The Soul Seen: Marlon Saunders

The Soul Seen is a retrospective of features that appeared on ISPYSOUL during its acclaimed initial run. These features provide a snapshot in time of key moments in the careers, from fledgling to legendary, of several creative and talented artists. The projects featured are older now, but no less significant. The insights and perspectives they shared, speak to their success and as you will find still resonate today.

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From the original ISPYSOUL feature segment, WATCH CLOSELY, 2003

MARLON SAUNDERS Right on time

In a business where many set their sights, often prematurely, on “out front” glory, singer/songwriter MARLON SAUNDERS revels in the significance of being a part of something special. Taking a look at his impressive resume, you can certainly see why he would. His multi-ranged, soulful sound has been employed by music icons like Sting, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson and Barry White to name a few. He was part of the inventive vocal ensemble, Voicestra, fashioned by the amazing, Bobby McFerrin. And he is co-founder of the eclectic, groove-driven collective, Jazzhole, that has itself garnered much acclaim and a solid following due in part to Saunders’ distinctive, passionate flow.

Being a vital cog music folks could call on to complete their vocal vision was actually all the Maryland-born Saunders had his sights set on upon graduating from Boston’s esteemed Berklee College of Music. “It was never, ever a dream of mine to be a solo artist,” he reveals with much sincerity. “It was always my dream to be a session singer. It was always my intention of coming to New York, doing tour work and working with other artists. Really just perfecting that world of being a session singer.” His plan had been working to perfection. So you’ll understand why Saunders refers to the opportunity to release his solid debut, ENTER MY MIND as “icing on the cake.” Lucky for us, it was a destiny he couldn’t shake. “For the longest time I was just riding on a high from creating with other people, says Saunders. “I’m such a background singer head. I love harmony. I love singing with other singers. I love that!” He also speaks to his place with Jazzhole as giving him a “chance to be creative and write” and being “a creative outlet.” But for Saunders, who points to the improvisational artistry of McFerrin’s Voicestra as perhaps part of the catalyst for the solo plunge, “It just kind of felt like the timing of everything was right.” He explains, “It felt like the music that I was beginning to hear and seek out around me was just where we were in terms of growing as human beings. Everything in the world just seemed to be like, ok, now it seems like it would be a good time for me to say some things that I’ve wanted to say, because it would now resonate.”

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And so we have the aptly titled, Enter My Mind, a soulful, 14-track voyage through Saunders’ thoughts, emotions, and recollections glazed with a retro finish, but like no one you’ve heard before or are hearing now. It is a marriage of his musical influences including the soul-rich ‘70s and the ones his impressive experiences have exposed him to. Fervent, seductive and cool are Saunders’ vocals as he moves from the upbeat tale of perseverance that is “Keep Doin What Ya Do” and psychedelic-soul vibe of “Afro Blue My Mind” to the mood setting, slow groove of “Coolin” and the beautiful, “The Beginning of Never”, a personal favorite of his. “It represents for me,” says Saunders, “kind of how I see our existence and our purpose.” “You journey in life, trying to make some sense of a lot of things. But what I realized is that Earth itself gives us the easiest example of what it is. It’s just the continuation. Like there’s no separation of anything. It’s just one cyclical thing. So for me the song became this great play on words.”

Enter My Mind marks the “beginning of another chapter” for Marlon Saunders, one he didn’t know he’d be writing, but one he’s eager to fill. “I’m at a place where I’m saying, yeah, let’s roll up the pant legs, jump in the mud and get in,” exclaims Saunders. “Because for me, this is a win-win [situation]. I’m enjoying it, I’m having fun, I have a great band and the great thing that’s happening is that I’m seeing people respond to my music and I’m kind of like, wow! That’s what I’m feeling, like wow!”

Bert Caldwell

copyright 2016 ISPYSOUL

  1. […] been several years since singer/songwriter Marlon Saunders was featured here on ISPYSOUL, first as part of the soulful, eclectic clique, JAZZHOLE and upon the release of his acclaimed and […]

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