Pain and Redemption Between Sets
In 2014, the iconic artist Prince invited Saeeda Wright and Liv Warfield (whom she was touring with at the time) to join him for a show at the L.A. Palladium to be in the opening and the encore performances. While singing with the other backup singers in one of the encores, Prince asked Saeeda to come up to the mike and sing Aretha Franklin’s Rock Steady. Saeeda couldn’t remember all the lyrics, and in that moment of panic she declined. Backstage, in the 10 minute break before the next encore performance, shattered and sick inside, she was sure she had blown it and had missed a once in a lifetime opportunity. This came just after she had spent months doing self-work, learning how to live in the moment, to forgive and to not judge herself. So in that most devastating of moments she got up, looked in a mirror, and Saeeda looked back. She knew she had to speak to herself like a friend, saying “it’s OK, the moment’s gone, let it go, you’re still great and if another opportunity comes you’ll do better because you can do better”. Back at the next encore, unexpectedly, Prince gave her the mike again, and this time she took it and sang like she was on fire, ministering to that audience, her spirit open.
A Trinity of Maternal Love
Raised by 3 women, her mother, then her godmother, and then her grandmother, Saeeda was born and raised in Portland Oregon, in the church, 3rd pew, “hanging on grandma’s hip”. Though not an easy childhood, the love she received from these women, the deep spiritual foundation she received from her church and her time in high school youth ministry, would all serve her in a darker time that would come.
And there was music. At home there was R&B, soul and funk, and at her childhood church there was the rich and deep Hosanna style of church music. Into high school she got exposure to jazz and classical and began preparing to study music in college in Atlanta where she would study classical choral singing. College as it turned out, would be the best and worst time of Saeeda’s life.
A Seven Year Tribulation
During college, Saeeda was the victim of date rape and severe depression. She would return home before finishing her degree and pregnant, expecting to be embraced with love and compassion but often finding judgement and exclusion. She didn’t go to church, couldn’t worship, couldn’t pray, and felt unconnected and unable to settle. Too busy to sing, she was a single parent focused on raising and providing for her son. But a little before her son turned 3 she heard a call; it’s time to sing, you must sing. It was a seven year stretch between the time the man who had violated her in college dropped her off with a fist bump and a “have a good life”, to the time she heard this call to sing. And it was during this dark time she learned the meaning of “you’ll know your mind in your suffering” and “in a dark place, the light becomes brighter”.
She answered that call to sing and reconnected with the Oregon Symphony for their Gospel Christmas program and then joined with an old friend in a gospel choir. Through this choir she met pastor Derrick Traylor and knew immediately that there was something special in her connection with him. Indeed he proved to be a pivotal and profound influence on her with an immediate understanding and belief in her potential and abilities. She began going to his church and spent the next 7 or so years under his tutelage and in the full-on style of gospel singing. Shortly after meeting him she had a life changing awakening when he did a spiritual laying of hands on her. She opened her eyes to a new world, there was release and rebirth, her depression was lifted - she felt delivered. From him she learned to lead in worship, to feel what people needed to hear and to tailor her message to meet them where they were at. He spoke of her musical gifts and encouraged her to take the musical opportunities that came her way.
The sacred and the secular
For Saeeda, where once there was separation of sacred and secular, now there is none. She subscribes to the theory that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. Regardless of where she’s at, church or a blues bar, it’s the same message of love, the same message of hope, of being whole and of healing. Singing is a gift she was given and one she shares without strings or expectations.
You will find these gifts and messages in Saeeda’s new single What Happened to Love. An examination of why we make snap-judgments and look at the world through pre-conceived lenses. Why don’t we know our neighbor, where is decency and community? What happened to unconditional love and compassion, to working it out and to forgiveness? It is a call to bring it back, to function more fully and deeply in love and compassion.
Because Saeeda is ministry-driven, and a teacher and counselor by nature, she also wanted to create a space for personal and professional growth. To that end she has created a website Saeeda Sphere (saeedasphere.com) that is focused on helping people, particularly those in the singing and performing world to achieve balance, set them on a path of spiritual growth, and take their professional life to another level where they can learn how to infuse their own life lessons and personal growth into their art.
Her next project she is working on is called Journey to Love. Some soul, some jazz and little folk, it is a compilation of personal testimony, life experiences, and songs that speak to her and drive home the messages of self-love, self-discovery, community, and personal growth - all of course sprinkled with spiritual growth.
Saeeda Wright is unforgettable. Authentic, warm, loving, with a profound ability to connect and deliver; and oh yes - that gift of her voice.
We are beyond blessed to have Saeeda share her many talents at our grand opening celebration this November. For more details see our Upcoming Events.