We’ve made it to 2021 or perhaps better said, out of 2020. Although there are some significant changes in place and progress has been made on the virus front, we’re still in the midst of some very challenging times and issues that need to be addressed.
Few have gone unscathed by the enormity of the situation we’ve been in. Included in that count of the greatly impacted are artists and performers of all kinds. When the virus reared its ugly head and eliminated a slew of performances for them around the world the blow was swift, mind-blowing and for the vast majority, life – altering. What to do was the universal question and the answer for most of them after the initial “dear in the headlights” pause, was somewhat the same. Survival economically and mentally was, needless to say, paramount as well as to immediately ponder how long this would last.
Many have seized the time to reflect, refocus, practice and create to varying degrees. Some, like the greatly accomplished keyboardist, singer and songwriter Nick Rolfe have done that and more, like rescue people and save lives. Yes, you read the last part right. Rolfe, who has over his career released impressive projects as a leader and performed with the likes of Sting, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Idina Menzel, Busta Rhymes, India Arie, Ledisi, and the incomparable Aretha Franklin, has been part of a search and rescue team tasked with braving the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and removing folks from life – threatening situations. That included, this past summer, the added need and danger brought on by some of the worst wildfires the west coast has seen in years. But this is not something new for Rolfe. He actually became part of the volunteer rescue team before the pandemic. However, what he knew before but became even more evident with his ability to devote more time was how much he loved doing it. It’s understandable. Imagine losing something as rewarding as bringing smiles to faces ( including his own) through live musical performance and getting to replace it with bringing smiles to the faces of family members ( and yes, his own) with the return of loved ones rescued from wild fires or life – threatening injury in mountainous terrain. What’s not to love?
With the uncertainty of just what the new normal will be for artists and performers, Rolfe knows first hand from speaking with fellow musicians that for many of them options beyond music will have to be a consideration when the “smoke” clears. But for some, because of discoveries made during this dormant time of performing, they now may have choices not explored before.
In the video interview below Nick Rolfe speaks about doing and missing two things he loves a lot and allowing himself to make a choice about what the future holds.
We often wonder why things happen in life the way they do and when they do. Why when you least expect it things – life altering things happen. Needless to say, all of us during most of 2020 in particular, have been racking our brains to figure it all out. Loss of some kind and the distress it causes has unfortunately been a hallmark of these times for sure. So much so you can’t help but wonder if it’s masking lessons, signs of hope or a divine plan – The irony that out of the most unlikely places and times inspiration and opportunity often comes.
Singer/Songwriter Bradd Marquis has gone through this process of wondering, navigating loss and both discovery as well as rediscovery over the last several years. It was a big part of the reason for his three year absence from the music scene before releasing earlier this year his very relevant single, “No War.” During this time he lost his grandparents. Grandparents who raised him. His grandfather or “Pop” as Marquis calls him was first after a bout with cancer and later, “Mom”, his grandmother followed. Being very close to them both, a substantial focus was on providing the care they needed. “Both of them at separate intervals needed twenty-four hour care,” Marquis shares.
But the talented vocalist who’s music and mellifluous tone have garnered him Billboard – charting success and acclaim with projects like Finding My Way, Authentic, and Thank Youwas frankly also during this time going over the viability of his music career. That pondering especially significant because of the responsibility of also raising a young son. “I felt I had reached a peak and I was looking for some more doors to open and looking for some more opportunities to continue to grow and to advance,” Marquis confesses. Those opportunities “just never showed up” and he had to “take a step back and say okay, ‘What am I doing here?’’ So in the midst of this very challenging time he had to make choices that included taking on other work outside of music for some stability. That’s a choice many accomplished artists have long been faced with and now especially. But the love was never lost and timing would prove to be everything.
After the loss of his grandfather and when the time was right, Marquis began using his gift to put into words memories and thoughts about him with plans of a tribute song. Later, after his grandmother passed, he wrote words for her as well and included them in what would become a very special, emotion-filled tribute to them both. The result is the moving, blues – tinged track, “The Thrill Is Gone”, a new single featuring standout guitarist Marcus Machado.
Most will recognize “The Thrill Is Gone” as the title of the iconic track from legendary Blues singer and guitarist, B.B. King, but other than harnessing a blues vibe of it own and recreating the original bass line from it, this is not a cover but more of an inspiration. Why this song as inspiration for this personal tribute to his Mom and Pop? “That is an easy one,” Marquis quickly asserts. “Pops was a blues man, he played Blues music all the time. B.B. King was one of my grandfather’s favorite artists. Him, Sam Cooke. He was [also] a quartet type of guy. Soul Stirrers, all of that. It was kind of where I started my musical education before I even knew it.” That last point provides an “Aha” of sorts as it reveals why Marquis’ rich tone and soulfulness delivered with grown man earnestness is not only reminiscent of heralded R&B/Soul crooners of the past, but why he was moved to create and take on the road to sold out audiences, an acclaimed tribute show dedicated to the revered vocalist, Sam Cooke.
There was also further confirmation that he should use “The Thrill Is Gone” as the title of his tribute. “It kind of stems from when [his grandfather] passed away,” says Marquis. “I remember putting something on social media and said the ‘the thrill is gone’ and I wrote a piece about [his passing]. So when I started producing I wanted to do a song to kind of grieve over myself, help other people within the family grieve and celebrate their lives. It was only right that I use that particular piece.” Marquis adds, “I let my mother hear it months ago. I just sent it to her and really didn’t tell her what it was and she said, ‘I wasn’t ready for that. I really wasn’t ready for that.”
