An exclusive interview with Nee Nee Rushie from The Big Takeover
Tell me about the new single
It’s called, “Where Did I Go Wrong.” It’s a swing/ska song that we wrote a little while ago, and it hasn’t been perfect until this album. It’s about a weird complication in a relationship where you are being rejected and also being held onto by the same person, and you are a little bit confused by it. It’s out on all major platforms this Friday.
We recorded some of it at BEETS recording studio in Catskill, which is our drummer, Manuel’s studio. We did the vocals at Casandra Recording studio in Beacon NY which is our bass player, Rob’s studio.
You were born in Jamaica?
Yes. I moved here when I was fifteen years old. I moved to the Bronx, and I lived there for a few years, and then I went to college in New Paltz, where I met the guys in the band.
What were your musical experiences in Jamaica like?
I always really loved the music – really loved American pop music when I was growing up. My mother really loved 60s and 70s reggae and soul, and that was all over my home. I really took to that music, and especially when I became a more mature listener – I realized that music really speaks to me.
The marriage of soul and Motown music with Jamaican ska and reggae seems to be the hallmark of your sound
Yea, we feel really lucky that we figured out a sound. It’s really just the music that touches us the most. It’s really easy to make the kind of music that we would listen to ourselves. Whatever quirky sound that we come up with is a mixture of what we love. It’s not really true to any specific genre- not to Motown or Reggae, it’s just our version of it. I really liked that we were able to create our own little sound there.
Who are your influences from those different worlds
Sharon Jones, Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill, Phyllis Dillon – she is from back in the day, rock steady- sang almost like Billie Holiday on top of a rock steady beat, – she is someone that I got really into as I got older. The way that she sings and the way that the band plays behind her blows my shoes off. Burning Spear- I just love the way that he articulates, the way that he sings is just like so quirky to me, I try to do my own kind of quirkiness, so he really inspires me also.
Tell me more about your mother and her influence on you musically.
My mother, I was kind of raised by my mom and my aunt, my mother loved music, and she used to play a lot of older music for me, and she would also listen to the newer pop music that I was obsessed with in my teen years. She always made sure that. I always loved to perform in choirs and singing competitions. She would wake me up at 3AM to take me to a competition or come and get me at 5A after long trips. She was always very supportive of me singing, dancing, and acting. She allowed me to be weird and unique, she never made me feel silly. Most recently, I was with her and she told me that her favorite song was Silly Girl, which I thought was so sweet. She was the original silly girl, and if it wasn’t for her, there would be no silly girl theme happening.
You have had some opportunities to play with great reggae and ska artists, what are some of your favorite memories
When we got to open for Toots and the Maytalls this spring, Toots is another person that is really important to me, and more and more to the Big Takeover, we have covered lots of Toots songs. The way that he writes and delivers his vocal shenanigans is a big inspiration to me. To get the chance to warm up the stage for him was a dream come true. I got to meet him and see him perform; a dream come true for that to happen.
You reside in eastern New York, what is particular about that area that infuses your music?
Influences? I think that there are a lot of forward-thinking people of all ages in this particular area, there are a lot of different kinds of people- and they are really thinking with an open mind. That kind of allows us to be true to ourselves and be the quirky individuals that we are and to create the music that we do, and it is accepted because the people are cool and open minded people. They want to hear something different due to their open minds.
There are a lot of people coming up from the city, and we know that it is a melting pot. That is infused in this area, the Hudson Valley area, a nice little mix of different kinds of people, thinking all kinds of different things.
You have spent your career as a teacher, how is being a singer and writer like being a teacher?
Are they similar? Somebody once said to me that being a teacher really makes you capable of leading a room well, so when I am in front of my students, I am able to read the room and think on my feet, to adjust everything to make the learning space the most efficient at that moment, and it changes by the second (I teach six year olds). Being on stage, I really – there is a push and pull for me- I have been doing this for such a long time- I have come up with different tactics to not depend on the room as much. I try to keep consistent because the audience can be inconsistent. People can love you, or be indifferent- I have come up with tactics in my brain to keep myself consistent to perform the same way every night.
There are times that the room gives you that je ne sais quoi. That goes hand in hand, where you have to read the room every second and to adjust to the needs of the students or the audience.
Do you speak other languages?
I speak patios, a dialect of English- so I wouldn’t call myself a second language speaker. I can code switch between English and a Jamaican dialect.
I know you are a singer, but do you have a background playing any instruments?
I never understood, the thing about being an artist, I believe that people are chosen to be artists, so when I discovered that I could sing, it just happened. I just opened my mouth and I was able to sing. When I discovered that I could write songs, it just came to me, I didn’t think about it, it just came to me. I believe that I was chosen. When I look at a guitar, I have to think too much, it’s not natural for me. I have shied away from learning an instrument because it does not come naturally to me.
I have been having a lot of fun being percussive on stage. Percussion makes sense to me, if I were to learn any instrument it would be the drums, drums make sense to me. I don’t think I would have to think that hard about it. Percussion is natural to me.
Are there artists that you know about that are not known in America that you would like to introduce to people?
There are a lot of Jamaican artists that are popular right now, but I actually know much about modern Jamaican music. There is this one girl that I recently discovered, named Koffee, but she has crossed over now, so people know about her. I think Americans now are actually quite in the forefront of what is going on with music. They have a great access to it.
Do you have a desire to bring the Big Takeover to the Caribbean?
Yes, I have a desire to bring the Big Takeover everywhere.
You are a lady that is alone as a female in a group of guys, how is that for you?
I have the kind of personality that is able to discipline myself to deal with any kind of scenario, especially if it has to do with working or being creative, and I actually find that the people in my band I work very well with, they are easy to live with and easy to work with, and they are easy to have a great time with on stage. I don’t know if it has to do with their gender. The moments that I sat down and wrote songs with Rob and Sam, I knew that it was something that is very special, and to this day it is special. I don’t know if it is a gender thing, but we have a lot of fun together. I am able to vibe with them and they with me, they don’t hold back, they act like guys, I sometimes act like a guy, sometimes I act like a girl, and they are okay with it, sometimes they act like girls, it all just works.
Sophie is our merchandise manager and she comes on the road with us. She adds a little bit more of the female to the equation. We recently were trying to put the guys in order from most to least feminine and that was fun!
What is next for the Big Takeover?
We are going to release our album. It’s being mixed and mastered, and we are finalizing what we are going to put into the notes. It is a really exciting time. We are going to do our twelfth anniversary show at BSP in Kingston. Celebrating 12 years is great. We are looking forward to touring the album, and in the summer, I am more open to traveling all around and deeper touring, that is my favorite time to tour!
The new single is called Where Did I go Wrong from the album Spilling Water. The single will be out this week and the album will be out later this year.
Nov 22 The Stone Church, Brattleboro, VT
Nov 29 DROM, NYC
Nov 30 BSP, Kingston, NY
Dec 31 Sugarloaf Mtn, Carrabassett Valley, ME
Jan 10 The Beehive, Boston, MA
Jan 11 Beat Brew Hall, Cambridge, MA
Feb 08 Waterhole Winter Carnival, Saranac Lake, NY