Ladysoal Sings the Blues
The bisexual songstress puts the Ames, Iowa queer community on the map with the video for "That Girl"
Photo: Eddie Clearwater
With songs that capture Tracy Chapman’s gritty brand of folk and the guitar-driven crooning of India Arie, the band Ladysoal has no trouble living up to its name. The genre-defying, gender-bending brainchild of front-woman Sharika Soal borrows heavily from the soulful ladies that came before her, then adds a generous dose of bluesy rock 'n’ roll.
The group, which Soal founded three years ago, is based in Ames, Iowa, a small college town located directly in the middle of the state. Soal identifies as a lesbian-leaning bisexual and, though the three friends that make up her backing band are straight, she says she considers Ladysoal to be a queer project.
Central Iowa may seem like an unlikely birthplace for an outspoken LGBT band, but being queer in Ames has proven to be a great source of material. A homophobic incident at a local bar inspired Ladysoal’s latest video for the saucy pro-woman anthem “That Girl,” proving that even the harshest of situations can produce positive outcomes.
“I’m from a really small town and there were some situations that happened within the LGBT community that just didn’t sit well with me,” Soal says. “So I was just as determined as ever to turn this music video into a message and just kind of let the world know that we are here. We’re not going anywhere.”
The “That Girl” video delivers that message loud and clear: it’s a glitter-drenched, raucous celebration of Ames’ small but devoted queer community. In it, Ames locals perform burlesque, swap genders—and swap spit—as Ladysoal wails onstage.
“That Girl” is a playful homage to the many women Soal has lusted after and, like every Ladysoal song, is highly personal. No topic is off limits: The singer has written about everything from her painful experience with child molestation to abusive relationships. She says she tackles heavy issues like these with the hope that her listeners will find solace in her work.
“I always want to make music that people can feel,” Soal says. “Music comforts me, so I want to emulate that.”
With the release of the EP I Am Here in 2011 and a new album in the works, Ladysoal is inching closer to bringing Soal’s message to the masses. If the 1,000 likes on the group’s Facebook page are any indication, the as-of-yet unsigned band has a slowly-but-steadily growing fan base that is beginning to extend beyond Ames’ borders. As her group gains popularity, Soal has no intention of watering down her lyrics. On the contrary, she wants to use her songs as a platform for advancing her political agenda.
“I think that everybody says, ‘Oh, look how far we’ve come in the world’ in the issues that we have as people of color and LGBT. But really, if we look at that, we haven’t come far enough,” she says. “I think it’s extremely important for anybody that’s out there that has a talent or has something to say, to say it, whether they be a person of color or a person of the LGBT community.”
When she’s not focusing on her music, the presently single songstress is busy taking care of the special man in her life: her young son, Jacob. She says she wants to raise Jacob to be open-minded and supportive of LGBT rights, particularly because she sees homophobic aggression as a primarily male phenomenon.
“I plan on just being honest with him,” she says. “For one, about my sexuality. For one, to let him know that there’s nothing to be afraid of—gay people are fabulous!”(Ladysoal on Facebook)
Check out the video for “That Girl”