Queen Esther

Queen Esther

Musicians | Instrument: Vocals | Location: New York City

Queen Esther is a Billie Holliday-ish singer. Her singing also somehow reminds me of Sly Stone in the way she slides a syllable from one note to another in her melodies while imbuing the note with funk and the word with poignance.

—Rate Your Music

Updated: October 31, 2022

Born: June 30

Solo Performer. Vocalist. Topliner. Writer. Musician. Songwriter. Playwright. Librettist. Actor. TED Speaker.

Described as “...the unknown queen of Americana…” (Feedback, Norway), “..a Black Lucinda Williams…” and a “...brutal, original, explosive singer…”  (Vanity Fair, Spain), Queen Esther’s creative output musically is the culmination of several critical Southern elements, not the least of which are years of recording and touring internationally as frontwoman for several projects with her mentor, harmolodic guitar icon James “Blood” Ulmer, including a stint in his seminal band Odyssey.  Raised in Atlanta, GA and embedded in Charleston, SC’s Lowcountry – a region with African traditions and Black folkways that span centuries and constantly inform her work –  Queen Esther uses her Southern roots as a touchstone to explore cultural mores in America, deconstructing well-worn historical narratives while creating a reclamation-driven soundscape.  

A member of SAG/AFTRA, Actors Equity, Dramatists Guild and the Recording Academy, her work as a vocalist, lyricist, songwriter, actor, solo performer, playwright and librettist has led to creative collaborations in neo-vaudeville, alt-theater, various alt-rock configurations, (neo) swing bands, trip-hop DJs, spoken word performances, jazz combos, jam bands, various blues configurations, original Off-Broadway plays and musicals, experimental music/art noise and performance art. 

Queen Esther’s most recent work includes: a sold-out weekend with her western swing collective The Black Rose of Texas at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola as well as their much-anticipated event 2022 Summer for the City that included a workshop at Jazz at Lincoln Center; and a grant from The 2022 New York City Women's Fund for Media, Music and Theater for Blackbirding, an alt-country album she’s currently recording – written during an all media artist residency at Gettysburg National Military Park. A proud member of Actor's Equity, SAG/AFTRA, The Dramatists Guild and The Recording Academy, her critically acclaimed 2021 Black Americana album Gild The Black Lily is the fourth release on her imprint EL Recordings – and her 2018 TED Talk about the true origins of country and bluegrass continues to reverberate throughout the Americana community. 

Coming in 2023: Rona, an album of rangy alt-Americana songs written in Harlem during the early months of the pandemic lockdown, Blackbirding, the alt-country/jazz album created on the Gettysburg battlefield and Things Are Looking Up, a jazz album of original songs and Lady Day's lost classics.


2008 Grand Prize Winner, Jazzmobile Vocal Competition


Martin 18E Retro Acoustic Guitar
Martin S1 Soprano Ukulele


“Our admiration for Queen Esther is almost beyond measure.” — Rootstime (Belgium)

"Queen Esther is a Billie Holliday-ish singer. Her singing also somehow reminds me of Sly Stone in the way she slides a syllable from one note to another in her melodies while imbuing the note with funk and the word with poignance."— Rate Your Music

"Every song is sung with passion and fire by this underrated female singer who should be a musical giant." —Country Music People (UK)

“This wasn't the overly produced, swelling, ramped-up, modern gospel that accompanies the ubiquitous Sunday morning, religious radio shows. It was a breathtaking recreation of raw-to-the-bone, plaintive and excruciatingly heartfelt, unadorned, old-time, rural gospel music; the spiritual equivalent of Robert Johnson's worldly, piercing, early delta blues. I personally felt transported to some unassuming, rustic, backwoods, Black American church of the 1930's. Queen Esther's relation to this music through her background, (born and raised in South Carolina), and innate, exquisite sensibility, was evident, as she spoke between songs, probing the audience's knowledge of the music, while filling in a bit of the not-widely-known history of this vital and uniquely American art form. This was a beautiful, artistic and daring performance.” — Healing Arts Initiative

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Hard Pressed Publicity

Digga Digga Do

From: The Hot Toddies Jazz Band
By Queen Esther