Smooth Artist Interviews

Marcus Johnson
Marcus Johnson
Marcus Johnson
Marcus Johnson
Marcus Johnson
Marcus Johnson

You are an entrepreneur in every sense of the word... Do you find it challenging to separate your business mind from your musician mind?

It's funny. I think the challenge is in the fact that the two sides of my brain work as one and battle each other at the same time. I often catch myself stopping mid-sentence and in the middle of a point, switching to another point that is related tangentially, then switching back. And yes, I like for my staff to follow me when I do that. That's ridiculous but it's how I come up with my ideas. I often speak with my sister who is an entrepreneur and we both swear that all successful entrepreneurs suffer from ADHD. (big smile).

Tell us a little about the Three Keys vision. As we understand it you set out to be more than a recording label, rather an artistic outlet to better serve society and the world. How does that work?

Three Keys stands for Spirituality, Artistry, and Strategy. We have a huge commitment to the community. Honestly through the roughest times of the company, the community is the only thing that kept us alive. As long as you try the community is there fore you. They forgive you more than your family and when you need their support they reciprocate. And I mean reciprocate because they respond in kind. If you forget them, they will forget you. But if you love them, they show you love in an exponential form. I do wish I could get more artists to understand this. I think Kevin Toney, Gerald Veasley, and A. Ray Fuller are great examples of those who do. And that is why they have been able to build great names for themselves.

After all doesn't music move the world? I look out at the different audiences that I perform for and see eyes closed, necks moving, and smiles on faces. Without the audience (i.e. the community) who or where would we be? Without YOU, we might as well be in our basements playing for ourselves. Music is the glue that keeps us together. Additionally, my "keyboard pulpit" allows me to let other know that things are possible through faith. I don't care what you call it, there is something else out there and it's not me. However, when I let it in, it uses me as an instrument to let people know that when you appreciate the little things, like eyesight, hearing, speech, and life itself, there is no need to ever get depressed or down. Just hang in there. We are going through it with you. And the only way for an airplane to get through turbulence is to keep on flying... hust like the Phoenix (self plug for my new album of the same name ;-)

What inspires you?

This may sound crazy, but everything inspires me; God, my wife, my family, my friends, world problems and the idea that there are solutions for them, young kids, etc. I've made a deal with my higher power: If you get me up in the morning, I will use everyday to make a difference. Do I always get it right? Oh no! I mess up quite often, however, the more I try, the more I can succeed. The idea that we control our destiny through our acts is the most inspirational thought of the day. I was reading a book the other day by Henry Beckwith that said the most disappointing tragedy in life is to die with unfulfilled potential. My hope is that I leave it on the floor everyday! All of me; everyday.

Your newest album, The Phoenix, is a personal victory for you as well as being a commercial success and well-received at radio. Will you share some background with us as to why The Phoenix's success is so satisfying?

From 2004 until late 2006, Three Keys and Marcus Johnson were going through their disruption phase. It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do. I had to reevaluate everything about me, the company, my moves in the past, and what we were going to do in the future. To go from near elimination in 2005 to The Phoenix and our other 2007 releases is a true journey from the ashes. My heart and soul is in that album. And I thank everyone who has supported it as well as those that made it happen.

What would you like to see come of the Smooth Jazz music format over the next five years?

This is the question that a lot of music people like to run from. I wrote an article for R&R in 2004 concerning Smooth Jazz and its future. I stick by that article in that I hope that smooth jazz uses technology to truly incorporate the views of its listeners into the programming. I was the host of the morning show on WJZW (in Washington, D.C.) for a year from 2005-2006 and I heard many complaints about the programming. I also sat with the program director and got a different perspective which I could definitely appreciate. These views are on opposite ends of the spectrum though. They must be reconciled one day or this format will be overtaken by something new.

Additionally, I think that the format needs to include some local features in its programming. National radio programming can work, but I think there is a duty to the local community to introduce it to and support its own members. We are about to launch the "Fly Away with Me." Series in association with HMS Host in airports around the country. The first features Smooth Jazz Artists from the Atlanta area and will be featured in retail outlets in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Again this is a national-local hybrid with international implications. It's the community aspect. Our hope is that it too will rise like the Phoenix.

This may seem like a silly question... what do you do in your free time, just for you... just for fun?

Reading "The Collectors" by David Balducci. I love books and magazines. You'll see me on a plane reading and highlighting away. I love golf and personal training.