How to Become a Music Producer / Ashlea's Country Album

🔑Melvin Duren, a producer and musician has been making beats since he was 16 and playing instruments since he was 4. He identifies as a Christian and his mentor Tony Jackson is a pastor (Tony Jackson) from Detroit, MI and has produced for both @ludacris & @eminem ⁣

While he loves the Pop music genre, he has produced Hip Hop and, of late, also country music for yours truly (Me! Ashlea).

✝️I’m the daughter of TWO pastors, a former #worshipleader and admittedly don’t go to church 🤷🏽‍♀️ BUT I remember people getting PISSED when a Christian/Gospel artist makes music with secular (non-Christian) artists.⁣ @kirkfranklin and @saltnpepaofficialfrom back in the day anyone?

🤷🏽‍♀️My question is WHY do only musicians have to follow this HARD LINE? Why can Christian bankers or realtors or teachers work with any faith or individual without as much heat as producers and musicians? What do you think?🗣⁣

✍🏽As Melvin’s star ⭐️ is rising, does his faith stop who can work with? Sound off in the comments👇🏽

Ashlea ArcherComment
Young, Dumb & an Optional Experience

Our special guest for today's episode, Lee Johnson, is a successful pharmaceutical sales manager, father and art collector who we were absolutely elated to speak with. For this episode we decided to take a small detour from our normal "Mildly Qualified" protocol and bring on an individual who for what it's worth had all their shit together early, remained focused and is doing remarkably well as a result. Again, Lee's life wasn't and isn't perfect by any means, but what makes his story all the more compelling is that as a young Black man who grew up in the hood, a near tragedy where he was within a split second of losing his life served as an epiphany to him realizing life is short don't waste a minute of it.

Lee attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University where he finished their revered business Master's program. The entire five years that Lee was enrolled in school while in Tallahassee he neglected all juicy social aspects of traditional college life (partying, pledging, drinking, fraternizing) and dedicated himself to a relentless grind holding off on the spoils until he had achieved his goal. Lee stated that at a prestigious university such as FAMU he knew he wasn't the smartest person on campus but he dedicated himself to working harder than everyone else would be willing to. During his final years of high school and his entire matriculation through college Lee was selected to participate in Inroads. Inroads is a non-profit organization dedicated to fixing the lack of diversity in corporate America. In high school he was a part of the Pre College Component and in college he took part in the Talent Pool where as long as he maintained above a 3.0 GPA he would have the opportunity to intern during the summer with an Inroads partnered corporation that aligned with his major. That company for Lee was Bayer Pharmaceuticals and was how he got his start in what turned out to be a great career in pharmaceutical sales. Subsequent to graduation Lee relocated to New York to work at Bayer after they offered him a full time position.

While living in New York, the city that never sleeps, is where he begin to cultivate a love and appreciation for fine arts. He began attending local art shows, collecting pieces that resonated with him. One of his hometown neighborhood buddies Gary, ironically an aspiring artist, was also residing in the city at the same time so Lee would work with him collaboratively to create some of his first collector pieces that grace prominent areas of his humble abode today. In this dynamic episode we talk about focus, resilience, appreciating and not wasting the time you have, tapping into your creative space, as well as minorities understanding the intricacies of collecting fine art. 

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So, she filed for bankruptcy

Ivette Cabreja grew up in the Bronx, New York. The neighborhood, Ivette describes as a communal, everyone looking out for each other, but poor and at times susceptible to violence and crime. As a student, she was goal-oriented, driven and started working while in high school. Her dedication out of high school led to a job working for American Express in the World Trade Center. 

September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center was the target of a terrorist attack. Ivette was scheduled to work, but had called out of work for a job interview. Shortly after, she decided to leave New York and move to Florida to start a new life. 

Florida would prove challenging as the pay rate was dramatically less than her pay in New York, and she would end sleeping on the floor of a friend's home. Public Transportation in Florida is also vastly different from New Ivette was walking two hours to work or waking up at 4:30 am to get to work by 10:00 am.

Moving to Florida was no fairytale...and after a series of financial challenges, Ivette ended up filing for bankruptcy. Adults all have challenges with finances, but we tend to be secretive, which only causes more stress. No more shaming adults for how they handle money. Let's give solutions, not shame.

