In addition to curating performing arts pieces, the musician plans to stage an Aretha Franklin tribute concert
Sharon Udoh is rarely at a loss for words, but during a mid-May interview discussing the Wexner Center's decision to grant the musician a 2019 Artist Residency Award, Udoh was still struggling to process the news.
“The problem with this interview is … I feel like I'm living in this dream world in which none of this is real until it actually happens, and until it is announced,” said Udoh, who records and performs as Counterfeit Madison.
Well, consider the news official.
While elements of the residency are still in flux, current plans involve Udoh curating select performing arts pieces, staging a release show for the next Counterfeit Madison record, which is complete and awaiting release (more on that later), and leading a sprawling Aretha Franklin tribute show at the Lincoln Theatre, in conjunction with the Wex.
The Wexner Center has become an important place for Udoh in recent years, a development the musician traces to the 2016 rise of President Donald Trump.
“My whole love affair with the Wex started when Trump got elected, and I didn't really know what to do about that,” Udoh said. “I'm a nuanced enough observer and human being to understand the reasons people voted for Trump … but I didn't like the environment that came with those votes, and the way people started to talk and argue without nuance. I wrote this long-ass paragraph about that, and the Wex decided to feature me for a membership campaign, and that grew into me doing my release show there [in 2017], which grew into me acting there with Lars Jan and a project called ‘The White Album' [in 2018]. So I've just been going back to the Wex. … It's essential to my survival in this world.”
Over the course of a winding, 20-minute conversation, Udoh veers between awe at her selection (“I'm just this girl from Ohio, and I'm so excited that out of all the people in the world, I get this”) and a keen awareness that she brings unique talents to the table. “Don't get it twisted,” Udoh said. “I am a beautiful, talented, magical, incredibly powerful black queer woman.”
Now, Udoh similarly hopes a record label will step up to the plate to release the next Counterfeit Madison album, which is complete and currently being shopped around.
“My shit's weird, and I don't think people know what to do with it,” said Udoh, who is now prepping the release of a pair of non-album tracks as a means of biding time, the first of which she hopes to release in June or July. “I'm not the fastest musician. I'm not the most technically proficient. I don't have the largest range. But I'm one of the craziest musicians I know, and I'm really emotionally intelligent, and I'm really glad I get to create, because I know I'm good for the world.”