Pensacola, Florida
Friday December 15th 2017

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The Kween is Back

By Shelby Nalepa

Artist and vocalist Kween Versatile, or Jacqueline Merrill, is returning to Pensacola this weekend for another round of Soul Cypher as well as her own original concert UnXpected Versatility for a two-day creative weekend.

“A Soul Cypher is when a group of creatives—singers, poets, rappers and lyricists—get in the same space and free-style while taking turns to live music,” Merrill said. “The lyrics must be from the soul and not negative or promoting violence.”

Merrill said that generally cyphers, are only used for rappers so you get something extra by adding the poets, musicians and singers to the vibe.

“At open mics, we generally get to perform our song and that is it, but at a cypher you can keep going and let the lyrics flow,” she said.

The Soul Cypher will take place Saturday at Chizuko and Kween Versatile will be having her own show with NuExperiance, called UnXpected Versatility, next door at The O Hookah and Pool Lounge Friday night.

“The first round at Chizuko was amazing,” Merrill said. “Daisy is my absolute favorite and both of the ladies make you feel so welcomed. Artists came out and shared their crafts and I had a favorite or two. Lord Shinobi and #BlackSuperheroMuzik really held the mic down before the crowd even arrived and Sounds Of Souls radio show did a ton of advertising on my behalf and I cannot wait to come back and do it again. Home is always where the soul is.”

Merrill was born and partially raised in Pensacola and she said that she is very proud of that fact.

“We are a very rare breed of people in my opinion,” she said. “I started singing when I was a little girl and it just never stopped. It wasn’t until I started using it as a therapy and sharing it with other people that I began to get more serious and see my capabilities in music, not just in singing but doing the backend work like booking shows and coordinating productions from start to finish. I don’t know what I will end up doing but I know it will be in music.”

In 2003, a tragic event left Merrill searching for a way to deal with pain, which is when she started writing music. She wrote the song “Million Dollar Baby” for her son Elijah.

“I lost my son Elijah in 2003 to SIDS, and afterward I spiraled out of control and it was the writing and recording and having something to believe in that ended up pulling me through that time,” she said.

Merrill moved to Atlanta in 2012 to start her career and is currently working on releasing some new music.

“I love it here. I knew when I came that this was somewhere to settle down and create a foundation,” she said. “The tour was actually starting this month, but a few personal things have come into play and I need to get my music released. So I am peddling back just a little but I will still be doing shows in and out of Atlanta just not as a structured tour.”

Merrill said that she started playing with her band NuExperiance in 2015.

“I approached Mel Lightfoot, the band’s drummer, in December of 2015, and we had our first show that same month along with the keys player Jason Grimes, who is also my producer,” she said. “The family has since grown. We have added Fester on percussion, Erasmo Sosa on bass, Zania who is an artist herself and Michelle who handles all of our marketing.”

Merrill said that her influences are Yolanda Adams and Lauryn Hill.

“I get a lot of Lauryn, Badu and Jill Scott references when people hear me sing,” she said. “I would just describe my style as soulful because that is definitely where it comes from.”

Merrill said that she has plans to release her album soon, as well as a book by summer of next year. She’s also currently working on an artist collaboration.

“The future for Kween Versatile holds happiness for sure, that is always on the manifestation list,” she said. “Pisces like myself roll with the tide, learning along the way. I am in the business mindset now that I know I’m on to something and this is more than a hobby.”

UnXpected Versatility
WHAT: Original concert by Kween Versatile and NuExperiance
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29
WHERE: O Hookah and Pool Lounge, 500 W. Belmont (the former Bunny Club location)
COST: $7-$10
DETAILS: facebook.com/kweenversatile

Soul Cypher
WHAT: Kween Versatile presents Soul Cypher Round 2
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30
WHERE: Chizuko, 506 W. Belmont
COST: $5-$8
DETAILS: facebook.com/chizukopensacola