She was also a featured performer during several inauguration events for President Obama. I went one-on-one with Wayna to discuss her Ethiopian roots, life before the music, the passion that drives her and the message in her vocals.)
Brother Jesse: So you are originally from Ethiopia? How long has your family been in the U.S.?
Wayna: Yes. My parents immigrated to the U.S. when I was three years old. It was during the time of the Revolution so there was a mass exit taking place. My parents, like others, had only planned to make the U.S. a temporary home in hopes that things would get better back in Ethiopia but that didn't work out. It became a permanent home.
Brother Jesse: I hear you actually used to work for the Clinton Administration. Tell me about that.
Wayna: Well, I attended the University of Maryland to double major in English and Communications. I worked on President Clinton's campaign for six months. I then worked in the White House for 3 years as a writer. I was apart of the team that wrote Presidential letters and messages on his behalf, proclamations and special letters to high profile people. I then was assigned to writing in areas that focused on the economy, taxes, and international relations.
Brother Jesse: But, then something happened in the course of all of that.
Wayna: Yes, I decided to leave that job to pursue my music career because it is my true love. In 2004, I released my first album Moments of Clarity. It was an amazing feeling.
Brother Jesse: What type of challenges did you face early on and what kind of work ethic does it take?
Wayna: I think all artist have to confront internal hurdles. The questions of "Am I ready?", "Will I be successful?", "Should I wait?" and more come across your mind. I believe once you overcome your internal obstacles, you can overcome anything else. Just have a pure heart and get yourself out of your own way. I started out under a small indie label but I felt I wasn't top priority so I got a small job, saved up my money and invested into myself.
As far as work ethic, you have to give 120 percent. Most people just want the cameras and red carpet moments but don't understand the hard work it takes to get the end results. Such as the late nights at the studio and having to learn the things you may not want to just to accomplish the goal. I had to learn things like ProTools, engineering skills, and technological equipment.
Also nobody sees moments like the other day when I was standing at Kinkos copying Grammy-nominated stickers for my CDs or stuffing envelopes. (Laughs)
Brother Jesse: Speaking of the Grammy Awards, you are one of this year's nominees for Best Urban Alternative. How did you get the news and how did it feel?
Wayna: I was actually in South Africa at the time of the announcements, so I couldn't watch it on television. But when I received the news I flipped out! I was running around the hotel with so much joy! I was in a daze for three days. What a blessing.
Brother Jesse: When people listen to your music, what do you want them to walk away with?
Wayna: I want them to walk away thinking deeper on meaningful subject matter. For instance, the song My Love was inspired by an article I read in the October '06 issue of Essence Magazine entitled The Secret Shame of Prince George’s County, which exposed the prevalence of domestic violence in Prince George, that is considered to be the richest Black county in the US.
I thought to myself this is tragic. Beyond their beautiful homes and high-level jobs, these women were victims. So, I wrote that song in honor of them. My music is about messages.
Brother Jesse: Thank you. I wish you the best at the Grammy awards and your future endeavors.
Wayna: Thank you so much for the support and this interview.
(To listen to the music of Grammy nominee Wayna, please visit http://wayna.net)