We last spoke with Monique when she was visiting Brooklyn, she was living in Roma and playing with her band Honeybird & the birdies. Now living in New York, Monique has launched her solo project Honeybird with the release of her new album which comes out today ”Out Comes Woman.”
Indie Italy: After spending some years in Italy around Europe you are now living in New York, how did you adjust to the shift of leaving Italy and coming to NY? And how is New York treating you?
Honeybird: Italy is always in my heart – after 14 years living in Rome it remains a place I love! Coming to NY has been incredible. It is exactly the musical openness and expansion I imagined, meeting such diverse musicians, artists and people all on their creative journeys. Our energies unite and the outcome is remarkable. New York is treating me really nicely, challenging me, pushing my comfort zone, and embracing me for who I am.
II: On May 14th you have a new album that will be released “Out Comes Woman.” What was the process of the album and what does “Out Comes Woman” represent to you?
HB: The album was recorded at EastSide Sound in NYC, on the Lower East Side, where the Italian immigrants arrived some 100 years ago. Producer/engineer Marc Urselli (who is in fact half-Italian like me!) did a fantastic job bringing the album together. There were four of us musicians plus Marc at the session. Enrico Gabrielli flew here from Milano to take part (piano/rhodes/woodwinds), along for the journey were also bassist Ivy Wong and drummer/ngoni-player Tim Keiper (note: the ngoni is a Malian harp). I arranged parts for horn section (flute, clarinet, sax) and the remarkable Enrico nailed them, adding his own voices too! The level of expressiveness moved me so much. The level of musicianship blew my mind. These guys really know how to express their souls through their instruments, I learned so much from them.
The title “Out Comes Woman” is related to me coming out as bi-sexual. For 20 years I have known I was. About 10 years ago I had my first “coming out” however I felt that I was not “let in”, therefore perhaps it was not really coming out. Due to people’s reaction (i.e.my folks) I thought well, maybe it’s a passing phase and I did not actually own it, I wasn’t accepting of myself and still kept my bisexuality hidden in the closet. Then, tied in also with my move to NYC, I felt it was time to really come out, to own it, to put an end to feeling shameful and full of self-hatred, the homophobe within me. I was tired of hiding and many songs on the album are about coming out. “Out Comes Woman’ embodies coming out, both as bi-sexual, and as a woman, being strong and independent, able and courageous. Being a woman is an empowerment and not a weakness, contrary to the picture society sometimes tries to paint.
So it’s a cry out to all women to stand up tall, head held high, to be out, loud and proud!
II: With the release of “Out Comes Woman” this month, you are also performing 365 shows in one year, one show per day, “large/ tiny it’s gotta happen” what inspired you to take on such a bold challenge and what has been the most unique performance thus far?
HB: My zest friend Lauren inspired me to take on this challenge. It was my birthday and I was feeling so many emotions surrounding music, especially live music, and frankly was bummed to not have many upcoming gigs in sight. It made me sad because I feel a musical libido which needs to connect with others, like something stronger than me – through song and sound, I think the way some people feel towards sex I feel towards music. In Italy and Europe I had played so many shows and tours and was really in the groove of playing out live – then moving to NYC I was a new unknown person on the scene without upcoming gigs. And yet music is life, it is cosmic connection, it is the soul of the people and the love of the people (to quote from “TMBLGBT”). I felt that this 365-day challenge would bring me closer to music, pushing myself to play out (even in unconventional settings) and in fact since it’s begun I’ve gotten closer than ever. I even now bring my charango all over and play it while riding the NY subway. Music connects us, and since the 365 challenge began I also feel closer to my family and friends, past connections solidified, new connections formed daily through music.
II: What was the writing and/ or recording process for “Out Comes Woman” like and do you personally prefer touring over recording?
HB: I love both of course! My background is in recording and I have a particular love of being in the studio – however at present I would choose touring because of the connection we create as human beings sharing a common beat, the exchange of energy between performer and audience, the highest heights we can reach through music.
The writing process for the album was over the past 2 years. It is the most honest and direct I have ever been with my songwriting. I made a conscious decision to open myself to be vulnerable and honest, to expose and listen to myself, to reach out to the 13 year old bisexual girl within me that didn’t come out for fear of being ridiculed. To say “come out, I won’t love you less”!
Musically I have moved back towards the first instrument I fell in love with, also at 13 years old (!), the electric bass. I wrote many of the songs on electric bass, the others I wrote on charango, my 10-string Bolivian instrument. In addition, four of the songs off the album were co-written with my former bandmates of honeybird & the birdies as well as a writing collaboration with some friends in Brazil, Italy and New Jersey. My producer Marc gave insight on the structure of some of the songs and in the choice of which songs to include. The lyrics stem from various personal experiences, as well as other themes such as human trafficking, prostitution and the stunning beauty of nature.
The recording process was awesome and I felt so good during it, you know when the energy level is so high and we share a powerful moment in time.
II: Any favorite spot or area in New York that you have had a great connection with, and if so what spot compares to an area in Rome or Italy that you enjoyed?
HB: Great question! I love the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and try to get there once a week, a hang spot with musician friends:) My favorite spots for music are the ones tied in to the world music scene, which I feel more a part of than ever before, such as NUBLU, Barbes, the Music Inn and Bar Lunatico.
Rome, ah Rome, such a gorgeous city, I miss it! I could fill pages and pages talking about my favorite places in Rome and Italy, it would be really long if I started going there now … maybe for another Indie Italy article? :)
II: You mentioned to Indie Italy your experience on the yoga mat, where you practice in New York. What are you most enjoying about practicing yoga? Does the mindfulness movements have an effect of your musical creativity and writing?
HB: I began regularly going to yoga about one month ago and the positive impact is already noticeable. It brings me closer to my breath, and provides a moment for really listening to my inner voice. It is a safe space to stretch and feel at one with the pachamama. The mindfulness and self-awareness effect my sense of space, of listening and of silence, such key elements in creating, writing and arranging music and living life. Listening is #1!!
II: What can we expect in the future for Monique? Any return to your fans in Italy anytime soon?
HB: MAGARI, as we say in Italian!! I would love to get back to playing shows in Italy and Europe and a tour is in the works as we speak. The future for Monique and Honeybird is a tropical path paved with flowers, fruit, vegetable and musical ecstasy. I feel grounded here in NYC surrounded by such awesome musical openness, I wish to continue on this path, bringing people together through music, to write and play music, to be fully alive as music makes me feel. Grazie mille Indie Italy, much love and axé!!