 There is more to the story, but we don't want to spoil it ;-). Her story continues over two episodes so be sure to hear the WHOLE tale on Tuesday & Thursday.

Ivette Cabreja's contact:



Ashlea ArcherComment
Episode 10: Interview with a Former Corrections Officer Turned Entrepreneur

Our special guest for today's episode, Yolanda Copeland, is a South Florida native who relocated to North Florida to retire after completing a highly decorated and successful almost three decades in the criminal justice system. Yolanda personifies an atypical retiree due to the fact that she's seemingly busier following retirement than she ever was during her working years as a correctional officer. Yolanda is the CEO of multiple businesses, involved in real estate acquisition/rehabilitation, heavily involved in the local non-profit sector, a criminal justice reform consultant, a rights restoration advocate, recently moved her parents from Miami to Jacksonville to look after them, has a new grandson in Central Florida that she travels to see once a week and is a popular figure of the Springfield neighborhood's bourgeoning social scene. 

In the episode Yolanda explained that she was very sheltered growing up and considered herself "Mildly Qualified" due to the fact that her parents like most Black parents spent more time protecting and providing than teaching her the skills essential for an efficacious life of adulting. Because of that she believes she was ill equipped when it came to rearing her own child as a single mother. Now as she basks in her infinite wisdom gained through essential experience she will ensure that her grandson isn't a victim of this culturally ingrained generational pattern. Yolanda also discussed her fascinating career as a correctional officer, how the institution affects adulting and to her dismay the lack of input law enforcement specialists have in shaping prominent legislation affecting the Black and Brown populations. 

Yolanda admits that though she doesn't regret her career choice because it has provided a relatively stable, comfortable life for herself and her family if she would her been pushed by her parents to craft a bold agenda that advanced her God granted gifts her life would look remarkably different than it does today. Yolanda's episode birthed an enlightening discussion on the importance of having an agenda for your life. The Mildly Qualified family  encourages you to check it out because we promise that your life will be all the better for it!            

Ashlea ArcherComment
Episode 9: When Will The Pain End?

Our special guest for today's episode JCeles is a survivor, widow, father and entrepreneur who blessed us profoundly by agreeing to share his compelling story about growing up with parents perpetually struggling with addiction, being raised by his grandparents as a result, finding the love of his life in the eighth grade, eventually marrying her and starting a family, unexpectedly losing her to colon cancer at the age of 37 and now raising a family (three beautiful daughters and a son) as a single Black father. 

JCeles, real name Jason Celestine, was introduced to this world in the midst of the 80's crack cocaine epidemic and unfortunately his biological parents were just two among the inordinate amount of people whose families were fragmented or destroyed. As someone personally affected, on his episode we delve into the difference between how the local, state and federal governments have addressed the opioid epidemic compared to the uninspired lack of effort given to eradicate the predominately urban areas of the same crack cocaine that they were later found to have been responsible for supplying in the first place. JCeles was blessed to have a capable support system around him and despite not having his mother or father around full time growing up, his grandparents stepped in willingly to provide the love, guidance, nurturing, discipline and principles that shaped him into the husband that he was and the father that he is. 

Not enough times, especially in popular media, are the great Black fathers celebrated rather we're inundated with vilification of poor examples which are truly in the minority.  Not only is JCeles a successful businessman with his own barbershop located centrally in the neighborhood where he was reared but he is an incredibly involved parent who sees to it that his children understand the imperatives of love, laughter, legacy and most prominently keeping the marvelous memories of his wife and their mother eternally  in their hearts. The overwhelming loss of the quiet but powerful family matriarch is still a bitter pill to swallow but motivates them individually and collectively to push through to greatness because she would accept nothing less than.      

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Episode 8: Adulting Advice From The Son of Runaway Slaves

Our special guest for today's episode, affectionately referred to as Uncle V, is a seasoned and vivacious gentleman whose energy belies his age. As we matriculate through this thing called life as younger individuals we often haughtily overlook the experiences, contributions and wisdom possessed by those that have already had the pleasure of traversing the valley of the shadow of "adulthood". For those that would choose to adamantly quip about older generations lack of being hip due to things evolving truly cease to understand that the more things change, the more they stay the same! Knowledge is power, absolutely. Popular to contrary belief, Google is not the only reliable resource available to us to cull important knowledge from regarding our history, lessons gained through hearing the rich personal life experiences of others and myriad invaluable life hacks.

