Interviews

DAUGHTER OF AN OLD MASTER: A PORTRAIT OF LALAH HATHAWAY

Friday, 08 August 2008 04:33 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

DAUGHTER OF AN OLD MASTER: A PORTRAIT OF LALAH HATHAWAY


LALAH HATHAWAY, the eldest daughter of legendary '70s soul legend, Donny Hathaway, has a new album, 'Self Portrait,' due out in the UK this month (read the review of it on our reviews pages). To coincide with the release of her debut CD for Stax Records, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter recently talked about her life and music with www.soulandjazzandfunk.com's own Charles Waring. In this, the first of two interview features with Lalah, the singer discusses her new album (a second feature in which Lalah talks about her father, family and the music business, will follow later).


How did you get to sign with Stax Records?

Well, you hear these wonderful stories about how people get signed but in my case a guy who was actually working at Virgin Records when I was there joined Stax and called me and said 'we're revitalising the record label and we'd like to sign you.' So I said yes.

It's a label with a lot of history attached to it.

Absolutely. It's a name synonymous with the concept of soul music, so it was an honour. Growing up here in the United States and listening to soul music, you can't deny the house that Stax built. So to be associated with people like Carla Thomas, Mavis Staples, Isaac Hayes, Booker T and Otis Redding - names that really define what soul music is and who are really contemporaries and peers of my father - it's very exciting.

What can you tell me about your new album, 'Self Portrait'?

I'm very excited about it. It's probably my most personal piece of work. It's really about the fact that I've been in the music business for a long time now and I'm just sort of reaching almost the beginning of what I can do - as an artist, as a producer and as a writer. So it feels like a record that in my mind I wasn't sure what it was going to be but as I was creating it, it started coming into the frame. It's definitely a record that is the soundtrack of the music of my life over the last couple of years since the last record. So it's a very honest and vulnerable depiction of my life set to music.

I believe Rahsaan Patterson is on the album.

He's a friend of mine and a very talented guy. He actually co-wrote and sang on the single with me, which is 'Let Go.'

Who else is playing on the album?

We have Michael White, the drummer; Melvin Davis, a great bass player; and Tim Carmen, an organist/pianist who played with Eric Clapton. They are the rhythm section on a couple of tunes. I also have Erroll Cooney playing guitar on the record with Lenny Castro playing percussion on most or all of the record. Marcus Miller appears on 'Learning To Swim' playing fretless (bass).

Of course, you've had quite an association with Marcus over the years.

Absolutely. We're very good friends. He takes good care of me. It's a really tight little record. Proper R&B records in the States tend to get spread out but this record is pretty focused. It wasn't really about the musicians or producers. It was about getting the song and having a good and consistent sound throughout the whole record.

Although you've given the album a theme by using the title 'Self Portrait,' the songs do seem interlinked together musically.

Right, that is why I'm really proud of it. It really feels like a real, complete body of work as opposed to what sort of happens a lot of times which is people bring songs and you write to tracks and then you collaborate with the writer. A lot of times the records can be kind of disjointed and this record for me is very connected, very cohesive and it kind of tells a story about me from beginning to end, which is why I called it 'Self Portrait.' Unlike some of my other records, I was involved in other things besides the music - like the sequencing of the record to tell that story: also, the way that the artwork appears because that's my concept as well. Everything about the record is really what I wished and hoped for so I'm really excited about it.

So how does this new CD stand in relation to the other albums that you've done?

I really love all my records - they are all my little children. This one feels more complete somehow - maybe because it's still fresh in my mind. It was a quick kind of front-to-back record, which doesn't normally happen. I got signed and I got the record started and then got it finished in about six months.

Did you have songs already prepared or did you just write material from scratch?

We ended up using some stuff that I did have and I ended up reworking some stuff that I had but I really went into the record trying to figure out a way to a complete album of original material with no covers - because I tend to do a lot of covers. So I wanted to make a complete record of original material just to see if I could.

'One More' is quite different from the other tracks on the set. It has a hip-hop vibe.

