In the ever Beyonce – Rihanna saturated female R&B market that we currently live in, the blinds are often closed on some of those outside talents that bring just as much sunshine and radiance expected in an artist who can carry a note. Melodies and harmonies, riffs and falsetto, one’s destined ability to do so naturally from birth becomes overlooked for the mainstream treatment of those of which whom have been there, been doing it; forgetting that the mark of such caliber doesn’t end with those names alone.
R&B songstress & songwriter Finnli prepares for a show at legendary BB Kings alongside American R&B/Soul singer Lyfe Jennings while on his stop in NYC. Providing further eloquence to his set, Finnli having a true gift from God, an aptitude directly given, a birth-right, an ability to raise the hairs on your arm with every elevation of her voice; the knack to arouse a spirit in you through each lyric of a tune, she humbly takes on questions while undergoing soundcheck. The southern girl from Georgia is only able to cover her southern cadence with her music, as she is as sincere as they come. Her tone transcending far beyond the place of which she gained her stripes, aiming to touch the masses.
“I gained my stripes from growing up singing in church, my dad played keys so there was always music around the house.”
Like many great singers of our time, the outset of church bestowing the first stage would pave her way, leading to audition after audition. “I got on with Lyfe Jennings some years back, and then you know just doing me at the same time… over the years you gon’ gain em’ just from no’s, some yes’s, some smackdowns, some you have to get yourself back up.”
Born Netta Finley, with the advice of a friend who later became her manager, her government name would become her handle – Finnli. “He was like ‘Netta just don’t sound right, so he was like what’s your last name again?’ and I was like “Finley”, everybody in the room was like ‘Yo, that’s dope.’ Then they were like “how are we gonna spell it?” Literally it came up in like 5 minutes, like boom, Finnli was born, it was done , it was a wrap.”
Growing up on classic singers like Anita Baker, whom her father use to ask her to sing alongside he and his band, and Toni Braxton; their soulful style mixed with R&B gave her great pleasure in the genre. Then folks like Brandy and Mary J. Blige, she credits to shaping her; while at the same time, trying to do her own thing when the music comes on.
Finnli’s love for music always being there, she knew it was what she was born to do. But with being very shy, and given her voice and her family always pushing for her to sing, Finnli suppressed the undying urge up until about middle school before she would really let it seep in that she did in fact hold this great quality that although money could buy many things, this was something it could not; and for that, she was obedient. An inner love so strong, a force that of which with all its might wouldn’t allow her to put down.
“You think what success is, and that varies for different people. You know you have moments of success and moments when you feel like you’re riding high and then there are these slow moments where you’re not doing anything and nobody’s calling you for a gig or “man I didn’t put out a record,” so it can weigh on you. It beats you down because you don’t think you are where you need to be or deserve to be.” Finding strength to keep going, the trials that come with moving forward never stop, the disappointments, the setbacks are even greater as you gain on your victory. But those that quit too early, never reach the finish line.
The peace that comes in being still and knowing exactly what the motive is makes continuing on the path that much more doable. And with being still, comes that inner word of self encouragement meant to strengthen one’s hope in moving forward, Finnli finds perseverance. Followed by the notion that someone is listening, someone is being affected by her efforts is an even more greater feeling. “Sometimes there is a sign that comes my way like “I’m doing the right thing”, like sometimes there’s a message on Instagram all of a sudden after like 6 months, like ‘somebody saw that video?’ And then I go ‘ohh I am right, I’m doing this for that reason.'”
The development of writing her own music didn’t come right away like her awareness of her voice at a very young age, where her parents knew of her tone before she even did.
“I remember from a young age that my voice wasn’t something that I was trained to do, it was really God given.”
Her writing came slowly, jotting down things here and there throughout middle school and high school, that would soon turn into songs. Her first song coming together during college, Finnli realized herself slowly gaining in on another knack, however still honing in on her ability to do so even today. “I really have to get out of my head sometimes to really get what I want to say across, I can be really critical of myself, trying to find the right words, trying to make sure what I’m saying is going to be relayed correctly. But yeah, writing still doesn’t come easy but I have my process.”
“When you go through something and have something deeper to say, that’s a great teacher.”
