She was rushing up the crowded escalator, late for a performance at the Black Women’s Expo at McCormick Place in 2014.
“I turned around to yell to them to hurry up. We had to get dressed before going on,” Dani Jo Williams said. “I turn, and instead of seeing my team, I see him. And I’m smiling like, ‘Oh, hi.'”
“It was love at first sight,” her now-husband T.L. said, joking about the seemingly ubiquitous slow-mo scenes in many ’90s rom-coms. “I had the fan blowing on me. Y’know, the fan, the lights, everything.”
Meeting up backstage after her team’s dance performance and his headlining slot, Dani Jo said she was gushing over him. “I’m telling him how great he is. I’m a creative director and choreographer at this time, so I’m giving him all these notes. And he’s like, ‘Do you want to take a picture?’ So we take a picture, and he says, ‘What’s your number so I can send it to you?’ We’ve never stopped talking since.”
Today, they drop “Getting in Love’s Way,” the second single off their soon-to-be-released sophomore album, “Our Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams.”
The song, which smoothly glides through pop and R&B territories, is a look back at the couple’s past in a way.
“It’s our whole generation’s story, our story before we met each other,” T.L. said. “I think we could both admit that we were getting in love’s way. We were trying to make true love happen, but you don’t make it happen. True love finds you.”
“A lot of people want to find love so badly that they may just be getting in their own way,” Dani Jo added. “The song is pretty much dropping what I call nuggets for the person that wants to find love but just isn’t finding it right now. It’s like giving them the key.”
“Whether you’re too forceful or you won’t pull the trigger on someone that you know is right for you,” T.L. said. “Either way, you’re trying to facilitate it. But you got to realize that God’s plan is bigger than you and is always bigger than your plan. Sometimes you need to just step back and let it happen.”
The upcoming second album hones in on the couples’ dreams and what inspires them to do what they do, T.L. said.
“We both grew up in families that were really supportive of artistic dreams,” he said. “I grew up with parents that wanted to see me do music and were supportive of it, and Dani came from a family where her mom and dad helped her pursue a career in music or dance and art. You don’t get that a lot, so we’re living out the dreams of our parents and our grandparents, who are all singers and dancers.”
Before creating RubyGld Smoke, Dani Jo did choreography and taught at the Joffrey Ballet. In addition to his solo music career, T.L. had also studied and performed at Chicago’s Second City.
By way of passing that creative inspiration along, the two founded Symphony of Change in 2016, a nonprofit organization that helps benefit arts education in Chicago Public Schools.
“We started it to help evolve or help progress arts education in schools so that the education of the arts matches the career field of the arts,” T.L. said. “Our intention is that when it does that, it brings more value to the school.”
The nonprofit is working on several initiatives, including bringing dance education to schools. The organization’s Citywide Music Program, which runs in partnership with Columbia College, gives high school kids the opportunity to learn music and get mentorship from Columbia music majors before playing in the Symphony of Change Symphonic and Jazz Band. The music majors are also using the mentorship program as part of a class project.
“It’s really cool the collaboration that has happened,” Dani Jo said. “They get a chance to perform at Columbia College and also make an album that will be distributed by our label (Quiet Kingdom Recordings).”
Through the charity and the Quiet Kingdom Media Group, the Williams are reaching out through music and digital content creation, including filmmaking, for which they’ve won several awards.
But right now, the main focus is on the music. The new album “Our Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams” is due out in mid-October, but RubyGld Smoke will be performing some of it this weekend at an intimate acoustic show in Villa Park.
• • •
RubyGld Smoke’s GLDMembers Only Chicago
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25
Where: 331 S. Ardmore Ave., Villa Park
Tickets: $20 at rubygldsmoke.com