A Conversation With Al Jarreau
Mike Ragogna: Why, it's Al Jarreau with his new album Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest Live. Can you go into what was behind this concert and release?
Al Jarreau: About four years ago, Vince Mendoza, who conducts and arranges for that orchestra and has had any number of great guests come and sing with it, called, and asked me if I would come and sing. It's more than an orchestra, it's the Count Basie Band with strings! (laughs) I mean, they swing, baby, with strings! It was just kind of an inside story, but singers who need the music to be (demonstrates a swing rhythm) know how hard that is to get an orchestra with sings to play like that. So when you find an orchestra that can play like that, it's really an amazing thing, and it does something to your music that is really very special. People get to hear you in an environment that is just high and holy. The orchestra with every instrument that modern man knows about, it's there to accentuate what is being played and performed, so to get to perform that way and get it recorded is a wonderful thing. That's kind of the background, and we did some concerts together--maybe a couple in 2008 or 2009 and in 2010--and then said, "Let's record this stuff." I said, "Let's do it yesterday!" And so we did.
MR: Nice. When you chose the set list for the concert, it must have been a little hard to whittle down from your huge catalog.
AJ: Well not at all. You know what happened? I wasn't involved at all! (laughs)
MR: Vince did it?
AJ: I let Vince do it. I think that was one of the smartest things I've ever done. (laughs)
MR: Yeah, he's amazing. I'll say it.
AJ: There's another part of me that would have been in there going, "No, no, no, we need to do this song because of this and that." Vince knows the important stuff about what we were going to get into. He knows the importance of the orchestra, their details, how they play, who can solo, what solos are where, and he saw it all in his head. I couldn't see that. He knows me.
MR: Vince obviously knows your voice.
AJ: Yes, that's the point. He knows my voice, and he knows his orchestra. I don't know his orchestra. He knows the stuff that will sparkle in his orchestra, so it's a great listen for my audience. They get to come and sit there and hear me in that setting and hear the music expanded.
MR: Al, you still have your vocal chops to these ears, but what do you think of your own voice these days?
AJ: Well, I think it's getting harder to get what I want out of it as the days go by. I've got an odometer on my voice that has out-odometered an odometer on an automobile. It's been doing this for 60+ years, and when you do that, even if you've had some great training, your voice ages, and there are things that you wish you could reverse. My lows are wonderful and deep now, but I don't have the same highs. Anyway, the course of my life has brought me to a lot of things that have been very important. I grew up the son of a Seventh Day Adventist minister, so I was really close to the church and sang church music between sips at my bottle, you know? I sat on the piano bench next to my mother. She was the church organist, so that music is deeply inside of me. When I went home, I had a sister eight years older, another sister ten years older, and a brother eleven years older, and a brother twelve years older. They didn't have late night TV in those days, and my folks found other things to do...a family of six, dude!
AJ: So I heard the music of the day. My brothers and sisters brought into the house to listen to for their own pleasure the music of the Basie Band and Ellington and Stan Kenton and all the big bands, and I heard Ella and Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan and Nellie Lutcher in my house. That was the first music beyond the church that I heard. Well, of course, I heard Patti Page's "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window" and Brenda Lee singing "...Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and fillet gumbo." There was that great mix of music that became who I am with a breadth in my appreciations, and I mean deep appreciations for various kinds of music. I slept fourteen feet from a polka tavern as a kid growing up. I heard polkas all night long, people singing and drinking beers and having a great time. I know more polkas than Frankie Yancovic! (laughs) So all of that stuff was a great beginning and mixture of experiences of music to bring to the table where I heard Chuck Berry and Little Richard sing their first music, and Bill Haley and The Comets rocked right with them. That music is inside of me. I was singing doo-wop on the corner under the streetlight with four other guys when it wasn't called doo-wop. We just got together and sang, so that music is inside of me. It's a lot of stuff that has been rolling around in here and becoming this compost and has made me who I am as a singer. I just love the opportunity for that to express itself in the ways that I'm able to express it, and I don't hold it back. I let it out. It's all kind of tempered by this atmosphere in which the singer can improvise and do new and different unexpected things on the spot with other people. I like R&B and I like jazz and I like pop, so there it is. My God, I've been so lucky I've found an audience that is willing to take that journey with me.
MR: Yeah, and let's look at some mile markers on your journey. You had the big hit "We're in This Love Together." What do you think about that song all these years later?
AJ: I love it! I'll sing it tomorrow night with as much feeling as I ever sang it...maybe more! It has a broader meaning now. It's not just a love song.
