After finding success playing a major role the Broadway National tour of Aida from 2000 to 2004, Eustache later left the entertainment industry for the first time in her entire life.
Today, she is back on the stage, however this time she is recording her own music and recently released her debut EP with hip-hop artist Traum Diggs.
I met up with Eustache last week at Atlantic Terminal, located at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, just a few subway stops away from her Flatbush apartment in Downtown Brooklyn, to discuss just what brought her back to the music scene and her message of positivity.
What kind of music culture was there back in Oklahoma?
There really wasn’t a music culture, so I did a lot of music theater because that was the outlet. It was more of the classical arts. Oklahoma City University was producing talent like Kristen Chenoweth and Kelli O’Hara, which we all know, who have gone on to huge Broadway success. I went into that theater company that pushed out all those stars.
The music scene was opera, classical arts and ballet. I would sing for the ballet and I would sing for the philharmonic and I would sing in musicals over the summer. So, the artist in me was more of a muse and I actually came to NYC to do musical theater. I ended that journey in 2006 when Aida ended. There really wasn’t anything that was inspiring.
What was the reality of your Broadway aspirations when you got here?
It was amazing. It’s a very big reality that could still happen in my life, it just wasn’t my reality. I am a performer, but I am also a human being and an intellect. I am a renaissance person and I have an off switch, and I like to chill and talk about other things other than Andrew Lloyd Webber. I found that being in that world was a bit overwhelming for me at times with all of those huge personalities on stage.
I also have a message. I wanted to be Aisha and I was tired of playing a role. When Aida ended and there was nothing that moved me to the point that I felt I could give an authentic performance, eight shows a week for a 12 to 24-month contract, I left. I went into corporate America because my degrees are in political science and public relations. So, I worked corporately from 2006 to 2010 and I was just miserable.
How did you get involved in Aida?
I came here, I picked up a copy of the Backstage and went to open call auditions and auditioned for the part of Nehebka, so I was Aida’s maiden and got to sing some amazing duets with Montego Golver who went on to do Memphis on Broadway and win a Tony. It was a really lovely moment in my life.
When did you first get into singing?
From my granddad. He was a preacher – it was the Bible belt, and I am a country girl and I am a very spiritually minded person – and I grew up in the church and they sang, baby. I’ve just always sang as long as I can remember. My mom got me a Fisher Price tape recorder and I used to just make crap up. What kid didn’t walk around making up songs all day?
I have always been a little bit narcissistic and I’ve always loved the sound of my own voice, and so I would record myself and listen to myself sing. I started singing in the youth choir in my grandfather’s church, and I saw a commercial at like six years old about a pageant in Oklahoma City. I was like, “I want to do that pageant.” My mom was a single mother at the time and so she was not taking me seriously at all. She registered me and I ended up winning Miss Petit Oklahoma. And so, in order to go onto the national competition I had to have my interview portion down and have the talent portion, and that’s when I started training with a professional.
From that I won the national talent competition, and was first runner up to Miss Petit America. Tiffani Amber Thiessen was Miss Junior America that year, and so I got a talent agent. I toured the country as their national talent winner. I went on to audition for the Cosby Show for Rudy Huxtable and had a lot of great things come out of that experience.
Was there pressure in that lifestyle?
I didn’t feel pressure as a kid. It was fun for me. When I started feeling the pressure was when I was in high school because I had been professional my entire school life and when you’re missing three months of school because you’re in L.A. for pilot season and you have all this attention on you and you start going into your tween years and all you want to be is a number in a crowd, it gets a little intense.
I started feeling the pressure of the responsibility of an entire state, thinking that this is our national kid; she’s going to go all the way. In my senior year I was in every show our Equity Theater House did. Equity is our actors union for theater. So, I literally missed my last month of our senior year – I missed “ditch day” and going to Cancun – because I was in rehearsal for a show and that’s why I didn’t go on to get my degrees in it. I wanted to know what it was like to be normal, and be a student senator, and I wanted to know what it was like to go to a party. It got intense for me when all I wanted to do was fit in.
What is your message?
I’m really sick of hearing, “Money, Cash, Hoes,” on the radio. No one’s really singing anymore. I’ll take it back to Lauryn Hill, “Music is supposed to inspire, how come we ain't gettin no higher?”
Music is the universal language and it’s a powerful tool that can be used for either self-edification or destruction. And my message is to unite listeners through positive messaging that inspires whoever is listening that lets them know that people do go through hardships.
Going from Oklahoma to New York, the dichotomy of that move, I was trying to adjust as a human being and as a soul in this world. That in of itself brought hardship and trial, and doubt. I want people to listen to my music and feel good.
What inspires you?
The snow on the ground is gorgeous; it just reminds me of Walt Whitman, snow being the great equalizer. Children; I was with my little nephew for the last five days in Virginia, and dude he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. He just wants to sing, he wants to dance and he ain’t got no worries.
How do you write your songs?
Man, I’m just a conduit, and that is seriously the most honest answer that I have. Sometimes these songs come to me from start to finish, and can happen in 15 to 20 minutes. I’ll be on the train and it comes; the entire orchestration, the lyrics and everything. Sometimes I’ll get the first verse and the chorus and I’ll have to set the song down and then maybe three months later, bam! There’s no method to my madness. It chooses me and I have to be ready to catch that song. Just as quickly as it comes, it leaves.
Check out Aisha Eustache perform songs from her debut EP “Love & Addiction” with special guest Traum Diggs on Thursday, February 27, at The Slipper Room, located at 167 Orchard Street in Manhattan.