Other than The Judds and the Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle, the mother-daughter dynamic is a furrow that’s rarely been ploughed in country music. But Nashville-based mother-daughter pairing O.N.E The Duo are looking to change all that, as Prana Supreme Diggs and her mother Tekitha set about picking the country music world up by its heels, turning it upside down and shaking it loose.
The duo's sound draws as much from Chris Stapleton, Fleetwood Mac, 80s country and Motown as it does their from own deep musical heritage. Prana’s father is RZA - founder, producer, and de-facto leader of Wu-Tang Clan - while Tekitha is known for her work as the female vocalist of Wu-Tang Clan, performing on Wu-Tang Forever, Raekwon’s The Lex Diamond Story, and breaking out her rap skills for RZA’s ‘Mantis’ and Cappadonna’s ‘Pump Your Fist’, as well as releasing her own solo album.
With this unique musical fusion, they’re injecting a fresh burst of energy into a country pop sound that all too often plays it safe.
“I have been creating music for the better part of 25 years and I can say without a shadow of a doubt this is the most fun I have had as a creative and a professional”, Tekitha declares proudly, telling us what it is about making music with her daughter that’s so special.
“Working with my daughter has allowed me to see her, and myself, in a new light. She is full of positivity and has an exceptional work ethic, which feeds into our working and creative relationship. So even if there are challenges in one way or another the experience is filled with joy”.
Prana is equally gushing about their working relationship: “Mom and I have a little catchphrase whenever we’ve been laughing really hard or just had a really cool experience and we go ‘we have such fun’, and I think that perfectly sums up what it's like for us to work together. Whatever we’re doing together we’re having fun, because why shouldn’t we be having a good time, even amongst the challenges?”
It’s a shared joy that comes through in their music, whether it’s the delta disco bounce of ‘Guilty’, the bluesy swagger of ‘River Of Sins’ or their TLC-meets-Little-Big-Town take on Bill Wither’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, the duo always bring something unexpected and unfamiliar to their peculiar brand of countrified pop.
“Growing up, my mom used to host these big jam session parties at our house,” Prana says. “It was probably one of the highlights of my childhood, getting to hang out with all these singers, musicians, rappers and poets. Usually, at these jams, Mom and I would freestyle a song together — and it was the morning after one of these jam parties that the idea of us singing and writing our own songs together came to my mind.”
The duo were inspired to create their own distinct musical style, away from the hip-hop and R&B of Tekitha’s own music, and began searching for a place to call their musical home. Attracted to the creative energy and storytellers of Nashville, they travelled out and spent time immersed in the culture and sounds of Music City in the summer of 2015. Now, they’ve made the city their home, signing with Visionary Media Group and evolving their sound with some of Nashville’s finest writers and producers, including legendary Judds producer Brent Maher.
Holler spoke to O.N.E The Duo about their musical inspirations, their journey into country music and where they hope it takes them next.
Where are you from and what did you both grow up listening to?
Prana: Ok, the easiest way to answer a “where are you from” question for me is to just say California. We can get off topic fast by trying to pin down exactly where I’m from. Growing up I was exposed to a lot of hip hop, jazz, R&B, neo-soul, rock and world music. And if you ask my Spotify those are still some of my most listened to genres. A huge music constant throughout my life has been Earth, Wind & Fire. They've been my favourite band since I was five.
Tekitha: I’m a Northern California girl through and through. Sacramento to be exact. Throughout my childhood I grew up listening to every genre of music. Blues, classical, rock and pop. But my most vivid memories are riding in the car with my father listening to the music of Earth Wind & Fire, S.O.S Band, Taste of Honey and Stevie Wonder to name a few.
Where does country music come into your story?
Prana: I think in terms of listening to country music, it entered the picture for me in 2005 when ‘Before He Cheats’ came out. Obviously at five years old I had no clue what Carrie Underwood was talking about, but I did know I liked the way it sounded. Right now, country is coming into my life in a substantial way. Aside from Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton I wasn’t listening to country music in a massive way. Having this time now to delve into the genre even more and discover artists of the past and present it continues to add to my story.