Uncle V is a walking, breathing treasure trove of stories that you'd both want and not want to hear but regardless on cue he's ready to spit em out to anyone in close proximity willing to listen. He'll tell you compelling stories such as when his parents were slaves getting away on a watermelon truck, growing up black and in poverty during the civil rights movement, why there is NO school better than his high school alma mater, how he made it a point to not stay in any place longer than three years before moving to somewhere new and what that taught him, enjoying himself way way too much while living in California working for Stevie Wonder and hastily moving back home to Jacksonville without warning to take care of his ailing mom just to name a few.  

Uncle V is a true throwback, a legendary community relic who unabashedly exemplifies agape love for his people and his community. Even after being away from his hometown and the neighborhood he grew up in for so many years, he came back and picked up seamlessly as if he had never left by looking after both the new residents and the same individuals who remained that looked out for him as he was growing up. Many argue, justifiably, that social media and technology has undeniable altered authentic social interactions and how residents view community as a whole. Whatever your view you can't debate that the "village concept" of old no longer exists and has been replaced with a more modern every man for himself mentality. However, Uncle V refuses to subscribe to that narrative and will continue to love his community and there is nothing that you can do about it.  

By: SenatorMills, Producer of Mildly Qualified Podcast

Episode 7: Saying NO to Student Loans

Dr. Maira Martelo came to the United States with only a suitcase 13 years ago with a lot of determination but no money in her pockets. She is originally from Columbia where she was all too familiar with the burden imposed by poverty and limited options. Despite her surroundings, and her parents only having an elementary school education, she learned firsthand the value of an education, community service and of paving your own path.

Without spoiling her amazing story too much, Dr. Martelo says one of the greatest lessons she learned is building relationships with other people beyond a handshake and an email and that there is more than one way to do anything, including getting an education. She received her education with ZERO student loans and is a proud homeowner with limited debt and a strong social and professional circle. 

She details how she did this over two episodes, this one and the After Hours Showwhich posts on Thursday. Leave us a comment and a 5-star review after you have a listen. I'm sure you will find a lot of gems in this one.

Ashlea Archer
Episode 6: How to Deal With Intimidation as an Adult

Today's guest, Kristen, is a realtor in Jacksonville, FL with every reason to feel intimidated. Like too many children, her father walked out of her life at a young age and to add insult to injury her stepfather, a man she described as "wonderful" died unexpectedly. Kristen's mother was now alone with three children and limited resources so Kristen and her two brothers were sent away to the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, PA for children from low-income families.

Imposter Syndrome, a phrase that often makes the rounds on the internet, is loosely defined as feeling like you do not belong in a professional field or arena where you have "earned a spot." Entertainers, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, have often described feeling like an imposter in "fancy spaces," even if his/her talent brought them there.

Kristen has "networked" with men and women in tax brackets many of us only dream of and she describes how fights intimidation. How do you get comfortable in spaces that feel "too good for you"? And by the way, nothing is too good for you. Let's talk about! Ready?

Kristen Van Riper


Comment below how you fight insecurity and intimidation in professional settings.

Ashlea ArcherComment
Episode 5: How Do You Recover From Losing a Child?

Who gets to decide who you get to be?

Who decides what stage you get to perform on?

When is ever okay to quit?


Our guest, GeneDotCom, is a renowned radio personality with thousands of fans spanning  national and international platforms. On paper, he is an entertainer, personality, actor, mentor, and a staple at  V101.5 in Jacksonville, FL and iHeartRadio. The “Dot” stands for “Don’t Oppress Truth” or “Doing Other Things.” He hosts some of the most sought after events and continues to grow his brand power and influence. So why is this person on a podcast called Mildly Qualified, that focuses on the challenges of maneuvering adulthood?


GeneDotCom became a father to his beautiful son as a teenager. The challenges of being a teen parent was a major factor in GeneDotCom turning down an college acceptance letter to Florida A&M University. This is the point in the story where many would have quit. To provide for his new family, Gene worked as courier which then led to a chance encounter at a radio station on his delivery route. This chance-encounter started Gene down a path that would alter his career forever and create firm roots in the radio industry. Many years of hustle, perseverance, and courage built the career that continues to grow today.


