respect for her artistry and the venues who helped mold her as an entertainer, Ari Lennox believed it was time to partner with Crown Royal and the Main Street Alliance to help save these creative spaces.
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We recently wrote about Ari linking up with Hamilton star Anthony Ramos for their duet cover of Sly and the Family Stone's 1973 classic hit, "If You Want Me to Stay." It was expected that placing these two artists on the same song would result in a praiseworthy cover— but no one could have anticipated just how fluid their vocals would sound together. We spoke with Ari Lennox about her recent collaboration and advocating for venues like bars and clubs during this global pandemic, and she was excited to about helping those in need.
"These are really trying and dark times," Ari said solemnly. Then, she quickly shifted to a more hopeful thought. "I know one day outside will open and I know how beautiful it will be when we can all come together in these nostalgic and classic venues to have fun, to sing. I feel like it's so important for people to be together so, we have to do our best to keep these venues around because I just feel like more memories need to be created. It's good for the soul... Also, just to keep these legends alive! A lot of our favorite legendary artists got their starts in these phenomenal venues so I think it's great for us to keep being reminded of their greatness through going to these venues. They're special, powerful places."
The Main Sreet Alliance and Crown Royal have come together for a national relief campaign where the famed liquor brand will donate $1 to the non-profit for every stream (up to $500K) of Ari and Anthony's "If You Want Me to Stay" cover. It's believed that venues won't be able to open for six to eight months, leaving more smaller, intimate clubs at risk. Ari and Anthony will also be donating their royalties from the song to the cause. In solidarity, and for the next year, both Dreamville/Interscope and Republic Records will match the artists’ royalties with a donation to Main Street Alliance, as well.
Working with Anthony Ramos, especially on a project such as this, is something that Ari Lennox called "a beautiful experience." When we asked her what it was like creating with the She's Gotta Have It actor, Ari couldn't stop beaming. Ramos has been applauded from the Broadway stage to film to television. He's released an EP, a full-length album, dropped a number of singles, and even won a Grammy. Still, Ari said he's one of the most relatable, earnest people that she's had the pleasure of working with. Simply, she couldn't stop singing his praises.
"We are very serious about our crafts and wanting to respect Sly and the Family Stone," Ari said of creating this cover. "We were serious about learning it, but once we got it together, it was so much fun. He is so funny, so sweet, so genuine. Like, I just feel so blessed to have met like a real-life angel. He's just so nice! I couldn't understand how someone so phenomenal with all of these accomplishments that he has under his belt could be so sweet and nice and productive. Even though we were having fun, we were still getting it done. I just felt really lucky to work with him."
Before we finished our chat, we wanted to know if Ari had advice for artists like herself during this time. Some have found it easy to become inspired and connect with their fans through social media, while others are struggling to be motivated as they worry about an unsure future. She suggested that, like herself, people should attempt to cover another artist's work to learn how to pay homage to the greats while also staying true to their own voices. If that doesn't work, Ari doesn't believe an artist should feel the need to do anything at all.
"My advice is to just be still, honestly. Don't force it," said the singer. "Read or become one with nature. Those things have been helping me as well... walking my dog!"
If you haven't already, check out Ari Lennox and Anthony Ramos blending their soulful vocals on Sly and the Family Stone's classic, "If You Want Me to Stay," below.