My father was a DJ and my mom and him would have these functions or house parties about once every other month. They both belonged to different Social Clubs and because we had a fairly large house the parties were mostly take place at our house.
My brother Michael collected records like Cameo, The Gap Band, Stevie Wonder,Sos Band, Prince & Parliament to name a few so it got funky in the house growing up. My other brother Jonathan started a little later but hosted a radio show in Toronto for years and still DJ’s on a regular. My dad is 84 and still has his collection but not giving it up anytime soon. He has a bunch of old reggae & RB on vinyl.
Being exposed to great live music was due to my older siblings taking me to concerts at Ontario Place in Toronto. It was one of the perks of being the baby in the family but I don’t think they minded much. We waited by these gates to open at 3pm and you had to run to get good seats. It was a free concert so basically first come first serve. I was pretty fast when I was young as I used to run track for years and being smaller than the others I could maneuver among the crowd pretty easily. I would usually get there first and lay down to hold seats until they came. Pretty hilarious actually but we hung out for 5 hours until the concert started at 8. Fun times for sure but I knew it was a privilege to see bands like Chic, Kool & The Gang and Ray Charles so young.
In regards to my big break..I’m not sure exactly as there were many small things that added up to where I am now. I honestly couldn’t define “the break” except my first time being on a record with Dj, Smash called Makin Love, Makin Music (1995) but I also got a lot of recognition overseas but mainly London with a song called “If I Could”. It did really well and as a result I got on a few underground magazine covers. The ball started rolling so then I continued to record with a few different producers before I signed with Naked in 2000.
You’re first single back in 1995 written by DJ Smash started it all - what was the story that led to that moment and did you realise then how important you could become to house music especially?
I had no idea what was to come but I always knew what I wanted to do. It was important for me to write, record and collaborate with musicians and producers I respected and who had a similar vision or direction as me.
Absolutely, it was great back then and being submerged in the scene, indy was all I knew, the music that came out was my “pop” music. I was really disconnected from the major and mainstream radio back then.
That’s a tough one because I feel connected to all music but acid jazz scene naturally evolved into the drum & bass scene for me. There wasn’t many vocals when it first started so I was drawn to the music because of the melodies I heard while listening. DJ Dara..said to me once “We birthed you” and he was right but never heard it worded like that before. I had a perma-grin for about an hour after that.
I first started working with Dave Warrin who I knew from a band called Slide 5 from SF. He and I started to collab and decided to do a classic soul album together. We did a few tracks and he sent them to his friend Bruno Ybarra who was A/R for Naked and they picked up the project. We never had to shop it anywhere and things just fell into place. We all knew each other from a sort of six degrees scenario. There was a collective of people in our scene and we all worked together at some point on various live projects and recordings. I started working with Jay Denes, and met Miguel a year later.
I met Miguel a year later at Winter Music Conference in Miami. We had already worked together bit never met (he did a remix of “That’s Why I’m here” and I co-wrote “One Wish” for his first album) We had an immediate connection and have been friends and working together ever since.
You work with writers, Dave Warrin, Migs and Tim K often - do they each being something unique to the process and can you give us a feel for the process?
They are all different which I appreciate. Tim K and I started from scratch and developed our ideas, melodies but all very impromptu.
Dave Warrin would give me track ideas to bounce off of and then we’d get together and develop it. We can be in different cities and go back and forth with recordings.
Now Miguel and I prefer to physically work, write and record in person. ideally I prefer to do that with any producer I work with but it’s not always feasible.
When you know who will be supporting your music it makes all the difference. All you have to think about is creating music and not the headache that comes with finding a home for it.
Paying attention to details like giving statements twice a year as well as paying royalties is huge for me. A lot of labels nowadays don’t have money for big advances so it’s important for them to keep their books straight as we rely on them giving the artist the royalties they deserve.
I also think giving proper advances is huge and needs to be respected more. This is the way we make our living and you have to pay to play in my books.
It’s like the party promoter who relies on door sales to pay the artist at the end of the night. That’s not how you do business and you are gambling at other people’s expense.
Now I say this referring to bigger Indy labels that have money and not the small “mom and pop“ labels.
When you’re doing vocals on a track (for instance), do you get asked what to sing or is there more of a collaborative process?
It’s collaborative! For most recordings I write the lyrics & melody, vocal arrangement, but certain producers like Miguel Migs & Dave Warrin we’ll write together.
It builds over time but sometimes the longer you take the harder it is to pull together. If your affected by spiritual climate of the world its going to affect your creative output on topics you tend to write about. I kinda think it’s better to not take too long or you could get in a rut and I’m speaking from experience on that. Sometimes you should to start over if that happens. It’s like writing a novel or short story rather if the idea is not flowing, trash it and start with something else.
Well that depends if I’m recording or live. Before a show I practice by listening to my tunes but also like to listen to other music that’s more mellow and in a different genre. Music that provokes a feeling more than vocal acrobatics.
When I’m in the studio I warm up by certain vocal exercises accompanied with ginger, honey or zinc lozenges with tons of water.
“A lot of people may have amazing voices but the key is being a great performer as well”
Elaine Shaw~my mother
I’m Okay, I Can See It, When I, Matter of Time
Now..ask me tomorrow and this will probably change..like it has a gazillion times writing this.
Hmmm...tough one! I really love performing live but I love the process of how the song comes about! They both feed each other!
South Africa has a pretty amazing house music scene and has for years now. I remember back in the day when Naked Music first started their was a big following and we received many requests to perform but timing or budget was never right so it didn’t happen till about 5 years ago for me.
Deep house in my opinion is more mainstream there. They have Black Coffee who’s the Ambassador to the scene and has been representing and leading the way in popularity for other South African artists globally.
I’m terrible at Social Media and self promotion...like the worst! I’m trying but i find it hard to self promote.
To be honest, their are no current artist I look out for or would run to see live but I have a list of older artists that I listened to growing up that I would make my way to see. I recently got turned on to Channel Tres..I’m really diggin his music.
I think traveling to amazing countries was the best experience for me. All the amazing artists I’ve been able to see live as well as meet has been beyond anything I ever thought I would have experienced.
Finishing my next album!
I have a couple projects about to be released with Tortured Soul this month “ I Wish You Were Here and another track with Immaculate Styles “ Give In To Me Tonight” which should be released this summer. I have something in the works with Vincenzo Ragone and P60 as well but not till fall.
Where can people follow you?