Catchagroove: I first met you at the Monday night summer parties at the Hudson Hotel back in 07.
Lisa: Oh yeah! The Giant Step party.
Catchagroove: Itís been almost four years since you released Cherry, what have you been up to?
Lisa: Wow! Has it been four years already? Well, Iíve going through a transition, I left Naked (Naked-Music), which is obvious since this album is out on Salted records. Iíve also been touring. Iíve been on the road constantly even before I dropped ďCherryĒ. I went through the motions of needing to leave Naked so I was sorting that out even as they were thinking about the next album. I didnít have any plans at that point but Miquel (Miqs) was starting his own label and he wanted to do an album. From that time, Dave Warrin and I were writing material for the album. We wanted to get it out last year but we needed to change some things, you know how that goes, ďWell, letís add another songĒ. So Iíve been touring with Miquel and other DJís plus writing for the album here in NY and itís finally coming to life.
Catchagroove: Letís talk about the departure from Naked. Were you looking for a different direction?
Lisa: The album has the same format but I wanted different tempos. I think I have more up-tempo stuff on this record than the last, about half n half. As far as the sound goes, Naked had a define sound and the last album I did was with Jay Denes and Eric Stamille. Eric didnít have that traditional Naked sound but Naked music is Jayís baby. For this record, I didnít want to move backward but move forward, whether it was conscious or sub-conscious I wanted this record to be progressive. I didnít want anything that resembled that sound. Itís not that I didnít like that sound, I wanted this to be modern and hip and not sound like a Naked record. I guess ultimately I tried to steer away from that. I get tracks from people and immediately I would say that this sounds like a Naked record. So I guess I did do that, I didnít want to be on Salted and sound like a Naked record.
Well I notice the different sounds on this record and itís safe to say that record is more upbeat than the last one
Lisa: Yes, Exactly.
Catchagroove: I see that you worked with a number of people here like Dave Warrin and Tim K.
Lisa: Dave and I wrote about half the tracks on the last album as well as Jay Denes. This record was all Dave and me, the only difference was that one track ďCan you see himĒ, which I wrote and Tim K produced. The rest of it Dave and I wrote the lyrics, the melody and music. Miquel did some production on two tracks and Fred Everything did some additional production on two tracks.
Catchagroove: I noticed that Ethan white from Tortured Soul appears on this record as well.
Lisa: That track is licensed from Large Records, and him and I did that track. Ethan and I have known each other for a while so I ask if it would be alright if I use this track for my album and he said ďsureĒ. I love that song and Dave and I just did the lyrics and the melody together and the music is all Ethan.
Catchagroove: Do you have a favorite song on this album?
Lisa: (Laughs) Yeah, Iím kind of torn. When we were doing the album I didnít want to put it until I thought it was right. I like what we have and I really liked ďCan you see himĒ.
Catchagroove: There are a couple of tracks that stand out for me. One in particular is ďInside my loveĒ, it has a little dubstep feel to it. I thought that was a little different for you.
Lisa: Yeah, Dave and I did that song, we had that song from my first album. My family is Jamaican so I thought it would be really cool, not something so much raga but more subtle. Dave gave me this loop but we never developed it. I looked into my archives and said ďLetís do this recordĒ. So Tim said ďLet me take a stab at itĒ because he loves reggae and he did it and it turned out to be nice. It was different and something I had never done before. It worked out okay.
Catchagroove: Another one of my favorites is ďHoneyĒ, which sounds like a boogie tune.
Lisa: Nick mixed that one. Thereís so many favorites that I have, ďIím okayĒ is another one. When you listen to your stuff there are different things that you like about it and because we have been working on it for so long, youíre kind of married to each one of them. At one point ďLike I want toĒ was one of my favorites, in a couple of weeks something else might be my favorite.
Catchagroove: Whatís the chemistry like between you and Miquel Migs?
Lisa: Heís my brother, heís so easy to work with and laid back. We first met in 1999. He did a remix for me on one of my first records and I wrote a song on his first album called ďOne WishĒ. I had never met because he was based on the West coast but a mutual friend of ours from San Francisco had sent me the track and asked me if I wanted to write something to this. I said ďsureĒ, I liked it so I wrote something to it and recorded here (New York). I never met him or spoke to him on the phone until a year later when we at the Miami music conference and later at the Giant Step party, the outdoor parties by the pool. I heard someone say ďMiquel MigsĒ, I said where? I want to meet this guy. I remember hearing his remix of ďOne wishĒ and his ďNew DimensionsĒ record. He did something really interesting on the mix that I liked. We finally met and hit it off and became friends and have been friends ever since.
Catchagroove: Are they any producers out there you would like to work with?
Lisa: There are so many new cats coming out, Iím digging Lindstrom, thereís this guy named Vincenzo Ragone who has a label called teardrop that is based in Berlin, I really love his music. I want to work with more stuff with Fred and Tim K. I did stuff with him on his ďHome & GardenĒ album and heís great to work with. Iíve always liked Diplo. Right now Iím looking to work on a track right now with King Britt but heís so busy.
Catchagroove: Youíre about to go on tour can we expect any surprises?
Lisa: Iíve pretty much always done a set with a DJ along with some live tracks and backup vocals. What Iím really pushing for is to get my musicians out there with me. Weíre working on that right now as far budget. I have JT Donaldson as my DJ and Tim K on keys as well as musical director. In New York itís easy for us to do the live stuff but on the road itís a little more difficult but thatís what Iím pushing for.
Catchagroove: Will you be performing in Europe?
Lisa: Yes, Iíll be performing in Bulgaria in about a week or so. In June or July weíll be in Greece, Italy and Spain. I hope to be in Berlin, I havenít heard anything about London yet but hopefully that will be on the bill.
Catchagroove: How does it feel to be considered a House music diva?
Lisa: (Laughs), There was a time when I hated that word. Iíve come to accept it, in a good way of course. Once upon a time that word was meant to be bitchy.
Catchagroove: Nowadays itís more a term of endearment
Lisa: Yes, itís come back around. I think itís great and Iím thankful to be working after all these years. Iíve been blessed to work with great producers who I respect and who respect me. You never know how things turn out, you just do what you do, try to do what youíre supposed to do. No path is written and you donít know what turns life is going to take. Iím lucky because I get to travel and see the world which I never thought in a million years would happen. You think that youíll just sing and do shows in your city, do records and go on tour once a year. Instead Iím always on the road. Iím happy and curious about the second album. The response has been great so far.
Catchagroove: How many singles have you released off the album so far?
Lisa: Weíre about to do a third single. We havenít decided which one weíre going to do.
Catchagroove: Iím looking forward to hearing some of the remixes for your records
Lisa: Iím curious to hear whoís going to be on it, thereís remixes being done now for songs that may not even be singles but they may be part of a compilation. Iím always excited to hear the other peopleís interpretation of a song that I have done. The cool thing is on the road I can choose which mix to do depending on where Iím playing and what people like.
Catchagroove: Well you have definitely made a name for yourself and itís great to have you back. I really like your new record and I know everyone else will too.
Lisa: Thanks so much!
