September 08, 2020 10 min read
Lenora, with the help of Texas bestie and creative director Riot Muse, is making a name for herself in the music world. On the heels of releasing her newest single “Cool”, an even bigger project is in the works- her debut full length project. Whether you first notice her because of her unique style or R&B influenced sound that’s deep fried in the southern culture she was raised in, she stands out for good by being unapologetically herself. Of course, the impeccable creative products that come as a result wouldn’t happen without Riot Muse. Their relationship started a few years back, and the two had an instant connection. They bond over the mutual respect and admiration they have for the one another's careers. In the past year, their friendship has grown even stronger and it's reflected in everything they produce as a pair.
From Lenora's love of Dolly Parton to Riot Muse’s new favorite pair of Ranch Road boots, they don’t miss a beat. Polished off with quick-wit and fun-loving personalities, they told us about what they love about their home state of Texas, how they’re inspired by their roots and how they capture it all with immaculate style. As the duo gear up to release Lenora’s album, we explore exactly what inspires each of them-and it may not be exactly what you think.
Read our full-length interview below as we learn how Lenora and Riot Muse chart their path in cowgirl boots.
I am usually a fan of dark colored clothing, but when it’s time to really slay. I slay in style. Styling is actually a part of my process, but by far, my favorite way to wear boots is with a nice Wide Leg Mom Jean, cut right before the ankle. That. With some boots? Chefs kiss! The silhouette is amazing.
In my boots I ________________.
...cause a RIOT!
Favorite cowboy/girl throughout history?
Dolly Parton...I feel like she is the Rhinestone Cowgirl that we all deserve.
I’ll name a few cowgirls killing it right now in history…Lizzo, Meg the Stallion, Beyoncé, Solange…the list goes on, should I say more?
Making people smile. You probably smiling while you reading this, huh? I hope so.
Finessing. I like to believe I have the power to make a $5 thrifted item look like a million bucks. Turning nothing into something is my superpower. There were times where I had to make something happen within minutes with very little. And it has always been my favorite.
What are your favorite RRB styles?
I love the classic Western joints, a nice tall pair. I have the Rosette Black boots with the little yellow roses of Texas along the top. Those are my favorite pair of boots that I own to-date.
A good Veronica Black please! It’s just my style. It’s an ankle cut with a nice pointy front in all black. So timeless. So classic, and iconic. It can be worn with just about anything. It fits within all of my style worlds. I’m still in love. This would be my first try with a real cowboy boot. And I couldn’t be happier it’s with Ranch Road Boots. These are perfect.
The land. I love to have space to roam, be free and find a parking space lol. And besides that, obviously the food and culture. The culture is so rich here. Texas is like a country on its own.
The scenery, by far. I used to live in Nacogdoches, Texas for school and that place made me appreciate Texas so much more. The cattle, the land, the barns, the farmhouses riding by on 59. The lighting bugs that would roam at night in the country. The cool breeze after sundown. All of it. I love how you can experience different vibes in Texas. You can go to the city or go to the country and be perfectly content. Also, the culture. And the southern slang—the accents!
You guys seem to work together a lot surrounding your respective arts. What is your favorite thing about working together?
The fact that RIOT MUSE really, really gets me. We’ve been working together now for like three years and she took the time to delve in to Lenora, the person before we started delving in to Lenora, the artist. That is so important. She’s a storyteller and it’s important for her to understand the subject in order to best tell the story. So, over time we’ve become like sisters. We travel together, we grow and learn together, we work together but most importantly, we have FUN while doing it. That’s key for us.
I love our sisterhood. Our sisterhood is what brought us together even more over the last year, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Outside of our sister bond, I love the fact that Lenora trusts me to tell her story. I believe that’s crucial in business, and also creation. You have to trust the person you’re giving your story to.
What I also love about our working relationship is that we leave no room for judgement. We keep a very open, honest, and transparent space to grow from. Over the years, we’ve watched each other grow, cry, and we’ve become better women (and businesswomen) because of it. Plus, our process is always fun! We turn up at all times.
What are your biggest sources of inspiration for your work? How do you guys source inspiration to create work together or in your respective creative paths?
Experiences. We draw from our experiences as Black women from the hood in the South. There are so many stories to tell and so many different ways to tell them. I think what works best with RIOT MUSE and I is the fact that we have many things in common but our experiences are vastly different. So she’s able to take my experience or a song that I’ve written and tell it through her lens. It’s like an Editorial or high fashion spin on hood culture. That mash-up is beautiful.
Black womanhood, experience, and storytelling is where I draw from. I’ve always been this imaginative woman that would create short stories in my head. Lol. A lot of my work comes from those 3 aspects.
Our process is pretty unique. Over the last 3 years, I’ve seen all of the makings of Lenora, I understand her music, I understand her voice, I understand the message. I know her influences. I have also seen her at her highest and happiest to also her lowest and stressful points. So, it’s a no brainer to pull from those points when it’s time to work! We just elaborate on it more depending on the song or project.
What do you love about western culture? What’s your idea of a “cowgirl” or “cowboy” and how do you channel your inner “cowgirl” through your work?
So I grew up around western culture. If you see my neighborhood that I grew up in and still live in, it’s a very rural area. My grandmother raised me and she was heavy into boots, all kinds, like traditional Western ones, ropers, and just really amazing Western fashion. So I think I fell in love with the fashion, first. It gives me a sense of pride when I strut into a studio in LA in a pair of python cowboy boots. I have so much Texas pride lol.
