What were McFadden & Whitehead like to work with as writers and producers?
Like Martin Lawrence and Will Smith! It was hilarious. Both of them should have been comedians. So it was a lot of fun and they were very prolific and they never stopped making music: it just flowed out of them and whenever they were around, it was a party. It’s just laughing all the time. So it really was a joy. They were always joking.
But they were very serious in regard to what they did in the studio I suppose?
No – they’re never serious!
How did they manage to get work done then?
Well, because all they ever did was write songs. That wasn’t work to them.
Around the same time you performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. How was that then as an experience?
Once again, my ex-husband, Charles Huggins, was a genius at coming up with these ideas and then getting the people to financially support it and back it and market it. He was really a genius as a business person and it was his idea and at the time I was already pregnant with my daughter. It was very wonderful and exciting and just a time of blossoming. I don’t have the words to say to you what a wonderful experience that and that whole time in my life was.
You moved to Capitol Records in 1982. That was a time when you were also part of Orpheus and Hush production teams.
Right, that was myself and my ex-husband. At the beginning it was just him and me and then we developed it into Hush productions and later Orpheus.
Were you involved in the management side as well as performing?
Yes, because when we came together, neither one of us had ever done this before in anybody else’s life but we said well, let’s try this, let’s try that. We took meetings and we brainstormed all day because my ex-husband is a great, great business person so he was the type of person to work and be creative; ideas always coming into his mind. We would sit around and talk and that’s when I realised, well you know, that’s a great idea – let’s try that. It’s not that I had that inkling to do that before but we were in love and we were a great combination. I was the artist and he was the businessman.
Well, you created some great work around that time and worked with some amazing people. You had Kashif and Paul Laurence producing you on some tracks. What were they like to work with in the studio?
Paul Laurence is the absolute most serious person ever on the planet of the Earth and he’ll take one little phrase and do it 25,000 times until he feels it’s right. I don’t know if it’s my personality but I love that. I’m one who loves to sing so much but my natural voice is a classical lyric soprano so I’ve always had to work at developing and pushing and honing my voice and make it do what it wants to so we were a perfect combination. I loved working with him because we would just take our time and do it until we were both satisfied with it. Kashif was the same way. Kashif really brought Paul Laurence along and (singers) Lillo Thomas and Freddie Jackson. They were part of a stable that we inherited once my ex-husband Charles Huggins wanted to find producers for this stage of my career.
You were instrumental in getting Freddie Jackson’s career off the ground.
Yes, once we started to work together and it was known to me that Freddie had the talent that he did and he wanted to be a solo artist, I took him out on the road with me as my backup singer and then I began to feature him in the middle of my show with just one song. He would sing ‘Good Morning Heartache’ and by the time he was halfway through the song the audience was screaming so much I said ‘you’ve all got to shut up so I can tell you what his name is!’ He was just amazing. And then we became very good, close, friends and of course I was just a natural mentor for him.
You had a number one duet together in the States together, didn’t you?
Yes, ‘A Little Bit More.’
And the second US number one you had was ‘Falling.’ What can you recall about the session for that record?
What I recall is by the time we got to ‘Falling,’ Gene McFadden had really developed an understanding of my personality and my voice – and also knew how to create a song in an arrangement that would be a hit record that was really suitable for me. He wrote ‘Falling’ for me. That was later on in our relationship when we had been working together for several years.
The song features an amazing high note by you at the end.
Right, he didn’t tell me to do that; it just came naturally. After a while working with each other, they stopped telling me not to hit my high note: “Don’t nobody hit the note!” I said “but if I don’t, then they won’t know it’s me!”
What do you find most fulfilling artistically: is it making records or singing and performing on stage?
I would say live performances because there’s a circulation or flow between you and the audience and you look at them and they automatically tell you what to do and then you observe yourself doing it. It’s a life force, the interaction, and you get a chance to observe I think.
What’s been the highlight of your musical career to date?
I would definitely say ‘Purlie,’ the Tony awards and a song that I’ve loved so much and that has become my signature song, ‘Lean On Me.’ I never thought that that would happen. I was just singing my heart out.
MELBA MOORE has a new single out, ‘Love Is,’ available from iTunes or her website http://www.melbamoore.com She performs at London’s Jazz Café on Sunday April 29th 2012.
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