Out Houston musician Kam Franklin is beloved for her soulful mezzo-soprano vocals, which she lends to multiple genres, as well as her colorful fashion style. She’s been wowing a legion of local and international fans with both her music and her work as an activist and visual artist. And her new EP Bayou City Comeback Chorus, which dropped on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is now available on all streaming platforms.
“It’s a reflection of what is possible when faced with the impossible,” Franklin, 34, says.
This is something the artist knows about. Franklin, who identifies as pansexual, used to work as an oil, gas, and power trade-support analyst at the Houston office of an Australian financial-services company. She was fronting her band The Suffers in 2014 when David Letterman’s show came calling, and she suddenly found herself working full-time on her music. She’s performed on five continents, sung with the Houston Symphony and before an Astros game, and produced events promoting up-and-coming independent, minority, and female artists.
Last year, she started a solo career with an album featuring the song “Don’t Get Sick,” about the state of health care in America. Her new album is focused on social-justice issues and features several local LGBTQ artists, including Sugar Joiko, a contemporary pop/urban singer, gamer, and Japanese culture addict who loves Franklin.
“This was my first project producing key and synth parts on a modern soul project featuring multiple artists,” Joiko says. “It was an incredible and fun experience. Bayou City Comeback Chorus is an album written for our city’s dreamers, underrepresented communities, and anyone that persevered through this tragic pandemic. This is an album for Houston.”
“Aside from the world being affected so heavily by COVID, police brutality was massively highlighted around this time,” says featured Latino trans rapper Uncle Tino. “Kam really wanted to create something positive and progressive amidst global collective trauma. As we posed at the photo shoot, she specifically mentioned that we should keep ‘healing’ in mind—and that ‘sometimes healing doesn’t always look pretty.’ It was so random, but honestly such an honor. I was just chillin’ and checking emails when I came across one from Kam asking if I’d be down to be a part of a choir. I dabble in most art forms but very rarely do I get asked to sing, so I was like, ‘Well that’s sick.’ She [asked] if I wanted to play talk-box on it as well, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is about to be crazy.’ We didn’t have a whole lot of information on the project as far as release dates or progress—just the reference mp3’s, a few instructions, and the concept.”
Also featured on the album are Dende, Lilly Aviana, Z’maji, Nick Connors, and Ryan Ramirez. The project was funded in part by the Houston Arts Alliance.
“I had the absolute honor of producing these songs for some of my favorite up-and-coming singers around the Houston area,” says Franklin. “All of them are incredible solo performers in their own right, and I am grateful to them for allowing me to share their voices in a whole new way.
“The initial idea for ‘Be The Light’ was written after the death of Atatiana Jefferson, who was shot to death by a police officer in her home in 2019. Her death haunted me for months, and writing this song served as therapy. I wanted people to know what it felt like to be a Black person who was terrified to sleep at night because of what the police might do. And while it would have been easy for me to focus the entire project on trauma, I refused to do that. I instead chose to focus the EP’s remaining three songs (‘Stronger Together,’ ‘Bring It On,’ and ‘We Can All Be Free’) around healing, possible solutions to fixing the problems we collectively endure as a society, and pathways to personal freedom and unity. We as a people deserve healing, and it starts by claiming it.”
Franklin admits that the past two years have been like a roller coaster for her, with extreme highs and lows. “But I’ve been able to create more art than ever,” she says. “This has been a long project, but I’m so glad it’s about to be out to the world now.”
Listen to Kam Franklin’s Bayou City Comeback Chorus at orcd.co/bccc.