Markeisha Ensley
Interview for BACKPOCKET by Alex
Original post 22 March 2012

Listening to the sounds of singer-songwriter Markeisha Ensley is like indulging in a rich, flourless chocolate cake while drinking a well-aged, red wine. She combines piano- playing flair with smooth soul, her mellifluous voice soaring over unforgettable melodies. Originally from Aurora, Colorado, she is the winner of the 2011 Abe Olman Scholarship Award for Excellence in Songwriting from the Songwriters Hall of Fame/Songwriters Guild of America, with previous recipients including John Legend. A cross between Alicia Keys and Anita Baker, Markeisha strikes an uplifting groove and graces the stage with a powerful, undeniable presence.

Markeisha mixes a unique blend of Motown doo-wop harmonies, pop melodies and gospel singing on her new EP, Talk to Me, a sultry selection of up-tempos and ballads on love. Smooth and sexy, the 5 songs were written by the singer as reflection on her recent travels to France and the Caribbean. “It was my first time traveling abroad and I was so affected and inspired by the French culture, people, and of course, the food,” she laughs. Recorded with her band in New York at Flux Studios (Mick Jagger, Jennifer Lopez, Babyface), the EP is produced by up-and-coming producer, David Amber, and will be released on Valentine’s Day, 2012.

As a child, Markeisha began her love affair with music when singing in her hometown Baptist church choir. While gospel music laid the foundation, she was also heavily influenced by her parents’ record collection with Aretha, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Carole King and Linda Ronstadt on heavy rotation. Markeisha studied piano and began writing poetry while in high school, but it was the many nights spent writing songs in the school’s practice rooms while attending New York University that sent Markeisha down the road to singer-songwriter land. “I developed my own sanctuary and no matter what was going on in my life, I could sit behind a piano and sing and know everything was alright.”

Since releasing her debut album, Ready, in 2006, Markeisha has received numerous awards and honors. Two songs from that cd, “The Strangest Thing” and “Loving You”, received an Honorable Mention in the Billboard World Songwriting Contest. Markeisha was also recognized by BMI/Songwriters Association of Washington, where she was asked to perform at the Smithsonian Museum alongside legendary Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier (“Stop! In the Name of Love”). She has toured throughout the country, appeared on “Showtime at the Apollo”, and recently completed a residency performing in St. Barth’s.

Now based in NYC, Markeisha is also a proud member of LIFEBeat’s Hearts and Voices Program, bringing the healing power of music to people living with HIV/AIDS. She is currently planning her 2012 summer US tour.

Tell us a little about yourself, when did you get started, and what influenced you to get into music?

I’m a singer, songwriter, pianist, foodie. I first started singing when I was about 7 in my church choir back home in Colorado and wrote my first song when I was in high school. That’s when I also started playing piano and discovered the art of writing melodies and my love for it.

Where are you based out of?

New York, NY

So how would you describe your musical style?

I listen to all types of music, everything from jazz and r&b to country and musical theater and that’s definitely influenced my songwriting. My music is r&b/ pop, but I also think you can hear the jazz and gospel influence in it, too. I’m really interested in writing songs with great lyrics and catchy melodies, so if someone described my music that way, I’d be fine with it!

Who are your musical influences, who do you follow?

I loved the big pop divas of the 80’s and 90’s like Whitney and Mariah. Stevie Wonder is really inspiring to me, too. If I could write an album as good as Carole King’s Tapestry, I’d be happy. My parents also listened to a lot of 60’s r&b, so that music had a big influence on me. As far as new artists, I’m a big fan of Bruno Mars. His album last year was by far my favorite – he’s a fantastic songwriter and musician and also has an amazing voice.

What has been the contributing factors to your success thus far?

Perseverance and faith. There are definitely highs and lows working as a musician, but you keep pursuing your dream because you have no other choice. Making music is my passion and it makes me really happy, so that definitely helps me in working towards my goal.

Who are your current collaborators?

I just recorded a new EP, Talk To Me, which was produced by David Amber at Flux Studios, NYC (Mick Jagger, Babyface). It was a very exciting, joyous, anxious, therapeutic and exhilarating process, so it was great to have a partner-in-crime who really understood me as an artist and helped me to find the sound that I was looking for. I’m really proud of the finished product!

Are there any events in your musical travels that really stand out in your mind?

Paris! I performed at a jazz club there last fall and found such a welcoming audience for American r&b and jazz. The people are true lovers of American music and it was such a supportive and friendly vibe. I’m planning on touring there again later this year.

What are you currently working on?

I’m writing a lot! I’ve been going through a really inspiring time recently and it’s one of those times when I can’t seem to write fast enough. Hopefully this will go on for a long time… I’m also planning a summer US tour and dates in Europe for the fall.

Are there any other creatives you think we should be looking out for, either musically or not?

I highly recommend Robert Flack’s new album of Beatles covers. She’s a legend and I recently had the opportunity to meet her, which was pretty inspiring. Her new album is great.

Any message you would like to share with your fans?

Thank you for supporting new music! Nothing makes me happier than making music and I feel blessed to get to do it for a living.

Finally, your social media links?