Erykah Badu’s Festival Memories: Family, Friends, Collaborations
The R&B star writes about her favorite festival memories -- and how they spawned partnerships with bands like TV on the Radio.
[Editor’s note: For our May issue’s summer festival section, SPIN spoke with a number of artists on the festival circuit, from Gaslight Anthem and Metric to Doves and Jane’s Addiction. Among them is neo-soul songstress Erykah Badu. Here, she tells us about her favorite moments backstage and waxes on music’s power to bring people together. To read about other artists’ experiences, click here.]
Meeting other artists at festivals can stem into working together. I met TV on the Radio at Austin City Limits last year — theirs was the only set I got to see. I hung out on the side of the stage, and afterward we exchanged info. I did more research on their work, and they on mine, and we decided to work together. Same with the Mars Volta — I met them at a festival, and they ended up playing on my album New Amerykah Part One. It’s like gravity — like minds are drawn together.
I have a son who’s 11, a daughter who’s four, and a new daughter, Mars, who’s a month old, and what’s beautiful about festivals is that they’re more family oriented. There are babies, not necessarily backstage, but out in the field and wrapped onto mamas’ backs and bellies. For Sasquatch, I’ll keep the kids at a hotel. I want to party at a festival like that, be a little more free, have my time to run. One festival that stands out in my mind is Woodstock in 1999. André  stayed home with our son, Seven, so it was like my first time really venturing out on my own. I don’t know if it was the sun or the diversity or all the people — I played with the Roots — or just the change of getting off the stage and not having to be a mommy. It was funny that they burned Woodstock down — that was kind of terrible. But I was gone by then.
I don’t even know who I’ll be this summer. When the hair changes, you kind of change with it. I might be Head-Wrapped Erykah Badu by then.
Whenever big concerts would come through Dallas, I would go. Mostly rap and hip-hop ones, like Run-DMC and Beastie Boys or Al B. Sure! and New Edition — the bigger acts in the ’80s. My sister and I were front row every time. My mom would drop us off and tell us, ‘You need to find a ride back,’ and we always did. Money is short now, but I still think music is the refuge, you know? More than CDs, people like the vibration of live music. We want to rock with each other, breathe with each other. That’s what we need right now.