J. Cole’s Songwriter Polly A Is Chasing Her Own ‘Ghetto Gold Dream’

You’ve definitely heard her songs on the radio, but might not know her name.

Polly A is the singer-songwriter behind some of your fave hits like J. Cole’s “Crooked Smile” and Alicia Keys’s “Love is My Disease,” and now she has just released her own EP titled “Ghetto Gold Dream.”

She’s one of many singer-writers who have been instrumental to the successful hits of other artists mainstream artists, but are now finally getting their own well-deserved spotlight time.

We talked with Polly A about her influences, the new EP and what’s to come in the future.

Where did the name Polly A come from?

Polly A came from Polyamorous, which means to love many. I was actually developing a script when it came to me. It mainly means like a love movement. I love y’all, I love everything. Polly A.

Growing up, were you always inclined towards music?

I knew from almost the time I could sing. I have been singing since I was six, and I guess all kids are kind of artists, but it never went away from me. I was always captivated by music, I’d fill notebooks with lyrics. Every year when the Grammy’s came around, I would write down the list of nominees and circle who I thought would win. I learned that I was good after I was singled out once when I was in the 3rd grade. My teacher picked me for a solo. I didn’t believe that people thought I was special until she heard me singing on the side of the class, and I was like well no one had ever paid any attention. I just always wanted to sing.

What was the process like writing songs for huge artists like J. Cole and Alicia Keys?

With J. Cole, he was there when we wrote it. And I was in the hallway in the studio, and I kind of rushed in his session and said, “You need a singer?” And I played him the music on the side and he was like this is dope. It was in the hallway, I was like you have your girl, and he’s looking at me and I sang the melody for the hook and it was really flowing. And it was organic and I truly believe that the stars aligned. 

But the other songs, I didn’t write with Alicia and I kind of write for myself honestly. I find the universal truths in whatever I’m going through. We are all kind of going through them together and in that I find my truth. 

If you had to pick one record to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh shit, that’s a hard one. Well my favorite song in the world is “Adore” by Prince, although since he has died it has become hard to listen to.

So the video for “Ghetto Gold Dream” just dropped recently. What was the inspiration behind that? 

That was a collab with David Sebastian who directed the video. We had this like musical and visual concept we brainstormed, and I said I wanted to do the lucid dream like it was is in my Ghetto Gold Dream, and he came back to me with the concept of the motel and me following this inner child-like character and all these experiences, kind of playing into what different versions of what a ghetto gold dream is and getting money. It was shot by Byron [Atienza], and so again, the stars aligned and we all just knew it was right and the this time it kind of felt right because this video was technically the second time I made something for “Ghetto Gold Dream.”

I paid for the first one myself and that was just a motley crew of my friends running through the streets, and I kind what to release it. I kind of just wanted to make it right and I knew I had to get it to match the way I felt.

What is your “Ghetto Gold Dream”? 

My idea is kind of honestly is what my mom has done and continues to do. She embodies what that means to me. She is an immigrant from Jamaica, and as a child, I didn’t know I grew up with a nice life, and she hustled in a way that almost sheltered me from that. And it’s making the most of what you have and flipping it and living like a king or queen. Overcoming and being triumphant in your endeavor and not worrying about where you came from and you can do whatever you want if you keep at it. 

You’re performing tonight with Topaz Jones and Michael Blume tonight at the Bowery Ballroom, are you nervous at all?

I don’t get nervous at all until right before. At this point I have performed so many times, but the butterflies always show up at like 15 minutes before the show and I’m like oh my god, 15 minutes. But as soon as I sing the first note, and you remember you wrote all the songs, it all fades away. I don’t write for performance, I write for myself.

You know 2016 has been quite the year. We’ve lost so many artists and I noticed in your interview with ELLE you talked about Prince. What kind of impact did he have on you and how does that inspire you going forward into your career?

Oh my god I love him so much. He just always represented to me someone who was just always a love. He always like that and it was even when I wanted to see him live. I saw him at Madison Square Garden, and that was a spiritual experience for me. It was literally 20,000 fans, him and a guitar just singing his songs, and everyone was just singing his words of love and he just had that ability to look past his differences, and he was just a symbol of what we could all be.

Besides being a master of playing instruments and writing songs, his message was just, really full of love. And you know how I pray that one day, that is the answer. What was the answer, and he really lived that. His death really affected me. He was the last of that school of thought, which is important to convey through his medium. We lost such a treasure, it’s him that made me want to do music. I wouldn’t live the life I have if people like him didn’t exist.

Tell us about your upcoming EP? Who are some of your influences as far as sound goes?

Well I only worked with Synematik, who did the title track, and he’s an amazing producer. I worked with another friend on it, and he’s amazing. They’re both these two really close friends and we all have a not beyond music and we have a close relationship. We spent a lot of time listing to music and vibing.

I grew up with Jamaican influences and R&B in the 90s, and we wanted that in there. I worked with one of my really talented friends on it, and he’s probably one of the most talented guitarists like Jimi Hendrix. They are both just music and that’s all they do, and I got really lucky that this is all I do, and they have worked with me before. We all really loved music and this is all we had. It’s just a alternative R&B and I consider it to be almost a hybrid. We have the luxury to draw from everything. We have rock, R&B, hip hop. We have it all. 

What else can we expect from you this year, any big plans? 

We’re putting up the tour, but in the meantime, I’m doing Lollapalooza this year and I’m very excited about that, and I’m kind of just taking it day-by-day. I’m just new to the scene and God-willing, it will continue but, to be continued.

Photo: Ben Cope

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