Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, singer Qamil Wright kept up a hectic schedule, booking and hosting soul events, recording a podcast and regularly performing onstage. But in the midst of an extended hibernation and the subsequent arrival of a new baby, Wright wondered if she even wanted to return to public life in the same way.
“I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like for me, having a baby at 40, trying to get back to singing. … It was like, ‘I don’t even know what the heck I’m going to do,’” Wright said in an early February interview. “I didn’t know if I was still going to do this podcast. Do I even want to do music? There was a point when I didn’t want to do any events. … Everything for me was at a standstill.”
In addition, Wright said she developed asthma during her pregnancy, which impacted her ability to sing and forced her to unearth new ways to use her instrument – a steep learning curve she wasn’t initially sure she could overcome. Gradually, though, Wright returned to writing and recording, leaning into the new textures that surfaced in her voice, a sort of light rasp, as she described it, that lent her vocals new depth and reflected her standing as a woman who has experienced a lifetime of pain and hardship yet persevered.
“I’ve been through so much: grieving, losing people, and you can hear that in the music,” said Wright, who celebrates her return to recording with the release of her new single, “Everything,” out Tuesday, Feb. 7. “I have more to talk about [in my songs] now than I did before, so it may not necessarily be a bad thing that I went through went I went through with the asthma, because it added another layer to what I have going on, and I’m not mad at that.”
These new layers exhibit themselves in the shattered "Everything." “I thought I’d finally found the one,” Wright sings at the onset, her nuanced, measured vocals reflecting a harsher truth. Singing atop skittish programmed drums and twinkling synthesizers, Wright continues to press at this bruise, detailing her growing sense of betrayal and the lingering hurt, early daydreams giving way to pained realities. Despite the emotional crush, she never folds, carrying herself like a woman who knows all clouds are temporary.
While Wright’s new single centers on loss, she said she has regained her own footing in recent months following “a stretch that looked real bleak there.”
The singer's busy calendar reflects this upturn. On Tuesday, along with “Everything,” Wright will also premiere the third season of her podcast, “The Soul Dope Show.” And she’ll make a return to the stage following a three-year absence with a concert at the Vanderelli Room on Feb. 25. All of this in addition to her newest gig booking Soul Sunday at Natalie’s in Grandview, a charge she inherited from , who will perform alongside Cherimondis J. in curated by Wright, scheduled for April 2.
“I wanted to do a send-off for Paisha, because she’s been the host all of these years. … I want to show her some gratitude for even creating this space, and then trusting me to be the one to take it over,” said Wright, who added that the Natalie's offer arrived at a time when she was looking for a sign from the heavens to continue forward. “It was almost divine, because two days before Paisha asked me, I was like, ‘I think this [next album] will be my last project if something spectacular doesn’t happen in 2023.’ Then she reached out and it was like, ‘Wow, okay.’ And here we are. Nothing is stopping me.”
Even if the hectic nature of Wright’s current schedule is starting to mirror pre-pandemic times – “I have a line of Post-it Notes and my calendar is my best friend,” she said, and laughed – the singer said she’s approaching the latest stage of her career with a different mindset than the one she adopted early on.
“When I was younger, I had this point to prove. And it was never for anyone else, but it was for me. I had all of these visions, like, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and I’d put all of this pressure on myself to get certain things done by a certain age, and then beat myself up if I didn’t do it,” Wright said. “I don’t know what it is about turning 40, but it really was like a lightbulb went on, and it was like, ‘This is who I am, and this is what I do.’ ... And now I don’t feel any of that pressure. I feel a lot lighter. And I just want to enjoy the art and enjoy the people in the community with me. Anyone who’s in to what Qamil’s got going on, they’re here, and we’re in this together.”