Smooth Artist Interviews
How did your new album/single and overall concept for it come about?
The concept for my new album TREASURES, originated from all I learned and journeyed through during the COVID-19 pandemic for the past couple of years. I began writing the music for TREASURES in parallel to writing my book, "Wisdom Treasures" which I published in 2020. But, I think the album offers a more profound ‘story’ (as such) because of the emotional nature and universal impact associated with the art of music.
TREASURES presents original vocal and instrumental songs, stylistically multi-genre, that reflect the essence of my living out this real-life experience. A wave of music poured out of me in response to all that I was feeling and what I saw others going through. I gained a new personal perspective, a new understanding and a new appreciation for the wealth of faith and trust in God and our need for his loving kindness during extremely difficult times. I believe TREASURES offers inspirations of love, hope, humility, gratitude and encouragement, so crucial for when times are hard, blended with a profound sense of expectancy, deliverance, joy, celebration and reflection as times transition to a place of restoration.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording?
For me, probably the most challenging aspect of recording, is my passion for producing the very best I can. I always try to keep in mind that the actual ‘music’ is the point and not the process. I normally rely on what I hear more than what the meters say. In fact, by the time I’ve finished recording and listening, I’ve forgotten many of the steps I took laying the individual tracks during sessions. However, with all the technology at our fingertips along with the level of competition in the music industry it’s easy to get drawn into that unspoken rule - that everything has to sound totally perfect - and louder and more pristine than the other guy’s stuff. Or, that the music has to fit a certain sound or style for people to like it or to get it played on radio.
The human element can easily get lost in that kind of thinking. Music can sound or feel like an afterthought or even like something created in a factory - mechanical, computerized or just cold. The more humanity you take out, the more the music can lose its' appeal to the ordinary ear. People may not be able to express exactly what’s missing but they’ll know something’s wrong or they’ll just say “I can’t feel it.”
So, many times I’ll just leave some stuff in on purpose… things that maybe only I can hear. But it's an organic sound that can reach inside the human soul and evoke a deeper connection and emotional response. At the end of the day the greatest reward is knowing your work and your music made someone feel something real and new that perhaps changed their life experience for the better. That kind of gift is far more valuable than any money or fame.
What inspires you to do what you do?
Musical inspiration, and my inspiration in general, start with my ability to just lay down at night, rest and get up each morning and pray with an honest sense of worship and gratitude for my life. I know that many people unfortunately didn’t do so, so I already know I’m blessed! Beyond that, I often tell people I’m living in a “legacy” phase of my life.
I have a strong drive to write and work on all the music I believe represents the best of what I can share to hopefully speak to the generation of now and all those to follow. I get so many musical ideas all the time... like melodies, chord changes, beats, grooves, bass lines, guitar lines, lyrical phrases, you name it. At other times, I even get full songs and arrangements in my head, but I always try to find a way to get them down in some form before I forget.
These ideas inspire me to revisit them later and eventually develop fully arranged and produced songs as part of an album or collection. I try to set timetables and goals for myself for where I want to be in the future and for the different kinds of musical works I’d like to pursue. All of this inspires and pushes me, but I think the most important inspirations in my life are the joy of my faith, my deep love for God and the love-filled relationship I share with my wife, Kathy. These allow me to experience a little bit of heaven on earth every day as I rest in a firm foundation and a clear purpose for living.
On a scale of 1-10, how much do you enjoy composing music?
Really? On a scale of 1-10, the joy of composing for me is between 15 or 20!
I believe the ability to compose brand new music and produce musical works that have never existed or been heard before is the epitome of complete musical expression and creativity. I also really enjoy another type of composing—the spontaneous form known as improvisation, especially on-stage. It’s a once in a lifetime moment when the chemistry between musicians is high and creates an exclusive musical exchange of ideas, that will never ever be the same again for both the musicians and the audience. It can certainly be captured by recording it at the time, and the sound will probably linger within the minds and hearts of those attending the performance long afterwards. However, each new occasion you get to improvise is another opportunity to compose afresh and share new music with the world.
What would be the most important piece of advice you’d impart to a young musician just starting out in the jazz/smooth jazz arena?
Whenever I’m asked to share advice with young musicians or students starting out in the Jazz or Smooth Jazz arena or any genre option, I normally encourage them not to set in stone any preconceived notions about the music they want to do or create. Instead, I recommend they allow the music that emanates from within their own creativity or what they hear and feel inside to define who they are or will become as musicians and composers.
That’s not to say it’s wrong to pursue being a Jazz musician or any other type of musical artist, but I think it’s very important that while you’re initially developing and pursuing your craft not to place yourself in a box or under a particular label. I think aspiring musicians should have an opportunity to explore and engage in at least a portion of the vast world of musical expression as a whole—through listening, singing, education, collaboration, and experimentation by trying out different instruments and styles.
I think the more exposure you have as a musician in the beginning will help you figure it out later, and allow you the time to define what resonates best within your spirit and innermost musical emotions. What and how you feel whenever you hear or play or sing something, and what you’d like to say when you’re the one creating and performing music in front of audiences will ultimately set the stage for your musical destiny. Sometimes what you’re inspired to do may not necessarily fit under an established label or within an already popular genre. You might even become a trailblazer of an entirely new original style of music! Who knows… But that being said, if not, Jazz is a really, really great place to land!
Outside of your musical career, what else in your life gets you excited and fulfilled?
Outside of music, being an author is very fulfilling and important to me. I loved English and writing in school so my interest was inevitable. It’s definitely a huge investment of time and sustained effort to write a book. I’ve found that writing helps me to explore interesting topics important to me at a much more detailed level. However, I have used the subject matter or lyrics from some songs I’ve composed as inspiration for writing or starting a new book.
Vice versa, a book's topic has inspired me to write a new song or put together an album. In fact, it kind of worked that way with TREASURES. I started out writing my book "Wisdom Treasures" first but then several songs were inspired at least in part along the way. Then, I began putting together the album. I guess the best way to explain the connection is that the book spelled out a lot of information intellectually that I wanted to share while the songs of TREASURES poured out the personal experience and emotional ideas that can connect audiences directly with the practical substance of the music and the art.