This year will be devoted to ease, fun and spontaneity with a sprinkle of hard work in between. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still be passionately smashing through all of my personal goals and flexing my creative bones to the limits. But in 2023, I want to set aside the hustle and bustle for a moderately scheduled life.
With fears of a recession and the COVID-19 pandemic ablaze, last year I went into overdrive, taking on extra work to save up a bit of cash and challenge myself. I did my first red carpet review, traveled outside of New York City for a few DJ gigs and interviewed a bevy of stars that I’ve always dreamed of speaking to. But in the process, I ran my body down and barely gave myself time to stop and smell the roses. What’s hard work without a little fun and relaxation, right?
Well, 2023 has already been off to an incredibly relaxing start. At the top of January, I took my first vacation in six months to visit my grandmother for her 98th birthday. At 98 years strong, my mama is still active and she can outwalk and run you if you let her. My family flew in from all parts of the U.S. to celebrate her big birthday bash, and in true Dawson fashion, we hopped on a cruise to Mexico.
I spent an entire week stuffing my face with food and sipping on delicious glasses of prosecco by the poolside, with no thought of work or life’s responsibilities. I laughed, danced and reminisced about childhood with my family as we listened to the soothing sounds of the ocean crashing against the boat. All of this much-needed downtime gave me a chance to reflect on all the hard work I had been doing over the past year. It also made me realize how little time I had spent with my family and friends. Work is essential, but what does money truly mean if you can’t spend time with the ones you love?
With all of that in mind, when I returned to New York, I felt charged and ready to take on a new year of challenges. Ideas seemed to flow effortlessly from my brain to the notepad. But I began yearning for adventure. To cure my travel cravings, I started to switch up my work environment, writing my feature stories from the park or tapping into my local coffee shop to write and take in the sounds of busy New Yorkers.
Before I start my workday, I allocate an hour of no screen time. I use that time instead, to chat with my mom over breakfast and work off of those pandemic pounds that I gained with a light workout on YouTube. Now, I must admit, my schedule is already packed to the brim for this month. But I decided to squeeze in a few quick getaways so I can spend more time with my friends and family. I want to make sure I’m prioritizing a bit more “me time” so I can keep my battery charged for my busy year ahead. In 2023, rest and relaxation are no longer an afterthought—it’s mandatory, and I want all my Black creative sisters to do the same.
I knew I wasn’t the only one thinking about rest, so I reached out to Grammy-nominated recording artist and bassist Divinity Roxx to hear more about her creative journey and how she plans to prioritize self-care in 2023.
Divinity Roxx is making history in the music industry
Roxx has a super busy year ahead of her. She’s been bouncing around the U.S. performing for fans and doing tons of press since the release of her Grammy-nominated children’s album Ready Set Go!
Released in 2021, Roxx’s buzzing children’s album is filled with empowering and catchy tunes that blend elements of hip-hop, rock, and everything else in between. My favorite track is “Happy and Healthy”--a bouncy song all about the importance of creating a happy mind and body with healthy nutrient-rich food.
“My mission has always been to make music that’s inspiring and authentic and empowering for anybody. But to do it for children is pretty special,” said Roxx, who landed a book deal with Scholastic due to the song’s success. Beyond healthy food, Roxx scatters messages of diversity and positive affirmations throughout the album–all with the hope of inspiring children to live fearlessly in pursuit of their goals in dreams.
Roxx is the first Black woman in history to be nominated under the category. While reflecting on her journey in the music industry, the Atlanta native told me that it felt “a little bit unreal” to be up for the iconic award.
“It also feels very validating and exciting, and I’m honored for so many reasons. I mean, it is the most prestigious award you can receive as a musician. It’s mind-blowing to me,” she said with a chuckle, before schooling me on the legacy of Ella Jenkins, a Black folk singer who has been dubbed the “First Lady of Children’s Music.”
