There are things that no matter what seem to always bring a smile to your face – A fond memory, dancing with your sweetheart or the eyes of that brand new fluffy puppy you just got. You might also add to that list, a voice. In particular the voice of accomplished songstress and songwriter, Chantae Cann. It’s the kind of voice that evokes a sense of calm and a rush of assurance that somehow, someway everything will be okay – Engagingly warm, beautifully comforting, and oh yes, highly adept. Perhaps the perfect voice to console you in your time of despair yes, but also wonderfully ebullient when it wields words of inspiration and encouragement to pursue your dreams and love yourself.
The provocative, fiery sound and style of singer, songwriter and bassist, Shelley Nicole has through the years become trademark for the talented artist through her own work with band BlaKbüshe and the revered Burnt Sugar Arkestra. She’s bringing it hard as ever on her anticipated new project, I Am American, produced by guitar beast and founding member of legendary rock squad, Living Colour, Vernon Reid.
On the doorstep of release in all its spirited, soulful and “no holds barred” glory, Nicole returns to ISPYSOUL for a chat, an overdue follow-up to our first meeting upon the release of her acclaimed debut, She Who Bleeds . . ., to share the impetus for I Am American, the lure of “Punanny Politixxx” and more in the video above on I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.
“Don’t push me/cause I’m close to the edge . . .”
Many will recognize those as the lyrics to the iconic Rap classic, “The Message”, from Hip Hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Emcee Melle Mel earnestly gives the warning because, as he eloquently goes on to proclaim in the hook, “It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder/How I keep from going under”, describing the troublesome times, traps, and conditions facing a young black man living in New York City. That track was released in 1982. Fast forward to 2017 and for as many ways that we’ve advanced and come a long way, sadly, many of the same traps, biases, frustrations, inequity and volatility of the time that underscores “The Message” and even years before still exist today.
Something “pushed” multi-talented singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer, Tomás Doncker past that “edge” on June 17, 2015. The event took a huge emotional toll on the accomplished New York bred, musician and artist who in addition to his own acclaimed projects, has performed and worked with artists such as Madonna, Meshell Ndegeocello, Ivan Neville, Cory Glover, and James Chance and the Contortions as well as being at the helm of the label True Groove Records.
But to “keep from going under” this always busy, man on the run, stopped and cancelled everything. And as a way to just heal, he shunned the world- played his guitar and wrote. What came from that, quite without intention, was the framework for his new release, The Mess We Made, an incredibly impressive, provocative, no holds barred, scolding of our country – of our society- but not without a few suggestions of things we can do to get right. At the same time, Doncker masterfully manages to entertain with a stirring soundtrack of soul, blues and funk he calls Global Soul.
ISPYSOUL caught up with Tomás Doncker to talk about the The Mess We Made and what drove him to let us know. Check out our interview above and others on the the I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.
Click here to check out and purchase The Mess We Made
And to learn more about Tomás Doncker and True Groove Records go to Tomás Doncker.net
© ISPYSOUL 2017
A look now at the talented singer/songwriter Eric Roberson in the new video feature below:
And our first look from the original monthly feature, WATCH CLOSELY 2003
ERIC ROBERSON Making music, honestly
For most aspiring music artists their earliest dreams featured them on stage or screen, front and center, whipping hordes of entranced fans into a frenzy – signing a major label deal, selling millions of records and in the process sealing their rep as a talented artist who will forever be noted in the annals of music history. For a scant few, likened to the odds of winning the lottery, that actually happens. But for the lion’s share the realities of the business usher a rude awakening and dashed hopes. However, there are those who guided by their passion to create, an undeniable gift, tenacity and faith, maneuver the harsh realities and find success by other means. Take, for example, singer/songwriter Eric Roberson.
The New Jersey native, who caught the music vapors as a kid growing up in an artistic household, has weathered the storied blows and bombshells of the industry to become one of its brightest young songwriters. In fact, Roberson’s work can be found on the successful projects of folks like Musiq Soulchild, Vivian Green, Jill Scott, Dwele, Case and Will Downing as well as on tracks from the upcoming releases of 112, Carl Thomas and Glen Lewis. Pretty good for someone who was admittedly pursuing the “artist” route, but a natural fit for someone who has always had the writing “bug.”
“Songwriting was always a craft that I was in love with and just always addicted to,” says Roberson. “I never really thought that I would have a career in songwriting. I thought I would have a career as an artist. When the artist thing didn’t work out, it was really what just kept me available.” But he quickly adds, “At one point, there was a time when I was just very jaded in the business and didn’t want to be an artist, as crazy as that sounds. I said, I just wanted to be a songwriter because I didn’t want to be bothered with the ups and downs emotionally that go with pursuing an artist deal.”
Indeed Roberson, who in addition to holding solid writing prowess owns a beautiful voice to boot, knows that seesaw ride first hand. After two years at Howard University on a scholarship reaped as grand prizewinner of a teen talent competition, Warner Bros. Records tabbed him for a recording deal that started the ball rolling with a single called “The Moon” that hit #33 on Billboard’s R&B charts. But soon after, an all to familiar changing of the guard took place that eventually pulled the “rug” right from beneath him. That experience and others like it steered the keen Roberson back to the fertile grounds of Howard U. “I went back to school and just honed my skills,” says Roberson. “I became a better person in every facet. Became a better student, a better writer, a better singer, a better everything.”
From that point to now his phone has kept ringing and his talent, opening doors. One of those opened doors, a background stint with vocalist Kenny Lattimore, led to another opportunity that ultimately brought him to the now famous fold out of Philly, A Touch of Jazz. The link to the sought after production entity brewed by DJ ace Jazzy Jeff that is credited, in part, with putting the storied music town back on the map, proved to be epoch-making for Roberson. “It was the music I had in my head,” he says of his first encounter with the music of the crew. “It was the music that I felt.” Needless to say it was a match made in heaven that helped to solidify his songwriting status. However, there was still a jones that wouldn’t go away – A passion to perform and record his words for the world to hear.
The boiling point resulted in an outstanding independent debut release in 2001 called The Esoteric Movement that still, although a hard found commodity (something he vows will soon be rectified), is a hotly sought after underground soul gem. In fact, the rave reviews and love trumpeted for that release demanded this year’s follow-up, Eric Roberson presents The Vault Vol.1. This splendid collection with a hybrid sound of soul and R&B features one of the most stunning voices on the scene eloquently riding vibes that move from amorous to hip and sensual to smoothed out. Add to that solid production from amongst others, Roberson, Osunlade, James Poyser, and Vidal Davis as well as on the track, “One Time”, the vocal artistry of Ms. Jill Scott. Throughout, The Vault, Roberson spews poetic prose with a golden voice and sincere delivery that’s in a word, impressive.
It’s clear after listening to his work why the fire to do the “artist” thing can’t be extinguished. As Roberson puts it, “Songwriting is my nine to five, but I put my records out because of the passion I have as an artist,” and emphatically adds, “to maintain my sanity!” A sanity he explains can be lost when dealing with all the kinks of the music business. Which is why at this point, although the songwriting gig serves him well, making music under his own moniker is becoming a renewed priority.
“I write honest music and there are times when I get tired of giving away my story and all the stuff I really, really feel in my heart and not see it being taken care of. I almost feel like driving down the street, just throwing CDs out the window saying ‘anybody want to hear this? If you can appreciate it, here!’”
Judging by the enthusiastic response to both The Esoteric Movement and The Vault Vol.1 he’s finding a burgeoning crowd of listeners who can and are quite willing to pay for it. Honest!