In his personal life, however, contrasting to his growing business success, his home was struck by tragedy. His only son, Desmond, was killed in a violent crime at the age of 24 years old. Less than a year after burying his son, his grandmother passed away, bringing Gene back to the same church where he laid his son to rest just seven months prior.


No parent should have to bury his/her child. The pain and confusion can feel insurmountable, but the attitude and perspective of GeneDotCom during this interview can only be described as not only resilient, but inspiring. Not only does he share his pain, openly and honestly, he shares advice and encouragement to those in similar circumstances. 


You don’t want to miss this episode! Comment with your thoughts below. Tell us how you have overcome life’s challenges and share your story with us. We would love to hear from you. 

Gene can be reached at at the following:

IG @GeneDotCom

Facebook: Gene Dot

Twitter @GeneDotCom

Ashlea ArcherComment
Episode 4: Does Prison Makes You Less Qualified to be an Adult?

The word of the day is "recidivism." This word means the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend. Essentially, if someone gets out of jail or prison will they go back to prison, jail or both? The National Institute of Justice reports recidivism rates as high as 76% within 5 years of release, with males, African Americans and young adults having the highest rates of recidivism.


Well, if you are a business owner or a hiring manager reading this, would you hire a felon? Or even someone with a misdemeanor? I'm not judging you because every business is different.  And, of course, there are industry-specific stipulations if the offense is sex-related or violent or involves children. There are over 2 million Americans in corrections and it begs the question after they serve their time/pay their debt to society, upon release, what should happen to them?

We are speaking broadly because today's episode focuses on the amazing story of Mr. Keith Ivey, owner of Ivey League Auto Sales in Jacksonville, FL. As a young adult, he was arrested and ended up serving almost a decade of his life in prison. After release, he ended up not returning to prison but struggled tremendously with the stigma of a record and, naturally, earning back his family's trust. He had to take a hard look at his life and started reading a lot of books while incarcerated and learning about auto repair in prison and later auto sales during the prison work-release program. 

Now as a mentor he has been an advocate for voting rights of ex-criminals and being accountable for one's own life. His story has been featured on NPR and the Washington Post. You don't want to miss this episode and if you know someone with a record, please let them hear this. 

I am rooting for you and if you have made a mistake or a 100 mistakes, it is not too late to be better.

Keith Ivey
Ivey League Auto Sales
8215 103rd Street
Jacksonville, FL 32210

Ashlea ArcherComment
Episode 3: Would You Like a Visa With That?

My story...I was raised in The Bahamas...I was also "lucky" in that my mother gave birth to me on American soil. When she tells the story, depending on the day, it was either an afterthought or calculated. Either way, I am lucky. Lucky, because my path led me to an American college (undergraduate degree), American University (Master’s Degree), & American college (Pending Doctorate).

I have had sizable gaps between my degrees and have been able to stay in the United States and work with virtually no trouble. I take this for granted often. This episode, my friend Priscila and I, reflect on what being a "dual citizen" means. As you would expect, people want us to pick one side and if we pick the wrong side there is usually hell to pay. 

There is also the guilt. She and I both have had friends get deported. We are here and people we love are gone, another number, another family, gone. Some had no idea they were undocumented. Some came into the country under one politician and had to leave because the country changed its mind. 

So does your immigration status make you feel more or less qualified to be an adult? Depends on who you ask. I've been feeling enough pressure financially and careerwise without the added pressure of "papers". I am not special. I have citizenship by accident, not because I earned it or am special in any way. In the same regard, people being locked out aren't monsters. While a narrative of “rapist and murderers crossing borders with machetes” is an easier pill to swallow for some, it's not true. Borders are human constructs that can often lack humanity.

Watch and/or listen and let me know your thoughts.

Ashlea ArcherComment
Episode 2: Jack & Jane of All Trades and Master of...?

The saying jack of all tradesdates back to the days of Robert Greene and Shakespeare (aka hundreds of years ago/ a really, really long time ago). The centuries between said phrase’s inception has not lessened the impact of those words. The full expression is “Jack of all trades and a master of none” (YIKES!). What this expression is essentially saying is you (we?) have to work in a lot of trades to compensate for the fact we haven’t mastered anything (rude?). Is it time for tissues and violins yet? 


