Interview 13 June 2003
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Q#1. How did the Dome deal come about
& what does it entail?
A. I actually had a dream that gave me the idea to make my next record in
England. It felt like a good idea, so I asked my manager, Seth Keller, to
look into the possibilities. Seth ended up contacting Peter Robinson,
president of Dome, who ironically, I first met on a flight from NY to LA. We
'just happened' to be seated together. The second time we met, 15 years
later, we were discussing my signing to his label. I don't believe in
Q#2. What are the plans, who do you plan to work with, & timescale,
Right now I'm writing new material for my next CD. I've been working with
some wonderful writers here in London, Bluey from Incognito, Victor Redwood-
Sawyerr of Hil St. Soul and Simon Law and Lee Hamblin. They're all turning
out to be great collaborations. With the help of my new co-writers, I'm
expecting the project to be a nice mix of styles, a little Latin, jazz, and
some very soulful grooves. We hope to have the CD released by next spring.
Q.#3. How do your songwriting ideas come together and do artists come to
mind when you're constructing songs?
I feel as long as I stay open and out of the way, I'm able to capture the
musical ideas that are "coming through". I'm a self-taught musician and I
constantly rely on being still enough to hear the music in the silence.
As far as writing for other artists, very early on I learned a good lesson
from Ms. Aretha Franklin. She asked me to write a song for her, and I
excitedly wrote what I thought was a good "Aretha Franklin" song; however
when she received it she said "I wanted a Brenda Russell song". At that
moment I learned that if a certain kind of artist wants a song from me, I
should write the song as if I was going to record it myself; it takes on a
more personal tone and that's what the artist is really looking for
sometimes, something different from what's expected of them.
Q.#4. Any other projects you're working on that we can look out for?
Yes, for the past year and a half I've been co-writing the music and lyrics
for the Broadway musical production of The Color Purple. We're looking to
open on Broadway, spring, 2005. I'm collaborating with two great writers,
Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray.
Q#5. What was Bali all about..
Along with artists like Dave Koz, Phil Perry and Jeff Lorber, I was invited
to perform a concert in Bali to "Bring Bali Back". We were all more than
happy to go (against the advice of many) because we'd all experienced Bali
before, and we loved the place. The Balinese people were desperate to get
the word out to bring folks back to the island. They were devastated by the
disaster, emotionally and financially. This massive show with a cast of
thousands it seemed, was broadcast throughout Indonesia with the intentions
of raising the spirit of the people, and a lot of spirits were raised that
night. We also visited an orphanage and fell in love with some beautiful
Balinese children. They didn't have much for entertainment, and we loved
those kids so much that we sent back many boxes of goodies for them when we
Q#6. How much do you get involved, ie Stevie , Will Downing
Justice of the Heart is a song that I wrote with Stevie for Denzel
Washington's movie "John Q". In a collaboration as special as this, I'm very
much involved, but most of the time I'm not involved at all. An artist may
hear a song on a demo or one of my records and just record it.
My father is a drummer and a great singer; he replaced one of the original
vocalists from the legendary group, The Ink Spots. My mother is also a
singer and songwriter, so I was born into a musical family.
Q#7. Herb Alpert?
My first solo record deal was with Horizon Records, which was part of the
A&M family. I was later signed directly to A&M and Herb Alpert, (co-founder)
was very supportive of my music. I signed to the company twice! When I
recorded my "Get Here" album, Herb was responsible for changing my first
single release to "Piano In the Dark" at the very last minute. That decision
changed my musical life forever.
Q. Oleta Adams and other artists?
A. I was delighted when Oleta covered
Get Here. I heard it over the phone for the first time and cried. It was
beautiful. Oleta heard my version of Get Here for the first time in a record
store in Stockholm. It was ironic because that's the very city where I wrote
the song years before.
It's very flattering to have other artists want to record your songs. It's
very hard to pick favorites as I've had such amazing people want to
collaborate or record songs of mine. If I have to mention a few I'd mention
Maurice White, a true genius, of Earth Wind and Fire, Michael McDonald,
Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Sting who recorded "She Walks This Earth" a tune
I wrote English lyrics for to the music of Brazilian composer, Ivan Lins.
Sting won a Grammy for best pop vocal for his performance in 2001. It's a
long list of "high moments" and I am truly a blessed person.