Tag: Bill Withers

New Audio: Meshell Ndegeocello Releases a Folksy Cover of Force MD’s “Tender Love”

Born Michelle Lynn Johnson to US Army Sergeant Major Jacques Johnson, a saxophonist and Helen Johnson, a health care work, the Berlin, Germany-born, American-based singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello was raised in Washington, DC where she attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Oxon Hill High School. When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”

In the late 80s, Ndedgeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with bands like Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello, has the distinction of being Madonna’s Maverick Records first signings and while achieving a fair amount of commercial success. Her collaborative cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp peaked at #3 on the Billboard Charts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine’s “Album of the Year.”  Her cover of Bill Withers’ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx, Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissette and Zap Mama.
Ndeogecello has also had her music featured in the soundtracks of How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Lost & Delirious, Batman & Robin, Love Jones, Love & Basketball, Talk to Me, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, The Best Man, Higher Learning, Down in the Delta, The Hurricane, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom and Soul Men.

Interestingly, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feat of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromisingly, iconoclastic and unique artists of the past 25 years — and she’s been credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul movement, thanks in part to a genre defying and difficult to pigeonhole sound that draws from hip-hop, classic soul, rock, reggae, jazz and singer/songwriter pop. Adding to that iconoclastic nature, Ndegeocello has written and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and she released a gorgeous tribute album to Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others.

The renowned bassist, singer/songwriter and rapper’s latest album Ventriloquism is slated for a March 16, 2018 release and the album will feature covers of songs by TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, all of which have been influential to Ndeogeocello’s work — but with a unique take. The album’s first single, her cover of Force MD’s smash hit “Tender Love,” finds Ndegeocello turning the slow-burning 80s piano ballad classic into a folksy, Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac track, complete with shuffling drumming, twinkling Fender Rhodes and harmonica. In my mind, what makes Ndegeocello’s cover truly fascinating is that she manages to completely eschew the 80s pop ballad cheesiness of the song, which makes it endearing 30 years after its release but without doing away with the song’s earnestness — while pointing out that the song manages to possess something that listeners far removed from the song’s initial release can grasp and connect to on a very visceral level. That’s what separates the great, timeless songs from the countless songs that will be forgotten 6 months or more after they’ve been released.  And on another level, the song will continue the renowned and iconoclastic Ndegeocello’s commentary on society’s narrow expectations of what black music should sound and be like.

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New Video: Up-and-Coming Singer/Songwriter Malia Releases Ode to Enjoying Life’s Simple Things

Malia is a up-and-coming Seattle, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who at a young age was drawn to music. Although she was extremely shy, she loved to signing and always participated in choir while in school; but because she frequently suffered from crippling insecurity and self-doubt, she initially didn’t pursue her lifelong passion. “For some reason I didn’t allow myself to dream musically, I always told myself that being a singer was too far-fetched and I wasn’t good enough anyway,” the Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter explains.

Putting her passion aside, Malia upon graduation from high school, decided to move to California, where she attended college and ultimately graduate with honors, obtaining a BA in Political Science. “I just went through the motions, I never did anything with music throughout those years, I just told myself I would continue on through the education system.” As the story goes, several years later, while working and enduring through several short-term, unfitting and unfulfilling jobs, she found herself in an existential crisis, in which she realized that everything in her life had to change.

“That’s when I sat down and had the first, honest conversation I’d had with myself in years. I asked myself ‘What makes you truly happy, fears aside?’ . . . and I knew that answer was and always had been music. I had been running from my happiness for years, in fear of what people may say, reaffirming on the regular that my musical skills were not good enough to make it,” Malia recalls. And from that point on, she started to focus on pursuing music. She bought out guitar and taught herself how to play.  “I sought out people to jam with and learn from, and fell into a very fitting situation hanging out at a studio in Hollywood. Every day, I worked on my guitar skills and eventually began to play some small shows. I was able to record my first EP at the studio with the help of friends.”
 
After a West Coast tour with Syd, Malia decided to surprise fans with the early release of the Late Bloomer EP, which features singles “Simple Things” and “Dirty Laundry,” a collaboration with her recent tourmate Syd.  Reportedly, the EP reveals an artist with a newfound confidence and self-assuredness, and from the aforementioned EP single “Simple Things,” Malia specializes in an easy-going, thoughtfully crafted soul that simultaneously nods at Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others while being an ode to slowing down, taking a breath and enjoying the simple things in life and with others. But interestingly enough, the song also suggests that by simplifying one’s life that it leads to a deeper sincerity and happiness in one’s life and relationships; after all, modern life can be complicated enough. 
 
Co-directed by Mali and Quentin Lamont and shot and edited by Dana Rice, the recently released video for the song captures the easygoing, summer afternoon vibe of the song while featuring the young artist hanging out, writing and goofing off — with an enormous, endearing smile. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Soul Act Million Miles Returns with Visuals for Bittersweet and Swooning New Single

Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry is the creative mastermind behind the up-and-coming soul project, Million Miles, and interestingly enough the project is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music. After studying at Boston’s renowned Berklee College and a stint working as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned to London and felt an irresistible pull to create her own music inspired by likes of Ray Charles and Bill Withers.  

