Friendsgiving Exclusive: Candice Hoyes and Tamu McPherson Discuss Black Womanhood, Creativity, and Joy Investing in Ourselves

by Milan Ball

In the company of friends, we find many things, but the purest form of friendship never fails to challenge us in the pursuit of finding our greatest self. Last week, we invited our friends at All the Pretty Birds for an exclusive Friendsgiving event that would do just that. Coming away from an invigorating discussion with our Editor-in-Chief Tamu McPherson and her friend (who is definitely now our friend) Candice Hoyes, a brilliant, multitalented classically trained musician with wisdom, light, and infectious joy. The two unpacked an evening that opened with laughter and ended with a call to action for investing in ourselves during this moment in history. Topped with a special performance of Candice’s latest work, “Zora’s Moon” we could not help but share this private experience with our community. 


In celebrating friendship, All the Pretty Birds is thrilled to feature Candice Hoyes, her musicianship, career insight, and her invaluable acuity to meet the moment with a confident message of hope. As we continue in a holiday season sensitive to the challenges of isolation, we invite you to find solace in a conversation that embodies the best of friendship. Follow along for an exclusive look at highlights from what will be cherished as a memorable first Friendsgiving at All the Pretty Birds.


Follow Along the Event:

[00:03:01] Introduction

[00:05:05] Meet Tamu and Candice Hoyes

[00:13:25] Zora Neale Hurston: Iconic Creator of Bonds Inseparable

[00:19:33] A Story Within a Story: “Zora’s Moon” in Production  

[00:21:47] A Greater Narrative as Women of Color and the Power of Our Imagination

[00:24:55] The Spark of Black Womanhood

[00:30:03] “Zora’s Moon Performance”

[00:35:24] About the Production

[00:45:51] Abundance in Creativity

[00:49:30] Tamu’s Professional Pathway

[00:49:50] Question 1: Candice to Tamu

[00:58:06] Making Strides in Leadership

[00:59:17] Support Creatives

[00:59:50] Question 2: Audience to Panelists

[01:05:31] Zora Neale Hurston’s Story

[01:08:22] Shifting Perspective in the Times

[01:13:07] Repeat It Campaign at All the Pretty Birds

[01:17:02] Nurturing Relationships

[01:17:10] Question 3: Audience to Panelists

[01:21:19] Invest in Yourself


Conversation Highlights

Zora Neale Hurston: Iconic Creator of Bonds Inseparable


CH: “Zora Neale Hurston is one of the chief inspirations for my single which is called “Zora’s Moon”. And so Tamu and I, we started sharing passages and scenes that we love. It just sort of let all the armor and the anxiety of this time that we’ve been going through melt away. And so I think we slowly started thinking about this conversation as a way to talk about how to be creative and how to be joyful. It’s a time of uncertainty and anxiety. I’m going to share my music and my process and she’s going to share her editorial ideas and her process. In a nutshell, that’s her and that’s us.”


TM: “Both of us had this undeniable urge to reach out to our communities and beyond. We wanted to create this moment of healing. Because we were saying if we feel this way; if we feel distressed and if we feel this anxious…If we’re trying to figure out how to make sure that our children are thriving under these really intense conditions? The members of our community are losing their jobs, losing funding for their projects. How were they feeling and how could we help? How could we be a service?”


TM: “We have to unify our two distinct storytelling capabilities so that we can offer this moment – this is a particular holiday season, for example, many of us are celebrating at home with only our immediate family. Many of us are celebrating alone. This is vastly different from anything that we’ve experienced in our lifetimes, especially in this generation. We wanted to create a moment of joy and we wanted to tap into the power of joy. We wanted to offer our gratitude in the space. because this has been a very challenging year. There’s been so much sacrifice and so much loss along with a lot of blessings. Let’s take a moment and acknowledge the blessings that we have the small things. Let’s hold onto what is important and that will help us get through.”


A Story Within a Story: “Zora’s Moon” in Production

CH: “It’s been challenging for me to an extent to set up a home studio. I’m staying with my parents for the end of the year. I had to be really economical because I’ve lost a lot of concert work for the next year. I had to think, “What do I really need to make music?” That is a really good question for a creative person. I’m an independent artist so I recorded “Zora’s Moon” out of very limited means. I was pregnant with my baby Marcus too, so I even had limited energy sometimes. On top of the fact that it is a very male dominant industry where they don’t understand.”


“I am an archivist. I love to dig through images and sound files. Featured in “Zora’s Moon” is one is from nineteen forty-three. Zora Neale Hurston was one of the great twentieth century American writers and we [Tamu and Candice] both share that opinion if you haven’t read Zora Neale Hurston.”


A Greater Narrative as Women of Color and the Power of Our Imagination

CH: “We have to remember that as women creators and many of us here are black women and women of color. The imagination is a powerful tool in this time. When we were talking about some of the other thinkers that we read to understand what’s happening in the world. A big part is not just what’s happening in the streets, a big part of where we’re headed as black people and black women and artists. In the power of the imagination, you can unfold that  fully.”



