Try as I might I can never seem to halt the growth of my Travel Bucket List. It’s a Timeless Struggle, there are simply too many Islands to visit and too little time to visit them in. Although I know this I’ve realized this I’ve given up trying to stop myself adding destinations of “places to go before turning old and grey“. The Last one was the U.S.V.I. or The United States Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean. The arc of Caribbean islands begins off the coast of Florida and extends all the way to South America and are gifted with Turquoise water, sunshine all day, white beaches, the sweet sound of Calypso and Soca music … and by the time I finished this Interview you are about to read I was inspired and convinced by the super charming Virgin Islands songstress Rudy Live to add it to my list of places.
Aside from learning more about this Gem of an island in the Caribbean. I got to know about the island’s finest musical export: Rudy Live. Born as Toiya Isaac, Rudy Live became a powerful vocalist, entertainer and the female ambassador of the U.S.V.I’s Soca music. Influenced by her father, DJ Calabash, Rudy initially stepped into the Dancehall Scene, under the name Rudegyal. Now she is thrilling the masses, performing all over places and using her talent to represent the Virgin Islands and Soca music.
I’ll admit transcribing this interview took me hours and hours as my mind drifted towards considering…………maybe I should head to the Virgin Islands next?
Hey Rudy, so nice to have you here. First, can you Introduce yourself for those who don’t know you?
Rudy Live: Well, my name is Rudy and I’m a Soca artiste from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, but I represent for the whole Virgin Islands which is made up of three islands: St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. I’ve been doing Soca music for maybe six years, I think, and professionally maybe five or four, well, I’ve been doing music for decades. I started off doing Dancehall and Reggae music … yeeees (laughs). My father was like a famous DJ in the Virgin Islands, so I got into Dancehall music that way, just listening to him with the latest releases and dubplates. And then, somehow, I got into Soca music like (laughs) I sang this one song called “Come Closer” and everybody started calling me Soca diva after that, and I was like: “Soca diva? You know, I’m not a Soca diva”. But I started to accept it and I started coming out with more Soca music and ever since then Rudy Live came, but the name Rudy Live came from Dancehall, because it’s like Rudeboy and they called me the Rudegyal on stage (laughs), so that was where the name came from. My dad actually when he was djing, he gave me the mic in the middle of his set and I grabbed the mic and started doing my little freestyle thing and this one guy was like: “Yes Rudegyal, mash up the place.” And ever since then Rudegyal stuck with me and then I came with Rudy Live after that, because you know, you have to see me live, doing a show and really get the full impact of the song.
As you said your father is a Dancehall DJ and you are doing Soca music, so is that the kind of mixture we find in the V.I.’s music scene?
Rudy Live: Well, it switched. Before it was more heavy the Reggae and the Dancehall and now as time changes it is more into the Soca, more live bands, more performances. After Carnival everybody switches over to Reggae and Dancehall for a while, but it is mainly driven by Soca and Calypso music right now. So that is the biggest impact, because they used to bring in more artistes from other Islands, but now most of the shows are local artistes now, especially in Soca music.
Ok, and how big is the Soca Scene over there right now?
Rudy Live: It’s been very small. I’ve been the only female to successfully be able to brand out and do songs with like Machel and Shurwayne Winchester and open in South America with Kevin Lyttle and stuff like that, so it is still very small. We have our own kind of style of music, I can’t really explain it (laughs), but for me they say I’m more international than the hard-core feters Soca music that’s playing in the Virgin Islands. I’m more RnB, I can get rough and perform Power Soca, but generally I’ve got more of an RnB kind of Soca style.
Can you tell us a bit about the Virgin Islands you come from?
Rudy Live: You need to visit! When you fly into St. Thomas it feels like you’re hitting to the water, because the runaway is right off into the sea (laughs). So when you fly in, you see all over blue, crystal water. I haven’t seen a place like this to fly into since I’ve been traveling on the airplane, but you never notice how beautiful your island is until you travel to other places. I know, when I went to Jamaica for the first time, I was like “where is the water?” because I’m so used to the Virgin Islands and flying into Jamaica I was like “I’m not seeing any water!” (laughs). And we have Carnival, three Carnivals: St. Thomas’s Carnival in April and May and then St. John has their Carnival like fourth of July weekend and then St. Croix has their Carnival like Christmas into New Year time. So we’re probably the only island that has Carnival three times a year (laughs).
Wow! And which Carnival do you prefer?
Rudy Live: Yeah, I would say St. Thomas. But St. John is fun! St. Thomas is the best but, I have more fun as St. John is the smallest one. They’re real small, but I don’t know, it’s something about St. John Carnival that is very exclusive (laughs). St. Thomas one is more commercialized, St. Croix is big too, but we consider St. Croix more country-like... well, you should visit!
I will, for sure! (laughs). So, Rudy, talking about Carnival, you just came back from Crop Over ...
Rudy Live: Yeahahhh! (laughs). So Crop Over was … I actually went there to make some links with some artistes and get some inspiration, because I’m about to go back in the studio. I don’t often take breaks, but this was like a break for me and I made link-ups at the same time; like I met up with Peter Ram and King Bubba, Angela Hunte, Alison Hinds, you know, everybody! I got inspired for my next songs and also I’m going to do collaborations with the artistes and producers coming out soon. It kind of reminds me of the Virgin Islands, the water, the people are real nice and everybody was like “Oh I see you with the pink hair” everywhere I go, but it was awesome, an awesome experience. I’ll definitely go back, back performing all over the place next time (laughs).
Glad you had a great time while promoting yourself as an artiste.