MR: Ah, you mean it's more like a universal message these days. Can you go into the origins of that song and how you feel it applies now?
AJ: Well it's Keith Stegall and Roger Murrah, two Midwest writers. I don't know their repertoire, but they've written for other people. I was in the studio working with Jay Graydon--wonderful that I was working with him because Jay had been talking to me in those times about allowing myself to be a good R&B singer and, "...just sing it like an R&B singer, Al, don't turn it into a platform for a jazz song. There are a lot of R&B people out there that you can find and meet and bring to what you do. Just sing (demonstrates the song). So I took that advice from my producer. He produced three records, maybe four, and so one morning, this song came in. It was a submission to my manager's office, and one of the guys in the office said, "Al, I'm going to interrupt you guys. You've got to hear this song!" He came to the studio, played it for us, and we took off that roll of tape and put on a fresh roll of tape, and I learned "We're in This Love Together." The rest is kind of history.
MR: You also had sang a classic TV theme, "Moonlighting," for that series.
AJ: Oh my! What a story! You never know. You sing a song for a movie or a TV program, and that project may never make it any farther than your lips and ears and the producers who said, "No, thank you." So listen to this. I get a call from Lee Holdridge, and he says, "This is Lee Holdridge, Al. I'm a writer of music for television movies and all, and I'm going to do the music for a pilot in the Fall, and it's going to star Cybill Shepherd, the model who's making her way as an actress right now." And then I hear papers rustling, "...and this new guy Bruce Willis." You know that expression, "Who knew?" (laughs) Well, now, Bruce Willis is all over everything and everywhere, but that was his first time on screen probably except for some audition that he did. Brilliant, just brilliant work that he's done. And that's how it started out. And people from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Oslo, Norway, found me because of hearing that song. I made new friends. They found my music and went, "Hey, that guy's not bad!" (laughs) They come around and bring their kids, and their kids are bringing their kids now.
MR: And you were part of the classic, "We Are The World."
AJ: Well, I had been from Oslo to Jakarta in my life and seen people all over the world. I've been in the slums of Brazil in the favela. I know what the favela is--those shanty houses on the side of a hill. So yeah, when they asked me to be a part of USA for Africa and stand there on the stage with that array of celebrity and wonderful talent, you say, "What time do you want me there?" You cancel your medical appointments and everything and go.
MR: There were many voices on that recording, but your part is pretty memorable from the way you delivered it.
AJ: Well, that's Quincy. That's Quincy, and with great help from Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, of course. They know me and what I would sing pretty well, and found something and carved out a little piece for me to sing. Those associations that come from people respecting your work and thinking that you should be part of special things is just invaluable stuff that you cherish in those little parts of your heart where you keep your cherishables.
MR: And your work is universally admired, your having been nominated for Grammys fifteen times, and winning seven. What are your thoughts on that?
AJ: Cherishables. That stuff that is high and holy! When your colleagues, the people who do what you do--writers and signers and horn players and music producers and video producers--listen to your music and go, "Good job, Al, good job! Good job, man! Take this award home with you and know that your friends in music think that this was great work, and it needs to be celebrated," that's amazing stuff. What I need to add to that is that people look at me and say my name in the same sentence as Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and Sting, but you know what? If I had one digit of their bank account, I could take a much-needed break and have a vacation and take my wife on vacation and just sit there and watch the world go around. I haven't made any great money doing this. I've managed to pay the bills, and I don't owe any money to my record company, but it's taken a long time on every record for me to pay off my recording costs, so I do this music that I love and would not change, but I have modest sales. (laughs)
MR: Perhaps all that changes with your new album Al Jarreau and The Metropole Orkest Live, with Vince Mendoza conducting.
AJ: Well, here, let's mention that that orchestra is from Holland from a little town near Amsterdam. It's an orchestra that's been in existence for some time now, close to twenty years. I wish I knew how long! Vince Mendoza--Grammy Award-winning conductor and composer himself--invited me to come and record with them, and I'm thrilled. Why I bring it up is that we people from Chicago and New Orleans and St. Louis think of ourselves as the jazz capitals of the world. Well I've got news for you...wait until you see Paris! Wait until you see Amsterdam! There's a festival in Amsterdam that every great jazz player goes to every year. It sits on fifty acres. You can walk from venue to venue and hear everybody from Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea to blues artists who are doing gut bucket blues right off of the delta at that festival because there's an audience for it. I envy that as an American. We've surrendered that part of ourselves and outsourced it. Other countries have accepted it, and it's doing well. We'd be in trouble, we jazzers, if it wasn't for France and Germany and Holland and Switzerland...and all kinds of European countries that have fallen in love with jazz in the deepest sense and understand what it is, care about it and recognize it as high art. I'm preaching again. (laughs)
MR: No, not at all, Al, you're just singing the truth. Hey, what advice do you have for new artists?
