Mia Love Live's 'Sincerely, Charlotte' is a love letter to the town that raised her
Eastland Mall. Price’s Chicken Coop. The Excelsior Club. These are just a few Charlotte landmarks that have been closed for years or demolished but remain present in the memories of many longtime residents.
Mia McClure, who goes by the stage name Mia Love Live, has been on a mission to collect these memories and honor them on stage in a performance this Sunday at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in uptown called "Sincerely, Charlotte: A Love Letter to Old Charlotte."
The artist spoke with WFAE's Nick de la Canal ahead of Sunday's performance to give audiences an idea of what to expect.
Nick de la Canal: You are a native Charlottean, and more than that, your family has deep roots in this area.
Love Live: Very, very deep roots. We've been here for generations.
De la Canal: I think I read something like five generations back, maybe more?
Love Live: Yes. Five generations that I can find. I'll say that.
De la Canal: Wow. So if native Charlotteans are unicorns, you're almost like a unicorn among unicorns. Like the really rare breed.
Love Live: Yeah, I'd say I'm very rare in that case, 'cause even some Charlotte natives that I have met, maybe their grandparent, like one grandparent is from Charlotte, and then it starts to go another way, but I could go back a minute.
De la Canal: So this city seems like it's in love with the new, but you've created a love letter to the old. What got you thinking about this?
Love Live: Honestly Nick, it starts with the passion. I'm born and raised here, and I've watched it change drastically. I've watched things close. I've watched things ... I've heard stories about things that I never got the chance to experience because they closed. But it's the passion and the love that I have for the city that made "Mia Love Live" who Mia Love Live is. That created Mia. That shaped and molded me. And I just wanted to take a second to honor, right, and show gratitude and shed some light on the places that really made Charlotte, Charlotte. You know, without these places, what would Charlotte have been?
De la Canal: You did a lot of research for this show, I understand, including interviews with other longtime residents — some of them strangers, some family and friends, and not just about landmarks. I wanted to play a clip of you learning an old cheerleading routine from your mom.
Sound bite: "Take it to the minute! Take it to the top! Don't stop!"
Love Live: Yes! I learned an old cheerleading routine from my mom. I sure did.
De la Canal: I love that. Can you talk about some of the different ways you collected these stories and memories?
Love Live: Well, one of the things that I wanted to do was make sure I not only got the voices and the stories of my family members who are from Charlotte, I wanted to make sure that I went beyond that, right. I wanted to meet new people.
For example, Mr. Ken Koontz, who was the first African American reporter on WBTV. I met him by interviewing someone else who's from Charlotte, and they were like you got to talk to Ken Koontz. He knows so much, and when I talked to him, it was just like, boom, just opened up the world.
Again, I did talk to some of my family members because I knew they would things that I didn't know, or they would recall certain things a different way than I recalled them. That was very important to me. But I just wanted to make sure I got a good grasp of stories throughout different decades, too.
De la Canal: And is it mostly about, like, places and restaurants and businesses that have been lost?
Love Live: Places, restaurants, people — you know, honoring people who may have been gone, or they're not in their position anymore, but we remember them. You know, they're just as much of a staple as the actual, tangible place. These people are staples in Charlotte.
De la Canal: This is another clip of a man that you interviewed named Marvin, a native Charlottean who you spoke with on the street.
Sound bite: "Another venue I miss — it's not really a venue, but it's more of an urban neighborhood thing — and it's called Earle Village. Yeah. I miss our old neighborhoods. I'm not really a fan of how a lot of our neighborhoods are being demolished in favor of new condominium development and — I got nothing against it though, but I miss my old neighborhood, my Piedmont Courts, Earle Village. Talk about it. I miss my old things like that."
De la Canal: So it's not just old restaurants and businesses we're talking about, it's also entire neighborhoods.
Love Live: Yes, when he talked about the neighborhoods, I was so happy, because I hadn't run into anyone quite yet who talked specifically about the neighborhoods. And when he did that, I was like man, he gets it. And I say at the end of the video, I say, "Oh. You're a Charlotte native for real for real." And he says, "Yes, I'm a Charlotte native for real for real," and in that moment, that's that connection that I want to make with natives. That's that connection that I hope to make with people who aren't natives, right, 'cause it's for them as well, so.
De la Canal: What should people expect to see at this performance, and what do you hope people will take away from it?
Love Live: Ooh, you can expect to see a lot. There's a lot of performing. I am stepping into the characters of these people who have told me their stories. You can expect to see these beautiful graphics that accompany the stories. You can hear amazing music.
It was very important for me to, like, when I start performing and get into these roles of these people who are telling their stories, it was very important for me to honor the story and to honor the time, so you'll see a lot of different kind of clothing that matches the time period of the story that I'm telling as well, or matches the person who was telling the story. And I hope that people when they leave — I don't want the misconception to be that this show is only for natives, right. I think that could be a misconception. I think I've heard that a couple of times.
I want people to leave loving where they come from. Loving the place that really brought them to where they are, and encouraging them to do more for the place that raised them and brought them. I always tell people this is my offering to Charlotte, right? This is my give-back to Charlotte. (My) thank you, Charlotte.
And I want people to leave being like, 'How can I say thank you to Charlotte? How can I say thank you?' if they're from Oklahoma, how can I say thank you to Florida, Miami, or someplace like that? How do I say thank you to the place that brought me here?
De la Canal: I also want to ask you a personal question if that's OK?
Love Live: Yeah.
De la Canal: You were born in Charlotte. Your family has been here for generations. This city is your home. Do you ever think about leaving?
Love Live: Oh Nick, you're so funny. The crazy thing about that question is I address that in the show. So I'm not going to answer it, right.
De la Canal: OK.
Love Live: You'll have to come to the show, and this question — I speak on it. I say something about it. Because it is a topic that I think about, that I get asked a lot, and that I've just thought about for a long time. So I address that question in the show. It is the last piece of the show, and I give my response to that.
De la Canal: It is hard, because this city feels like so much like a home, but I guess people will have to come to see to find out.
Love Live: You'll have to come out and find out. Will I leave Charlotte? (laughter)