While singer-songwriter LaFaye is fairly new to Charleston and to songwriting, it’s been a beautiful transition.
When she was living in Savannah, Georgia, during a five-year stint as a vocalist in the Army, Charleston was her getaway place to see live music. Less than a year after she made the move to Charleston permanent in 2020, LaFaye starred in the Charleston Music Hall & ZD Experience production, Simply the Best: A Tribute to Tina Tuner, proving her innate ability not only to stand out in the crowd, but to find her tribe.
“2020 made me think, ‘Look, sis, you need to get it together and have a plan B, have a plan C, because you just don’t know,’ ” LaFaye. “It put me in a humble space and allowed me to learn to appreciate being creative. It gave me a better outlook on where I plan on going and where I plan on taking this music stuff in general.”
And where she’s taken it is a Charleston rendition of the live band concept she formed in Savannah called LaFaye & the Fellas with a varying cast of local musicians, plus an upcoming EP she’s shooting to release in the spring.
“I always try to incorporate rock ’n’ roll, of course; I can’t get away from the soul part. I call it rock soul,” she said of her style as a performer. “When it comes to my band, I’m able to do more than stand behind a microphone and sing. You’re going to get a very interactive it’s-just-me-and-you kind of thing.”
LaFaye’s 2019 single, “Flaws & All,” is a cool, calm neo-soul number strung together with self-affirming perceptions, a steady first step into the role of a songwriter. She’s used the past two years to hone her craft, which didn’t necessarily come easily to her at first. Now she finds herself writing all the time, reworking little lines and excerpts she hears to make them her own.
She’s currently working with Atlanta producers Jyrin Cox and SangriaTheProducer as well as local musician Stephen Washington to structure the sound she’s looking for on her upcoming EP, which won’t stray far from the vibe she brings in a live setting as she learns the dynamics of being in the studio.
Foundational to her persona is the drive to make people dance and to master the genre-melding dynamics of powerhouse performers who have come before her.
“Someone like Nina Simone is my inspiration for that,” she said. “We know her for jazz, but she infused classical jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel and pop into one thing. She used all of those genres to get a message across. I try to use my platform in a way that she did — whether it’s making sure people are kind to each other, making sure people treat each other with respect, and also speaking up for women when nobody else will.”
She will get a chance to tap more into jazz during her Feb. 12 shows at Gibbes Museum of Art, a P.U.R.E Concert Series Valentine’s special called “P.S., Love Is …” Besides jumping between genres, she’ll perform some of her unreleased originals she wrote during the pandemic — “you’re gonna be okay, you’re gonna be alright type of songs.”
“This Valentine’s show is actually going to pan my entire love life: before I met ‘the guy,’ to when I met him, to when we got married, to when we got divorced — learning how to be okay and love again and love myself again — to being happy with just being.”
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