I used to think that a cowgirl or cowboy had to herd cattle and have a bunch of horses. But now I think it’s more so an attitude or a way of life. It’s how I identify. I attended the rodeos faithfully since I was a kid, and I own more boots than I do sneakers.
There’s just something rich about western culture that you cannot get anywhere else. I love the accents and hospitality especially. It’s so distinct, it’s so thick. So rich and welcoming. Plus, the fashion is always a bonus.
My idea of a cowgirl is being a badass, a rebel, it’s about taking the lead. And never backing down. I channel her all the time in my work, sometimes it’s through a photo or a caption. I am currently working on a personal project that represents this badass persona. Stay tuned.
In addition to culture, our social environment is also a big driver of what we say and do. This year we are seeing a lot of people come together for change and artists / creatives are being much more intentional about their work and the messages they spread through it. What is your opinion on this and how do you use your platform to inspire change and purpose?
This year has been so heavy. There has been so much heaviness and uncertainty but the silver lining is that because everyone has been forced to be still and stay home, they can’t ignore the blatant injustice. People’s day-to-day often gives them an excuse to just tune out on matters that they feel don’t concern them. But the truth is that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. So people can no longer pretend not to see it. And I mean, the messaging from these corporations about change and equality is cool, but I’d like to see it in their practices and policies. It doesn’t stop at posting on social media; this is literally dealing with a system that was not created with equality in mind. And in knowing this and living in my Black skin for my entire life, while also simultaneously working with my family business, a Black community newspaper (which was founded during the height of the Civil Rights Movement), it’s a lot of pressure. I always want to use my platform to effect change for the better. I realized during this time, though, that sometimes the world needs to see Black joy. So I’m very big on that. Exhibiting Black joy is necessary and I realize that me being me, in all of my fullness can inspire others and remind them of their purpose. That’s a blessing.
Change is growth. And we have to talk about it, and I am so glad we are having this conversation as a NATION. It’s like an open wound that won’t heal. And it’s been time we talk about how uncomfortable the injustices of our world makes us feel. It’s brutally honest. And I am glad that others are waking up to the realities we face as Black people. I think it’s great. It’s a great start for real change.
I channel change through my work and the local Black creatives I work with. I leave a lot of room to the imagination at times, but there are times where I have been openly transparent about the message behind my work. My hope is that my work inspires and brings forth change for a greater cause. That’s always the goal. To inspire and change the conversation within my community.
What does “heritage” mean to you? How important is it to you, and how do you celebrate it through your work?
When I see the word “heritage” I think about legacy. Legacy has always been so important to me because as I mentioned, my grandfather founded our family business, the Forward Times newspaper, in 1960. Sixty years later, we’re still here; a Black publication that has never missed a week of print since its inception. People talk about how they got their first job here selling papers or how special they felt being highlighted for an achievement that they didn’t realize was significant enough to be published.
And THAT is what I aspire to do; to create a legacy that outlives me for generations. A legacy that not only my family will benefit from but the entire world. When I write a song, I don’t only write it for myself; I write it for the world that I intend to give it to. When I hit the South side on a national stage, I don’t just do it for myself; I do it for the great state of Texas, lol.
Heritage is your DNA. Heritage is culture. It’s your genetic code. Lineage. lol. See, I come from a Nigerian household, so my culture is deep rooted within me. Outside of that, the way that I move and interact with people is deeply rooted in my Nigerian culture. We are natural born hustlers. If you’re paying close attention, I mention it a few times in my work. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
My plan is to bring more awareness to my heritage in a very unconventional way. And boy, is it coming very soon.
Lenora, we love that you are a young artist from Texas. Your music is very soulful and retro yet you have this very cool edgy western style about you. Is that how you bring out the “Texas” flair or pay homage to your home state?
Definitely. My music and my style is literally just a blend of who I am as a person. I grew up with my grandmother who was from a little country town in East Texas, and she would drink E&J, cuss like a sailor and listen to Blues music all the time. So I think that I definitely got my affinity for brown liquor and profanity from her lol, and also my boldness. I fell in love with disco music at an early age so you’ll definitely hear that in the music. I just bottle up all of the quirky little things that make me, me and put them all into the music that I create.
What are some of your favorite influences in music? How do they influence your work as an artist?
Definitely disco – I am a self-proclaimed disco aficionado haha. But some of everything honestly. The story telling in country music influences my writing. You hear some Blues influence in there every now and then too because that was played in the house so much while I was growing up. You will absolutely hear some remnants of Michael Jackson, like there are random licks from obscure demos he’s done that you may hear in some of my music because I absolutely adore him. Houston rap culture influences me heavily; DJ Screw, of course. They all play a part in who I am as an artist.
You’ve just released a new single and video for “Cool”. How did this song come together and what is about?
Yes! So “Cool” was the follow-up to the single “Relax” that I released in October of last year. Beanz N Kornbread produced both “Cool” and “Relax.” We put the remix to “Relax” out in December featuring Slim Thug and it did really well and kind of put me on the map. So after that we were like let’s just do another song and see what happens. I felt a lot of pressure initially because it’s like you want to keep the momentum going. But “Cool” was just a vibe. I came into the studio one morning and Beanz N Kornbread were playing around with different sounds and making the beat on the spot. Then I went into the booth and just started freestyling and rapping the verses, describing who I am.
In “Cool”, it was important for me to sort of debunk these theories about who people think I am. A lot of people have this grand diva perception of me for whatever reason and I’m really just cool… like the other side of the pillow lol. So this song is literally just that, with some Houston Screw culture, of course haha.
We’re actually gearing up to release my debut full-length project which is super exciting. It’s very new, forward and fresh; so I’m both excited and anxious to see how it will be received.
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