Throughout her career, Jenkins has contributed a number of hits to the children’s music repertoire including beloved tunes like “You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song” and “He’s Got the World in His Hands.”
“A lot of us grew up listening to her music in classrooms and we may not have known her name,” Roxx continued. “I believe the Grammys did give her a lifetime achievement award but she had never been nominated, nor had she ever received an award for all the years she had been doing the work. So, I’m really honored to stand on her shoulders and to help usher in a new generation of Black women in this genre.”
Being an artist ain’t always glitz and glam
Before she landed her historic nomination, Roxx spent five years touring with legendary bassist Victor Wooten, the founding member of the supergroup Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. After the gig ended, Roxx went on to perform in Beyoncé’s all-female band and served as her musical director. It took years of hard work and sweat equity to get to where she is now, and sometimes, things weren’t all glitz and glam.
Roxx said there were definitely times that she had zilch in her bank account.
“People assumed that because I was touring with Victor I was rich and I must have somehow wasted all of my money. There were times when Victor was not touring very consistently. So, I would save up all the money that I had made and pay my rent for six months. I’d make sure that my bills were paid and then I would go gig locally. The thing about the local gigs, which was so whack, was that people only paid you $50 to $100 to gig. So you’d be out there playing your heart out all night, driving your car, which costs gas money, but you gotta eat. So I was really budgeting what I had.”
In the future, Roxx hopes that the U.S. government will supply more artists with crucial grants that will help with stability as they grow their careers.
“When you look at some other some other countries like Germany and even Canada, there are so many government programs that supplement the arts,” she said. “And while there are many organizations in the U.S., private and nonprofit organizations that do support artists, overall, there’s this idea that music and art is not valuable.”
Despite the bleak nature of the current industry, Roxx is optimistic about the future.
“I definitely think it’s getting better. I think people are beginning to demand that their services are respected, especially when you get to a certain level. You know, me and Victor always joked about how we couldn’t afford to buy a new bass, but as soon as we became quote-unquote famous and were able to go out and buy whatever bass we wanted, companies actually started giving them to us. Funny, right?”
Rest and self-care are imperative for Divinity Roxx
This year, Divinity Roxx is gearing up to launch several projects under her Divi Roxx Kids production. She’s currently composing music for Idris Goodwin’s The Boy Who Kissed The Sky, a stage play loosely based on the life of Jimi Hendrix. She’s also busy creating a one-woman show that will detail her life and experience as an artist and a Black woman.
Roxx pours so much time and energy into her craft, but she assured me that she spends an equal amount of time and energy pouring back into herself. It’s imperative for her creative process. Every morning, Roxx kicks off her day with a healthy dose of meditation.
“I always find it to be settling and focusing,” she said. “It could be anything from just sitting and being quiet with my eyes closed for about 12 to 15 minutes in the morning. Sometimes, I listen to music. Sometimes I listen to mantras or do guided meditation. But I always find it to be really settling. It helps me stay focused and it prevents me from being frazzled and overwhelmed with the work.”
For Roxx, there’s nothing like the great outdoors. Getting out in nature helps her to check in with her mind and spirit.
“I enjoy doing things like going out and kayaking. I find that to be like meditation, being out in nature, where there are not many other people around, where I can really just settle into the energy of the river of the wind. Paying attention to what’s happening around me in the sky watching the birds–all of that seems to settle me. It helps me not think about work and I try not to put focus on myself, but turn the focus outward to nature and just observe what’s happening around me.”
Roxx’s self-care regimen even extends down to her music. After her daily nature walks, the busy artist carves out time to practice on her favorite instrument–a Fender Jazz bass.
“It’s probably the main base I’m playing right now. Although I did get a new five-string ultra jazz bass and I also got a custom, Fender Precision bass. I kind of let them chill in the environment for a minute before I really start playing them. I don’t know why I do that. I let them settle into this space before I start to really pick them up and spend time with them. I don’t know why it’s it’s a habit of mine,” she chuckled.