An Interview with Replife
Ever since I heard Replife (aka Daniel Gray Kontar) on The Politik in the summer of 2007, Iíve charted his career with great interest. Later in the fall, I heard a couple of tracks from the soon to be released ďThe Unclosed MindĒ. Since the albumís release in early 2008, ďThe Unclosed MindĒ has easily been one of my favorite records. The rhymes are tight, the beats are crazy and the production is flawless. I was fortunate to catch up with Replife at a recent performance at the Sutra Lounge in New York. Later that week I caught up with him and his partner, DJ Kinetik at a Starbucks in Harlem on a hot Saturday afternoon. Catchagroove: Youíre originally from Cleveland but not long ago you moved to the Bay Area. What prompted you to move there?
Replife: You know, I love my city (Cleveland). You think youíre just gonna settle into your life, especially since I was getting up there in age but then an opportunity came up to go the Bay area to work my Ph.d. Thereís nothing like ideas and nurturing those ideas, creating new frameworks for us to think about things differently. Plus to do it an educational setting has made these past couple of years a dream come true. Being able to work at the University (Berkeley) and make music, there arenít two better thingsI could be doing with my life.
Catchagroove: There arenít many rappers out there who are working on their Ph.d
Replife: Nah, not too many.
Catchagroove: Whatís the reception to your music like in your hometown?
Replife: Thatís a good question. Clevelandís hilarious, and Iím starting to realize that when you talk about Replife outside of Cleveland, they have a sense of me as a mc but in Cleveland where I was involved with theatre and education, they have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that Iím a rapper. I was a community activist, a poet and a journalist.
Catchagroove: They must be wondering, whoís Replife?
Catchagroove: When I reviewed your album I stated that you are definitely a rapper that has something to say. I liken it to KRSís phrase ďEdutainment.
Replife: I think weíre in a interesting time in the game. I think that hip hop has gotten to a place where people are saying itís dead but it doesnít have to be. This album proves that hip hop can have other dimensions so it remains alive and keep our minds unclosed. You know we called this album ďThe Unclosed MindĒ because we think thereís a difference between an unclosed mind and an open mind. Weíre all born on this earth with an open mind but I think over time we begun to close our minds. What weíre looking to do is unclose minds. Thatís where I think hip hop is right now. If we can get to a place where we can unclose our minds then we wonít kill this culture that we grew up loving and contributing to. Itís important for young people to see that hip hop comes in all shapes and sizes. Itís good for people to see someone rapping but yet still going to school. You know, Iíve had people tell me not to mention my age. Itís important for people to know that Iím a rapper in my mid thirties making music for good people. Catchagroove: The first time I heard about you was on Mark De Clive Loweís The Politik record last year. How did you hook up with Mark?
Replife: Originally we hooked up through a mutual friend from LA named Eric Coleman. Eric is a photographer and a beat maker. He was saying when I get to London I should look up Mark. Eventually I made it to London and I called him. I didnít hear from him for a minute though. I have another friend named Mark Rapson whoís also on the album. One day while Iím in London I get a call from Mark. I say whatís up man, he says ďIím doing good, I just got finished doing some shows at the Jazz CafťĒ. Now Iím thinking that this is my man Mark Rapson so Iím thinking, ďWord! The Jazz Cafť? I didnít know you were doing anything over thereĒ. So he says ďYeah, Iíve been working over there for monthsĒ. I said, is this Mark Rapson? He says ďNo, this is Mark De Clive LoweĒ. Iím like oh shoot! He goes on to say that heís working on The Politik record and he needed a mc, could you come through? I said sure, whenís the deadline? He said 36 hours. So I came through, did the tune within the deadline and the rest is history.
Catchagroove: Tell me about your journey, from the time you started rapping up to now..
Replife: My journey has been real interesting because I started rapping about 20 years ago. I think when you listen to me rhyme thereís an effortlessness thatís there so I try to push it to another dimension. Although I started twenty years ago I got away from it for awhile and focused on performance poetry. I was a slam poet for a few years, got out of that and became a journalist. I did that for about a decade. Then about four years ago this guy from the Muamin Collective in Cleveland named A-Live kept saying to me that I needed to get back on the mic again. I didnít think nothing of it at the time because, honestly Iím in my thirties and I really wasnít thinking that much about rapping anymore. Every time A-Live would see me he would ask me about rapping again. Every week I would see him and heíd keep asking about it. So one day I got back in the studio with him and I really enjoyed being in the studio again, especially with him. Since then, Kinetik (DJ) and I have formed a partnership with respect to making music and doing live shows. Kinetik has a studio in his basement back in Cleveland and heís been making a lot of beats. Itís been a great journey but if you had told me five years ago that I be sitting here in Starbucks in New York City having a conversation with you about music I wouldíve thought you were crazy.
Catchagroove: Tell me about the EP ďDaniel Kontar Is ReplifeĒ?
Replife: Those were tunes I made when I decided to get back into writing and recording music. If you listen to ďThe Unclosed MindĒ you can hear that itís a drastic departure from the ep. The sound of the ep is more boom bap and ďThe Unclosed MindĒ is an amalgamation of sonic influences coming from every direction.
Catchagroove: Speaking of ďThe Unclosed MindĒ, explain how that project came together and how you hooked up with Simon S?
Replife: That goes back to A-Live. Anytime he would tell me about a record I should listen to, I would listen to it. One day he tells me about a record by a group called ďSilhouette BrownĒ. One day I was at work, I found the record online and I listened to it. I said ďWow, this is amazingĒ. So immediately, I called Kinetik about it. We both decided that we were gonna try to find it online and on vinyl. So I spent hours at work searching for it online but I didnít find it. I decided to check my myspace and I get this add a friend request from this girl named Deborah Jordan. I check it and says that Deborah Jordan is the lead vocalist for Silhouette Brown.I told her the story and we stayed in touch and become close ever since. We recorded three or four tracks together, "Pangea" being one of them. Every time we get together, itís magic. We really donít have to say very much to each other when we record, we just vibe. So through her I met Simon. They were life partners. Simon also had a record company called Futuristica and he knew that Deborah and I had chemistry and needed to record together after a tune I wrote for her new album called ďHomeĒ, which isnít ready for release yet. The tune I wrote will be a single for the album. Working with Simon and Deborah - it's been a great partnership.
Catchagroove: I can definitely relate to that. Silhouette Brown was one of my favorite records and Deborahís voice is simply beautiful. Was working with Simon and Deborah the reason you went to London?
Replife: In some ways yeah, but I really wanted to see London. I really wanted to see where all this good music is coming from. I wanted to do a little bit of recording but I had no idea that I would be recording with all these people. By the grace of God that all this happened, it really was.
Catchagroove: One of my favorite tracks from ďThe Unclosed MindĒ is Pangea, which is produced by Arch_typ. It really doesnít sound like a hip hop record
Replife: There are some people that make music and Arch_typ is one of those guys that makes tunes that get up in your body. Itís a feeling you get where you have to write something to it right then and Kinetik is the other piece of the equation where I would call him and tell him that we need to record right now. Arch_typís tunes have that quality of futuristic otherworldliness that allows a lot of space, not just in terms of musicality but the number of places you can go with the track. His music is very thematic and is open to a lot of interpretation. I love tracks like that.
