For his work over the last two decades, singer and songwriter, Jonas Winge Leisner has encouraged the designation as one of the most important voices on the danish soul scene. Leisner himself is noticeably humbled by and reserved at adopting that title. “Well, that status is of course not something I would say myself. That’s for others to judge,” says Leisner. But the accolade seems to be well earned with years of building a following through, amongst other accomplishments, extensive touring as a solo artist and as part of revered danish soul/funk orchestra, Ridin’ Thumb as well as the popular live music collective from Copenhagen, THE 5to8’S, known for its marathon concerts of improvised soul, hip hop, funk and r&b.
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 helped raise 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.
The year 2020. No one could have envisioned what it had in store when it arrived, but oh boy, most of us the world over are looking forward to seeing it leave. However, it won’t matter if we earnestly move into 2021 and change hasn’t begun to happen – If we’re not wiser, more knowledgeable and involved. If we’re not more caring and respectful of one another. If ultimately we don’t come out of this better or stronger. That is what adversity is capable of doing. Some might argue or testify that is the reason for it.
Like most of us, revered and accomplished trombonist, producer, artist Jeff Bradshaw didn’t know of course what the year would bring either. But he’s for sure had experience with being blindsided by a tumultuous, life altering event. In 2016, as he’s shared in the time since, the proud North Philly native was diagnosed with the very painful and serious condition, diverticulitis. It was without warning and in the midst of some exciting, successful and crucial times for this in demand musician whose impressive and long list of credits include work with Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Patti Labelle, Jay Z, Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Kirk Franklin, Common, and many more. Referencing the challenging times we’re currently in the midst of he notes, “I can say that because of what I’ve been through that I was spiritually and mentally prepared for this ‘season’ in our world.” But he admits, “I don’t think anybody can say, ‘oh yeah I was ready for this.’ In my lifetime, I’ve never seen anything like this. So I can’t say I was ready for it, but I can say I was spiritually and emotionally prepared to be able to handle something like this.”
His personal experience, in great part, encouraged the title of his new project being aptly called, Stronger, a super impressive collection of tracks and assembly of premier guests that include Chrsitian McBride, Conya Doss, Amber Jeanne [Moonchild], Frank McComb, Robert Glasper, Glenn Lewis, Jazzy Jeff, Micki Miller, Lin Rountree, Marqueal Gordon and more. As Bradshaw shares, the title does speak to how he genuinely feels about himself as an artist at this point in his career. “ As an artist, writer, producer, I am stronger. This is the strongest music I’ve put out, my best playing, my best producing, my best writing. I feel like this is stronger than any work that I’ve ever put out.”
Acclaimed, soulful crooner, songwriter and producer, Ty Causey can truly be described as prolific. Crafting enjoyable tracks that keenly and eloquently interpret the intricacies of love and life is a daily obsession or as he describes it, therapy.
“I write every day,” says Causey. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t write because I see so much around me and I just try to capture things that are realistic. In order for you to capture things like that, you really have to be looking around you everyday. So pretty much everyday I’m working on something.”
Needless to say, that’s just fine for the legion of very faithful fans Causey has wooed around the globe over the years. Left to them, and admittedly if he thought it feasible, he might be putting out a project filled with those daily jewels every week. “It’s kind of weird for me because I’ve been so blessed for people to enjoy my music,” says Causey. “It’s a style people have come to really embrace. But I have to be careful because I write so much stuff I do want to release something every week. But it doesn’t work that way,” he chuckles. “So I have to be careful to determine when [a new project] comes out.”
Most great artists have a “signature” something – a feel, a look, a flow, a sound- a special thing you sometimes can’t describe, but almost always recognize. Sometimes it’s just a “gift” they’ve been blessed with, but often in concert with that “gift” the signature has been developed through committed practice and time honed experience. Examples of this are all over the artistic landscape – throughout all its disciplines.
In the role of music producer, particularly in R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop over the years, that “signature” sound has become one of the most sought after commodities in the music game. Think Kashif, Teddy Riley, Babyface, Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, Raphael Saadiq, Pharrell/Neptunes or J Dilla to name only a few. Daniel Crawford, a fast rising and crazy talented producer, songwriter and keyboard extraordinaire, is one of those with that special quality that has his name on it – always a splendid concoction of infectious grooves, funkiness, lush climatic arrangements, infused with the sounds of his musical influences including Soul, Jazz, R&B, and Hip-Hip – beautifully and dexterously crafted.
