On Friday, March 10th, the Urban Views team visited Loft 17 during Richmond’s first ever Black Restaurant Week. What began as an extension of support for a black-owned business turned into the discovery of a local gem. We’re not talking about the restaurant, though everything from the sweet whiskey wings to the caprese filet mignon were remarkable. We’re talking about the live band whose soulful sound cascaded through the quaint restaurant. Appropriately named for the lasting impression they leave on the audience, the Legacy Band wowed the crowd with covers of songs each generation of patrons knew and loved.
Everyone from the bar to the upstairs lounge danced along as the musicians put their unique spin on classic hits. A week later, we sat down with two members of the powerhouse group, lead singer Kai’La Valdez and guitarist Jose Pomier to discuss how their musical journey led them to performing in packed houses. Turns out, they’re just getting started.
Janna M. Hall: “First, I’d like to start by saying you two are incredible artists; the minute I heard you at Loft 17 I knew I had to sit with you guys. When did you discover you were this talented?”
Kai’La Valdez: “I always knew my voice was different, but I didn’t know I had a gift until high school. I had a teacher, Ms. Woolridge, who always pushed me to sing. I competed at the all-city and all-state levels, and then I went from there. I did it because I was “supposed” to, having no idea singing would actually bring me this far.”
Jose Pomier: “My father is a musician. One year, my grandfather bought me a guitar for Christmas, and my father heard me trying to mimic him while playing. From that point, my parents and grandparents really dedicated their time to helping me hone my skills. I owe all of my success as a musician to them; my grandfather, my mom and my dad were instrumental in me really perfecting my craft and growing as an artist. They kept me involved with music, exposed me to all types of instruments, and never stopped backing me.”
JMH: It’s wonderful that both of you had supportive adults in your life who actually fostered your interest in the arts, even as a career path. We don’t see enough of that, but I think the arts is so important for our youth today.
KV: I’m grateful to have parents who encourage me being an artist. My mom, even to this day, comes to all of our shows, and even manages me. Thinking of all the time and effort she, as a single mom, poured into my musical growth, I know I couldn’t be what I am without that foundation. My dad, too. He played such a huge role. So I definitely think our youth today, in a time where they feel hopeless about a lot of things, find hope in the arts and they need a support system for it all.
JMH: So how did we get from that initial seed being planted and watered by your parents, to the Legacy Band?
JP: We both had gigs with artists around town, and we partnered to do a private engagement for the bike race that came to Richmond last year. Folks asked us if we had a full band to perform at future events, and we reached out to our musician friends to see who was available. We eventually built the band with Corey, LC, Junie, Julius, Tommy, and Jeremy, our drummer. Demand for live performing grew, and that’s how Legacy Band started.
KV: Collectively, we all knew that we were each talented in our own right, but when we got together we meshed well and worked well together. That was the “it” factor for us. Initially, we didn’t know what to expect, but our energy as a group just works.
Part of the Legacy Band’s “meshing well” includes collaborating on the development of cover pieces and original songs. Known as the “mastermind” of the group, Pomier selects the musicians that all come together to produce that one-of-a-kind sound. His network of talented artists extends as far back as high school, and they all play a unique role in choosing the songs, while Pomier’s creative ear guides them as they tweak them for each performance.
JMH: So one of the songs that stood out for me was your rendition of D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel?” I think I speak for everyone at Loft 17 when I say that it was a highlight that night.
JP: Julius, our keyboard player, suggested we play that song. He’s such a creative player as well as producer.
KV: He’s intuitive; he picks up on everything that could potentially sound good, and he’s always right.
JMH: How did the Black Restaurant Week gig even come about?
KV: It was honestly one of our First Friday gigs that happened to fall during Black Restaurant week. Loft 17 was our first venue when we started doing shows, and when we learned that our performance would fall during the week, we were excited to do something special. Jose put the band together, and we were so shocked at the turnout. Loft 17 is usually a very chill atmosphere, but that night, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. That manifested into something great for us because being a live entertainer in Richmond isn’t always easy, so we’re fortunate to have people gravitate towards us and show huge support. It was the first Black Restaurant Week in Richmond, so to be a part of it was incredible.
JMH: Has your experience with performing live in Richmond always been like this? It seems so easy to get support and excitement around what you guys do with your unique sound.
JP: It can be difficult. There will always be a lane for live entertainment in Richmond. It’s so easy to get caught up in the competition because there isn’t a huge music scene, but there are lots of venues that receive live entertainment well and the people love it. So we’re in the right place.
KV: I didn’t grasp the concept of how big Richmond was until I put myself out there. You’ve got to create your own space and create the art you want to hear. Everything Legacy does and stands for is faith and seeing our visions manifest. We all believe it’s possible. That’s what ties us together: we understand that we each offer a special gift and talent, and we need one another. So when things get challenging, we push each other and keep ourselves motivated.
JMH: That’s great to hear, mainly because you think that in a city as tight-knit as Richmond, that there’d be lots of roadblocks, but you guys have really carved out a lane for yourselves and support other local musicians. I applaud all you’re doing for the creative scene here in RVA. So what’s next for Legacy Band?
KV: We’re working on original material, and we all have ideas and different concepts that we’re combining. This will be a big year for Legacy and Legacy Unplugged, which is a show we’re doing every 2nd Monday at Grandstaff & Stein. Our usual shows are like a party, but Legacy Unplugged is an intimate, one-of-a-kind style of live music. Above all, we’re focusing on building our legacy. With everything we do on stage, and everything we represent, we’re all building something bigger than ourselves that’ll outlast us all. That’s what it’s about: Legacy.
To learn more about The Legacy Band, visit them on Facebook at Legacy Band VA.
Photos: Courtney Jones