Catchagroove: The track ďElevate Your MindĒ has so much going on within it. It almost sounds like a jazz record. How did you come up with it?
Replife: Kinetik could probably tell that story.
Kinetik: Thatís a friend of ours from Cleveland who produced that track(D ďWyzeĒ Marshall). He sent over some music via email but something was wrong with his player. The sound quality wasnít very good so he came over and started playing the track and weíre like ďwhoaĒ.
Replife: I started writing right there.
Kinetik: I guess it got up in his body. (laughs). Right after that we started recording. Next thing we know, we have two vocalists on there with layered vocals. I had ninety six tracks to mix down for this one song, which is crazy but itís such a good song. You either get it or you donít. Thereís no in between. Replife: Peopleís reaction is either they love tune or they hate it. First, the tune is in ĺ time. Second, the delivery of the vocals isnít your standard rhyme form. Itís poetry but thereís also some rhyming. Even though the beat is in ĺ itís a very simple beat. Nomi Limar and Deborah Jordan really carry the vocals in a way like theyíre taking you on a journey. You have to take your mind out there. This is the centerpiece of the album. If thereís no other song you have to unclose your mind to itís that song. That song is really a blessing.
Catchagroove: I want to talk about the track ďSpiritĒ, which was produced by Dego. How did you two connect?
Replife: There are no words to describe what an honor it was to work with him and to watch him work, watch his mind work. I met Dego through Mark De Clive Lowe. I did the tune with Mark for the Politk record. Mark says ďYou know Dego lives around the corner. Heís got beats for days and Iím sure heíd love to have you bless one so while youíre here you should go around the corner and do some stuff with him. I was like ďuh okayĒ. So I gave him a call and he said come by anytime. Dego is constantly working or watching soccer. So I went and he played a lot of beats for me and ďSpiritĒ which he and Kaidi Tathum did is the one that stood out. They had worked on this track a while ago and just had it in the can. I had also recorded a tune for him for a project heís working on for Ivana Santilli. We recorded both of those tunes over a couple of days. Then we sat down he started arranging another tune. I helped him some with the arrangements and started writing lyrics but never came back to it. Then I was working with Deborah on the tune for her project. So I took those lyrics and finished it for her record called ďHomeĒ, which will be the single for her album.
Kinetik: Wait until you here that record!
Catchagroove: I can only imagine. Aside from Dego and Mark De Clive Lowe, you have an all star lineup of producers here, including Atjazz. How did you hook up with Martin?
Replife: I had just purchased the tune ďPut It On MeĒ by Atjazz. I went to his myspace and shot him a line that I was working on my project. He had visited my page and enjoyed what he heard. Martin is a great dude. He is all about the music. It doesnít matter who you are, if he digs you and what youíre doing heís gonna do it. I think this is true about all the people that Iím working with. Gilles Peterson is another one who is all about the music. So Martin said letís do a tune together, so he sent me the track ďPut It DownĒ. When I heard it I immediately heard a vocalist for it. Kinetik had actually heard Kissey Asplund through myspace and said ďYou gotta hear this girlĒ. So I came over and he may have a photo of my facial expression when Iím looking at her myspace page and hearing her voice over these fat futuristic beats. She was the only person I could think of for that track. So with Kissey being in Sweden, Martin in London and me Cleveland, we traded files over the course of four days and we got it done. Itís amazing how talented Martin is, sonically his music is fabulous
Catchagroove: One track that has a traditional sound is the ďLeft Side Of ThingsĒ. Is that a Patrice Rushen sample being used there?
Replife: Thatís the track ďYou Remind MeĒ. The album was actually done, itís wrap. All of a sudden I hear from this producer from the west coast. He sends me some beats to check out. When I heard that track, I wrote the lyrics in ten minutes. Itís the most simple track on the album. Me and Kinetik felt that we needed one track that was a straight ahead hip hop track. Not only did Eardrumz produce the track but he does a lot of the interludes as well. In many respects, his tracks are the glue that hold the album together because they provide transition in many respects.
Catchagroove: The track ďR U ReadyĒ. I felt was a nice record to end the album with. That was produced by Mark Rapson right?
Replife: Yes. You know Mark is another talent that youíre going to hear a lot about soon. A lot of people are already behind him. Gilles Peterson is behind him 100 %. Heís been doing some touring and he is working on some projects with Simon and Deborah. His group escape committee is making some noise on the UK scene. Mark is also an amazing player, he knows the music, he knows proper jazz and he loves hip hop. With that combination youíre not gonna go wrong.
Catchagroove: Tell me about the project ďThe Book Of JobĒ When will it be released?
Replife: We actually completed ďThe Book Of JobĒ but we decided to release ďThe Unclosed MindĒ in advance. We hope to release that soon.
Catchagroove: Youíre doing a lot of touring in Japan and Europe. When will you spend more time in the US?
Replife: I would love to do more dates in the US. Itís great to be able to travel and see the world but you like your music to be received the same way back home.
Kinetik: There are a lot more unclosed minds outside the US.
Replife: It will be a glorious day when the music gets the same reception that it gets abroad.
Catchagroove: Do you consider this work a hip hop project?
Replife: Itís based in hip hop but for the most part it isnít. Itís just music, music for everybody.
Catchagroove: What do think about hip hop on a creative level right now?
Replife: You know when times get tough and times are really tough right now. I think that people feel pressure and they start creating the same thing over and over again. Thereís a fear that if you donít rehash youíre not going to get the same results. The other thing that happens is that pressure also creates something new. Hip Hop was born out of that pressure to create something new, we had to.
Catchagroove: One last thing, thereís a dj in Philly that seems to be down with the Futuristica sound and thatís DJ Junior. Are you guys doing some shows together?
Replife: Thereís a strong possibility. Iíll wait and see what Simon and Junior put together.
Catchagroove: Well, thatís about it. Once again I love the ďUnclosed MindĒ and I look forward to all of the upcoming projects. I really appreciate you and Kinetik hanging out today.
Replife: My pleasure man.
Catchagroove: The mainsteam may be sleeping on it but the serious fans know how strong this project is. Plus with the internet and myspace, it will get exposed to a new audience everyday.
Kinetik: All over the world.
Catchagroove: True indeed!
An Interview with Eric Roberson
This interview took place in Roselle NJ where Eric Roberson performed at The Roselle Urban Enterprise Zone free concert series. We had been emailing each other for some time and were finally able to hook up after the show.
Catchagroove: It's great to finally catch-up. You attended Howard University. Tell me the musical vibe on-campus.
Eric: I mean youíre walking on land that some greats walked on. I had the same English teacher that Donny Hathaway had. I learned more about what Donny learned in the class than what she taught in the class. That was real cool. All the great people that came through like Roberta Flack. When I got there Puffy had just left. Talented producers like Ron Lawrence. In my class I had people like Sy Smith, Geno Young, Rich Harrison whose one of the hottest producers today. Me and Dwayne Basioni worked on Dweleís first record. Weíre just making music in our dorm rooms. Some of the best singers werenít even music majors, you had English majors who would destroy some of the vocal majors. There was talent everywhere.
