Artist Clara Kent talks growing up and making music in Pittsburgh

Clara Kent is an Afro-Indigenous diverse artist and the CEO of Bounce House Studios and Productions. She is also a member of the Pittsburgh Community Radio family and hosts More Bounce with Clara Kent every Friday night on 91.3 WYEP.

She spoke with WESA’s Priyanka Tewari on Morning Edition about her recently released EP Four Winds: The East.

Handwari: Let’s start with your music. Your latest EP is called “Four Winds: EAST”. What’s the story behind the title?

Kent: I wanted to do something that was respectful of my culture. I’m Native African so my culture is Oglala Lakota and one of the systems we practice is to follow nature. This is a medicine wheel and it has four parts – technically seven parts, but I’m tracing the four parts of the medicine wheel. So each EP covers a direction and a season; the stage of life you are in, whether it is childhood, adolescence, adulthood, or old age. Ironically, it took me four years to start making the EP system. So I’m glad it’s launching now.

Handwari: So it was created, thought about and implemented in Pittsburgh.
Your song “Playing with Clothes.” I really like the happy beginning of this song.

kent: It’s important to have this part. They didn’t want to put it in initially, but I wanted to show people what it was like when we were in the studio together.

Handwari: What does the costume symbolize?

kent: I like the music of the sixties. I like simple melody lines. The lyrics hit the point exactly. They talk about things like sex, partners, and the connection they have with their partners. But it’s a really cute way to do it. So I took that format and did it my way. I just thought there was something very soft and feminine and sexy but also fun to play and that’s what I wanted to make for this album.

Handwari: Sales from this EP will support indigenous movements and the African American Music Institute in Homewood. What’s the thought process behind this?

kent: This is actually one of my top priorities when considering EP. I want to support organizations that directly impact these communities. Afro-American Music Conservatory. I grew up in Homewood. That’s my hometown. There I learned jazz and how to use my voice. So it makes sense to give back to a place that has helped me so much as an artist.

A woman smiles at the camera surrounded by flowers

Handwari: In the song “I’m OK,” it made me wonder, as a woman of color, creating and being your authentic self, what challenges, if any, have you had to overcome to get to a good place?

kent: I went through a lot of challenges. A lot of people fought for me to get to this place and I fought for me to get to this place. So there were a lot of things I had to figure out on my own. This song is a mantra to remind yourself, “I’m okay.” I’ll get through it. I’m okay because I love myself now.

This is a perfect morning song. It just makes you reflect on those moments where you think, “Hey, you’re on your own.”

Handwari: Did you have any professional training in learning music, how to be a singer, how to put music together?

kent: Yes and no. Yeah, because I went to the National Institute of African American Music. When I was a kid growing up at Second Baptist Church, I was also in the concert choir and vocal choir. Then I went to college to study vocal jazz. But when it comes to acting, I have to learn from the hip-hop industry.

Handwari: Is there any song on the EP that you enjoyed making very much?

kent: My favorite song is “The Juice”. The song itself is also a mantra, like, “Take your time, take your time.” And then when you try to meditate, take your time, it’s like, “But what about this?” So what? And then it’s just reminding myself, ‘Take your time. You don’t need to know the answer right now. You have it within you. Everything you ask is within you. Take it easy. “Euphoria” was also really good because of the switch in it, where I did the stomping and clapping, like in a gospel song.

Audio production and editing is by WESA’s Doug Shugarts.

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