Baby boom

Can Julie Dexter marry music with motherhood?

Trillville or Gucci Mane devotees probably won't be familiar with the name Julie Dexter, but folks who dwell in the cellars of Atlanta's soul music scene know her all too well.

She's the British-born, ATL-based soul vocalist with three acclaimed CDs under her belt.

She's the passionate, dread-headed, jet-setting performer known to rock crowds at the Apache Café and London's Jazz Café.

She's the versatile jack-of-all-trades who's played a legion of roles: from teacher to head of her own Ketch A Vibe record label to promoter to club owner.

Oh, and she's pregnant.

Yep, the woman dubbed "the Queen of U.K. Soul" is very pregnant. So pregnant, in fact, that she'll probably pop out a beautiful baby girl before this article sees print.

"It's got to be the biggest thing that ever happened to me," says Dexter, taking a break from working in her downtown loft. "I can't think of anything that's more overwhelming or powerful, beautiful, exciting and nervous at the same time."

Yes, motherhood is a beautiful thing, but if you're an internationally touring recording artist, a soon-to-be bundle of joy can be viewed as an odd detour from a demanding career. Dexter, however, appears determined not let a little thing like a fetus slow her down. If anything, the as-yet-unborn child seems to be fueling her notoriously burnin' fire. In fact, since discovering she was pregnant, Dexter has played more than 25 gigs in locales including New York City, Washington D.C., and Chicago, as well as Atlanta.

"And people thought they were gonna see less of me," she says. "I wasn't planning to be this busy, but subconsciously I think I did. I heard stories about women being laid up for months without mobility, having to get their feet rubbed. But that wasn't me. I'm a get-up-and-go person. I wanted my baby to get to know me before she was born, so when she comes out she won't say, 'This woman is crazy!'"

And once she actually delivers, Dexter vows not to miss a beat; she's already locked down a healthy lineup of performances for after the big birthday.

"Obviously, I'll have to make some major changes in terms of how I physically get around and do shows — especially the first couple of years 'cause those are the important years, the nurturing years," she says. "But [having a baby] can only affect my music positively."

Motherhood and gigging aside, recording remains a big factor in Dexter's future. She recently finished work on two vastly different projects: one CD featuring Dexter collaborating with pianist Takana Miyamoto for a collection of jazz standards, and the other teaming Dexter with local bassist Khari Simmons (of Jiva fame) for a series bossa nova-tinged tunes. Both still-untitled albums mark a departure from the hip-hop/dub/soul sound she practically trademarked on her first two CDs, Peace of Mind and Dexterity. The departure began with her latest release, Conscious. Sporting a bevy of sequenced drumbeats and synthesized sounds, it surprised fans who were expecting live instrumentation as heard on previous albums.

"I was more intrigued at how it was received 'cause it was different from the first two albums. I definitely gained a lot of new fans. Old fans were like, 'I liked it, but it ain't like Dexterity.' But it was all positive. Even if you say something negative about my music, it's still a positive reaction to me — because if you react, that means I've affected you in some way," she says. "But by the time I'm finished with these new albums, people are going to be so confused. They're gonna be like, 'I don't know what that girl is doing!'"

So what else is on her plate?

"There's a reggae album that's going to come at some point," the daughter of Jamaican parents promises. "That's in my bones."

Oh yeah ... and that new baby.

Editor's note: Dexter gave birth Tues., Oct. 11.