Catchagroove: So, how did you know you would be a singer?
Eric: Yeah, my mother was into fashion but she had a lot of different jobs, My sister was also into a lot creative things - band, theatre. She did a whole bunch of stuff. Me, being her little brother, I was just following her. My father played guitar and sang as well but never played his guitar.
Catchagroove: Tell me about first recording contract with Warner Bros.
Eric: Yeah, I thought I was gonna be the next Al B Sure or someone like that. I remember flying out to LA to meet Benny Medina. He heard my record and loved it. So I fly out there with three outfits, one suit, two pairs of jeans, two tee shirts. I was expecting to be there only three days. When I got there they told me that he left town. I wound up staying three weeks. Here I am a broke college student with three outfits. That was my first lesson about the business. They were telling me "Donít catch the flight. Heís coming back." I finally did meet him and got a deal. I also saw the political side of the business. A lot of times itís not even about the music. Itís about who brought you in the door. It was a valuable lesson I had to learn because once I realized that it wasnít about the music, I knew I couldnít use it as my short cut. I knew I had to continue to become a good person. I had to improve my work ethic. Up to that point I thought I could heal everything through singing. It worked for the talent shows but the world isnít a talent show.
Catchagroove: Sounds like this was a serious learning experience. You went back to school after the Warner Bros deal didnít work out as you hoped.
Eric: Yes. Those were tough times. It was a tough decision but I was kind of seeing it that way. My parents were very supportive. I was blessed that I still had my scholarship.
Catchagroove: You must have thought about getting another record deal.
Eric: The funny thing was right after Warner Bros, I had a deal with Island Records. I remember flying into New York to sign the deal. I remember it like it was yesterday. I go into the office and there was no one there. It wasnít like Warner Bros where people are greeting you saying "Welcome To Warner Bros." I ran into one person. When I got back home thereís a message on my answering machine saying that Hiriam Hicks took over as president of Island Records. That explained why no one was there. Hiriam came in and fired everybody including all the artists. That single handily pushed me back into college. At no point did I stop performing but it allowed me to regroup. That was the best decision I ever made.
Catchagroove: Tell me about hooking up with Jazzy Jeffís A Touch Of Jazz records, The first time I ever heard of you was on "The Magnificent" by Jazz Jeff.
Eric: I was on the song "Rock Wit YouĒ" Jeff is one of the most giving, intelligent, musical minds you will ever meet in your life. He had five studios. I used to sing backup for Kenny Lattimore when I heard some of the music he was doing. I was blown away. I kept saying that I gotta get there. Once I got there I never left. I recorded for three years straight. Thatís where I developed myself to get to the next level. There were some things that I was able to pass on to other producers but we all learned together on how to be better songwriters, producers and artists.
Catchagroove: I might be one of ten people who actually owns the first song you wrote for someone else. The Phaaja record.
Eric: Thatís funny! I see those girls from time to time whenever Iím in New York or Atlanta. I actually wrote that song while still in college.
Catchagroove: Did you ever think the song "Change for Me" would ever blow up the way it did?
Eric: A good friend of mine Osunlade helped me rediscover my love for house music. He is such a lover of music in general.. At the time, we said, "Letís just make the best record we can make." I was home in my studio laying my vocals down to the track. I played back the track, turned the volume up and walked out the door when I saw my nephew just working it out. Just goiní for it. I knew we were gonna be alright. The company that we were working with went bankrupt so the record sat for a while. It never had an official release. I donít know if that hurt it or helped it but itís amazing the response we get. All over the world, whether weíre in Russia or Japan, the reaction is always beautiful.
Catchagroove: Speaking of being abroad, you recently performed at the Jazz Cafť in London as part of a Stevie Wonder tribute
Eric: This was my second year doing it and itís truly a honor. I grew up a Stevie Wonder fan. My favorite Stevie song is "Blame It On The Sun." I didnít perform it the first time because I just wanted to watch everyone else since there were so many amazing artists there. Iíll be doing that show twenty years from now.
Catchagroove: Have you ever met Stevie?
Eric: Iíve had several chances to meet him but havenít done it. I think itís time. Before, I didnít think I was ready. He has meant so much to me. Heís one of the reasons why I do this. I want to be able to have something to present to him. This is my way of saying thank you for inspiring me. What I have now is because of what you showed me. Thank you for all the times you helped through breakups and falling in love. Just studying all his songs like "Rocket Love" and how you wrote the song and the angles you wrote them and applying them to my songs. Iím about to get married next month so my boys took me to see Stevie at Atlantic City as a surprise. I had no idea, I thought I was going to a bachelor party. That meant everything to me. I was there singing along with everybody even though I had a show in two days. He is still the consummate professional. Itís crazy, I have sung those songs so I know how hard it is to sing them. This man is in his sixties and he still sings them in the right key and hitting all those high notes just like he was when he was seventeen.
Catchagroove: You have written songs for Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild. Iíve seen you on stage at Sol Village just throw a song together in front of the crowd and theyíre going nuts. You are very gifted in your song writing ability. What's your secret?
Eric: You know the more I have done that, the more I trust that it will work out. Truth be told, for me the song is already written. So as a messenger Iím supposed to find it. To me the lyrics are a script, the music is scenery and the character in the song has an objective to heal. To me thereís no difference in writing a song or writing a play or a movie.
Catchagroove: Your ability to set the mood is evident in your current album "Left." To me this is your best record. What was your approach?
Eric: This was the first time that my schedule provided me studio time. I had three months. I only wrote when the spirit moved me and only wrote seventeen songs in the two years I worked on this album. I used just fourteen. The three others were used for other peopleís albums. The song "Pretty Girl" took two years to write but in actuality it took only ten minutes. The first verse and first hook came instantly but the second verse just wasnít there and I started worrying. I decided to just step back, I felt I was getting in the way. I would work on another record. Everyday I would sing the first verse and if the second verse didnít come in I would stop and do something else. Then one day, two years later I started singing the first verse and the second came right in. I didnít force one thing on this album, everything was just a steady progression.
Catchagroove: One of my favorite songs on this record is the duet you have with Algebra
Eric: I just went over to the drum machine and laid an idea down and laid down the structure. I was going to do that song over but everyone said I needed to leave it the way it is. We did that song on the first take,
Catchagroove: I'm surprised you havenít done more duets?
Eric: I probably will. I did two songs with Marsha (from Floetry) and I actually did a song with Vivian Green. I did another song with Algebra that never came out.
Catchagroove: How did you hook up with Phonte?
Eric: He did a interview with somebody and the guy that interviewed him mentioned that he just finished interviewing Eric Roberson. Phonte said "Call him, right now." Then one day I was in the studio working and the phone rings. He says, "This is Phonte from Little Brother, wanted you to know that I'm a big fanĒ" I was about to throw the phone away (laughs). I said "What are you talking about? Iím a big fan of you." We wound up kicking it for about four hours and weíve become good friends ever since. When they were touring in South Jersey, I picked him up and we went to the studio. Simple as that.
