*Louisville, KY – Quick, name three successful girl groups from the last decade! I’ll wait … Tough, right? If you rewind a little farther back, you’ll likely come up with groups like Destiny’s Child, TLC or maybe you’ll recall groups like 3LW, 702 or even Brownstone or Jade. But the point is that they are few and very far in between.
There’s just something about today’s musical landscape that doesn’t favor “girls” – or even “boys” for that matter – coming together as a group to sing their way into our hearts and up the charts. BUT, it’s been proven over and over that musical trends are cyclical and if it’s been done before, it’s sure to come back around. All you need is that one stand out group that comes along to reignites the flame then spawn a bunch of carbon copies. Success on the level of a Destiny’s Child or anything close is a virtual crap shoot, though, making the odds of such a group coming along pretty tough.
But Upfront Records label founder and owner, Devyne Stephens, feels like he knows the game well enough to roll the dice with his latest discovery, XSO (pronounced “eX-Oh”). Stephens discovered platinum-selling artist and humanitarian, Akon, and was once signed to and worked for LaFace records himself.
No doubt recognizing and seeking to exploit the gaping hole of there being no notable contemporary girl groups, the former choreographer and imaging expert put the trio, Vii, Paije and Jaz, together and is personally grooming them in a way reminiscent of Motown’s tactics to seize the opportunity.
And it seems to be taking root.
When you first meet the ladies of XSO, the first impression – uber important today – is their easiness on the eyes. Some may call it shallow to even mention that fact, but its no secret that image is everything in this social media driven environment. But even more than that, despite having been “put together,” their chemistry professionalism, and humility was striking. I first assumed they started out as friends that played “girl group” as teens and subsequently got their big break by being discovered by Stephens, but not so:
“We were put together by our management and they sprinkled some fairy dust and we (laughs) … We immediately started getting on each other’s nerves and it just worked,” Jaz said in jest.
“Well, he [Stephens] played a big part in getting us together, honestly, so we all kind of got to get to know him on different levels of him kind of developing us. So, getting to know him and working with him has been such a rewarding experience because he’s a great visionary; he really knows what he’s doing. All the plaques on the wall …” Paije said.
Either Stephen’s savvy and intense artists boot camp training made the synergy possible or he’s just really good at shooting craps
As a sure way to get significant exposure, XSO joined industry veteran Monica and singer and part-time hitmaker, Rico Love, on tour recently and one of their stops was in Louisville, KY at the Mercury Ballroom. I happened to be in town and spoke with the group at length before the show. I found them to be genuine and engaging and I was left with the sincere hope that they’d achieve their goals in the industry.
XSO's "Why Not" Video:
Here’s what they had to say:
So, what does XSO mean?
XSO: XO is the universal meaning of love and we just feel like everything we do is always gonna be genuine from us for our fans, whether it’s performances, interviews meet and greets, it’s always gonna be genuine love, so that’s how we came up with the name.
G.R.: Can you introduce yourselves?
Vii: I was born and raised in Atlanta (where we’re based).
Jaz: I’m from Cleveland, I’m Jazz.
Paije: I’m page, I’m from Detroit.
Thanks you and very nice to meet you.
Girl groups are rare today and one can only think all the way back to Destiny’s Child or TLC (which you are reminiscent of) in terms of success. How are you like them and how are you different?
XSO: We’re really trying to set ourselves apart from being compared to Destiny’s Child, TLC, Total and things like that … we’re more like the female BBD.
G.R.: Being new to touring, how did you learn the ins and outs of it?
XSO: We had to develop it. Devyne definitely had us on lockdown working on that. It’s different, like I had performance experience in acting and things like that but i’ve never had like, ok, keep the mic up to your mouth when you’re singing and make sure you don’t look down and, you know, it’s a whole other ballgame when you’re talking about performing as recording artists and so as far as that I hadn’t had any real experience with that. It was brand new.
XSO: It was definitely a bootcamp. it’s always a bootcamp. when we first started practicing, we were practicing in a 100 degrees gym and we were like, it’s hot, it’s hot, won’t you turn on the air! and he was like, no, no y’all need to know what it’s like, what it’s like performing outside, in the summertime when it’s hot, in Africa.
XSO: We were like can you PLEASE turn the air on?? He’s hard on us, but it’s always for the best, so … we do it and we work hard and it just makes us stronger.
G.R.:Do you have a favorite city you’ve performed in while on tour, and if so, why?
XSO: Anaheim, Anaheim was the one with the two little girls, that’s how I remember. Anaheim was turnt from the time we walked out. Some cities, they’ll turn up with then you, then it’s like mmmmm, but Anaheim was excited when we first walked out. That gave us the energy to get through the performance.
G.R.: If you could ensure your fans walk away with a specific experience after one of your permeances, what would it be?
XSO: We want them to feel like they had a really good time and feel more connected to us on a personal level, like thank God for social media, because people are able to tell you exactly how they feel right when you’re done. And that’s something I know that girl groups didn’t get in the past because of the fact that there was no social media, but when they’re able to go to our pages and say, I love when you guys did this or when you guys did that … I was like, Oh really, we touched people with that, so let’s keep that and you get to know what to change or not change. and even afterwards when people come up to us and say, you guys inspire me to get back into music and y’all are doing your thing like that’s what really makes me happy after a performance.
G.R.: Social media can also be misused in all kinds of ways. How do you deal with the negative input that can come from such mediums?
XSO: what negative criticism? Honestly we haven’t had anything negative. I wasn’t joking. I haven’t heard anything negative and if I do, it’s like something about a girl group or girl groups in general and it’s like listen, we’re out here doing our thing, and that’s where a lot of the positivity comes from as far as women saying we inspire them to get back into music is because we’re three women working together … we’re like oh, that’s girl power … we can at least empower women by working together.
G.R.: So, when can we expect an album?
XSO: We’re still working on it. It’s supposed to be finished, but we’re just adding finished touches to it, swapping songs out, but it’s mainly done.
XSO: soon, coming soon … we might just drop it tomorrow or we may just drop it in 2017.
G.R.: Monica has awesome support wherever she goes. Great tour to be on. How has it been for you ladies touring with such a celebrated industry veteran?
XSO: We’ve all been in love with her our entire lives, so to be on tour with her, on the same stage as her is unbelievable. So, we’re all truly honored and blessed to be a part of this.
G.R.: Well, I’ve enjoyed chatting with you ladies and I sincerely wish you the best on your future in the industry. How can your fans find you on social media?
Group (as a product of that natural chemistry I first noticed, they said in unison): All of our social media is “wearexso,” follow us!
The successful Code Red tour recently wrapped in New York, but the mark the group made is sure to open plenty of future doors … stay tuned.