Most soul collectors will know of vocalist MARLON SAUNDERS via his work with JAZZHOLE. His is the voice on their lovely ‘Poet’s Walk’ long player, but there’s much more to the man that. He produced APRIL HILL’S acclaimed ‘Love 360’ album, he runs his own Black Honey label, he is an in-demand session singer, he works on video game soundtracks, he acts in movies and if that’s not enough he’s also professor of vocal music at Berklee College. Little wonder then that he finds it hard to find the time to work on his own solo projects. However he’s currently and painstakingly putting an album together… and, unusually maybe, heralding it with the release of a number of singles of which ‘Beautiful Design’ has already caused big ripples across the soul scene. We caught up with the genial Mr Saunders to find out about the project and asked him about the strategy of pre-releasing singles….
My new project, which I have decided to call an evolving project, is entitled ‘Soul: Spirit Opening Up Lovingly’. At first I thought this project would be called ‘Birth of Revelation’, but as I began to work on material for this project I felt as though the new title is more appropriate. ‘Birth of Revelation’ will be the third single released from this project, I think. I decided to release singles rather than a full length CD because I want to explore each song and share that process with my fans as much as I can. I am enjoying how today’s musical world has become more of a single-driven market much like the 1950s. Then as each song is discovered the artist has a chance to find creative ways to connect with his/her audience.
The first of the singles was ‘Beautiful Design’… it has a righteous church-inspired feel to it. Was that intentional… are your musical roots in gospel?
I have enjoyed the entire creative process with my single ‘Beautiful Design’. It has a lot of different types of elements working together. There is a dance oriented kick and bass sound along with Tibetan peace drums, church-filled tambourine, didgeridoo, ambient trip hop keys and about 7 different guitar tracks ranging from funk, 60s psychedelic rock, blues and some new age improvisation! It was incredible hearing it all come together. Then you add that gospel-tinged background vocal. I mean when I heard it back I was in heaven! Most of the creative process just flowed easily. The words just poured forth and the production just came without a lot of thinking or second guessing. I love creating that way. I learned a lot about this type of freedom from working with Warren Rosenstein and John Pondel during our Jazzhole days.
You’ve already released two solo albums and produced ‘Love 360’ for April Hill…. how did they do and what did you learn from making and promoting them?
Yes, I have been very fortunate and am so grateful to the UK and Europe for all of the love they have shown me over the years beginning with Jazzhole and then the amazing response I received from my first solo recording, ‘Enter My Mind’. I was so happy to tour Europe and especially the UK. The first time I played the Jazz Cafe with N’Dambi, we sold out for two shows. I was just so happy to feel the love and the support. The second time I came back to the UK and performed at the Jazz Cafe again by myself. Soul Brother Records, my label at the time, told me we were sold out in a day and I was floored! I love the UK and I love their appreciation for soul music! I produced April Hill’s ‘Love 360’ CD with Shawn Lucas and I was thrilled to discover how much people love April and how much they loved the music! I have learned that as long as you love the music you are creating then you are already ahead of the game. If you feel a deep connection to your music then anyone hearing the music will feel your love. That love will radiate throughout your music and your performances. I learned to take your time and to always be grateful for your fans. I have learned to always let them know how special they are. Making music that connects me to me and others is what I want to do. When I am in the studio I want to be dancing to the music…nodding my head to the music…raising my hands in the air! I want to be higher than high when I step in that studio. Because if I am in the zone then anyone listening will feel a presence…a something that makes them feel.
You’re also the featured vocalist with Jazzhole… are they still an entity and still working? Can we expect more music from them soon?
I hope Jazzhole will do another recording. We are all very busy but I do miss creating with John Pondel and Warren Rosenstein. Working with Jazzhole has been some of the most amazing creative times in my life. I hope we will do another recording. I had lunch with Warren about three months ago and we spoke briefly about another project…we will see.
You also have an academic career at Berklee College, tour as backing vocalist for all kinds of artists across all kinds of genres (Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Shania Twain, Sting etc), work in the video games market and act…. How do you find the time for all this?
I don’t sleep a lot… I love everything I do and I have been very blessed. I am very fortunate that I have been able to connect with so many amazing people in so many amazing areas of the entertainment industry. I also have an amazing team that help me with the day to day aspects of managing my busy career and life. I am very, very, blessed!
When will the new album be released and what can we expect?
I am not sure when the new recording will be completed but I can assure you that you will be hearing a lot of music from the evolving project over the upcoming months. You will also hear a lot of music from my label Black Honey Records coming soon as well. We are now talking with April Hill about recording some new material and Rosa Russ of Jazzhole has agreed to be a featured guest. We also have the amazing lead singer from the 90s dance group Degrees of Motion, and Biti Strauchn recording a soulful track with us now that will be coming soon! I cannot wait for you all to hear this song! We are very busy and excited. But in terms of my evolving project, you can expect a lot of new soulful music expanding and growing while taking us back to a time when soul music made us dance, reflect and just feel good!
Where can we find out more?
Please always check me out on: www.marlonsaunders.com