AJ: Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, etc.
MR: (laughs) Al, that is, I think, the best answer I've ever gotten.
AJ: I can add to that, but that's the story. Do it! I don't care if you're a painter or a poet or an architect. Do it. It changes you when you love something that much that you do it, do it, do it, do it, do it.
MR: Excellent. Al, I think we have to wrap this up because you've got to go do it, do it, do it, do it yourself.
AJ: Well, this was great, I enjoyed talking to you. You made me think in ways that I don't typically think. You're doing it...you're doing it! You're doing your homework, and you love this work. You love this work, I can tell.
MR: I do, it's true, and I love your work, Al, almost as much as I like the man.
AJ: Well, great. Thank you for letting me talk to you and your audience.
MR: Absolutely. Thank you very much for all your time.
1. Cold Duck
2. Jacaranda Bougainvillea
4. Agua De Beber
5. Something That You Said (A Remark You Made)
6. We're In This Love Together
7. I'm Beginning To See The Light
8. Midnight Sun
10. After All
11. Spain (I Can Recall)
Transcribed by Kyle Pongan
A Conversation With BeBe Winans
Mike Ragogna: Hello, BeBe, how are you?
BeBe Winans: I'm doing excellent. I'm doing great!
MR: And I'm doing great because it's BeBe on the phone.
BW: That works for me, Mike!
MR: BeBe, your new album is titled America America, and I just can't figure out what it's about. You give absolutely no clues, so please, can you go into it for us?
BW: I'm always excited to turn a corner. Early on, when CeCe and I were making music together, we told the record company we were going to do a solo album, they were all nervous and said, "No, no, no!" because they got used to the BeBe and CeCe duo, and the solo situations just did wonderful and fine, so in my life I've never feared turning corners. This album is a departure of BeBe and CeCe and every Winan on earth, but I believe it's a needed album right now for the current war that we're in with each other in America. I believe the songs, I pray and hope will remind us all that we're all Americans before any party.
MR: Yes, nicely said. I sing national anthems at ball games and hockey games here and there, but because I'm also connected with The Huffington Post, so occasionally, I'll get that "He's a liberal, why would he be singing the national anthem?" look, which sucks.
BW: It's amazing to me, the division, and I agree with you. It's time for us. If now has been ever the right time, it's the right time that we all lay aside these titles and understand that together, we can achieve anything. So I have a right just like anyone else has a right to these wonderful songs, and not only the songs, but the meaning behind the songs because we're all Americans. I'm excited to sing these songs. Being a songwriter, I have just enjoyed the journey of recording this album because these songs come from the heart. They come from experiences. It's been a pleasure for me, and exploration. I've explored that there's more than just one verse to the "Star Spangled Banner" and to "My Country 'Tis of Thee." There are some third and fourth verses that I never knew existed. To me, some of them are even more powerful than the verses that we know.
MR: Yeah, it's interesting. We're such a hungry for knowledge nation that we don't really have time to let everything sink in the way it needs to.
BW: Right. And we have to stop and take out the time. Really, I think in everything that we do, everyone is so busy. I'm teaching my children, "Look up, please. Look up." IPads are nice, and texting is nice, but communicate with the eyes and with the mouth, and don't let life pass you by because you're so engulfed and so busy with the day to day things. I've just learned in my life to blow it off and enjoy every moment that I have, so I'm enjoying this album. I'm enjoying performing it. I'm going out on tour with a good friend of mine, Dave, and I'm going to sing some of these songs and some of the BeBe and CeCe songs as well. But I'm excited, really, to sing not only the national anthem, but other songs that sometimes we don't get a chance to hear.
MR: There are a couple of tracks here that are sort off the beaten path, for instance your original "Ultimate Sacrifice."
BW: "Ultimate Sacrifice," along with the title cut "America America," along with "We're the United States of America" are songs that I penned, so I am excited to throw those into the ring of the incredible patriotic songs that we do know. But these are songs that I wrote. "Ultimate Sacrifice" is a song that I wrote when I went to sing for the troops right before we went to war in Iraq. I was touched by the many brave men and women that I met, and from that moment on, I wanted to say thank you for their sacrifices, so that song is really dedicated to the troops. It's dedicated to the troops' families, those who have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice. I felt that song was fitting for an album as this one.
