At 34 years old, Jada Pinkett Smith has seen her share of success. She's starred on both the small and the big screen (most notably the Matrix series), is happily married to someone equally successful (musician/actor Will Smith) and is the mother of three (two of her own and step-mother to one child she lovingly refers to as her "bonus son"). What more could there really be? Apparently, Pinkett Smith asked herself that same question and came up with an answer that must have been something like: "I'd like to front a metal band." Enter Wicked Wisdom.
Wicked Wisdom is Jada Koren (a.k.a. Jada Pinkett Smith) on lead vocals, Pocket Honore on lead guitar, Phillip "Fish" Fisher on drums, Rio Lawrence on bass and Cameron Graves on guitar and keys. I got the opportunity to speak with both Pinkett Smith and Graves about their freshman self-titled release and their current tour.
Through her PR company, Pinkett Smith called me from Cleveland. I really wanted to be cool, but have to admit I was starstruck. After a stammering introduction and a, "May I please call you Jada?" (sheesh), I asked her how the tour was going. Now, I have a gravelly voice, but Pinkett Smith sounded a little like Richard Nixon. She said the tour was going very well and Wicked Wisdom was getting great response from every audience. As to my Richard Nixon comment (yes, embarrassingly enough, I actually told her she sounded like Tricky Dick), she said she was giving her voice a much-needed rest. The music Wicked Wisdom produces is heavy and Pinkett Smith's fist-pumping vocals can be as hard and raw as the guitar riffs. She'll need the downtime while she can get it as Wicked Wisdom has a flurry of tour dates with Sevendust (and Nonpoint, Socialburn and One) ahead of them. As for the audience response, she said the interaction with people has been amazing--something she just doesn't get on TVs or movies. And the relationship with her band has also been something special. That's great, but how does the rest of the band deal with having a famous movie star as their lead singer? According to guitarist Cameron Graves, just fine.
Graves, 24, studied briefly at UCLA. He said he took myriad classes like psychology and astronomy. "I just wasn't feelin' it, though. All I wanted to do was play music." Graves had known Pocket Honore for a few years and said he, his brother and his father (musical artists in their own rights) all agreed that working with Honore would be amazing. "One day, a homegirl gave me his [Honore's] number and I just called him," Graves said, with wonder in his voice. If the chance to work with Honore is such a, well, honor, I wondered what it was like to work with someone as famous as Pinkett Smith.
"It's really nothing, to tell you straight. The reason me, Pocket and Jada get along so well is we don't treat Jada [differently]. We aren't starstruck. She's just [our] homegirl. We're all from the 'hood. In terms of everyday life, [we're all] just tryin' to buy gas, tryin' to make sure we got money for food, tryin' to chill out 'cause it's too stressful--just regular everyday things. Jada's the same regular person, so, it's really nothin'. We get up there, all five of us, just tryin' to kick ass."
Kickin' ass is just what they're doing. Pinkett Smith spent six weeks touring with Ozzfest, so she's no stranger to life on the road. However, she didn't want to become a stranger to her family so they come along. Family includes her spouse and kids, a goddaughter, nephews, friends and even, sometimes, her mother: "We have the band and crew bus, and then we have the Smith family bus. We couldn't all fit on one bus if we tried!" Smith said laughing. Her mother? Certainly Pinkett Smith's family is proud of her successes up to this point, but how does her mother feel about her music? The lyrics of some of Wicked Wisdom's songs are not exactly Hallmark card material, such as the hook in "Something Inside Of Me": "Something inside of me is poised/Something inside of me could throw/A 10,000-pound fist/Something inside of me is so incensed/Something inside of me could break/That muthafucka's neck." According to Pinkett Smith, her mother not only loves the CD, but it's her mother who helped give her the freedom to do the kind of music she does.
"My mother was one of the first people to introduce me to rock and roll," Pinkett Smith said. "She's a big Who fan. My uncle got me into heavy music: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Ozzy Osbourne, Santana. I come from a very musically eclectic background."
From her background right into the foreground, Pinkett Smith credits Honore with much of the band's vision and direction. With only a few tour dates behind them and a CD release before them (Wicked Widsom hits shelves on February 21), there's no telling what direction the band will go. Whether Pinkett Smith's fame will be a burden or a blessing also remains to be seen, but based on the music and the way the members of Wicked Wisdom seem to feel about it and each other, it's a pretty safe bet that this project is just another in a long list of successes. :
Catch Sevendust with Nonpoint, Socialburn, One and Wicked Wisdom at Big Easy (www.bigeasyconcerts.com) on Wednesday, February 16. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., show starts at 6:30 p.m., $20 in advance through Ticketweb (www.ticketweb.com) or $23 at the door.