You are unique. Trust the originality of your own process. Sometimes your game-changing brand is within you, or sitting right in front of you in your daily life.
As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing RubyGld Smoke. American pop music duo from Chicago. The husband & wife team of Terrance Layone “T. L.” Williams and Dani Jo Williams formed as a production group back in 2014. While forming their own music label Quiet Kingdom Recordings in 2016, the team made hits for artists such as Syleena Johnson and Siya. The group emerges now as artists, bringing the eclectic vibes of soul, funk, and hip hop together in one outfit. They also run Quiet Kingdom Media Group; an award-winning film company, and are the founders of Symphony Of Change; an arts organization based in Chicago.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As music lovers we have a unique taste. We are fans of various sounds that we want to hear more of, which inspired us to start making music of our own. We are creatives in every sense of the word, so we are truly forever students of the craft. Whether it be music, film, or philanthropy we believe in great art and the power it has to inspire.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
This pandemic has brought immediate change to people’s lives. Although it forced us to basically quarantine in the house, we were able to sit down and finally lock in on our sound. We were able to make an entire album which taught us a valuable lesson about finding time to connect with each other.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Our label (Quiet Kingdom Recordings) put together an event for one of our artists. Even with some advertising, sales were really low and on the day of the event nobody came to the venue. The artists put together an after party at the same place later that night and EVERYONE showed up and had so much fun! This taught us a valuable lesson about how a brand is supposed to make the consumer FEEL. It’s about the experience tied to the brand.
Ok thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our discussion. Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?
We feel it’s important that everybody sees the story in who we are. We are aware that what we’re doing is not only important to black culture, but to the entire world. The world needs to see that in America a story like ours is possible and it exists all over the country. With our brands (Quiet Kingdom Recordings & Quiet Kingdom Media Group), we wanted to accurately depict America’s diversity by not boxing in the art that we create. We want people to not only see this is possible, but how important this type of representation is to the vitality of the entertainment industry.
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?
With our arts organization Symphony Of Change, our passion for the need of diversity runs deep in the hundreds of youth that we were able to work with. Being able to give them the tools to appreciate art and contribute to society, provides a safe space for creativity and inspiration. We started with junior high schools in 2016. It’s beautiful to see some of those first students head into college as game-changing future leaders.
As an insider, this might be obvious to you, but I think it’s instructive to articulate this for the public who might not have the same inside knowledge. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in Entertainment and its potential effects on our culture?
The entertainment industry dies a slow death when it doesn’t show and amplify everybody. Eventually no one will want to see movies that they are never in. Diversity is a direct lifeline of entertainment and culture. Positive representation in entertainment gives people the inspiration to be great in their own lives, which helps society be better. It comes full circle. Whether it’s music or television, we miss out on those game-changing ideas when everyone’s creativity is not being considered.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
As artists we understand how important it is to have multiple ears hear your record before you release it. We want to make sure it’s a hit in multiple demographics. This type of strategy transcends into all forms of entertainment. Your company’s board must be diverse. It’s where you will get your teamwork and leadership. A lack of diversity will eventually render your brand out of touch and irrelevant.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To us, leadership is when you fuel the strengths of your team members so the team can achieve goals once deemed impossible. A great leader creates a space where fear is not allowed, and learning is normalized. On our label, We wouldn’t ask our artists to do anything that we ourselves as artists wouldn’t do. As artists, we understand how important it is to shoot beyond the horizon and do something unprecedented.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- To invest in ourselves sooner. You are your best asset. We’ve had the idea for RubyGld Smoke for a while, the results started to come once we put in the work for the vision.
- You are unique. Trust the originality of your own process. Sometimes your game-changing brand is within you, or sitting right in front of you in your daily life.
- Wealth is not a lump sum of money, it is a mindset. A billionaire once told us that being wealthy means being free from worry. That’s something anyone can achieve if they dig deep.
- Don’t get distracted from your vision. We came to a point as artists where we were done with workshops. We said no more workshops or seminars. We have the information, we need to apply the work.
- Run your race and don’t worry about no one else’s, you are often further along than you think. It’s easy to get discouraged from looking at someone else’s timeline of success. It’s important to remember that your timing is perfect for you.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We would love to see a movement that educates everyone about the democratic process in America. We want to see voters know exactly what’s going on when they walk into a booth. When everybody is educated, it’s hard for smoke and mirrors to taint the election process.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Somebody wants to see you win, and they’re watching to see you do it.” It was said to one of us in high school, and it taught us a valuable lesson about work ethic.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
A brunch with Devon Franklin & Megan Good would be dope. We feel like we all would have a lot in common.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow us on instagram and twitter @RubyGldSMoke
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!