In a few short years, North West-based SOULCHOONZ has established itself as a major player on the UK modern soul scene. The company is also having a big impact Stateside, where head honcho DI LEE has been working with the legendary TONY CAMILLO on a number of exciting projects. We felt it was time to catch up with Ms LEE to find out more … but we started by asking her what exactly Soulchoonz is. Is it a record label, a promotion company, a production company, a web-based music magazine or a radio programme maker?
“Soulchoonz is all of the above … we’re a passionate company that supports soul music from around the world (we have worked with artists from countries including; USA, Canada, UK, Sweden, Spain, France, Germany and Australia) with all these activities to get the artists know and the choonz out there!”
How did you get into soul?
“I was raised by my father. At home he would always listen to artists like Jackie Wilson, Four Tops, the Temptations, Nat King Cole etc. Furthermore, in the late sixties/early seventies he would go to clubs like The Twisted Wheel, Oasis & Jungfrau in Manchester and watch many live performances and tell me all about it at home. This then led to me buying my first ever record – ‘The Look’ by Shalamar – even though all my friends were more into pop, punk & rock music. It was the first record I could find at the time that was soulful. In the eighties, my love for soul music was cemented and I listened to radio stations such as Sunset Radio, Soul Nation and many pirate radio stations with DJs such as Mike Shaft, Greg Edwards, Soul Sam and Ray Rose. And also I started to go to my first weekenders in my mid-teens. I’d tell dad that I was going horse riding in Wales with my friends, but instead I was on a coach to, for instance, Glasgow … watching Eugene Wilde performing ‘Gonna Get You Home With Me Tonight’ not realizing that Soul Train were filming there, so I had to bribe my brother to make sure that my dad didn’t watch Soul Train that weekend!”
Tell us how, why and when SOULCHOONZ came about……
“Having been an avid soul music fan from early on in the eighties, it was only a matter of time until I started to do something with this passion. It all started in earnest with the creation of Soul Generations, which was a soul music event held in Bolton in 2004. At its peak we had over 750 ‘soulies’ across 4 floors with 20 DJs on rotation, a DJ academy and live PAs. This then moved on into cyberspace to provide an outlet for independent artists to promote and sell their music. It became rapidly clear that these artists had no label backing and we started to work with them to promote their album releases. Soulchoonz was born….”
How difficult did you find it to get started… it seems to me that there are (and have been for a while) just a few big players on the UK soul scene… how did you manage to break in…. and even though we’re in the 21st. Century – was it harder for you – as a woman?
“Interestingly, nobody in the music world ever explains to you what the pitfalls are. It is only by actually ‘doing it’ that you figure out what works and what doesn’t. The established soul music ‘order’ appeared not to know what to make of Soulchoonz for quite some time. In the meantime we had to figure out what worked and what didn’t so invariably we probably (unknowingly) upset a few people along the way. However, with the evolution of Soulchoonz came also a recognition from the industry that we always provided a high quality service, whether that was launching The Lab Addicts into the UK & European soul scene, or arranging promotional activities. Yes… it was hard work, probably more so due to us changing our focus a few times along the way, but I think it is fair to say we are now very much part of the established ‘order’ in the UK Soul Music scene. To answer the second part of your question, I would like to think that the ‘woman’ aspect has not had really any specific impact, although it does occasionally raise eyebrows as even now artists and labels assume that I am a man until we have telephone contact. I think it is more the individuality of the Soulchoonz approach that made the difference in getting where we are now together with staying true to our values: honesty & integrity. Link this to listening to individual needs of artists, commitment to their success, a true passion for soul music and hard work, and here you have the main factors behind the creation of Soulchoonz.”
Have your ideas and aims for and concept of SOULCHOONZ changed since you began?
“Sure, in the beginning we thought that selling MP3 downloads of independent soul music artists was the way to go. However, web statistics quickly pointed out that although we achieved high volumes of web traffic , the customer ended up buying through iTunes, Amazon or CDBaby. Great for the artist, but not financially sustainable for Soulchoonz. As a result we then moved to distribution as well as issuing a number of releases on Soulchoonz Records. This worked well and is definitely something we will continue to do in the future, albeit very much for the collectors’ market as and when time permits. From the promotional activities we needed to develop to launch our records, we discovered that this was very much a marketable service as a lot of the independent artists now release their own material. So this became a fundamental part of Soulchoonz. A number of outlets to service this promotional activity were therefore created including the web-content on www.Soulchoonz.com as well as The Soulchoonz Radio Show which has turned into a runaway success being aired today over 64 times per month over 17 radio stations in countries such as UK, USA, Germany & Spain.”
What’s been SOULCHOONZ’s greatest achievement/success?
“Working closely with the artists that we represent in a fashion that leaves them totally satisfied with what we have contributed to their careers.”
…. and biggest disappointment?
“Not being able to turn a 24 hour day into 48 hour day! There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day, week, or month. As the saying goes: So Much Soul, So Little Time!”
What big projects are you currently working on?
“We have Leroy Burgess’ latest release – ‘Throwback Vol. II’, a forthcoming Darryl D White album, a project with Charles Wallart of Bluewater Recordings (North Carolina), a series of projects with Tony Camillo, as well as the release of a song which I wrote – ‘This Soul Is Mine’, which is already being played in the New York region. We are working on another version of the song with a London-based record label and we’ll be finishing this in the near future for the UK market.”
… and what about the future …. where are you going with SOULCHOONZ?
“Well, we’re about to start a big project. I can’t talk about it fully just yet – but let’s say that I am going to be working an awful lot in the USA…. and we won’t be getting bored! Watch this space!”