Black Americana at its finest.
Vocalist. Solo Performer. Producer. Songwriter. Topliner. Musician. Playwright. Librettist.
When Queen Esther self-released her first album Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues in 2003, she recontextualized the term Black Americana to name her sound. Her creative output musically is the culmination of several important elements, not the least of which were years of recording and touring internationally as frontwoman for several projects with her mentor, harmelodic guitar icon James “Blood” Ulmer, including a European tour in his seminal band Odyssey.
Steeped in the gospel music traditions of the Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C.) from a very early age while surrounded by a soundscape of freeform radio, countrypolitan music and show tunes, Queen Esther grew up in the Deep South – Atlanta, GA and Charleston, SC respectively – as the middle child and the only daughter, with six brothers and a four-octave range. Her parents were born and raised in South Carolina’s culturally rich and enigmatic Lowcountry, with African traditions and folkways that span centuries and continue to inform her work.
Queen Esther began her gifted education in English and creative writing as a five-year-old. While attending a performing arts magnet high school in Atlanta GA, she studied opera and classical music, developed an appreciation for jazz and was featured in a production with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, attended Governor’s Honors Program in Drama, and competed for and won several scholarships as a theater actor through Young Arts, sponsored by the National Foundation for the Arts. She chose the University of Texas at Austin and cut her teeth in the regional theater and music scene. It was guitarist Big Al Gilhausen that introduced Queen Esther to blues guitar legend Hubert Sumlin. Their influence guided her back to her Lowcountry roots and set her firmly on a sonic path that would lead her towards a highly creative harmelodic life.
Queen Esther eventually crash-landed in Harlem and graduated from The New School in screenwriting. Her work as a vocalist, lyricist, songwriter, actor/solo performer and playwright/librettist led to creative collaborations in neo-vaudeville, alt-theater, various alt-rock configurations, (neo) swing bands, trip hop DJs, spoken word performances, jazz combos, jam bands, various blues configurations, original Off Broadway plays and musicals, experimental music/art noise and performance art.
Her most recent self-released Black Americana album The Other Side (2015) garnered airplay internationally and praise from Country Music People (UK), Americana UK, Living Blues, Vanity Fair, Paste and many more.
In the fall of 2020, Queen Esther became a newly appointed member of the board of directors for Jalopy Theatre and School of Music -- a home for music and music-makers -- located in Brooklyn. A multi-faceted not-for-profit arts space celebrating traditional folk music through live performances and communal learning, Jalopy showcases folk, roots, bluegrass, country, blues and traditional world music at their live concerts, the Brooklyn Folk Festival and other music festivals, and through their record label, Jalopy Records.
A member of AEA and SAG/AFTRA, Queen Esther is currently developing The Billie Holiday Project, a musical based on Zora Neale Hurston’s newly discovered Harlem based short stories augmented by Lady Day’s rare sides, The Tears of a Megyn, a serio-comic romp in one act about police brutality, black feminism and white privilege and Blackbirding, a one person show that uses music, soundbites, imagery, newsreels, video, storytelling and more to show how American history repeats itself at our blackest expense.
Whether she’s singing, writing songs or creating theater, Queen Esther is a storyteller in the grand Southern tradition that’s found her way back to Africa through her Lowcountry roots.