MR: Yeah. BeBe, I'm also meaning that the new songs get sort of elevated into a "The Star Spangled Banner" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee" especially in this album's context and from the passionate way you're singing them.
BW: Thank you, you've put a smile on my face, Mike. I think it's so important. Another thing that artists used to say, and we still say, is that if you're going to grab a song such when me and CeCe did The Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There"--and we were blessed enough to be able to call Mavis Staples and sing with us--we always used to say, "If you're going to touch somebody's song, especially something that is a big hit, you have to really make it your own." So these songs, which are treasures to our country, I tried to make them my own because that's important to me. I feel as if it's coming from my heart. I'm singing these songs with passion and I believe in the song, and I think it goes into the heart of the listener, and they'll be touched by it. I made it like it was my own. I made it like I was writing "The Star Spangled Banner." I made it like I penned it. It means that much to me, so I hope it goes straight to the heart of those who listen to it.
MR: Right, and lots of people listen since you're a multiple Grammy winner, and you've been in multiple Winan family configurations. Now, let me ask you about your PTL Club period. What are your thoughts about that time and about the path you've taken to this point?
BW: I wouldn't trade or change a thing, and I've had some hard times. I've had some times where I felt as if life sucked, if I could say that. And now, at the age and the place that I am in life, I look back and I grin. Really, I teach my children that in life, there is no control of what tomorrow is going to bring. There really isn't. But in whatever it brings, we have choices, and I'm glad because I made more right choices than wrong, but in the wrong choices, there are lessons to be learned. So I've just learned since PTL it's been a rollercoaster ride, but it's been a great ride. Maya Angelou said something to me that I will never forget, which has been a help to me in my journey. She said, "Enjoy the struggle. Enjoy the struggle. People are trying to get to the top and want to have all this wonderful sunshine, but it's in the struggle that you find out who you are. It's in the struggle that you find out who your friends are, so enjoy it." And I'm telling you, I've listened! I've heard her voice, and I've heard her words through the down times, through the dark times. So I'm enjoying the life, and I'll continue to enjoy every moment, even when they're a struggle.
MR: BeBe, speaking of friends and knowing who your friends are, right now, I'm looking at a picture of George Bush with his arm around you.
BW: (laughs) That was such a special moment for me. I was singing, I believe, if I'm correct, for the troops. And you know what? I'll tell you the truth, and I just have to be honest. I love the man. I think the man is a wonderful man, and sometimes it's hard for people to separate the man from the job. Even though I've disagreed with some things (he's done) as president, in getting to know him, he's a wonderful man and his wife is a wonderful woman. Life is funny, and a lot of times, the people that I've met have really gone past anything that I've ever dreamed of, so I'm really grateful. My friendships really go from the West to the East. You'd be amazed at some of the people I call friends.
MR: Yeah, including Stevie Wonder because when you were on Motown, you recorded his song "Jesus Children of America" with him and your brother.
BW: Yes, and I had to pinch myself when we were in the studio recording that. Being born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Stevie Wonder lived a block and a half away from us, and Smokey Robinson lived around the corner, and when it would snow, all the kids would dash to Stevie's house or to Smokey's house because instead of three dollars like everybody else would give you for shoveling their snow, they would give you twenty-five or fifty dollars! So to grow up and to become friends and to record and to sing on the same stage is just beyond a dream come true.
MR: And speaking of the stage, I want to get this in there to, your appearance in The Color Purple.
BW: Yes, I never thought I would play Harpo, being such a fan of the movie when it first came out. It was one of the movies I saw seven times in the theater and loved every minute of it. And through that, the relationship with Oprah has been for twenty-five plus years. So they did a call and I respect people in the theater. Actually, I'm in the midst of writing a musical about my family, and one of the partners with me is Todd Gershwin of the Gershwin family, so I'm very excited about that. Probably next year you'll hear more on that, but it has been a whirlwind. So to play Harpo on Broadway, it was hard work! I give all respect to theatrical people. It was a joy.
MR: I also have to slip in your part in The Manchurian Candidate.
BW: The Manchurian Candidate with the one and only Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington. Denzel, being a friend up to that point of fifteen years, I wasn't as nervous until they told me they changed some of my dialog, and I had to do more, and it's like "Oh my God, I'm going to fall apart." I never will forget being at the table reading thinking it was just the people in my two scenes, and Meryl Streep walked in, and I almost fainted. She's one of the best and just the sweetest woman in the world. Dreams come true, but then things happen that are beyond anything you could dream. To be in a movie and to be in the same room participating in a movie with Meryl Streep? Come on!
