Goapele released her fourth studio album “Break of Dawn” on Monday. For her third performance since its release, she performed at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Va. Thursday night.

Goapele performing at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va on October 27, 2011. (Macy L. Freeman/The Washington Post )

For six years, Goapele took a step back from her career. She had a daughter, now four, and spent time with her family.

“I just slowed down a little bit, the pace of shows and being on the road, so that I could start a family and get to spend quality time with people and take my time recording and really just get in the studio when I felt like I had something to say again,” she said.

Goapele signs autographs at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va on October 27, 2011. (Macy L. Freeman/The Washington Post )

Risa Fitzgerald-Fields, 37, and her husband Kenneth Fields, 47, were in the audience. It was their regular date night.

“There’s not a lot of R&B now that’s substantial and has texture and has context, so it’s nice to kind of find an artist that’s not so mainstream that’s not—you know—booty jumping and all that,” Fitzgerald-Fields said, “so it’s a nice refreshing change especially for people that are in a different age demographic.”

We caught up with Goapele after the show to talk about her new album, what she’s been up to and what music she’s listening to right now.

Q: How would you say “Break of Dawn” is different from your previous albums?
A: “Break of Dawn,” musically, is still soulful and eclectic, but I think I opened up a little bit more vocally. It’s a little more intimate. It’s a little more sensual than before—and pensive.

Q: Of the nine tracks on” Break of Dawn,” which would you say means the most to you and why?
A: I would say “Pieces” and “Tears on My Pillow” and—you know—those are my ballads and their bluesy and sentimental for me.

Q: What do you hope listeners take away from the new album?
A: I want people to feel inspired. I want people to feel good. I want people to feel something. I want people to strive for what they want in their life, and I want them to heal from anything that’s hurting them.

Q: You once said, “Soul is kind of the root of the music that I do, but I want to keep redefining.” How do you go about doing that, and how do you feel about being placed into the neo-soul category?
A: I say that I do Soul, R&B music. I have so many influences from Billie Holiday, Nina Simone to Stevie Wonder and Prince and even Al Green and Bjork. And a lot of Hip Hop music has influenced me a lot—you know—De La Soul and Digital Underground and A Tribe Called Quest. So many different influences that when I’m in the studio, you know as a songwriter, I like feeling free and going with the vibe and letting the song grow as it should. Sometimes that doesn’t fit exactly into any category, so I have to keep redefining how to describe the music that I do. But I promise that it will always be soulful, because it will come from my soul.

Q: What inspired you to name the album “Break of Dawn?”
A: When I was finished recording everything and all of these songs are just glimpses of moments of different feelings and thoughts that I’ve had or different stories that are part my own and part collected that I want to tell. I wanted a title that would capture all of that and capture where I’m trying to go and I feel like the break of dawn is infinite possibilities for what that day will bring.

Q: When did you first discover that music was the path you wanted to take?
A: Well, I remember when I was in elementary school, maybe like 8 years old or something. I was around a lot of performing artists that were friends of the family and I just always felt like ‘that’s what I want to do.’ In high school I started training, singing with choirs and getting voice lessons and doing a lot of creative writing and decided that that’s really what I wanted to pursue as a career and that’s what I was going to study.

Q: What music are you listening to right now?
A: I’m listening to James Blake and Frank Ocean, Erykah Badu—Ledisi.

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