Catchagroove: You also collaborated with J Rawls
Eric: Good guy, good friend. I was doing a show in Columbus Ohio and Iím a real big football fan. I flew in on a Sunday and he picked me up and we went back to his house. We ate chicken and macaroni, watched the game and he played me some beats, I asked him to run that beat back. I grabbed a mic and the rest is history..
Catchagroove: Speaking of football, I remember going to Highline to see you perform with Fertile Ground. I was thinking that Iím going to miss the Giants game. When you came on stage with the Giants towel, I knew they were going to the Super Bowl.
Eric: I wore the same outfit all through the play-offs and the Super Bowl. I was at the hotel that night watching the game when they were telling me it was time to go the venue. I was listening to the game on the radio on my way to the show. When they won, I nearly passed out. I remember talking to the promoter telling him ďmake sure the show is not on a SundayĒ. Him and my assistant were saying ďDonít worry, it should be on a Friday or SaturdayĒ.. Sure enough the show is scheduled the night of the game, weíre on stage while theyíre playing. You know what? Iím still on a high from that win and Iíll stay on that high until someone takes it from us.
Catchagroove: What you do have in store for the rest of 2008?
Eric: Just writing, tours and staying healthy. Iíve been touring so much that I was having some voice issues. I had to rededicate myself to taking better care of myself. The road can be so treacherous. You give so much of yourself on stage that it can take a toll on you. Now I feel stronger than I ever have been. As a result I can work harder. Iím trying to write sixty songs this year. Iím past thirty songs now. Iím still maintaining the touring schedule and Iím in a creative zone right now. Iím just walking around with my arms wide open pointing to the sky saying ďJust give it to me, whatever you want me to write about, Iím just transferring it to musicĒ.
Catchagroove: You mentioned that you're getting married. Will you sing at your own wedding?
Eric: I donít think so. Iím a very emotional person when it comes to personal things. Lately Iíve been watching all my boys boohooing through their weddings. Someone has to put a stop to that. Iím planning on being the one that holds it together. I can probably get through the vows but once I start singing the song, Iíll start opening up. Once that happens thereís no way to hold it in. Iíll stand up there boohooing unable to get a note out. I think Iíll just chill. Maybe Iíll do a beatbox or something (laughs).
Catchagroove: What song has someone else done that made you say, "Damn, I wish I wrote that song."
Eric: Thereís so many. Itís funny you say that because I was just saying to my girl that Iíve been writing songs for so long that itís so rare that I hear a song I havenít written. Even if I havenít released it yet, itís on a pad somewhere. I have stacks of pads with songs written on them. Once in a while you hear a song, Bilal had an album that never came out which is unfortunate because there are some amazing songs on there. He has a song called "All For Love."
Catchagroove Yeah! I know that song.
Eric: That was the last time I felt that way. When I heard that song, I was like man! I wish I wrote that song. The lyrics to that song: "When you stay in the sun too long, even the sun moves on." It's just a brilliant song. Probably some Radiohead songs too.
Catchagroove: Any upcoming shows you want to promote?
Eric: Iím building a weekly show in Philly. I still have the monthly show in NY. We have this big show coming up in London October 4th. Me, Angela Johnson and Anthony David. We have a show in Houston August 23rd. Me, Gordon Chambers, Leela James and Sy Smith. Thereís some big shows coming up, just check the myspace page.
Catchagroove: Eric, thanks so much for hanging out tonight.
Eric: Thanks so much for hanging around so long after the show.
An Interview with Daru
Catchagroove: I saw you playing the drums during Tyís show at the Knitting Factory. Was that your first time working with Ty?
Daru: It was my first time meeting him in person. We recorded a song on-line for my sampler.
Catchagroove: How long have you been playing the drums?
Daru: I started playing at the age of the four.
Catchagroove: Who were your influences?
Daru: I had a lot of uncles who played at the time. I played in church as well. In my teenage years I got into jazz and discovered people like Tony Williams and Buddy Richardson to name a few.
Catchagroove: Youíre from Michigan, not far too far from Detroit. The music scene out there is phenonenal. Who have you worked with out there?
Daru: Iím actually from a small town about 45 minutes outside of Detroit. I always rep Michigan. Itís been a pleasure to work with some of the cats from there. Currently I'm working with Slum Village. Iíve been a fan of their music and J Dillaís music too.
Catchagroove: How long had you worked on Future Music?
Daru: Actually Future Music was created through the internet. I met Reggie B through MySpace. We worked on the entire project on-line. We completed the project back in March of 2007.
Catchagroove: How did you cultivate the sound for Future Music?
Daru: To be honest, the production for Future Music came from years of what Iíve been playing as a drummer... just fusing the different styles into one. I was influenced by hip-hop a lot. Producers like DJPremier and the late great J Dilla.
Catchagroove: It sounds like there is some drum programming in addition to the live drums?
Daru: The bulk of the production has drum programming but I added some live drums to a lot of the tracks.
Catchagroove: Tell me about the project"Outtakes, Bootlegs and B-sides"?
Daru: Those tracks were the leftovers from the project I did with Rena called "Feel The LoveĒ"
Catchagroove: Iím really feeliní the track "Find A Way." The beat sounds very familiar.
Daru: Thatís the Gangstarr beat. DJ Premier actually used it as an interlude on the "Daily Operation" CD.
Catchagroove: I saw on your MySpace page that you have compilation CD out with Marc Mac?
Daru: Itís a compilation that features artists from the states as well as overseas. Big ups to Marc Mac, 4Hero , Dez Parkes. Marc Mac basically compiled it and hosted it.
Catchagroove: How did you and Marc Mac meet?
Daru: It was a blessing, I met Marc through my manager Barry King. Marc was actually a fan of the projects I did with Rena and Reggie B.
Catchagroove: Big up Barry King!
Daru: London in the building.
Catchagroove: Are you touring right now?
Daru: Iím just doing some spot dates in the states right now. Iím working with AB & The Souljourners out of DC, big up to AB. Iím trying to prepare something with Reggie B so we can go on the road as well.
Catchagroove: What does the future hold for Daru?
Daru: Weíre trying to take it up a few notches, change the game all around. Iím very appreciated of all the support.
Catchagroove: Future Music is selling out everywhere I look. Itís doing well.
Daru: I appreciate that.
Catchagroove: I appreciate you hanging out today. Thanks a lot man.
Daru: Big up to Reg from Catchagroove who bought my last cd at the Knitting Factory, even though he had the download. I was really impressed with your cd collection when we were in the ride earlier today.
Laughter erupts from Reg and Daru
Catchagroove: Itís all good. Iím all about showcasing the artists under the radar that are doing it real big. It wonít be long before you start getting the love from the masses.
Daru: I was blown away with some of the stuff you had. Itís rare to find people who know and the love the music like you do. You had a lot of people that I admire.
Catchagroove: I hate it when talented artists like you are putting out good music yet no one knows that itís out there. Thatís one of the reasons why I launched my site. If I can help get the message out then I feel like Iíve done my job.
Daru: I appreciate the love.
Catchagroove: Thanks again for coming out. Iím going to spread the word on just how dope Future Music is.
