Goapele talks new album, the strength of Black women, and the relevancy of ‘Closer’ 15 years later


Goapele never compromised her artistry for the sake of an ever-changing industry. Her music gives a voice to those seeking to understand the complexities of everyday life.

With the release of a new album, Strong As Glass, Goapele seeks to touch more souls with her sultry voice and vivid wordplay.

While on tour she recently stopped by rolling out’s offices to discuss her new album, the strength of Black women, and the relevancy of “Closer”‘ 15 years later.

Your new album is called Strong as Glass. What is the overall meaning?

I think glass has so many different forms, sometimes it comes off as something so breakable and fragile, but it’s amazingly strong. It starts as sand and it takes on different lives, but it is breakable. As strong as I feel on some days, I’m not doing this by myself and I am sensitive. Actually, Estelle wrote that song and when I heard that song I just got chills and was like, “I can relate to this I want to sing this.” It was unusual for me to get to connect to someone else’s lyrics that much.

How do you find strength as a Black woman in a demanding industry?

Sometimes it’s isolating, but just being in the music industry that is just dominated by men, I think it means I have to be comfortable and confident in myself and not really care that people think I’m bossy and opinionated and also try and balance that energy. When I first was putting out music, I was like, “I don’t want to be overly sexy or do to much with the imaging or show too much skin and I want to make sure my lyrics are balanced.”

I didn’t want to be taken advantage of and burnt out in the industry. I worked with my family really closely so I was able to get that respect in the industry. So now I feel that I can let my guard down, people know who I am, I can be myself, I can be more versatile, and I can wear what I want. But there was this sense of looking over my shoulder when I first got into this, and I think that’s probably from being a woman, being a Black women and being raised in Oakland and just walking around and wanting to be able to handle myself.

“Closer” continues to resonate with people today and touch different generations. Why has the song been so influential for so long?

Well, I wrote “Closer” almost 15 years ago. It’s that sense of I’m getting closer and I feel myself rising, but I’m not there yet and these are still all the struggles I’m going through, is still as relevant now as it was then. Each step I take there’s another place I’m trying to get and more that I’m trying to accomplish. Just being in the music industry, it is a journey and it’s always like this. So whenever I get on the stage, I can still relate to the song. It’s been wonderful to be able to connect with so many other people like folks that are just in the audience, fans, athletes, musicians, lawyers trying to pass the bar exam or doctors. I’ve gotten so many stories about how people feel the same way and how this helped motivate them. I love that. I never expected that at all from that song almost like an interlude mantra kind of thing. It’s a blessing that it keeps coming back around.

What is your advice to anyone who is looking to reach their dreams?

My advice is to really set goals short term and long term so that you have something to hold on to when everything else is coming your way. For me, it’s been important to keep building my craft and expand my vocal range and songwriting is really important to me. It’s also important to surround yourself with people you can trust so you’re not walking into rooms that you don’t need to by yourself but that someone and folks always have your back. Patience and persistence.

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