‘Oakland Bay Darling’ Lena Byrd Miles is Rooted in Gospel; June is Black Music Month

Lena Byrd Miles is one of the most sought-after vocalists in contemporary gospel whose signature-controlled acrobatics command attention. Her voice is powerful yet calming, and smooth like butter guaranteed to give you chill bumps.

Miles, who most know from her debut single “This Is the Day,” has released her second single and video “Watch Me,” on My Block Inc.

“Watch Me” is an effortless yet powerful song that encapsulates conviction, hope, and faith co-written by Miles and multi-award-winning producer Warryn Campbell, produced by Campbell, and co-produced by Michael Bereal.

June is Black Music Month or African American Music Appreciation Month. Sidney Madden, music journalist and co-host of NPR’s podcast ‘Louder Than a Riot,’ said, “Every genre that is born from America has Black roots.” (NBCnews.com)

To understand Miles, you must understand the roots of gospel music and how it shaped and formed her.

Let’s take a condensed walk down gospel music memory lane, shall we?

Gospel music has been a source of inspiration and solace for millions of listeners.

We can trace it to the early 17th century where most of the singing was a cappella. It had a direct influence on Soul, Blues, and Rock-and-roll in America.

In the late 1930s Thomas Dorsey, blues and jazz composer and son of a preacher, known as the ‘Father of Gospel Music,’ changed the traditional structure of gospel music. After suffering an unknown illness, he stopped playing music for two years before he had a revelation. This revelation would start a career in the gospel music industry. His music would become standards performed by a mixture of artists including Aretha Franklin, B. B. King, Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, and more.

In the late-fifties, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles blended Gospel and Jazz music into a sound that was an introduction to the Soul Music of the 60s.

In the 1960s gospel music became mainstream when Aretha Franklin brought the style of her music, and the rest as they say is history.

Since then, gospel music has grown into several subgenres and continues to introduce the world to incredible emerging artists and creative styles.

Enter, Lena Byrd Miles. Born in San Leandro, Ca. and raised in Oakland, she is the soulful and extraordinary vocal prowess who, like Cooke, Charles, and Dorsey, blend gospel and jazz. She illustrates the blend in her new single “Watch Me”. A powerful lyrical message that floats over changes of traditional gospel and jazz vibes sprinkled with a hint of R&B.

Singing since she was 4 years old and deep-rooted in the church, it doesn’t come as a surprise that her singing career launched at her grandfather’s church. Nor is it a surprise that her parents were instrumental parts of the church as well. “Both my parents still serve at the church I grew