A Spark of Black Womanhood


CH: “And so I made this recording and I felt like navigating the business side of things. In twenty seventeen it just got to such a point of friction for me. Because, there’s a certain way that people like to recount history. It’s very commercially dictated and it doesn’t always leave space for our marginalized narratives. Stories of black women that are uncommon, that are rubbing against stereotypes, against the familiar; that’s exactly where I live.”

“There was one brush up I had with this business person presiding over a festival where he made my work [a bit] reductive in the way he presented it. I say a bit, because it was maybe a small thing to him but it was important to me. And so having the sense of internal crisis as an artist I turn to biographies of Zora Neale Hurston. I have always loved her books. There was a sort of adolescent process of reading Zora Neale Hurston that really sparked my womanhood as an artist. I think around sixteen eighteen I started you know writing my own songs playing around with that.”


“And I found the biographies weren’t enough. I went further and started listening to archival audio footage of Hurston and watching her films. Zora Neale Hurston was the first black woman filmmaker of non-silent film and many people don’t know that. Some of that footage you can find in the library of Congress online. So, I found this interview she did in nineteen forty-three and she was talking about a passage she wrote in one of her autobiographies, Dust Tracks on a Road.”


“It’s the sensation of running at night, when she was a little girl and feeling like the moon was following her. I went back to Dust Tracks on a Road and re-read where she was talking about that. Hearing her say it in her own voice was transformative to me. It connects me in a visceral way to another time to someone who had been so inspirational to me.” 


Tilting Our Gaze to Abundance in Creativity

CH: “Sharing a piece that I haven’t released yet with Tamu was really exciting for me, because I got to share it with somebody who I know has love for me and she was like ‘Yes, you have to do that!’ I think leaning on people in this time will help you to just tilt your gaze into the abundance that you have in the process.”


TM: “One of the most important themes that we’ve ever had at All the Pretty Birds was ‘Abundance’…Creativity is born in our hearts [like it’s in our hearts] and it’s in our art. It’s in our creative looms and the process can be so difficult – the world can be so difficult – that you second guess yourself.  Even in a period like this you have more inner strength and magic than you know. You have a community that’s there to support you and you just have to surrender to that tension; to just believe that you can reach out for help. Once you realize what you really have, you have no limits.”

Shifting Perspective in the Times


CH: “A pandemic is something that we’ve never contemplated. It’s beyond the imagination. So having to shift your perspective to understand that people might feel overwhelmed, they might be unemployed. There are people who have been evicted [millions of people]. You offer your work to the world in that context without feeling and presuming you’re the priority of the deadlines and timetables. Time suddenly becomes different, and that was a major download for me, it’s like how fluid can you be in this time? How adaptable can you be? That’s the external stuff and then the other down was my personal and emotional life. Oh Dear [Tamu] I told you and I’ll tell everyone here, like I feel depressed sometimes.” 

“And I would say like a download for me was I want to put a song out. I won’t be silenced by the overall trauma of this time. I will not, I will cut my voice through the sound and the noise and I wanted it to be something with a deep groove. There are all different kinds of songs that I recorded for the album.”

“I really intentionally chose “Zora’s Moon” because it connects us to our legacy beyond these current protests. I wanted it to feel timeless and I wanted it to be a really groovy song. So that as you’re fixing your meals, you’re making your avocado toast to just groove. Whether you’re doing your wash day routine or you’re driving or you’re doing a morning walk; all of those restorative practices you can do with music. So it was really important for me to want to transmit that to people at a time like this. Releasing the song was one of my greatest joys at this time.”


Invest in Yourself

CH: “Invest in yourself today. Invest in yourself today, there are grants and there are endowments and there are institutional supports that can make you not feel like you’re going to crash and burn career wise. I won the Women’s Fund for Media, Music, and Theatre Grant (NYC) for twenty-twenty. That helped me to find the rest of my album, not knowing when I applied that all my performances would be gone for twenty-twenty and twenty twenty-one. I also pivoted and I added another business. It feels like I’m going to crash and burn. I feel that, but I’m not actually going to crash and burn. That’s another helpful thing. Remember the difference between perception and where you are.”


“This experience obviously is important for my growth. It’s overwhelming because it’s not lost on me where I wanted to go, but what actually happened is better. And I think it’s the energy that you brought to me and for that, I am so grateful.”

Last Thought

In the words of Zora Neale Hurston, “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” This is a special nod to Candice for her thoughtful production of creative projects that simply do just that. Our souls are forever stirred by the passionate works of artists like you. To learn more about our new friend Candice Hoyes at All the Pretty Birds, you can visit her website or find her on Instagram @candicehoyes.

Visit more of Candice Hoyes’ Work on Spotify

Photographer: Marissa Taylor @marissanicolephoto

Mentioned: Ode to Babel in Brooklyn @odetobabel


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