What started as a dream at the tender age of 15 years old of being a professional music artist, to me ultimately achieving successes as a signed singer/songwriter with Warner Chappell Music and EMI Music. The key to any achievement, no matter what you work at or invest-in in life, is to never give up and to never listen to the naysayers. Cliché I know, but it’s the absolute truth.
I’ll never forget that day; it was the end of a California summer, I was 15 years old and my parents gave me some money to go to the mall to shop for some back-to-school clothing. But I didn’t end up buying clothing. Instead, the first thing I found and purchased that day was a black leather-bound passport cover/wallet, which I still use to this day 35 years later. Let’s just say that as a young boy I had an insatiable craving to be an artist and travel the world – and of course, hopefully get the attention of the girls.
I knew that music was a gateway to a world of wonder, a path that would lead me to see and explore exotic places all around the world, to meet people of all ethnicity's, races and cultures, to experience various languages, to taste and enjoy unique cuisines. Music itself was a passport to being worldly and it has led me to have an incredible appreciation and love for all walks of life – a proverbial world without borders, if you will.
Let’s go slightly back in time. My music hero was (and still is) Sting. I don’t quite remember how, but I somehow was introduced to The Police from their first album, “Outlandos d’Amour” – and I was hooked. Sting’s unique voice, his unique look, and the coolness of a singer playing bass was quite rare back then. As I continued to buy every Police record, the more and more I wanted to be like Sting – to be a lead singer and bass player writing my own tunes in a rock-trio. And that’s all it took. My music endeavors were laser-focused – I was in a trio for 10 years (from 1990 thru 2000). We recorded many demos and albums, toured throughout all of the U.S. and east coast Canada. It was great fun, a lot of work, and many lessons learned. And incidentally, yes, like that of The Police, the three of us in our band fought all the time, including punching and pushing each other if someone screwed up or didn’t like what each other was playing – but that’s a whole other article unto itself… “How to survive in a band”.
I grew up in a household filled with Motown records, a splash of jazz, and a few stray country albums that filled the living room. What a mix my parents had. And here I was listening to The Police, The Cure, The Clash, U2, Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, Howard Jones, INXS, The Smiths… you get the picture. It was the very early 80’s and New Wave was the thing in my generation. Although my father would spin (or play an 8-track) of everything from a Miles Davis album to Smokey Robinson, he also found Sade in the mid-80’s. Now SHE grabbed my attention. Her music was a new twist on the Motown sound – unique, original and smooth with hints of jazz, R&B and soul – it was down-tempo feel-good music.
I didn’t really pay attention to jazz or jazz musicians until Sting’s first solo album, “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”, when he brought in some great jazz session cats, including saxophonist Branford Marsalis, pianist Kenny Kirkland, drummer Omar Hakim, and bassist Darryl Jones. It was that mix of pop blended with some light jazz elements that opened me up to the jazz genre in a whole new light. I could now understand it on a very basic level, or shall I say… swallow the jazz complexity pill.
It was the year 2000 that I decided to leave my rock trio and venture into going solo and writing music that I felt was geared towards a more mature audience. Plus I was tired of a band democracy. Listening to artists like Sade, Simply Red, Marvin Gaye, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck to Nina Simone, it was a brand new music world to me, and I was loving it! and soaking everything in.
I wrote a collection of songs that finally landed me a contract with Warner Chappell Music – that was it! My music dreams were finally starting to come true as a professional singer/songwriter. No one really believes that you can do it, but I said… “fuck em’!” I’ve never listened to naysayers. Who the fuck are you to try and bring someone’s aspirations down? Their disbelief just made me stronger. I worked hard, I kept writing and writing, recording, sent out hundreds of emails introducing my music to record labels and publishing companies… and finally something hit. I didn’t sign my first deal until I was 32 years old, and in the music industry? That's considered late for the game. Well…. Sorry I’m late, Fellas. But life’s traffic was bad.
After I was under contract with Warner for 3 years, I had been writing a lot of new material, began working with a new producer, and then landed a new worldwide contract with EMI Music. I was under their umbrella for 6 years. And during that time I was touring the world, performing throughout Europe, as well as venturing into Ethiopia, Africa. My music was also licensed in film and television throughout Europe, Asia and America, including shows on HBO, NBC, TBS, Discovery Channel and Showtime, to name a few. And another dream of mine as a child came true as well – one of my music videos was being aired on MTV Europe.
Every time I write and record a song; every time I get to walk on stage under the blue and red lights; every time I get to stand in front of an audience anywhere in the world, to sing and perform my music is truly a blessing and an honor.
The mid 2000’s were kind to me. As I was busy writing, recording and performing on stages throughout the world, my other passions in life are painting and design. I always knew, even back then, that music has its financial ups and downs, including the various music industry climate changes… so I also decided to invest in and start a boutique branding agency, Brand X Republic. And why not, right? Again, a whole other article. But I’m proud to say that that side of my business has also seen its successes along the way, including designing for companies such as major TV production companies for shows like Project Runway, Top Chef, MTV, VH1, to businesses like Nike, Williams Sonoma, Timberland, and the list goes on.
Again, you can truly be successful at anything as long as you persevere and don’t allow the naysayers in. Not to mention, believing in yourself, a plan of attack, having drive and ambition, plus an understanding of your market and its demographic – no matter what business you start as an entrepreneur.
Fast forward to today… my music partner in crime, world-renowned trumpeter Bijon Watson, and I have been the dearest of friends, or shall I say brothers, for over 20 years and have been working together musically from the beginning. We co-founded Jazz Eclectic Entertainment Group and have created and curated multiple successful productions, including the Jazz Eclectic Concert Series live at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, our B-SIDE Radio Show on KUNV 91.5FM Jazz & More in Las Vegas, the VerV Jazz Music Festival at Springs Preserve Amphitheater, to our B-SIDE LIFE lifestyle show, and the all new stage production called La Vie En Rouge.
The overall mission of Jazz Eclectic Entertainment Group is to increase awareness and participation in diverse musical experiences worldwide. To this end, we present an eclectic blend of world-renowned artists, including GRAMMY Award-Winning and GRAMMY Nominees whose “original music” and artistry embody what we call “The Art and Lifestyle of Jazz”.
We bring jazz to the forefront of the mainstream market – that place where jazz crosses over into multi-genres. For those with a low tolerance for jazz, we’ve taken a genre-bending approach, or what we call “a Jazz Republic”, eroding the boundaries between jazz and mainstream music, writing and performing original music in a vocabulary that combines elements of all. We want to welcome everyone to our music table.
Our company name and mission is just that – “eclectic”. The way we’ve approached our lives is the same way we approach our music – without judgement, without prejudice, without discrimination, and with heart, with openness, with love, with passion, and with respect.
Jazz Eclectic couldn’t do what it does without all of the amazing and uniquely different talents, personalities, sexual orientations, cultures, races and genders we have on our team, and whom Bijon and I are truly blessed to work and be friends with. We bleed as one. And it is within our uniqueness that makes Jazz Eclectic, our production team and our band, The Method Men, the beautiful and cosmopolitan production that it is – A music production without walls or borders. Or better yet, a tantalizing, delicious music gumbo.
My journey has been interesting, and not without failures and learning lessons along the way, but those are the reasons why that when I was but a young boy that I purchased my leather bound passport wallet – to entertain and explore the beauty and uniqueness of people throughout the world as we venture through this short thing called “life”.
Never give up on yourself. Never!