Blak Pearl’s Southern Soul

Mica Marie Williams aka Blak Pearl has crafted a reputation as a singular performer in Central Georgia, commanding stages through hip-hop-flavored R&B and old-school style and emerging as a compelling voice for Macon’s current soul landscape. More than a vocation, Blak Pearl’s passion for music began early– even before she was born.

“[While she was pregnant], my mom would tell me that from Monday to Saturday, I’d be just unbelievable! But Sunday morning, she would go to church and I would hear the music, I guess from the womb, that’d be the best sleep she ever had,” laughs Mica during a recent mid-morning phone call. “I can honestly say since about two years old, I’ve been singin’ in assembly programs, for school, chorus, and I feel like if I’m not singin’, I’m not livin’, man!”

Counting singer/actress “Brandy” Norwood as an early inspiration, Mica’s own musical journey began at 2 years old, rising up from assembly programs and chorus at Southwest High School to the soul and blues-filled rooms in Downtown Macon.

“I loved Brandy when I was comin’ up! People would say I looked like “Moesha”– even though they were the same people! It really went from there. I’ve always been in chorus in school and once I turned 19, that’s when I really started the whole “nightlife” here in Macon.”

Blak Pearl’s first experience in front of a live band came with Mickey Glover’s New Rhythm String Band.

“I was introduced to guitar player Mickey Glover by the late Freddie Smith, the bass guitar player,” remembers Mica. “Freddie told me, ‘Hey, I’m with a band lookin’ for a singer,’ and I was about 19 then. Our first gig– we got paid about fifty bucks– was at the Midtown Key Club.”

Becoming a serious voice for Central Georgia soul was one thing, but Blak Pearl was determined to showcase her abilities in other arenas as well, leading to an unexpected but welcome invitation from one of Macon’s greatest experts on the subject.

“I wrote songs since elementary school but it’d gotten more serious once I started performin’ live and people were like, ‘Well, we see you can sing– but what does your music sound like?’ From there, I ended up recording but nothin’ really stuck until workin’ with Otis Redding III,” says Mica.

“Otis was like, ‘Hey, I gotta track I’d like for you to write to,’ and initially, I was thinkin’ I was writin’ a track for someone else. About two days later, after actually recordin’ it, it was on the radio! I was like, ‘Otis, I thought you was givin’ it to someone else?’ And he was like, ‘Well, it sounds good!’ I assume whomever he spoke with was like, ‘Oh, I think she should just take the song.’ I was trying to call the song ‘The Redding Shuffle’ but we stuck with ‘Blak Pearl Shuffle’. This was January 2020, so it’s been about three years since we actually recorded that song, and that’s when I really moved into recording Southern Soul and blues tracks.”

But like every other artist on the national and especially local scene, COVID-19 threatened Blak Pearl’s hard-earned momentum, forcing her to cancel shows and trade her artistic aspirations for something more sustainable during the pandemic.

“You know, those bills don’t stop comin’,” Mica laughs wryly. “When the pandemic hit, I had about fifteen shows in March starting with the Little Richard tribute– and everything got canceled! For two weeks, I promise I didn’t clean the house, I was cryin’, I was like, ‘I gotta get a job!’ I hadn’t worked in four years! I was a full-time musician! But once the pandemic hit, I was like, ‘I can’t go back to a fast food restaurant– I just can’t do it!’ So I was like, ‘Let’s see what we can do as far as the healthcare field.’ I ended up gettin’ certified as a CNA and two years later, I’m a CMA as well, and I said if I found some time to actually go to school physically, I would try to get my LPN.”

Photo by Dsto Moore

In October 2020, Blak Pearl released the beat-heavy full-length The Time Is Now.  Encouraged and produced by longtime friends ReUp and Pacifik (Big Motion), the album is at times anthemic while showcasing Pearl as a deft lyricist straying deep into hip hop attitude and provocative R&B.

“I’ve always loved the ’90s music! I was born in ’89 so I grew up with the ’90s R&B groups. It worked out pretty good– I been gettin’ some good feedback on that album. A lot o’ times, I don’t perform the songs from that album because when I’m doin’ the Southern Soul shows, I kinda stick to blues and old school music,” says Mica. “Lately, besides performing downtown, the shows I’m mostly on are with Pokey Bear, West Love, and some o’ the new up-and-coming Southern Soul artists. I’m actually workin’ on a Southern Soul album at the moment.

Tentatively scheduled for a summer release, that as-yet-unnamed project is being produced by Big Baby Entertainment with a teaser recently dropped for the track “Gotta Step Back”, a driving, keys-laden dance number.

“I just got the master copy– last night actually,” reveals Pearl. “Big Baby produced it for me and we built the track from scratch. I had the lyrics and we recorded at his studio, and I was like, ‘I gotta song, Big Baby– but I need to make it funky, man!’ He was like, ‘I gotcha!'”

To celebrate the 52nd anniversary of Macon institution Grant’s Lounge, Blak Pearl will be joining other members of the soul and blues community to pay tribute on the stage known around the world as the “Original Home of Southern Rock”. On Saturday, February 18th, Blak Pearl will perform with Bo Ponder, Robert Lee Coleman, and John Ford.

“Grant’s is another place where I was 19, 20 years old and performin’, gettin’ my feet wet in the downtown music scene,” says Mica. “It’s a great experience, especially to be around the people who are legends like Robert Lee Coleman and Bo Ponder, and they’ve known me since I was about 19 or 20. So to share that stage is such an honor!”

As far as the future goes, Blak Pearl is committed to building her audience one song at a time as the “Voice of Macon”.

“I’m tryin’ to find a sense of direction. A lot of people ask, ‘What genre do you sing? Are you just neo-soul? Are you Southern Soul?’ I feel like when people say, ‘Think outside the box,’ in the case of Blak Pearl, there is no box!”

Don’t miss the Grant’s Lounge 52nd Anniversary Celebration featuring Blak Pearl, Robert Lee Coleman, Bo Ponder, and John Ford on Saturday, February 18th!