An undeniable talent, her life experiences of sorts, whether directly or from friends, family, whatsoever, has given her material more meaning. And the addition of being able to gel with the right producer (musical director for Justin Bieber, B Harv), the right team makes the process all the more effective. “The past four records I was working with the producer and we just gelled, I could come in with like two lines, literally. And not necessarily have formulated a complete idea but the emotion of what I wanted to portray was there and he could get on the keys and boom a song was done. Or, vice versa.” That chemistry we learn in school is always necessary in order to breed something full proof. A marriage, even if speaking of something like music, has to be right, not just convenient.
Creative by nature, the art of singing and doing things with her hands is the most enjoyable. But as it currently stands, even with all her skills and capabilities of going the distance, the bills still have to get paid. While touring with Lyfe Jennings city to city, Finnli uses the analytical side of her brain as a means for work. Having gone to school for civil engineering, and it sharing nothing with her creative side whatsoever, the two sometimes get in the way of eachother. But like any great mind would say, where there is a will there is a way. And if having to choose, it would be one or the other.
“I like to create with my hands, I love to create art, I love to sing. So, sometimes doing math and it being what it is, the answer is what it is, however you get to it. There’s no leeway to be pretty with it, so I battle with that, but I’m not mad at it. So, I guess if I had to choose that would probably be it.”
However, the ultimate goal being to inspire, to uplift. It can become quite difficult to do so with just basic 1-2-3s. “My lyrics, they may not be fun, they may not be pretty, but they’re meaningful and heartfelt. It’s therapy for me to write, to sing, and I’ve gotten so many people that are like “yo, you touched me, you did this,” and that’s the goal. If I’m not doing it to do that, then it’s a waste of my time.”
With the conversation of so many negative images of women being plastered out there, the black community in general, or rather for anybody/any race being pushed into our brains, we often forget the importance to maintain dignity, even with trying to obtain a goal of a certain notoriety. Going against the glorification of stupidity, or indulging in acts that aren’t befitting, Finnli realizes the hindrances that may come, but she is who she is. “In this business, there’s a lot of things that go on, women are to be portrayed in a certain way. I’ve turned things down because I don’t want to be portrayed in that way, not to say that it’s wrong for anybody else but ultimately there are other young ladies looking at me and I don’t want to have them go down a path that is not something I would’ve done or deemed necessary to do,” she explained.
“I don’t want to glorify nonsense, so you know if it takes me longer to get there it’s okay. But I want to do it so that I’m proud and to be proud when I look back at it and not embarrassed, and can stand on what I did.”
And with that mindset, the naysayers are even more in your peripheral. To look pass them is a skill of its own. It’s extremely important to not be shaken up because with those seeds being already planted, getting knocked you off your course, if you let it, is without question. One persons negative remarks or backhanded comments will have you forgetting your dreams. Beating ourselves down already, being pushed off the edge comes at a greater chance of happening than not. “I constantly have to talk to myself like ‘you got this.’ As many people like the record, there’s going to be a few that don’t and you just gotta look beyond those few because my purpose is to touch the folks that relate to it, the folks that need it.”
“You kind of have to put on blinders and get a little thick skin because there’s going to be someone that’s not going to like you. It is what it is.”
2017 being a tough year so far, ups and downs have taken form in her life. With the loss of her sister back in March, the outcome of therapeutic music becomes more and more a staple in her sound as Finnli also dropped a great record that same month titled, “IF”. Listening with a keen ear, the depth of her experiences are vivid and almost visual as if a fly on her wall. But what it is, you can easily call it- self reflection in the song. Also working on some new tunes, another couple of songs that are coming geared towards women (although all can and will relate), putting oneself first and knowing one’s worth, learning to not accept mediocrity; the lessons to be taught and heard are vital. As they should be with music in the first place.
“I know that I still have something for people to see, I still have something for people to hear, to listen to, so we’re gearing back up. I’m about to get back in the studio, some more singles coming out, gotta finish this EP, videos, all of that stuff is coming so I’m here, I’m in it for the long haul so, I’m just getting started.”
Don’t get got by the okie doke folks, the discovery of good music isn’t as easy as turning on the radio, sometimes it’s a matter of looking out ones back door. What we can expect from Finnli is not to be determined by our own understanding. But what we should expect is delicacy and serenity, a message to take and walk away with; something more valuable that just mere entertainment. Classic R&B though, we are to be both lifted in enjoyment and intrigued.