Dap-Kings Sax Player: Kesha Was 'Super-Engaged' During 'Woman' Sessions
There are two ways artists can collaborate these days: virtually, or in the flesh. And when it came to adding some soul-kicking horns to her empowerment anthem "Woman," there was no way Kesha was going to let someone else finish the song without her.
"She could have easily phoned it in or had some producer come by," said Cochemea Gastelum, the baritone sax player for the world-renowned Dap-Kings, whose members play on the second song we've heard so far from Kesha's upcoming third full-length album, Rainbow (Aug. 11). "She had just come from some big trip and she was jet-lagged, on another time zone, but she was super-engaged and really collaborative."
The upbeat, bouncy song with the very straightforward thesis, "I'm a motherf---ing woman," features three members of the Kings' horn section --- Gastelum, Dave Guy and Neal Sugarman -- as well as former Sharon Jones backup singer and Dapettes member Saundra Williams. Gastelum said Kesha's team approached the Dap-Kings a few months ago saying they wanted the group's signature brassy swing on the track, which he said was already "pretty much there" by the time they heard it.
"We were like, 'Yeah, let's do it!,'" said Gastelum. "The lyrics are cool... so when we got in the studio, she came in and the vibe was real cool. Her brother was there filming. It was a real family vibe, which is how we operate as well, so it was a good fit." The singer came to the Kings' Brooklyn Daptone studios, and Gastelum said the session was the perfect combination of Kesha letting the group do their thing and weighing in when she had ideas.
"I wasn't surprised she wanted to come in," he said. "It was the first time we worked with her, but it's always nice when an artist is super engaged in the music and it's a collaborative thing." Though her vocals were already on the track, Gastelum said the collective listened to the track together -- horns at the ready -- and the trio began coming up with their parts. They hopped into the booth and started playing, with Kesha making it clear when she liked something and, at one point, singing a few riffs on top of what they were performing so they could build off her energy.
"I love the track and I think it came out great," Gastelum said, noting that his sense was that lines such as "I buy my own things/I pay my own bills/These diamond rings, my automobiles/Everything I got I bought it, boys can't buy my love" were inspired by January's Women's March on Washington, which was then fresh in Kesha's mind. "We were sitting around rapping about it and talking about the times, and the message of the song was really resonating," he said. "It seemed to me that was the intent behind the song... how we were all feeling around the time of the Women's March, which was fresh in everybody's minds. The song felt timely and so did the message."
Though the fellas didn't make it down to Delaware to shoot the video -- Kesha's Creepies band stood in for them -- Williams is featured dancing and doing shots with the singer in the clip, whose glittery look and ladies first attitude matches the energy and attack of the track. "We walked away feeling really, really good, and what I liked is that she had kind of a tight-knit crew, not some record company thing. She was definitely in control and in charge, but willing to listen to everybody," he said. "I like the vibe and energy and the way she approached her music. Everything she was going through definitely added another element to it."
Though the Dap-Kings have played countless sessions with all kinds of bands, Gastelum hadn't really considered the fact that they've backed an impressive array of modern soul and pop's most iconic women, including Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones and now Kesha. "Yeah, I hadn't really thought about that before. We've been really fortunate," he said. "We'd certainly work with her again because it's one of those things that doesn't always happen."