Needless to say, the song became everything Marquis hoped and more and was ready to be released alone as a single. However, little did he know at the time that this would in fact become the “A side” to a dual single release that would present as the “B side”, the vibrant, groove -inducing track “Always.” “It wasn’t my intent to do that,” admits Marquis. “We started this project pushing it overseas in the U.K. and the suggestion out there was a “doubled-sided” single.” The suggestion was a little unusual with a digital release planned and with a concern about how people rifle through music these days. “How fast people eat up material these days, some may feel that’s a good idea. Some may feel, no, no let’s drag this out,” Marquis mused. But the UK was pretty adamant and confident about the suggestion of doing both at the same time. “Originally, it was “The Thrill Is Gone” and I didn’t want to take any attention away from it because it was so personal to me. But it’s been working,” admits Marquis. “It’s given people one, an opportunity to not get bored too fast and two, hear two different sides of the same coin. The bluesy, ballad – style song and you also hear an uptempo, feel good kind of thing. You get both sides of Bradd complimenting one another.”
Releasing these two songs together also fittingly represented the greatest of ironies – “The Thrill Is Gone” celebrating the end of a life’s journey and “Always” celebrating a new one – Marquis, in the midst of the pandemic, had gotten married. The by chance pairing of the songs seemed as much a divine orchestration as the song “Always” itself might be considered to be. “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Always” are part of an upcoming full length project. “Always” is one of three slated to appear on that project that were written almost thirteen years ago.“They were some of my best work, I think. But I never released them,” says Marquis. “They never fit on any of my projects.” With regard to how “Always” and the others were born he shares, “ A lot of what I write about is personal. About things I’ve experienced or seen. These were just kind of hopeful, you know, trying to write my life into existence, kind of things.” “Always” certainly succeeded in doing just that. “My wife, she’s like, ‘yeah that’s about me, that’s about us.’ And I’m like, you can have it. It’s yours. It wasn’t written for anybody. It was written with you in spirit and you in mind.” His wife aptly shares the cover of the single with him. “It makes sense that way,” says Marquis. “For these songs to fit on this [upcoming] project, for me is serendipitous. For me, is a God moment.”
It’s clear that in the midst of the adversity and introspection Marquis was keen enough to get the lessons, hear the messages and recognize when a plan beyond his own was taking shape. “I had to come to the realization that I had to start making music for me again. I had to make music that I loved again. Music that had something for me and my family. I tell my wife all the time, one of the major things that I’m doing now is just leaving a legacy for the generations after me. Trying to find different reasons to keep going and to keep pushing even though it may not always be financially advantageous, but it still has a purpose.” And that realization has ignited a renewed enthusiasm. “I have an opportunity to get back, slowly but surely get back into being a musician and putting out product and work, but just from a different place than where I was at previously.”
So the thrill may not actually be gone for Bradd Marquis just replaced with wisdom and more he’ll cherish Always.
Below is an excerpt of Bradd Marquis talking about the making of “The Thrill Is Gone.”
Keyboardist and artist BIGYUKI has been described as “NYC’S musical secret weapon.” For many prominent artists and musicians, as the saying goes, ‘that cat is out of the bag’ and to further expand it, is running rampant all over the place to parts way beyond the city’s borders. The talented musician, who hails from Japan but dwells in NYC, has over the years become a much sought -after player being called upon to add his virtuosic skills to the mix on recordings and live performances for a long list of premiere artists – Q-Tip, Bilal, Talib Kweli, Jose James, Busta Rhythms, Ben Williams, Kamasi Washington, Lauren Hill, Matisyahu, J.Cole, Marcus Strickland, Meshell Ndegeocello, and many, more. You can hear his work on the historic last release from A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service and on the recently released Petestrumentals 3 from hip hop producer, icon Pete Rock and The Soul Brothers stellar crew.
BIGYUKI is still a bit of a secret to music fans by name, but that too is hanging by a thread. In combination with his work with others he’s also been wowing burgeoning audiences with his splendid, high- spirited performances as a leader and has released a few of his own projects that have garnered deserved high acclaim. Needless to say, the busy keyboardist doesn’t get much time to do the latter. Even during this time of closed venues and cancelled performances his calendar has still hummed quite steadily with recordings and virtual gigs.
But luckily for us some of the extra time has allowed him the opportunity to complete and release his anticipated new project entitled, 2099. In the accompanying video he shares the story behind his choosing 2099 as the title which has a little bit to do with Prince and the summoning of “Light Walkers” tasked with helping in a way we can certainly use during these times.
2099 is a project BIGYUKI believes is certainly relevant and is meant to musically offer hope for a return to not just normalcy, but to a world that’s better than normal. As he puts it, “For each of us to really maybe just appreciate what we have, what we do. You know, we tend to take things for granted. This was a really great chance to see what we really do love. See what we really do miss. So maybe each one of us can really appreciate the things that life can give you.” And he adds, “Just have more compassion. The one thing that we could share [during this time] was life’s struggle. We are all in it.“
Check out the video below:
The new release 2099 is out now! Listen to it on Spotify
“Solitude is not the absence of company, but the moment when our soul is free to speak to us.”
These words come from noted Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho’s book “Manuscript Found In Accra” and like the standout previous release, “Defeat”, was the inspiration for the track “Solitude” from the duo of accomplished Rap artist JSWISS and Grammy -winning trumpeter and producer, Michael Leonhart. It’s the fourth single release from their debut project, The Alchemy EP. Talented MC Dizzy SenZe also guest on this upbeat banger as classic hip hop drum flourishes and upright bass lay the canvas for top notch lyricism with a message as JSWISS spits affirmations like, “I’m clear of fear and the odds/Rebel without a pause/doing work on my spirit/never need the applause.” The Alchemy EP drops January 2021
“Solitude” is out now on all major platforms including Bandcamp: