Interviews

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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