Daru: Thanks again the support.
An interview with Kissey asplund
The moment I heard Kissey Asplundís EP last fall, I knew there would be a new voice in the nu-soul movement. Her debut album, Plethora is out now. Not only did I get a chance to see her perform during her trip to NY, I also had the opportunity to sit with her at the Bed Stuy cafť in Brooklyn to discuss where she came from and where sheís going in 2008.
Catchagroove: The first song I heard from you was ďWith YouĒ from the EP.
Kissey: When the record label told me they were going to give me a 7 inch, I was like, "Really?" I was very excited. I think it's a good 7 inch. In fact, K-os is on the other side.
Catchagroove: How you did you decide to work with Papa Jazz?
Kissey: I always had a great relationship with them. They're very efficient whenever we work together. I have different projects with all my producers who all have different sounds. The thought at first was to make an EP but we wound up with so many tracks we just decided to do an album. The initial thing was to put out a 12 inch, maybe even a free download. We were approached by R2 records and Aaron Jerome arranged for us to meet. They were like ďWe want to take it, weíre very interested.Ē The great thing about them is they have worldwide distribution. Thatís the dream, to be heard around the world.
Catchagroove: Thatís a good position to be in, to have the label approaching you instead for you searching for a label to sign you.
Kissey: Yes. It is good. Some first albums are very structured but that wasnít true here. I guess if I wasnít on the label it would have been a more jazz soul type of project. You can here some of that here but not as traditional. Now I have the platform to go more crazy if I want.
Catchagroove: How did Aaron Jerome get involved in your project?
Kissey: I had done some tracks with Aaron, and this was before he put out his album. He had friends at R2 records and said ďYou got to hear this girlĒ.
Catchagroove: Would you consider your sound Electro-soul?
Kissey: I think it is a little more electronic. Electro soul still sounds good.
Catchagroove: Did the Papa Jazz crew send you some beats to choose from?
Kissey: Yes, they sent me a lot of beats. A lot of Kissey beats as they like to call them. They also sent me beats that they didnít know what to do with. I was like ďYou kidding me, maybe I can sing on top of them. Ē I have my own studio so when I went back to try them out I thought, hmm this sounds interesting. I like this. So we started developing the sound, getting a little crazy. Thatís when my interests increased.
Catchagroove: What is your approach to creating a song?
Kissey: I start listening to the beats first. I also listen to a lot of instrumental music. Then I go into my studio and do an initial draft. Then I walk around with it in my ipod to listen. Then I go back to do the final draft and send it to them. I look for them to greenlight it or just make sure Iím interpreting it the way they want it. I donít want to be disrespectful, I want to involve them in it. I mean, I donít know everything and they may have a better idea. When I send them my vocals, I tell them, "If you want to cut it up feel free." I mean, theyíre producers theyíre not stupid. If it gets better then letís do it. Itís important to trust them.
Catchagroove: When you signed the deal with R2 records, was US exposure foremost in your mind?
Kissey: At that time I had no idea I would be sitting here today or performing last night (at the Knitting Factory). I never thought I would be performing with King Britt in Philadelphia.
Catchagroove: It was a nice surprise seeing you onstage with Ty at the Knitting Factory.
Kissey: Itís crazy for a little Swedish girl to be performing with her heroes and be told I did good. I had to go home. I couldnít take it.
Catchagroove: A bit overwhelming I bet.
Kissey: Oh yes!
Catchagroove: What music inspired you coming up?
Kissey: I heard hip-hop really late so The Score by the Fugees was the first for me. My father was a Beetles and Rolling Stones fan and my Mother was a Donna Summer fan. I listened to the radio a lot so I liked Lisa Stansfield, Janet Jackson. Eventually we had a hip-hop channel to listen to.
Catchagroove: You seem to have a style that transcends your music. Is that by design or itís natural?
Kissey: Well I studied clothing and design. Initially I was going to be a designer As far as the music, I definitely like to have fun. I remember the first press pictures I saw of me and I didnít see myself. I needed to try some new things. Also, coming from Sweden, the people are very open when it comes to art and design.
Catchagroove: When did you think that your music career would take off?
Kissey: Well I just quit my day job for this tour. I couldnít keep the job with all the travel. I think itís working. I think I decided when people started listening to the album. People were feeling it, especially the DJís. Everyone was supporting the ďWith YouĒ track. I was very fortunate for that. Then the bookings started coming in more and more. It started to affect my day job so I needed to make a choice. When you perform youíre working like twelve hours a day and you have a day job so you get tired at the day job. Plus youíre thinking about performing so you canít really focus.
Catchagroove: Are you getting excited with the album release date coming soon?
Kissey: Well, itís already out in Europe and now itís coming out in the States. Iíve seen some reviews so I feel confident about it.
Catchagroove: What is the first single?
Kissey: Fuss n Fight.
Catchagroove: How did you come up with the song ď99 bottles of beerĒ?
Kissey: I heard a sample with that and I said ďyeah letís do thatĒ. I didnít think about the beer part.
Catchagroove: No underlying stories behind it?
Kissey: (Laughing!) No! No! I donít drink beer. I like how Bless does his rapping on it though. He did a really good job.
Catchagroove: Howís the reaction back home?
Kissey: Theyíve been always very supportive. Itís a very small city but they've been loving it. There's only about 10 million people in Sweden. The word has been spreading around. As far as the mainstream, thereís still a lot of work.
Catchagroove: Who are you listening to right now?
Kissey: Iím going to listen to Eric Lau. Eric Rico gave me some tracks to listen to. Iím going to listen to some Digable Planets. A little old school. I know King Britt used to be in that group.
Catchagroove: Is there anyone you would like to work with?
Kissey: When someone else asked me that question I said George Clinton. I think that would be cool. I saw him for the first time at the Stockholm Jazz Festival some years ago. I would also like to work with Dwele and DíAngelo.
Catchagroove: Was George wearing the diaper when you saw him?
Kissey: No, but he did have pink hair.
Pyeng Threadgill made a huge splash in 2004 with her debut "Sweet Home: The Music Of Robert Johnson", She followed that with the impressive "Of The Air" in 2005. The daughter of jazz legend HenryThreadgill, Pyeng is clearly blazing her own trail. On a mild January afternoon, I had to sit down with Pyeng to discuss her career, Motherhood and her New Year's resolutions for 2008.
Catchagroove What inspired you to perform the work of Robert Johnson?
Pyeng It's a funny story. I used to work in a duo project which consisted of voice and cello. I was performing at a place called "Anyway Cafť" A guy named Rick heard me at a private party and asked if I would be interested in doing an album. At that time I was feeling confident about doing an album but I had no interested parties. He had two projects and one of them was The Robert Johnson project. Rick is a huge blues fan and my label, Random Chance Records, has been focused mainly on blues. Over the years, they've become broader. Rick had been looking for someone to work on this project and felt that I was the right person. I said sure! At that time, I was doing a lot of cover material so it seemed like the right step to take. The material already existed but I would be able to do what I wanted to do with it.
Catchagroove What kind of material were you working on before the Robert Johnson project?
