Jermaine Nakia Lee is fixture on Charlotte’s creative arts scene. In the past seven years, he’s written, directed or starred in plays that highlight devastation of AIDS in the black community, police brutality and highlighting artists from the Harlem Renaissance. He most recently starred in “Tribe,” a play about a single black mother struggling to raise her son.
If you could meet any singer – dead or alive – who would you want to meet? Why?
I want to meet and have a recording studio session with the late, great Donnie Hathaway.
He is the kind of singer, songwriter and composer I aspire to be. There is a uncannny personal and emotional value to his music that most artist aren’t vunerable enough to share. When he sings…when he plays an instrument, you feel every riff in your soul.
What song brings back the most memories for you? Why?
Its so weird…when I hear pop and R&B songs from the late 80’s, I’m always flooded with
memories and sobering emotions. I attended a School of the Arts located nearly 45 minutes
away from Miami home. So my Mother and I had what felt like an endless drive back and
forth to school every day. She didn’t care for hip-hop so we’d listen to this pop station that
rotated Boy George, Madonna, Micheal Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince, Cyndi Lauper
and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam. That was a very transitional period in my adolescence
and hearing music from that time takes me right back to the angst I was experiencing.
What’s your favorite musical era? Why?
I love the Great Jazz Era of the 1920’s – ’30s. I often immerse myself in the music,
literature and culture of that era. Its as if I have lived it before. I was so moved by it that
I penned a musical called “For the Love Of Harlem” that depicts the life and times of
of those great musicians, writers and intellectuals who spearheaded the Harlem
Renaissance Movement. The Great Jazz Era was such an exciting time in Black History
wherein it seemed the World was finally paying attention to the indelible artistic
contributions of Black Americans.
How important is music in your life?
Music is my first love. It is the first thing I actually fell in love with. Music has never failed me and nothing seems to bring me as much joy. Many of my fellow musicians have all but decided to marry their music…meaning music come first and foremost in their lives. I’ve traveled that road and it was not healthy for me but I am often tempted to revisit it. Today, I use music as a soundtrack to my life as oppose to the meaning of my life which has provided space for precious friendships and a life partner.
What’s your favorite summertime song?
“Summer” by India.Arie is my Summer jam. It has a fun and bubbly folk sound with banjos and guitars carrying the melody but it tells the story of lost love just as Summer ends and Autumn begins. The songwriter is asking to be suspended in her “summer of love” in hopes of reliving the passion that was lost when the seasons changed. When the song was released, I was going through a similiar dilemma. For me, it’s the perfect song to bump as you’re cruising down the way to your Summer cookout or beach trip.