Closing her eyes and smiling gently, Divinity Roxx strums the mellow bassline to her song “Rebel.” The top of her black boots glow in the purple light of the Craft Theater as she presses her toe into the loop pedal, lifts both her hands off her bass, and begins to rap.
Ever since Roxx picked up her first bass, she’s played at some of the biggest events with some of the biggest names in music: at the White House for the Obama family; on the Grammy’s, the BET Awards, Ellen and the Oprah Winfrey Show; touring with grammy-winning musician Victor Wooten; playing in the first all female band for Beyoncé. But Roxx, 43, only began playing bass during her second year of college. A good friend of hers and fellow musician suggested she pick up the bass.
“I found out later that this was the only year of his life that he played bass,” Roxx said. “I like to think it was because he was supposed to encourage me to play bass. Music found me [then] because music is special like that.”
When Roxx returned to school after that summer, she came back with a sparkly red Washburn bass on her back.
After Roxx began playing gigs at local spots in Atlanta, she found a role model: Victor Wooten. This was before media was easily accessible, so fans would attend his concerts and film him playing, then pass around the VHS tapes. Roxx saw a two minute clip of Wooten and decided she needed to meet him.
When Wooten performed in her town, Atlanta, Roxx dropped everything she was doing and ran to the club he was playing, catching the last few minutes of his show. Later that night, she met Anthony Wellington, a bassist touring with Wooten, and she asked him if she was thumping right. He proceeded to bring her to the tour van and let her play Wooten’s bass:
After seeing Wooten play, Roxx discovered that he ran a bass camp in Tennessee. She attended the camp and two months after she returned home, she got a call from Wooten asking her if she wanted to go on tour with him. For the next five years, Roxx opened for Wooten when he was touring. She was content with that life, so when she heard the Beyoncé was holding auditions for an all-female band she did not consider leaving Wooten, but her friends held a sit-in to convince her.
“Some friends of mine come over to my house and they say ‘We aren’t leaving your house until you go on this audition,’” Roxx said. “They were serious so I said ‘There’s a couch. There’s a TV. There’s a refrigerator. Get whatever you need. I’m not doing it. I’m gonna go back into my room . . .’ I came back out after an hour and they were still there. They were like ‘No Divinity, we’re serious. You have to go. You have to. This was made for you.’ So I said ‘Okay. I’ll go.’”
Roxx did not begin to think that she would enjoy touring with Beyoncé until last two days of the second round of auditions in New York.
“[That’s when] Beyoncé comes into rehearsals,” Roxx said. “Her and Jay-Z are there and they’re all glowing. I remember looking at them, and they were literally glowing.”
Roxx started to feel nervous when it all became real to her. She had to sit in the bathroom and give herself a pep-talk. Then she found out she had made it into Beyoncé’s all-female band.
After Beyoncé got pregnant, the band broke up and many of the members, including Roxx, began making original music. In April of 2016, she released her album ImPossible.
“I allow the music just to take me where it goes,” Roxx said. “Being honest in my writing is the most import thing I can do, also to really try to touch somebody’s heart. I know everybody is going through something and I’m going through something, and I know that a lot of times we connect by talking about the things we’re going through because some people don’t have those words. They don’t have that means to express themselves. So, as musicians, [if] we can give somebody that, it’s really important.”
When asked about being a female in the music industry, Roxx spoke about her father. She was taught from a young age that she could anything she set her mind to and was encouraged to participate in activities non-traditional for women. Her father wanted her to be self-sufficient.
Roxx approached music the same way: never considering that she should shy away from the bass just because it was uncommon for women to play it. However, she still deals with significant sexism and ignorance from people who underestimate her.
“I’ll walk through the airport with a bass on my back and men will ask me ‘Do you play that?’” Roxx said. “What kind of question is that? I don’t know what they think. Yes of course I play this! I would not be carrying it around if I did not play it. At the beginning it frustrates you. You wanna fight. You wanna argue. You wanna push back. You wanna prove something. After a while you just say, ‘You know what, I don’t have anything to prove to anybody. I know who I am.”
“I’ve been in a lot of situations where it didn’t feel like I was welcome and I just had to stand in the truth that I was there because I was supposed to be,” Roxx said. “Nobody can take that away from me. You have to stand in that and don’t back down.”