D.C.-based Rashida Jolley is the world's only R&B diva-slash-harpist.
Or at least, the only one we know of.
Jolley, once called a “head-banging harpist" by The Post's Chris Richards (in a review she can quote by heart), will debut the video for her new single, “Play My Heart” at an event tonight at Opera Lounge. The video, which features a cameo from Wale, will be followed by a debut EP planned for spring and a full-length debut in the fall.
Jolley's impressive resume already includes motivational speaking, spokesperson work for the American Heart Association (her father, jazz guitarist Noble Jolley, died of heart disease), a run on "America's Got Talent," and a stint playing harp for Lady Gaga during her 2010-11
Monster Ball world tour.
You must have a pretty thick skin when it comes to harp jokes.
I developed a thick skin when I was a young kid and started playing. I
got teased about it not being a cool instrument. I've heard it all.
When did you realize the harp had possibilities beyond being something you could play at brunch?
I can't take any credit for it. It was my mother. She came up with the
idea of me playing the harp and doing something different with it,
because I was trained classically and I sing. The singing I was doing
was R&B and pop, then I would do classical music on the harp. She
said, You need to do both, to learn how to do R&B and pop music on the
harp. I was like, What? Are you sure? Who has done that? And she said,
Exactly. So I took on that challenge.
Are there physical difficulties to singing and playing the harp at the same time? Like how drummers who sing get backaches?
Initially, there definitely was. It took a lot of practice, ironing out the kinks. Even down to figuring out how to position the part of my body that goes toward the mic, and the part of my body that goes to the harp to play ... Sometimes I have a big harp that weighs a hundred pounds and is almost six feet tall, and sometimes I have a little harp that straps onto me and weighs seven pounds ... It's great because you can walk around with it [on stage], and I can dance and sing and move around.
Do you feel like you need to convince people that the harp can have muscle, that it's not necessarily a delicate instrument?
Yes, but I think a picture is worth a thousand words. It's hard to get it until you see a performance. Even for myself, there are things I've done in a performance I've never rehearsed, never thought about, but I got so caught up in the moment. When I performed on "The Mo'Nique Show," I had no idea that I threw my leg up on the side of the harp [when I was playing]. I was just feeling the moment. Later, Mo'Nique was like, You kicked your leg up on the harp! I was like, I did? I had totally zoned out. It is a delicate instrument, and it's a beautiful instrument. But it's a sturdy instrument.
You toured recently with Lady Gaga. What was that like?
That was incredible. My brother got an e-mail about auditions for Gaga ... I was like, maybe I should do this. Why not? I went on an audition and was selected to go on this worldwide tour that completely changed my life. To be onstage with one of the greatest entertainers of our time and to learn from her, both on and off the stage, I couldn't have paid for that experience. It was priceless.
Did you work side by side with her, or did she have a director?
She had a music director and a bandleader and a huge band. One of the things I loved about being on that tour was that all of the band members were highlighted [during] the show. We did stadiums, we did arenas from Mexico to Japan. Australia, New Zealand, Paris, Germany. It was priceless, and I'm eternally grateful that I got to live that experience.