Wilmington’s Stacia LaChole is the living embodiment of soul music.
That’s a pretty bold statement, sure, but just a quick look at the facts will tell you no different.
Soul music itself springs from post-war rhythm and blues that were chewed up and spat back out by urban-based musicians and singers of the times. But its other half comes from a more ecclesiastic source.
Gospel music was a splinter of the 19th Century spirituals that married faith with narratives of slavery hardships. Currently, gospel’s many forms vary according to culture and social context, but either way, the word of God was a serious issue, and to those in the pews, those words meant something.
It took some time, but when the gospel and R&B finally got together, a new genre—soul—had emerged and it remained a fertile ground for African Americans throughout the decades that followed, giving rise to a slew of disparate yet rhythmically enmeshed styles of purely American music.
For LaChole, her roots were in the gospel side, musically speaking. From the age of five, Stacia was a weekly presence in the choir of Harrison Memorial, what she calls a “very typical Baptist church” on South Heald Street in her home town’s Southbridge neighborhood. She honed her chops alongside others of various ages and multiple levels of proficiency at the behest of her great-grandmother, who is undoubtedly her biggest influence.
“She would put me in the youth groups to stay busy, stay busy, stay busy. By the age of ten, I was directing my own choir, and these were women in their 50s & 60’s,” LaChole proudly beams.
Her work with the choir was so well received her church paid for her to attend training sessions, nationally recognized conventions and gospel workshops.
Soon after, at John Dickinson High School, LaChole would meet choir and band director Sheila Cassidy. Via the school’s performing arts program, she would inspire LaChole through the intermediate stages of her career, providing direction and discipline.
“I called her ‘Mama Cass’. That’s what really fueled a lot of my music.”
After graduating, Stacia began performing around the region. By this point in her life, Stacia had found her voice: an upbeat and positive blend of R&B, pop, funk and jazz, underlined by the passionate gospel/soul training she underwent in her youth. And the sky would be limit for the singer. But life has its own way of placing you where it wants you, and in 2008 just as she was ready to springboard her career forward, LaChole was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
With no known cure, the deterioration of her nervous system, while lessened through therapy and regimen, has continued despite all visible signs pointing to the singer as being in the prime of her life. Nevertheless, she’s taken on the responsibility of managing the disease with her career, forcing her to take a rest when others would push harder and sacrifice their bodies, confident that their immune system can help them recover.
So far, she’s been happy with her ability cope with her illness and continue singing. The physical stress certainly takes its toll, but there is no stopping Stacia LaChole. “You have to know your limits,” she insists. But plenty of rest prior and a limit to heat exposure followed by immediate air conditioning will help her through the physical stress.
Since then, her and her group, The BlacSoul Band, have graced the stages of World Cafe Live in Philly and in Wilmington and have played The Ladybug Festival in the past. Their organic approach to the genre has opened for similar acts such as Philly soul legends The Ebonys, Christopher Williams and Raheem Devaughn, as well as singing backup for notable singer /songwriter Mel'isa Morgan.
It’s certainly been a hard road, but with her partner, husband and ex-Wilmington police officer Jesse by her side, moving her singing career forward and managing her health have been just another segment of growth in the life of “The Soulful Butterfly”.
“People understand what a butterfly has to go through,” she says. “Some don’t make it through the chrysalis stage.”
Lachole takes even further, adding that her connections with fans are the spiritual kind that women especially excel at.
“Men singers wanna hype you up,” Stacia says. “Women wanna get your soul. If I can get that part of you, I got you. It fuels me. It’s like you’re eating out of my hand.”
Whether or not you’re one of the lucky ones to find that connection, certainly every ounce of her struggle and subsequent metamorphosis of perseverance—inspired and infused by her culture, roots and environment—symbolize all that is inherent in soul music.
Editor's Note: Don't miss Stacia Lachole performing Friday, July 20th at The Ladybug Music Festival #inWilm!