“You have to feel something about what you're saying if you want anyone else to buy into it”, explains Vivian Sessoms with absolute certainty. “It's important to me to mean what I say when I'm writing or singing a song. It can't simply be just a collection of words.” For Vivian, a life surrounded by music has ingrained the passion and the power of music in her. Born and raised in Harlem, Vivian, whose mother was a session/jingle-singer, and father who was a flautist/percussionist (for James Brown among others), learned the wonder and the craft of music at a young age.
In a neighborhood filled with nightclubs, churches and impromptu gatherings-turned-jam-sessions at the family homestead, she was already singing by the time she could talk. Growing up in Harlem, there always seemed to be music playing in our house or at a neighbors house. I was so immersed in it, that I guess I viewed music as a kind of backdrop to my life, she recalls. By the time she was nine, Vivian had begun doing television and radio voice overs. With the help of casting agent Mikki Powell (The Wiz), she made the rounds of auditions for various Broadway shows, all while receiving classical training in voice and piano. Somewhere around the age of 14, Vivian began composing her own music, following in the footsteps of her musician parents.
A few years later, while on one of her first major tours, performing with pianist/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (whose film credits include Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Little Buddha, High Heels), Vivian had her eyes and ears opened to an entirely new world of sound and became galvanized. Sakamoto taught Vivian much about song-craft, performance and musicianship. She absorbed as much as she could from the brilliance of his artistry. In Sakamoto's band, she found herself surrounded by accomplished, seasoned musicians such as drummer Manu Katche (Peter Gabriel, Sting), Victor Bailey (Weather Report, Madonna) and Darryl Jones (Miles Davis, Rolling Stones). Sakamoto expected her to behave on par with those musicians, placing her in the spotlight as the featured vocalist, and teaching her to sing in Japanese. She in turn pushed herself tirelessly towards perfection as both a singer and performer.