Like the aforementioned producers, his palette is eclectic – his experience vast and ability, is off the charts. But there is also one other key element Crawford shares with those elite as well as others he grew up listening to and admires today – musicality. “No matter what type of vibe that you’re going for or what kind of genre that it might be, the musicality of it is the thing that has always caught my attention. Even from being a kid and hearing certain things and not even fully understanding what it was catching me,” says Crawford. “But then the older I got and listening back, the common thing is just the musicality of it.”
It’s undoubtedly what many have heard from the LA native in the mixtape and remix jewels he’s dropped over the years including his fantastic J Dilla tribute series as well as in the few full-length projects he’s released, Red Pill and The Awakening. Amongst those many captured enthusiasts are the artists and musicians who are increasingly tapping Crawford for use of his obvious talent and sound. Artists like Amp Fiddler, Aloe Blacc, Vikter Duplaix, Osunlade, Raphael Saadiq, and many more. He even had an opportunity to work with the legendary Maurice White, architect of one of the greatest bands in the history of music, Earth, Wind and Fire. “That was a surreal thing as far as being able to pick his brain about the way they use to record stuff and what were some of their influences. That was one pretty surreal moment,” says Crawford
That list also includes acclaimed, and uber-talented, singer/songwriter, Eric Roberson who’s beautiful, just released EP, EARTH, showcases Crawford on production duty. Crawford also supplied one of the many standout tracks, “Something” on the duet record Tigallerro from Roberson and A-list rapper/singer of both hip-hop clique, Little Brother and eclectic soul group, The Foreign Exchange, Phonte. And then there is his work with the highly venerated producer and turntable whiz DJ Jazzy Jeff who enlisted him to be amongst a hand-picked squad of top-notch musicians, producers, and vocalists (including Roberson) brought together as the PLAYlist collective to create the phenomenal project, Chasing Goosebumps that was unbelievably produced in a week. “That experience was life changing,” says Crawford of the project. “And this is something I can very often say whenever I do something that Jeff puts together or is involved with. It’s crazy. We were there, but also, it was sort of like an out of body experience type of thing. Because once everything’s was actually done, and the album was streamed on [Jazzy Jeff’s Facebook] page, and we started listening and we saw the pictures, that’s when everything just started to sink in. Like wow! We really just did this!” He then humbly admits, “Even now when I listen to the album, and I’ve spoken to others involved with the project, you listen to album and its almost as if you didn’t have anything to do with it. Like completely being able to listen to it as a fan, that didn’t even help create it. Because of just how everything happened. It was like a spiritual moment, man!”
Crawford has been doing this for a minute, professionally since thirteen in fact. His father, himself a multi-instrumentalist who played professionally with a Gospel group for years and even now plays in a band the younger Crawford has had for twenty years called the Wylde Bunch, was certainly a major influence. Between Crawford listening to his dad play, having a spot designated as the “music room” in the house that was filled with instruments at he and his siblings disposal, and the vast soundtrack of artists being played throughout Crawford’s young years, he was bound to at very least adopt an appreciation for music. But it was recognized quite early that he had possessed more than an appreciation – He had a natural born gift.
“I started playing when I was around five or six years old and I played by ear starting out,” recalls Crawford. That realization came when on what he fondly remembers was a blue and yellow Fisher Price keyboard he received for Christmas, he worked out the parts of a song his father wrote that was played at church for the children’s choir to march in on. “One morning I was in the [music room], I was sitting Indian- style and I had the keyboard on my lap. So then I started figuring out how to play the song by myself. My parents got up and started saying, who’s that in there playing? And then they walk in and I’m in there on the ground, playing the song.”
From that point on his talent was obvious, so much so that he recalls when just in elementary school the music teacher saw enough in him to not only hone that talent and furnish him with great encouragement, but to also make quite a prophetic statement. “His name was Mr. Marshall and he said, ‘You need to take care of your hands because your hands are how you’re going to make your money.’” That predication was indeed something he could literally take to the bank.
Even though Crawford is firmly in place as a sought after producer, songwriter and musician he is savvy enough to know that growth and development is ongoing. It’s in part what’s key to solidifying that signature sound. Other things that are key to that continued growth? “Being surrounded by like-minded individuals that you can learn from and keep you humble,” he declares. “Also, everything that I do whether it’s playing or producing, I base everything on feel. Feel is the most important thing for me because it has to feel good. And if it doesn’t feel good, then we’re not doing it right or I’m not doing it right.”
Needless to say, he is indeed doing everything right.
Look out for a new project from Daniel Crawford coming soon, but in the meantime go here to check out his popular remixes, mix tapes and projects.