aka DJ Soul Sister
Melissa Weber, better known around town as DJ Soul Sister, is 40 and – despite previous reports – shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the self-described late bloomer is better than ever. Besides her Saturday night HUSTLE dance parties – which in 2013 moved from its longtime home at Mimi’s in the Marigny to the Hi-Ho Lounge and has attracted famous fans, including both Knowles sisters – she hosts her “Soul Power” show on WWOZ. She also runs the James Brown-themed Krewe of King James within the krewedelusion walking parade and, oh, she’s in grad school full-time at Tulane University studying musicology.
Q: What made you decide to go back to school? I had been thinking about grad school for a minute … and I just never did it because I’ve been so busy with Soul Sister stuff; that takes a lot out of me. It’s all great, it’s all a different form of teaching and learning. I said, the time is now: I just turned 40, I might as well phase into the next level of continuing what I want to do, which is spreading the word about music that I love, music that might not otherwise get heard or get the attention other music does.
Q: You said in an interview that when you turn 40 you were planning to scale down, and host HUSTLE Saturdays monthly instead of weekly. (laughs) It’s funny that I said that because at the time, I meant it. And then I looked around and said, golly, I’m doing more than ever. I’m in the best shape and energy ever and I’m having so much fun. I don’t think I’m gonna stop just quite yet. And then I thought I was going to have to quit for grad school, and then I just kept on rolling. So I’m just going to do it all.
Q: Do you attach a lot of significance to age? The only age I ever did that with was 40, because you know, I’m not going to be 50 DJing in the clubs.
Q: Why not? Well, that’s just it. I think about my own life and I consider myself a late bloomer. I don’t try to be an example, but it sort of comes out that way, that I want people to look at me and say “I can do it all.” Because as a woman in a male-dominated field, I just do it because I want to. When I started I was probably 100 pounds heavier than I am now, I never let that stop me. When I started at WWOZ, I was the youngest there, I was probably 18 years old. So if you wanna do something, you can do it. For me, at this stage, it means age. Age isn’t getting in the way because I’m much better now than I was 10, even 20 years ago.
I think a lot of women in all fields are thinking that way now: You get better as you get older.
And why not? Because men think that way.
Q: How has HUSTLE changed since you started it? It hasn’t changed from the time I’ve started the party. I’ve always aimed to make HUSTLE Saturdays the kind of party I would want to go to. That comes down to music, ambiance, service – I’m not just on stage DJing. When I do DJ, I play music I love and feel. There’s this common DJ-related school of thought: You have to read the crowd. I never did that; I don’t know what that means. Because I can’t read a crowd, I’m not a psychic. When I go to see a band, I go to see them do their art, what they want to convey to me as an audience member or participant in that experience.
Q: Are you still finding new music? Oh my god, yes. No one will ever find it all. That’s what crate-digging is about. That’s why I love vinyl. I love the search and the hunt for stuff you don’t know that sounds good. I don’t believe that something was good just because it was No. 1 on a Billboard Top 40 chart. I like to hear music that sounds good because it feels good, and I want people to hear it and say, “What’s that?”
Beyonce and her sister, Solange, have been to HUSTLE.
[The first time they came] that took us all by surprise. When I’m DJing I’m in my own world, I don’t look (at the crowd). It’s like a guitarist playing a solo – I go inside. When I realized what was going on, I went even more inside. I thought if I looked, I would mess up. I literally, purposely, did not look.
Age: 40 Profession: University administrator/DJ artist Born/raised: New Orleans Resides: New Orleans Education: B.A. communications (English writing minor), UNO. M.A. in progress from Tulane University in musicology Favorite movie: The Human Tornado Favorite TV show: “Sanford & Son” Favorite band: Parliament-Funkadelic Favorite food: Chicken, as long as it’s not fried Favorite New Orleans restaurant: Switches between Compére Lapin, Apolline, SoBou and Doris Metropolitan depending on what I’m in the mood for. Favorite hobby: Going to see live music, especially modern jazz Favorite vacation spot: New York City
I love punk rock music. It’s not that popular in the black community. One Christmas, my mom bought me all these albums that I wanted. This past year I was thinking, what must that have been like for her, an older black woman going to a record store saying, “Do you have any records by the Clash?”