On an inspired whim, Baudry wound up in Nashville, TN. The French-born, British-based singer/songwriter spent her first few days in Nashville wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers as though she were saying, “I’m new here and I’m a songwriter and i’m looking for people to collaborate with.” Baudry had chance meetings with local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson, and within an hour or so, they began writing material together. 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you may recall that Baudry’s Million Miles debut, Berry Hill EP was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio. And the effort reportedly focuses on the journeys taken and lessons learned in the singer/songwriter’s life; in fact, EP single “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” revealed that Baudry specialized in an easy-going, effortless singer/songwriter/balladeer-based soul reminiscent of  Bill Withers and Sandra Rhodes’ sadly under-appreciated and seemingly forgotten debut Where’s Your Love Been. And much like Withers and Rhodes, Baudry revealed a rare ability to express joy and heartache within a turn of a phrase, just underneath the Sunday afternoon vibes.
The EP’s latest single “Love Like Yours” will further cement Baudry’s growing reputation for crafting easy-going yet deliberately crafted soul that while influenced by Bill Withers also manages to nod at early Erykah Badu and Jill Scott; however, whereas the previous single focused on crushing heartache, the EP’s latest single is the antithesis — or perhaps even the begging of the songwriter’s story, as the song’s narrator expresses joy and relief over finding — finally! — that profound love she’s been looking for. Of course, deep down, we all know the perverse irony in these sort of love songs — that love, like everything else isn’t forever, and that it can be as disappointing and frustrating. And yet, what would our lives be without that constant search, without those impermanent yet so important moments of joy? 

As Baudry explains of the video treatment, “We shot this video at home on a rainy day. I filmed footage on a trip to LA and loved projecting it on the wall at home when I was writing or recording, it’s really quite inspiring. The song has always been a favourite of mine as lyrically its quite personal and really reminiscent of a specific time in my life, so I wanted to keep that feeling throughout the video, keeping everything really intimate and what’s more intimate than home.”

 

New Video: Introducing the Easygoing Soul of French-born London-based Million Miles

Million Miles is the solo recording project of Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry. Now, as the story goes, Baudry has had a life-long love affair with soul music and although she studied at Boston’s Berklee College and had a brief stint in New York working as recording engineer and studio musician, she returned to London and felt an irresistible pull to create the sort of soul music inspired by the likes of Ray Charles and Bill Withers. Baudry wound up in Nashville, TN on a whim. “I thought, ‘Why not?'” the French-born, British singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. 

She spent the her first few days and hours in Nashville wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers as though saying “I’m new here and I’m a songwriter and i’m looking for people to collaborate with.” After a chance meeting Baudry wound up collaborating with songwriters/producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson. As Baudry recalls, she instantly hit it off with Eaton. “We met for coffee near his studio,” she recalls in press notes, “and an hour later, we started writing a song. It was quite immediate.” 

Baudry’s debut as Million Miles, Berry Hill EP was recored over a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio, and the album reportedly focuses on the journeys taken and lessons learned in the up-and-coming singer/songwriter’s life — and from the EP’s latest single “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart,” Baudry specializes in an easy-going and effortless singer/songwriter-based soul that brings to mind the aforementioned Bill Withers and Sandra Rhodes’ sadly under-appreciated and seemingly forgotten debut Where’s Your Love Been, as the song possesses a loose, Sunday afternoon country twang. But pay close attention, because much like the sources that influence her, Baudry’s vocals and songwriting has the rare ability to craft an infectious song that manages to be emotionally ambiguous — within a turn of a phrase, Baudry can express exquisite joy and heartache. 

Directed by Sequoia Ziff, the recently released video manages to capture Baudry in a series of moods — mainly pensive and coquettish and while evoking an idyllic summer afternoon with impossibly verdant greens, there’s a a mix of melancholy visuals — and it’s all done in a way to capture the song’s overall tone and mood. 

New Video: The Cosmic and Symbolic Visuals for Cody ChesnuTT’s “Image of Love”

With the release of his critically praised 2002 debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, singer/songwriter and guitarist Cody ChesnuTT was universally hailed as a modern-day soul troubadour with many critics comparing his work to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder, largely because of his frank and socially conscious songwriting focusing on modern Black life. Interestingly, The Headphone Masterpiece was released at the height of the neo-soul movement, which included Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and a lengthy list of others — all of whom proved that artists could still release deeply personal, thoughtful, socially conscious work that was fairly successful both critically and commercial successful. In the case of ChesnuTT, his closest brush with mainstream success was a collaborative remake of “The Seed,” “The Seed 2.0,” which appeared on The Roots’ Phrenology released at the end of 2002.

