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Amel Larrieux opens second season of the RISE Music Series

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Amel Larrieux opens second season of the RISE Music Series
Amel Larrieux (Photo: Photo: Courtesy of the artist)

The RISE music series kicks off its second season with a sold out show featuring Grammy-nominated singer Amel Larrieux on Thursday, October 13 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall.

Best known as one-half of the ‘90s neo-soul group, Groove Theory with Bryce Wilson, Larrieux co-wrote the duo’s 1995 self-titled debut album, including the hit songs “Tell Me,” “Baby Luv” and “Keep Tryin.’” The first single off the album, “Tell Me,” broke the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 list and made the top five on the R&B charts before being certified gold that same year.

Just four years later, Larrieux left the group and released her solo debut album “Infinite Possibilities,” which she co-wrote and co-produced. At the urging of her husband Laru Larrieux, they established their own label, Blisslife Records, and have collaborated on several of her albums, including 2004’s “Bravebird,” the 2007 jazz album titled “Lovely Standards” and her fifth record “Ice Cream Everyday,” released in 2013.

Larrieux didn’t have many expectations on becoming an entrepreneur. Speaking by phone recently, she “never fathomed doing it before or hadn’t even owned her own business. It’s been more of a total new experience for me.” But with her husband by her side running the label — the two make all their decisions together — she’s been able to focus on the music and on being an artist, which is exactly where she wants to be.

The multi-talented singer and songwriter, who attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, grew up in an artistic community in New York’s West Village where she was exposed to all different types of inspirational artists from painters to poets. “They were all struggling artists. I never grew up thinking about getting rich or getting famous. I just grew up thinking that everybody makes art,” recalls Larrieux.

Now her community of artist includes their daughters, who may not have grown up in the artist building per se, but have been exposed to music and performing since childhood. Her oldest daughter, Sky, “who has been musical since before she could talk,” has been playing in her mother’s band for the past six years. Sky has also written and produced her own music, and is well-versed in engineering her own sessions, thanks to her dad. “My husband Laru taught her all the technical parts at a very early age, because her generation is the tech-savvy generation,” said the singer.

As for Sky’s abilities, Larrieux said she is “so astonished at her talent and her most gorgeous voice.” She goes on to add, “When we perform together, I feel honored because she’s so gifted. She can do things that I’ve only dreamed of doing.”

Larrieux expressed excitement about being on the road and performing at the RISE music series. “I want to share some energy with people. For me, performing is not about me getting lost in myself but getting lost in the whole exchange of energy in a room, in a space, with people who are there,” Larrieux said.

If it was up to her, Larrieux said she would just write music and then go on the road and never record, “because recording is so isolated and sterile. I like the energy of people, and the body heat in the room that you can feel. It’s just so raw and real and riveting.”