Tekitha: I would say country music came into my story when I was around eight years old, after hearing Dolly Parton’s ‘Islands in the Stream’ and ‘Jolene’. From that point I always had love and appreciation for the sound and the feeling this music gave me. It must also be said that my father was a huge country and western TV and film enthusiast. I recall watching these films and TV shows and being captivated by the background music, soundtrack or score that could be heard. I quickly fell in love with the banjo, the steel guitar and the fiddle. I was exposed to the likes of Johnny Cash and James Taylor because of this pastime my father and I would share.
How did you choose the name O.N.E The Duo?
Both: The "O.N.E” in our duo name stands for Observant, Noetic, Effervescent. We wanted a name that would be synonymous with a combination of our individual and collective personalities and the spirit with which we approach the life we are living. We consider ourselves observant and thoughtful about the world around us (Observant). We believe the use of proper mental activity and intellect is a necessary foundation for good decision-making and keeps us aligned with our purpose (Noetic). Finally, what is life without something light, full of air, lifted and free (Effervescent).
Were you both consciously trying to create music that’s very different from Tekitha’s work with the Wu-Tang Clan and hip hop and R&B, and the music Prana grew up surrounded by?
Prana: I’m a team player and I really just love Mom’s artistic vision for things, so I just wanted to create music that was fun whatever that meant and however that would come to be. I will say I do not have any rapping skills so I guess hip hop would be off the table.
Tekitha: It was pretty important to me that we allow our music to be set apart from the art I create independently. I felt it necessary for O.N.E The Duo to have its own identity, so as to allow its creation to be free from boxes and confinement. I believed it would give Prana Supreme and I the space to allow something new and fresh to appear and allow the listener an opportunity to get to know us outside of our relationship to Wu-Tang Clan.
How has writing and recording country music been different to what you’d known before?
Prana: This is my first professional experience with music so everything I have to go off of is what I grew up seeing. To me, making music, especially writing, is a solo experience where you might bounce some ideas off of someone else, but at the end of the day you’re coming up with all the words. The co-writing experience has been a completely new one for both of us I would say. I really do enjoy it though cause I feel like I get so much more out of a song by having other people to collaborate with. The major difference for me though is the hours. I still can’t believe people are getting up at 10am to write a song!
Tekitha: As a solo artist I have always written in a bubble. I never have a set time or day where I am going to write. It just happens organically. Working in Nashville and getting into the world of co-writing has been so rewarding because it forces me out of my bubble which I love. The recording experience has been phenomenal. Vocally Prana Supreme and I are dialed in. We know exactly what we want. Coupled with production from Brent Maher (The Judds), Dann Huff (Faith Hill) and a host of masterful musicians the likes of Ilya Toshinskiy and Jenee Fleenor there is pure magic and fun created in that room. We are all there with the common goal of making a great record.
What surprised you about the world of country music?
Prana: That they write songs at 10am.
Tekitha: I was surprised by the overwhelming support the artists, writers, musicians, producers and engineers have for one another. It feels like one big family.
What’s your favourite song you’ve written?
Prana - As O.N.E The Duo it's a toss up between ‘Hearts Like Mine’ and ‘Feels Good’. I write songs by myself all the time that I’m also really proud of and maybe someday will be heard outside of my friends and family.
Tekitha - Yikes, that's a tough one. I would say it's between our first single we released ‘Guilty’, ‘Hearts Like Mine’, ‘Stuck in the Middle’ and ‘Feels Good’. All songs that will be heard on our debut album!
What would be your dream collaboration?
Both: Easy. Chris Stapleton.
What’s next for you?
Both: Up next we will put the finishing touches on the album, get the next couple singles out the door and hop on the road to share our music live and in person.
'Guilty' and 'River Of Sins' are out now through Visionary Entertainment and Media