Kind of. I don't know if you'd call it hip-hop. I don't know what it is. I like to work with people that are going to bring me something different or new or really exceptional. Terrace Martin, who co-wrote that track, does a lot of work with people like Snoop Dogg so I think it's interesting for people to hear because they're not used to hearing me singing over beats and that kind of stuff.
I don't really feel like beats and music are mutually exclusive. I have always felt that any of the R&B songs that I've heard - whether from Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige or Aaliyah (especially the songs she did with Timbaland, which I thought were so great) - I always felt I could do something like that and that would be fun to do. I still have aspirations to do something like that - I'd love to work with The Neptunes or with Timbaland. I listen to all this kind of music and as a musician it is my aim to do as much music as I can. I would never limit myself to one style or one set of beats.

What plans do you have after this album? What sort of record would you like to make in the future?

You know, there are a lot of records I want to make. The one that I'm kind of starting to meditate on and focus on is a live record. I really want to make live record.

Really? Why is that?

I wanted to make a live record since 1992 and nobody at a record company thought that it was a feasible idea and then, of course, Jill Scott made one and then Erykah Badu made one. Now everyone knows that it's a hip thing to do, so hopefully, it will be nice to go play all over the world and put all that together and make a live record.

(as told to Charles Waring)

'SELF PORTRAIT' is released by Concord Records in the UK on August 18th.

Look out for the second part of our LALAH HATHAWAY interview soon at www.soulandjazzandfunk.com

 

HOWARD SPEAKS ...

Saturday, 21 June 2008 07:00 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

HOWARD SPEAKS ...

Long-time UK soul favourite, HOWARD HEWETT is currently re-promoting his last album - the wonderful 'If Only…' which will be reissued with some new mixes on the key cuts. Though busy in the studio, HOWARD found time to speak with www.soulandjazzandfunk.com and we began by asking him what he learned from his time with SHALAMAR that was useful to him in his solo career…
I believe one of the most important lessons I learned from the group and brought into my solo career is humility. The fact that we are not in this alone. No matter how great you believe you are, we need each other…a good team…a good support system to help navigate you through this experience we call life.

After Shalamar, you were signed to Elektra and enjoyed some success - but maybe not as much as you, the label and your talent deserved - did that frustrate you?
You know, I've always been "the glass is half full" kind of person. There were frustrations early on with the lack of Elektra's ability to capitalize on things that had been accomplished while I was with the group. But then you realize that, especially when doing a project, the most important thing is to do your best. I believe that as long as you stay diligent and work to perfect all that you do, you'll end up where you're supposed to be.

How do you think your solo career has evolved since the Elektra days?
I would hope that the differences between the early solo projects and the ones now would be depth…growth. We're always learning…experiencing different things in life, forming philosophies, and discarding some. We observe different things that effect us in so many different ways…loves…love losses…triumphs…disappointments…and I have a great job that allows me…encourages me to write about these things. Express things that some may find hard to express. Maybe bring clarity to things that may not be too clear to someone…and to myself.

In the UK, certainly, your 'It's Time' is considered something of a soul masterpiece - what can you tell us about that album?
The "It's Time" project was such a special, progressive project for me. It was the first independent project away from the Major Record Company politics - away from the A&R Departments…the Suits…Bean Counters and so on. I was fortunate with my previous projects on Elektra to have major creative input and control…but with "It's Time" I had total, complete creative control. And Monty Seward and I had an amazing time piecing it together.

Your latest album is 'If Only..' - how did that one come about?
When I finished the "It's Time" project, the recording industry was in a crazy state. This was around '94 or so. Hip Hop was getting stronger…Rap was still going strong and showed no signs of slowing down. Even my audience was enamoured with it…which was understandable…it was something new, exciting. So that was cool. I saw it as an opportunity for me connect back with my audience. I wasn't interested in the recording atmosphere. I'm not that "Fast Food" type of writer…I have to feel what I'm writing…what I'm writing for. So I went back out on the road. In the course of that time I recorded a complete Inspirational project called "The Journey" and did a lot of outside projects for friends of mine, but it was just a couple of years ago that I felt the urge to get back in the studio for my own R&B project. I had a concept floating around in my head about relationships…about the importance of asking questions in your relationship. I was calling the concept "Enough". Brandon Howard, Miki Howard's son, who I've known since he was 5 or 6 years old, brought the perfect track…I finished the lyrics and melody…George Duke and I produced the song and I was off!! It felt great getting back to creating. Ralph Johnson, one of the original members of EWF, who's been a good friend since I was about 20 years old, approached me about some people that were interested and serious about putting a deal together for a recording company that I could partner with - not only as an artist, but as an owner. We met with Mike Reynolds and Mike Nason of Groove Records and after some time we decided that we wanted to be in business together. I found a home for "If Only."