MR: (laughs) Can you tell us a charming story about your family? Any story you like.
BW: Well, one thing about my family. People dream of winning Grammys and being on stage at Carnegie Hall, and that has come true for many of my family members. But the most exciting time for us was being at home 19131 Whittingham, where we had our own Grammy awards. We had our own Carnegie Hall right there in the middle of the den, and those awards shows were wonderful. One of the things that is true, and you can ask any of my family, is if you hosted the awards show right there in the den of the Winans Family home, you actually won every award that you were nominated for.
MR: (laughs) That's sweet. So, you do projects not only as a solo artist, but also with CeCe and still do projects with the rest of the Winans right?
MR: Okay, do you perform group concerts where everybody goes out on the road together?
BW: We did two Winans family concerts. The last one was a desire of my mom and dad, and so we did it a couple of years before he passed, and it was fantastic. It's just very difficult with everyone having families and various other schedules. I have a brother who's a pastor and you can hardly get him out of Detroit, so I don't know if there's another Winans family tour, but if it happens, you'll be the first to know.
MR: Bebe, surely there will be a tour associated with America America?
BW: Yes. I'm going out on tour with Dave Koz, the unbelievable saxophonist, and we're hitting the road through the summer. I'm excited to sing America America, and he's going to join me. There's a saxophonist, which is my nephew who's fifteen years old on the album on "My Country 'Tis of Thee," so Dave is going to play that. We're going to have fun singing these songs, and I hope more so than just having fun, inspiring the nation to come together, and let's win these battles that we're facing.
MR: Beautifully said. And speaking of inspiration, I ask every guest this. What is your advice for new artists?
BW: I was asked that yesterday, and as I said yesterday--and I'll always say from this moment on--is to tell the new generation to know exactly who they are. Know who they are, where they want to go, focused and understanding that before they leave the front door because if they know who they are, then when they bump into the "no"s and when they bump into the craziness, they won't get lost.
MR: Any words of wisdom?
BW: Words of wisdom? Patience. If you're patient, you won't make a lot of mistakes. That's the word of wisdom. Learn patience.
MR: That's really true, isn't it.
MR: All right, well there are so many more questions I want to ask, which means I have to have you back again. By the way, I've interviewed your buddy Dave Koz acouple of times, and he's always great.
BW: Okay, well maybe the fun part would be me and Dave at the same time on the same line. You may not get too many questions in, but you will have a fun time!
MR: (laughs) I'm in if you want to put that together.
BW: Let's make that happen! It's been a pleasure speaking to you, and next time, it'll be you, me and Dave.
MR: You got it, and I appreciate your time very much. All the best, and have a great tour and a great record.
BW: Thank you!
1. Star-Spangled Banner
2. America America
3. America (My Country 'Tis Of Thee)
4. We're The United States Of America
5. Lift Every Voice and Sing
6. The Battle Hymn Of The Republic
7. God Bless America
8. You're A Grand Old Flag
9. America The Beautiful
10. Ultimate Sacrifice
Transcribed by Kyle Pongan
A Conversation With Renman (aka Steve Rennie)
Mike Ragogna: So, here's the burning question on everyone's mind: Is it "Steve Rennie" or "Renman"?
Renman: My friends call me Ren or Renman since back in high school. People call me Steve when they are pissed off at me.
MR: So Steve, (laughs) what got you interested in mentoring acts?
R: Well, I've been mentoring musicians forever, actually. I do this professionally and I've been lucky to make a nice living out of it, and I think I'm pretty good at it. I'm not really interested in signing new clients at this point in my life, but I am still very interested in sharing and helping other musicians find their way in the business. I was very fortunate in my own career to have had a series of mentors who guided me toward fulfilling my own potential. I know how powerful that can be. So, I suppose its only natural that I would follow a similar path, not as the student now, but as a mentor myself.
MR: Can you describe your website?
R: I think, in the simplest terms, it's a gathering point for artists, musicians, and music professionals to network and and spotlight their creative works, while getting inside access to mentoring and advice from people who know the real music business. I will be sharing my experiences as a manager in addition to inviting my friends from all different spheres of the biz to offer their insight. And it's a place for me to learn what this new breed of artists are doing to get their music heard. It's a bunch of people trying to figure out this new music business, and at the same time, to keep shaping it.
