When Akeira Cramer attended high school, she had never had any formal music training and just participated in school musicals and plays. Now, she is about to go on tour after winning a national music competition. “I wasn’t even really thinking about music in high school,” the Upper Marlboro resident said. “I wasn’t shy, I […]
When Akeira Cramer attended high school, she had never had any formal music training and just participated in school musicals and plays.
Now, she is about to go on tour after winning a national music competition.
“I wasn’t even really thinking about music in high school,” the Upper Marlboro resident said. “I wasn’t shy, I just didn’t know that I could do it, I didn’t have the chance to.”
Cramer, 21, named one of three winners of the GRAMMY Amplifier program this year, flew out to Austin, Texas to perform at the South by Southwest music festival and will perform as the opening act for a major tour or music festival as her winning prize.
The Charles H. Flowers High School alum and her high school friend Konly “Kon Lee” Harding, 22, flew to Austin together for the GRAMMY Amplifier showcase this year from March 17-22. The showcase marked the first time the two performed together. Cramer works out of her Prince George’s County home to produce her “soulful but synth-heavy” music that led them to the festival.
“There’d be people playing on the streets, playing drum sets, guitars – just everywhere,” Harding said. “It was a great experience, I want to go back.”
But Cramer’s music career did not start out with such ease and success. After graduating from high school and enrolling at the University of Pittsburgh to pursue a film studies degree, October hit and she decided to leave school to pursue music full time.
“I left school because I wanted to live a more authentic life, live a life that was for me and not for what other people thought I should be doing,” Cramer said. “I just decided that that was not the place that I wanted to be. I’d gotten everything out of school that I’d needed, and it was no longer serving me a purpose.”
Cramer said she makes music because she wants others to feel authentic. She said she wants to convey the message to her listeners and fans through her songs that feelings are valuable, even if it’s contradictory to popular opinions, to help others find themselves. To continue that, she decided to pursue any opportunity she could find to express her music.
When Cramer returned home, she stumbled upon an ad for the GRAMMY contest and applied on a whim. Artists had to upload a track to SoundCloud and gather votes, shares and plays for the submitted track. In addition to performing as the opening act for a tour or festival, the top three winners landed the opportunity to record a music video.
“I had just been thinking about putting myself out there musically and struggling with getting somewhere, and figuring out where I’m supposed to be getting,” Cramer said.
After submitting her song on Feb. 9, she had until Feb. 20 to reach the top 25. Cramer gathered friends, family and fans to vote for her in the competition until celebrity judges such as Mark Ronson and Ziggy Marley weighed in to choose the winners. By March 9, Cramer learned she secured a spot and would be heading to the festival the next week.
“It all happened so fast,” Cramer said. “You hope that they’re going to choose somebody that’s authentic and really puts all of themselves into their music in a sea of songs that all sound the same…that was great for them to acknowledge what my song was, and what it brought to the table.”
Although Cramer and Harding had never collaborated on music before, when the two went to college, they started to explore and develop their individual interests and sounds. Cramer said she has written hundreds of songs and creates her digital music on her own, but she wants to be able to perform them with Harding, who actively practices music and plays the keyboard.
So with roughly a week to prepare, Harding, a senior studying music technology at Bowie State University, teamed up with Cramer to prepare for the set the week of the show. The two played a four-song set one day on the Rolling Stones Stage in Austin during the five-day festival, and got featured in publications such as Billboard magazine.
“The rehearsals went well, our sounds really meshed together,” Harding said. “Going up there, we didn’t really feel any nerves bothering us. It felt really comfortable.”
The song that brought Cramer the win, “It’s Alright,” reflects the soul-synth and electronic tone she aims to bring to her music. The song now has more than 45,000 plays.
Before winning the contest, Cramer said she would use software on her computer in her room, sing into a microphone and slice together songs she came up with herself. Now, she and Harding agreed they have the perfect opportunity to continue pursuing music.
But chasing a music production and performance career does not come without its challenges, she said. Harding is a full-time student, and having never performed at large venues together many times before, Cramer said this past month has been a learning experience.
“We both have our individual things going on, but when we come together, it’s something we can’t really describe,” Cramer said. “It’s a great vibe and a great sound. So we’ll stick with that as long as possible.”
Cramer and Harding will continue to prepare new material for the tour they will be heading on later this year.