After talking it over with mom Denise Ballard, Res packed up and headed back east, moving into a house with her mom in Southwest Philly. “I needed her and she needed me,” she says.
“I’m seeing her more now since she’s back home, but she’s doing a lot of shows so she’ll leave and then she’ll come back,” says Ballard.
“She’s still busy and relatives still only see her on holidays because if she’s doing a show,” sighs Ballard, “she’s out the door.”
Res says her first year back in Philly was particularly hectic. “I was doing a lot of back and forth with spot dates in Atlanta, Chicago and D.C.,” she says. “I was living here, but never planted my feet here.”
When she first arrived back in Philly, friends connected her to producer Tom Spiker and they began working on a dream EP: a collection of Fleetwood Mac covers titled ReFried Mac.
Res loves Stevie Nicks. Her guitar sports a sticker that says “Fleetwood Black,” the name Res gave a band she started once for fun.
Pretty much anytime she was home for the rest of 2008 into 2009 Res was babysitting her nephews. When she wasn’t home, she was finshing up Idle Warships’s Party Robot, flying out to perform one-off solo gigs and Idle Warship dates.
Now things seem to be calming down. The ReFried Mac EP is ready to go. A second EP, BARE, a collection of covers and lo-fi interpretations of Res originals that she’s been recording with producer Dan “Danophonic” Raaf in West Philly’s Lower Level studio, is almost done.
The hold-up is that Res wants to add strings to the tracks, but that’s beyond the budget. They hired a keyboardist to try to plunk in pizzicato notes, rummage around, see what might work.
“I’m learning how to be indie the hard way, by wanting one thing and figuring out another way to do it,” she says.
This past January, another death pushed Res closer to home.
Canadian musician David “Soulfingaz” Williams, who played on How I Do, died unexpectedly in his sleep. Martin “Doc” McKinney, who produced the album reached out to Res to come up and play a benefit concert. When they performed on stage together, the next logical step snapped into focus.
“We should have been working together forever,” says Res. “I realized that’s who I need to be making albums with period, like Sade makes albums with Sweetback, and that’s it.”
They hit the studio and began working on Reset.
“It’s about getting back to business,” says Res. “We know people love to do what we do, so let’s do it.”
So she spent a lot of this year traveling to back and forth to Toronto writing and recording at Doc’s home studio. The style of Reset reflects where the singer is at in her career and life: A bit raw. Stripped down. Singer-songwriter, even.
“I named this album Reset because I’m trying to let people know something new is coming,” she says.
It’s a recent Sunday night, the launch of the Reset residency. Local band Suspect 9 warmed up the crowd as they ducked in from the rain.
A woman with huge Urkel glasses and braids can’t wait. Her name is DJ Aura and she’s been a fan for a long time.
“Res’s first album was life-changing,” she gushes. “Around 2001, I saw her on HBO’s Reverb with Mos Def, and then I got the album. I recently heard she’s back in Philly so I’ve been following her.”
Tomorrow night, the inaugural BlackStar Film Festival presents the first look at "The Res Documentary," a forthcoming feature film profiling rock and soul singer Res, a Philly homegirl.
Being Black: It's not the skin color