MR: How will the web TV show and its "live" element work?
R: The live weekly webcast will start mid-July, and unlike a lot of the other music business-related shows on the web where the conversation is typically a host and a guest talking at an audience, this show will include real musicians and real people speaking live with me and my guests. It will be a two-way conversation. Like the other shows, I'll have guests, but we will also be taking "live" phone calls. The show will be less about the guest's life history and more about how the guest is going to help me educate folks on the real music biz. I did an interview for a local radio station, KROQ, here in LA, and the writer described it as a kind of Dr. Phil of music meets Loveline. I'll buy that.
MR: (laughs) How do you feel this endeavor is a next step in the business of doing music?
R: I think the website and show are a reflection and response to what is going on at the intersection of music and technology. The internet, in many ways, has mortally wounded the old "record business" model of selling CDs and controlling the distribution of music. That has had huge repercussions throughout the industry and the ground is still shaking as the major companies try to figure it out. But what the internet has also done is give everybody a new means to communicate, to share ideas, to share music and visuals, with less regard to the old media gatekeepers. The consumers are driving demand more than ever. Artists have more tools to create music, to communicate with their audience, to promote their careers, but it will require a different, more direct effort on their part than the days when the record companies did all the work. The fact that today I can setup a website and broadcast a webshow around the world that can connect artists, musicians, and music professionals in a direct two-way conversation from my office is pretty amazing. And if I can do it, certainly a sharp artist, or manager, or label can do the same. It's something I could never have imagined when I started in the business.
MR: How will you be involved? What's your hands-on approach going to be like?
R: I'm hugely involved. I've scheduled chats twice a week; I participate in many of the discussion forums and I answer all my emails...so far but its getting tougher. Each week I call a member on Skype and talk about career issues as part of our "Ask Renman" segment. I'm helping to recruit guests and film interviews with some of my friends in the business who are into sharing their knowledge as well. I'm also hosting the live show. I am a believer in making things personal, and I think anybody who visits the site will feel that in a big way.
MR: Who would benefit the most from your web TV show?
R: I think if you are a musician or somebody looking to get into the music business, you would absolutely benefit. But the truth is that a lot of the things I talk about in terms of getting your head in the right place to do something great apply in all aspects of life. Concepts like dreaming it and doing it, making it personal, committing to your goals, and acceptance are things that anybody looking for a little inspiration and a kick in the ass might find worthwhile.
MR: Let's get a history lesson. What bands have you worked with and how have you mentored them?
R: It's a fairly long list. You are going to test my memory now. Let's see if I can remember in order: I managed Dramarama, The Wonder Stuff, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, The The, Stabbing Westward, Hothouse Flowers, Primal Scream. And of course, Incubus, who I have worked with since they signed to Sony almost 17 years ago. In my early days with Incubus, I think it would be fair to say that I kind of told them what to do and they took my advice and did it. As they became more successful, my role has evolved into more of an advisor. They know they can do whatever they want, so I try to discuss options with them, try to give them an honest take on all the issues so that they can make good decisions. I spend more time now trying to lead them down the right path while acknowledging that it is their band and it's up to them to do the right thing. They are a pretty special bunch in that regard, and so they have made a whole bunch of right decisions over the years. But it's their idea now, not mine.
MR: Any predictions on how the website and web TV show will evolve, maybe what their status will be a year from now?
R: I'm always nervous predicting anything about the music business even a day ahead, much less a year. The site and show will definitely evolve. One of the things I love about the web is the instant feedback. When we started, I had an idea in my head of what I hoped would happen. So far so good--people are signing up and they are staying engaged. Members are enjoying the exclusive content. But in the two weeks the site has been up and running, it's already got me thinking of a million ways to make it better and even more valuable. Watching the discussion groups that our members are setting up on their own lets me know what is on their minds. It's giving me more ideas of what guests and industry types I want to interview. Seeing the great videos and great music being uploaded by our members makes me want to find more ways to feature their works. The response I'm getting from my friends in the industry tells me that there might be a lot more folks willing to share their own experiences and be part of the mentoring. Finally, I'm getting a lot of great feedback from folks who are not musicians or music industry hopefuls who have found the site as a source of inspiration for making something happen, period.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists, and don't just say, "Come to the website and check it out!"
R: Simple. Dream it and then do it. Commit to it. Prepare for it. Have a plan. Accept the fact that it might not work out. And then enjoy the ride knowing that you gave it your best shot.
Special Thanks To Kymm Britton
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ragz2008