What artists have influenced you in your career?
There have been so many musical influences in my lifetime. When I was a kid I went through my Stevie Wonder stage, then there was the Marvin Gaye stage…Donnie Hathaway. I remember one of the most vivid influences was when I first heard "There's A Riot Going On" by Sly Stone…you know how something happens in your life and for the rest of your life you remember where you were. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of my high school at lunch time, with some of my band members. We had this band called "Lyfe" - there were about seven of us and four of us went to the same school. Somebody brought the 8 track of Sly's new release…I put it the car player…and we where blown away!! The arrangements…the new technique of plucking the bass that Larry Graham was introducing…the horns, the funk!!! It was amazing!!! It changed our whole concept, our whole way of approaching our musical goals.

And what about the future - what are your plans?
My immediate future plans are to go out and support the "If Only" project….and I'm looking forward to getting over to the UK to perform the material for everyone there. I enjoy myself when I hang out over there. I always have a great time.

 

 

SOUL SPEAKING...

Sunday, 30 March 2008 07:02 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

SOUL SPEAKING...


As previously reported in www.soulandjazzandfunk.com, the ever-amiable MICHAEL McDONALD has brand new album on the horizon. With the title 'Soulspeak', it's the ex- DOOBIE BROTHERS front man's follow up to his two CDs of Motown covers and those who like cover versions will be delighted to know that on the new set there's covers-a-plenty again. www.soulandjazzandfunk.com recently linked up with the jet-lagged MICHAEL who explained to us why he's gone down the covers path again…
I had some trepidation about doing more Motown covers but I knew that that was what Universal wanted. Anyway, this time I decided to compromise and open the door a little to a wider range of covers, and, of course, we added some originals to give it all a different aspect.
There is a wide range on the album - I mean by Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song' , Stevie Wonder's 'Living For The City' and Van Morrison's 'Into The Mystic' - why did you choose those particular songs?
Well, we were looking for some kind of theme without really naming it and the songs we picked - maybe subliminally - all had some kind of deeper meaning. Like Bob Marley's Redemption Song' - that one talks about us seeking our salvation in someone or something, and how we could even spend our whole life just doing that. That's what sets us apart from other animals. These are all songs that speak to us… and that's the common thread. The three new songs, too, have a degree of spirituality, I think.
Were you daunted or overawed in tackling songs associated with iconic singers like Ray Charles and Van Morrison?
Yes - I always do but part of the point of doing something like this is throwing yourself against the wall and taking on the challenge of trying to do something a little different with things that are so familiar.
Maybe the least known song on the set is Tyrone Davis's 'Baby Can I Change My Mind' - why did you choose that one?
I always loved that song and we've often played it live. It has the quality of a familiar handshake and I love Tyrone Davis too - he's a big favourite.
Who else then would you call a favourite or even an influence?
I have many… Ray Charles of course was a big influence on my style along with Marvin Gaye. But I guess I'm not the only person who's ever said that.
But what exactly is 'your style'… would you describe your music as 'blue-eyed soul'?
It's hard to say. I think it's a form of soul music - that's the music I grew up with. Yet, I've played rock and roll over the years with many bands. But I wouldn't like to pigeon-hole myself into any category.
And what about the future record-wise. Are you planning another covers album?
I'm sure the next album for me won't be a covers album. I think I've pushed that envelope to the limit. I think it's time I made a concerted effort with some new stuff. I'd love to get together again with people like Tommy Simms and do some fresh writing.

MICHAEL McDONALD'S 'SOULSPEAK' is out now on Universal. Find a full review on our 'REVIEWS' pages. MICHAEL will be touring the UK in June

 

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