Rudy Live: Yes, I went there to promote myself as well, quite a lot while I was there. I was able to perform at some events and I did some interviews with some national TV broadcasting stations, too. And a couple of Radio interviews as well. But yes, I’ve been mainly promoting my single “Saddle Up.”
You’re doing a good job, because the amount of interviews you give in general is incredible, during my research I found loads on Youtube!
Rudy Live: (laughs) Yeahh, my manager keeps me working and I love it! I love to take crossing over with the Soca music, because Soca music is not as popular in the American mainstream. It did have its chance with Rupee and Kevin Lyttle, but they didn’t really get sticking to it, so I wanna dig into it and let people know like “hey, our music is happy music, you know. We jump up, jump up music, music to keep you happy all the time” (laughs).
True! So, as you said, you were promoting your latest release “Saddle Up”, it’s kind of a ladies’ anthem?...
Rudy Live: (laughs) Yes, yes, “Saddle Up” is very demanding, you know. There are a lot of guys especially when I go perform and they’re like “Rudy, I can’t wait to dance with you!” and when I bring them up to dances with me, they’re not ready (laughs). So, you know, I came up with this song “Saddle Up”, so I’m telling you, if you want to ride the bumpa and I give you a chance, you have to be able to keep up, so I’m saying “saddle up.” When I say “jump on the saddle” you’re on the backside of the bumpa, so I’m saying (sings) “jump on the saddle to ride it, ride it” ... and then I say “giddyup, giddyup now “(laughs). So it’s really like female empowering, just telling you: you gonna ride this bumpa and you need to hold on or you have to get off.
You’re a single mom, you’re a lady in the music business, can you tell me: where does this female power come from?
Rudy Live: Well, I actually been gone through the music business with my son as a child and now raising him, it was very hard and it still is (laughs). But through my years I’ve gotten stronger, you know, doing it and being around inspirational guys, people like Machel, you have to build yourself up in order to stand up with those guys like Lyrikal and Tallpree and to be on the stage. There are some times when I’m the only female that’s performing with all these guys on a line-up, so I wanna come hard. So when they heat up the crowd and I’m coming up after them, I have to keep that momentum and show them that I’m a female and we’re able to rock it just like them, hold the stage down and keep up with that momentum. You know, raising a son and being in touch with him helps me with what I’m doing, when I’m on the road and being up there and representing the whole female empowerment, all of the world.
So you’re pushing yourself pretty hard?
Rudy Live: Yes, but you know, there are some times in life when I doubt myself and all kind of people who tell me “you should do this, you should do that” and I have to get back to myself and ... you know, do what makes you happy. When I started out, I was pushing myself before I had a manager. I was doing it all by myself and it took me a while to get the right manager, but the whole time I pretty much had to manage myself in and out. But I got there eventually and learned toughness and how to handle a lot of business, but right now I have a really good management and I can actually sit back and be an artiste (laughs), don’t have to pretty much manage a lot, but I do have a lot of input in what I’m doing, how I look and what goes out into media.
That is important! And you’ve got more time to be creative and productive. I was listening to your catalogue of music and I was just amazed because it’s such an impressive amount of releases!
Rudy Live: Yeaahh! I have a lot of albums and songs I’ve been writing, that just helped me grow as an artiste, so all those things help me grow as an artiste from before, so when I go back and I listen, I’m like “oh my god, I wrote that!” and sometimes I don’t even know, like, I have too much songs! They’re like “I like this song!” and I’m like “which one? I don’t know!” (laughs). But it’s great and hopefully the whole world, one day, will get to hear my full catalogue of songs, you know, when I become this national big time cross over Soca artiste (laughs). And then I probably come back and do a little Dancehall, but yeah.
Haha, well, as you’re coming from the Dancehall! Was it hard to switch to Soca then?
Rudy Live: No, I was always trying to infuse my Soca style with my Dancehall like in some of my lyrics. I got a song “Hold on”, I think, that was my first try at mixing it together, so in “Hold On” I was sticking to Dancehall and trying Soca. So you know, I just kinda mixed it, so it wasn’t really hard, I just had to learn how to kind of flow it in. Well, the first song that brought me into Soca was “Come Closer” and that’s how I started out.
So beside doing music what else do you love to do?
Rudy Live: Well, other things I do part time… I’m a registered dental assistant, so I often do braces and make people smile (laughs). I love to go to the cinema, my life is kept exciting with performances and clubbing and everything, Sometimes though I just kinda chill and read books, watch movies, hang out with my friends and try to have fun... but yeah if you haven’t noticed, I love movies (laughs).
What can we expect from you later on for 2016 and 2017?
Rudy Live: What you should expect is videos, more vibrant music, more empowering music, happy music, party music, collaborations. I’m also collaborating with one of the top Nigerian artistes as well, but I won’t tell the name (laughs), so I’m gonna be crossing over to that type of music, to do some Afrosoca music, that I really love. I’ve been following their music from when “Azonto” came out and everybody was doing it, which is crazy! So you gonna see me popping up everywhere next year, I want a Grammy, so I’m going for it! (laughs). But mainly I really want to introduce Soca to the people; there are a lot of people who don’t like Soca music, but when they hear my music, they’re enjoying it. So I feel good to hear that, a lot of them are really Dancehall, Reggae heads, but they say “there is something about your music.”
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High energy, creative in the extreme and with a strong passion for Caribbean music – "Big Anikäy" is always ready for anything! This young girl from Germany studies media science, while hosting Radio shows and working on your next favourite mixtapes, interviews and articles. Get in touch with Anika via bubblegyalsound(@)gmail.com or via https://www.facebook.com/anika.klimke.