Pyeng I was used to taking material and making it my own. I was performing music by the Police, Bjork as well as some jazz standards. I'm used to performing a wide range of music.
Catchagroove With this project, you did not record this in the traditional blues format.
Pyeng You're right! I'm not a blues artist so it would be ridiculous for me to go about it that way. I would think that true blues fans would hear the posturing. Even though the blues community is small, they're very loyal so they would wonder who is this person covering the father of the blues.
Catchagroove What was the response?
Pyeng I would say that nine out ten of the reviews were good but there were reviews that weren't written and that I heard about where people were upset that it wasn't a traditional blues record.
Catchagroove This project dropped in 2004. That was also around the time that Eric Clapton did a project about Robert Johnson. Were you aware of that?
Pyeng Yes I was. I tried to get in touch with him about it but I never caught up with him. It would have been great to have collaborated with him. Plus, right around that time, Martin Scorsese released his documentary about the blues, I thought "Oh My God we're about to do this album" so it was a great moment to be performing this project.
Catchagroove Did you feel that people would see you as just a blues artist?
Pyeng No I didn't. At the same time I'm glad I started working on my second album right away. People would be able to see that "ok, she's not a blues artist". And then I didn't have to answer that question.
Catchagroove How did you come to choose the song "Come in to my Kitchen?"
Pyeng I'm a lover of lyrics so I chose all the songs based on the lyrics and I really wanted to do that song. I knew Cassandra's (Wilson) version existed as well as others. So Dana (cellist), whom I used to work with and I would have a cell of an idea, improvise and explore it, leave it alone, go away and then come back and build on it until we finally came up with it. It turned out to be the longest track other than "Rambling on my mind".
Catchagroove When you think of the legendary jazz singers like Ella and Sarah, just a name a couple, the songs they sung were also the popular tunes of that era. Are you taking that same approach when selecting material?
Pyeng Yes. As a practice, sometimes I work on the standards but I don't think that's needed from me. There are people who are meant to do that and the universe needs them to perform those songs. For me I don't feel that I was meant to perform those songs. Although I love Ella and Sarah and songs like "Lover Man" and "Misty", that comes through my singing without having to perform those songs. I don't want to categorize myself as a jazz singer or a pop singer. Thank goodness for Myspace. It's like an international business card. If anyone wants to know my sound, that's where they can go.
Catchagroove The songs from "Of The Air", Were these songs you just written after the Robert Johnson project or were these songs you had for awhile?
Pyeng Songs like "It's Late", I wrote awhile ago but certain songs like "inner lining" and "caterpillar crossing" were written in collaboration with a friend who is a costume designer. Her designs were based on caterpillars, expanding on the cycle of a butterfly. "Power Trip" I co-wrote with my brother in-law. So it was a mixture.
Catchagroove The "Jitterbug Waltz". That's a Fats Waller tune. How did you come up with the lyrics?
Pyeng I wrote the lyrics based on how it sounded to me. However I didn't want to sing it as fast as the original so I just slowed it down. Which is part of the fun of covering someone else's song.
Catchagroove How did living on the west coast affect your writing as opposed to living on the east coast?
Pyeng When I lived on the west coast, my husband's parents were there and very helpful considering my daughter was very young and I was also in school. Becoming a mother, the pace definitely helped slow me down. It allowed me to concentrate on my writing, which I found solace in. When I write, it has to be quiet, away from everyone. My dad (Henry Threadgill) can compose in a house that's always busy, full of children, the television playing, visitors coming in and out. I don't know how he's able to do that. That would drive me crazy.
Catchagroove Had you been performing these songs live before recording them?
Pyeng I hadn't performed all of these songs live until after we finished recording, which was different. With the new album, all the songs we've performed already, which is how I want it to be.
Catchagroove How much do you value your live performances?
Pyeng I value the live experience a lot. You learn so much about your own material and the energy that you get from the audience takes the music to another level.
Catchagroove Have you ever tried anything different on stage without informing the band?
Pyeng (Laughs) No, I'm not that type of a band leader. That kind of thing happens on its own. That's the thing about a live performance, you mess up, you catch something before it falls. Then the next day we all meet and we decide "Hey we didn't plan on that last night but tonight let's try that on purpose. We didn't mean for that to happen but it was kind of cool. That's why it's so necessary to tour so you can discover the music in so many ways. When you think back to the era of Sarah and Ella, those musicians were performing every night. That's one of the many reasons why they sounded so incredible. Last year we went on tour for twelve straight days, which may not be a big deal for some but at the time it was a big deal to me. That experience totally changed my perspective. The level that the band grew to in that time; it may have taken years to reach that level. With that information, I wanted to call my booking agent to keep filling the dates.
Catchagroove Tell us about your new project?
Pyeng I started working on this project last year. I had been reading various books and interviews about songwriters and what influenced them. A lot of them had talked about poets that they had been influenced by. I love literature and I love short stories. So I went back and started rereading some of my favorite short stories. One of them was Isabel Allende's "The Stories Of Eva Luna"..also Jamaica Kincaid, Gabrielle Garcia Marquez, Bruno Schulz just to name a few. Their work is all in the magical realist style of writing. The imagery of those stories totally resonated with me. So I started this project based on short stories. If I give myself a theme then it helps focus me on what I want to work on. Plus living in New York is so stimulating in that there are so many stories going on right before your eyes. The title of the album is "Portholes to a love and other short stories"
Catchagroove When will you start recording?
Pyeng We're going to start recording in March.
Catchagroove Will you release this through Random Chance?
Pyeng It may be a partnership this time around
Catchagroove When will you start touring?
Pyeng Probably in the summer. We're definitely doing a European tour around June. There's the Cognac blues festival in France which will be interesting since I won't be performing the Robert Johnson material.
Catchagroove Tell me about the Alexander Technique?
Pyeng I started the training for it about 4 years ago. It's a three year process. Alexander Technique is a mind and body re-education method. You're educating people on their movement. Whether they're in a chair or on lying, I try to help the person determine where they're holding tension. The learning comes in trying not to be tense in reaction to things. I started doing it for my singing actually. To improve my vocal technique and be able to catch my habits when I'm singing or just moving.
Catchagroove What are you listening to currently?
Pyeng Good question. I love vocal music from anywhere. Greek, Middle Eastern or even Gypsy music. Any kind of singing I'm drawn to. I love a lot of the trip hop stuff that comes out of the UK. Radiohead, Feist. I'm inspired by my colleagues. Just popping into a place around the corner or wherever to listen to the singers and songwriters here in New York.
Catchagroove Any New Years Resolutions for 2008?
Pyeng I want to do a half marathon this year. Also try to be more healthier. I'm kind of the type of person who if I don't set a goal then I won't do anything.
Catchagroove Understood. Well it has been a pleasure chatting with you today. I'm looking forward to the new album.
Pyeng Thank you! I really enjoyed this today as well.
It was a Thursday night at a party hosted by Future soul sessions where I was introduced to the wonderful voice of Michelle Amador. She and her quintet breeze through a list of songs from her recent cd's and captivated her audience and made new fans. After the show, I found her to be very engaging and very much down to earth. One week later, on a beautiful spring afternoon in Brooklyn NY, I spoke with Michelle about her NYC debut and blossoming career.