After the commercial and critically success of “The Seed,” ChesnuTT abruptly disappeared from public view for the better part of a decade, a period in which the singer/songwriter and guitarist spent time raising children and in writerly fashion, reflecting, observing, loving and living. Naturally, those experiences informed and influenced 2012’s Landing on a Hundred, an effort that linked contemporary Black soul and pop with the classic work of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, as Hundred thematically focused on a man’s road to redemption after years of womanizing, drugging and scheming, of the power of a love that eclipses superficial and material expressions of love and devotion and of the power of being truthful to one’s self.

Since the release of Landing on a Hundred, ChesnuTT has been rather productive as he’s contributed to the soundtracks of the Oscar Award-winning major motion pictures 12 Years A Slave and Idris Elba Presents Mi Mandela, and writing the material that would comprise his recently released third album, My Love Divine Degree. Now, if you had been frequenting this site over the past year, you may recall that I wrote about My Love Divine Degree‘s second single “I Stay Ready” an uplifting call to positivity in the face of tremendous adversity — and while further cementing his reputation for crafting frank, earnest songs, the production work of Anthony “Twilite Tone” Khan, a BMI Award, Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and DJ, who has worked with Kanye West, Common, John Legend and Pusha T pushes sonic boundaries as it meshes beat-based hip-hop and soul.

The album’s latest single “Image of Love” continues in a similar vein as ChesnuTT’s soulful crooning is paired with a genre blurring production that features wobbling synths, big tweeter and woofer rattling beats and a slick hook in what may arguably be one of the funkiest and most hip-hop leaning songs ChesnuTT has released in several years. Interestingly, the single much like the material on the album is “inspired by a story of a Man and Woman that exercised their ability to rise about their arresting selfishness — to attain a higher level of communication — that they might willing share in the love of eternal life . . . all to simply win the hearts of men, woman and children to better things,” as ChesnuTT explains in press notes. And much like it’s preceding single, it’s a desperately needed bit of uplift in dark, fucked up times.

Featuring gorgeous, psychedelic and cosmic line animation by Konee Rok that includes Cody Chesnutt walking through the woods and the cosmos, playing his Gibson and singing, kids running and playing in the woods, while nodding at the album’s and song’s themes about the differences between selfish and superficial love, and the sort of love that truly connects you with others and the larger universe.

With the release of his critically praised 2002 debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, singer/songwriter Cody ChesnuTT was universally hailed as a modern-day soul troubadour with many critics comparing his early work to the likes of Marvin GayeCurtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder, thanks in part for frank and socially conscious rumination on modern Black life. Interestingly, ChesnuTT’s rise to critical and commercial acclaim came about as part of a particularly conscious neo-soul movement that included Erykah BaduJill Scott, The Roots and others, proving that artists can release work that’s important, relevant and necessary — and be fairly commercially successful. But after a meteoric rise that included a collaboration with The Roots, ChesnuTT abruptly disappeared from public view for the better part of a decade. And in that decade period, ChesnuTT went through a period of deep, personal reflection and observation and raised a family — and those experiences informed and influenced his 2012 sophomore effort Landing on a Hundred, an effort linked contemporary Black music to the classic, singer/songwriter soul of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and others while pointing out that the hopes, frustrations, loves, and struggles that those legendary artists spoke about then have remained unchanging.

After touring to support Landing on a Hundred, ChesnuTT had been pretty busy, contributing to the soundtracks for the Oscar Award-winning major motion pictures 12 Years A Slave and Idris Elba Presents Mi Mandela, as well as working on the material that will comprise his forthcoming, third, full-length effort My Love Divine Degree, slated for a February 2017 release.  Produced by Anthony “The Twilight Tone” Khan, a BMI Award, Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and DJ, who has worked with Kanye West, Common, John Legend and Pusha T., the album will reportedly further cement ChesnuTT’s reputation for writing frank and earnest observations of modern Black life, while pushing the boundaries of what contemporary R&B and soul can sound like. Interestingly, the album’s second and latest single “I Stay Ready” is according to ChesnuTT is a call to arms for positivity in the face of adversity. As the singer/songwriter explains in press notes “In a time of global economic uncertainty, it is an uplifting charge to use one’s natural talents and gifts of creativity to forge ahead positively into purpose and economic well being.

The feeling of this track is rooted in one of the most beautiful guitar riffs I’ve ever been given…a gem that found me ‪around 4AM. Accompanied by the exciting drum breaks programmed by legendary Chicago DJ Anthony ‘The Twilight Tone’ Kahn, the energy and sentiment of the song for me, is a pure shot of life.”

Sonically speaking, the song finds ChesnuTT’s silky smooth vocals paired with big, 808-like breakbeats, layers of buzzing synths, sinuous bursts of guitar and distorted vocal samples in a swaggering and cocksure song that may arguably be one of the most upbeat, “we can do this” songs he’s released to date.

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: The Old-School Soul-Inspired Sound of McClain Sullivan’s “Happy Anniversary”

If you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past month or so you might remember that I’ve written about the Seattle, WA-born and  Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter McClain Sullivan. Sullivan grew up with an  unwavering passion for making music; in fact, the […]