Firstly, I think this expression is harsh (well meaning, but harsh). This is 2019, not the 1500s and we do not have pensions or clear and direct paths to promotions at (traditional) jobs as the societal norm let alone (anymore) let alone solid retirement plans (comment below if you have a 401K or IRA). So, survival in this Brave New World requires grit and a lot of jobs to keep the lights on and cellphones connected because many of these trades require ye olde cellular device (Uber, Lyft, Grub Hub, Postmates, anyone?). You may have heard this new trend in employment described as the “gig economy.” The gig economy is a little bit “odd job” sprinkled with “none of the jobs have anything to do with each other” and a dash of “the rent is too damn high.” It’s not all doom and gloombecause many creatives and entrepreneurs have found a home in this new economic wave coupled with the ubiquitous-nessof the internet compared to days gone. If you are thriving in this new world, I  applaud you. 


Then again I’m a couch-hopping homeless grad student so what do I know? Today’s guest, Joe, is a jack of all tradesbut he is no push over or lacking mastery. Like you, reader, he is relentless, has been sidetracked by life (and bad luck) and does what he has to do to survive. He is talented and gainfully employed in multiple arenas that seemingly have nothing to do with each other. Joe is a barber in Jacksonville, Florida, an actor, a singer, a nursing student and he has founded a company called Love Line Apparel (@emphasize_love on Instagram), which spreads love and awareness to those battling diseases like breast cancer and overcoming stigmas related to their communities (my LGBTQ family). Joe like many of us is a multihyphenate. We do what we have to survive and thrive at the same time. 


This episode is hilarious because neither Joe nor I believe in pity parties and sometimes bad luck is so bad that it becomes…well, funny. It did not kill you so you must be stronger. This episode is dedicated to my Jacks and Janes of all trades. You are a master in my book.

Ashlea ArcherComment
Episode 1: Adults Who Win vs Those Who Fail

My name is Ashlea and I am a failing adult (Now you say, “Hi Ashlea!”). While I began 2019 filled with promise and hope (and a man—yikes!), I currently live on my friend “Letisha’s” couch in Central Florida and I am basically unemployed. I ended 2018 as a college professor (ohhh fancy!) teaching various biology courses throughout Central Florida. I quit everything. I thought I would be starting another job involving travel and living in big cities with my then-boyfriend and having speaking engagements and giving advice to millennials and Gen Zs and being a “boss lady.” None of the above happened. Instead, my boyfriend of almost two years and I broke up (on not-so-good terms) and I, with my tail tucked between my legs, moved out of his house. I sold most of my belongings (or gave it away to whomever would take it) until I could fit everything I owned in my 2017 Jeep Cherokee. Did I mention that up until last week I was wayyy behind on my Jeep’s payments? Thank God for hardship allowances. I was honestly getting tired of parking my Jeep in different spots to avoid it getting repossessed. Did I also mention this podcast and this, this, the accompanying blog, will be raw and uncut?

I won’t lie to you, while I laugh a lot in the podcast, this crap is hard as hell. I am in the unpopular part of the Cinderella story. I am in the ashes-and-cleaning-up-after-your-stepsisters’-crap-and-sleeping-on-the-floor-of-a- home-I-don’t-own part of the story. I am in the part of the “fairytale” that most people skim over. I’m failing. There is no glass slipper or fairy godmother. There are just good friends that Cash App me money for gas when I need it or let me cry and buy me a bottle of whiskey or wine (whiskey is preferred) when I can’t even talk about how much I feel like a failure.

I am not a pushover. I am a doctoral student for Christ’s sake! I just made a really bad left turn and now I’m picking up the pieces. This episode of my new podcast, Mildly Qualified, is a (really) funny take on my current struggle, and comparing (and contrasting) it my “roommate’s” life. Also can I technically I call her a roommate if I’m not paying her (insert side eye and awkward smile emoji)? She has been great and she is giving me time to get back on my feet. And I cook a lot for her cause I am a GREAT cook (humble brag). Letisha, my #roommate, is six-figure-making fancy pants in the medical field and I am in awe of her. She is my first guest and she talks about her journey in this episode. She and I are the same age and she and I started undergraduate college and our doctoral programs at the SAME time. So, how did I end up sleeping on her couch?

Comment below with your thoughts on the episode and where you are in your journey. Is it what you imagined or do you feel like you were not prepared?

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