Catchagroove:The music you performed at Element, Was that new material you're working on?
Michelle:It was a blend of old and new material. Some stuff that I've been working on. Collaborative works.
Catchagroove:Tell me about your work with Karma
Michelle: Lars dorsch, one half of Karma whom I met through the Red Bull Academy in 2004. He had some tracks and he wanted me to work with them
Catchagroove:Tell me about the True Believers?
Michelle:That was an independent release. I was trying to distinguish a particular sound at that time.
Catchagroove:What are listening to now?
Michelle:Dana Stevens, a saxophonist who is really creative and expressive.
An amazing improviser who creates great melodies.
Catchagroove:Have you written most of your songs?
Michelle:Yes, except the work with Karma was more of a collaborative effort. They sent me some music online that they wanted me to check out.. They are based in Germany.
Catchagroove:It must have been a big honor to selected to the Red Bull Academy.
Michelle: I found out about it the day before the deadline that I had been accepted. I felt very lucky about being selected. Plus the great relationships that I have built from that.
Catchagroove:Did you meet Zed Bias through Red Bull Academy?
Catchagroove:You two must have great chemistry
Michelle: Yes! It was instant. They had different workshops. A very full day with opportunities to work with a lot of people in the industry. Also there were production workshops. To introduce the leaders of the production workshops, they would play their music. When I heard Zed's music, my hand shot up and I knew I wanted to work in that group. The funny thing is that a lot of people wanted to work in that group. So many that they ask if some people could wait the next turn. Normally I'm the kind of person that can wait but this was one opportunity I couldn't wait for. Once we were in the production workshop we played our music for everyone. The minute Zed and I heard each other's music we kind of looked at each other and knew we would work together. The partnership grew from there.
Catchagroove:How did the work with Futuristic develop?
Michelle:Through Zed, who is one half of futuristic.
Catchagroove:What was the inspiration behind "He & She"?
Michelle:I wrote my lyrics and Jerome wrote his part. He was a guest vocalist. The inspiration was not categorize men & woman as being all the same but getting to the essence of men & women.
Catchagroove:What topics inspire you?
Michelle:Relationships, Everyday life experiences, something I might have read in the paper. Topics that are 100% real and topics that aren't totally real. Sort of a "what if" type of story.
Catchagroove:Is there a theme to your new project?
Michelle:I'm working really hard to get more specific about the stories and more specific about the music. If you listen to the True believers music there is more of a Jazz format where I sing a verse followed by a lot soloing and I sing the verse again. For this project, I want to get more specific and not rely on everyone else painting the picture. Once I focused on that, more doors began to open and I added verses to some songs and I added sections to some songs from the True Believers and I wrote specific horn lines to some songs.
Catchagroove:What instruments do you play?
Catchagroove:Do you generally write a song to a melody or the other way around?
Michelle:All those things combined. Sometimes it's the lyric, Sometimes it's the chord, Sometimes it's the chorus. Sometimes songs take a long time to build. Some take years, you can't push it, just let it be.
Catchagroove:Where in California are you from?
Michelle: Los Altos
Catchagroove:Tell me about your musical background?
Michelle:I started learning the piano but at the urging of parents. I practiced just enough to get by but eventually my parents allowed to drop it at the age of sixteen. There were songs that I liked then I would practice a little more. I sung in the high school choir
Catchagroove:When did you know that you were going to be a performer?
Michelle:The funny thing is that I realized I've been doing this all along.
I have been writing since I was young. I went to college and majored in Political Science. During that time I studied acting but didn't stick with that and did some writing music for theatre. I came to realization after college that this is what I want to do. My father cornered me and ask me what I really wanted to do. Deep down I knew I really wanted to sing. He was very supportive. Afterwards he put me through a musical boot camp. Very rigorous. Practicing all day. A blessing in disguise. Afterwards, I went to Stanford Jazz camp where I met Don Haas who is a pianist and an amazing educator and I studied under him. In addition, I was taking a vocal class at a community college. In that class, there was a live trio. I started bringing in sketches and trying them out in the trio. Plus I was able to build up my confidence as a singer within that setting. It was a real educational environment.
Catchagroove:Any more releases with Phuture Lounge?
Michelle:They released "Rainbow Soul" I don't know if they are releasing any more material.
Catchagroove:Tell me about the track that is remixed by Osunlade?
Michelle:Through Zed, I met him through the Red Bull Academy. He spoke to me about some of the early success he experienced and the pressures of his own journey through the music industry. His story was very inspiring.
Catchagroove:How are you enjoying your NY experience?
Michelle:I love New York and I love Brooklyn in particular. It's been a great experience so far.
Catchagroove:Will you be touring soon?
Michelle:I was just thinking about that today. I think I'll be putting something together later in the year. I'm looking to record in September and once that is completed, I'll be on track to start touring.
Catchagroove:How about traveling abroad?
Catchagroove:What's the name of the new album?
Michelle:It's tentatively called "Higher" This is a new label that is launching within a month. I believe it will be an online label first. We're trying to decide if we're going to release a single first or just put out the album. I also have an opportunity to have a sub label for anything that I want to release so I'm in the process of formulating exactly how I want to utilize that.
Catchagroove:Do we have a release date?
Catchagroove:Any more future performances?
Michelle:I have a monthly show at smooch cafť in Brooklyn.
Catchagroove:Great! Thanks so much for your time.
Michelle:Thank you as well!
An Interview with Alice Russell:
About a month ago, I received word that Alice Russell was coming to the states. For those who don't know, Alice is simply one of the hottest singers in the UK. Check out her previous work with Bah Samba (Her rendition of Portuguese Love is simply off the chain!!!) and the Quantic Soul Orchestra. For me, it was the track "7 Nation Army" by Nostalgia 77 that grabbed my attention. The girl can flat out sing! Whether it is soul or jazz, Alice nails it. Her most recent cd, "My Favorite Letters"
is a winner. You need to add it to your collection. Not only did I get to see Alice once, but twice in one week! Saturday evening at the Delancey and Tuesday night at Joe's Pub. I was fortunate to get a few minutes with Alice after she ripped the stage!
Catchagroove:There is no doubt that you are a soul singer. Who were your influences?
Alice: There's so many! I'll narrow it down to Stevie Wonder, Aretha and Prince.
Catchagroove:You have performed with the Quantic Soul Orchestra. Do you prefer performing with a large group as opposed to a smaller, more intimate set?
Alice: I definitely prefer a smaller setting. Definitely!
Catchagroove:You have written most of your own material. How do you approach your creative process? Do you hear a melody then write a song to go with it or the other way around?
Alice: It depends. I don't have a preference. Either way works for me.
Catchagroove:Is there a song that you love and you said to yourself, I wish I had wrote that song?
Alice: That would be "A song for you" by Donny Hathaway.
Catchagroove:When can we expect a new Alice Russell album?
Alice: Me and TM Jude are already at work. I've written about twelve songs for the new CD and it will be coming soon.
Catchagroove:That's great news! Thank you so much for your time.