11th Annual World Beat Song Nominee
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Record Label: Hy-Lyfe Digital
Home Base: Toronto, Canada/Brooklyn, New York
Categories Entered: World Beat Song
Work Submitted: “Officer”
Label: Hy-Lyfe Digital
Describe your nominated work. Officer is a song that speaks about the frustrations of having bad encounters with the long arm of the law—police. Many times people complain about getting harassed by police unnecessarily. Maybe you were parked in a bus lane, and instead of simply telling you to move out of the lane, you were slapped with a ticket to pay a fine. In other cases it can be as severe as getting physically beat and harassed by police. “Officer” speaks to these unnecessary ills that we encounter with police on a daily basis.
Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording? The beat or the rhythm for the song was produced by Polish engineer, Marek Bogdanski. I am positive that he used some plugins to tweak some of the guitars and synths that are heard in the recording. What he used exactly is a mystery to me. All I know is that it is an excellent production well deserved of any great reggae artist to sing over.
Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned? I would have to say recording the harmonies for the chorus was a happy accident. After some weeks of mulling over the chorus to myself, while in the studio an idea hit me to record the background vocals for the chorus. Once harmonized, the song sounded as if I had a full band with backup singers assisting me on the project. I was delighted.
How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses? Most of it [money] was out-of-pocket. For this song it will take a few months to recoup, but whoa is the life of a musician.
Why did you choose to submit this work to The 11th IMAs? I learned of the IMAs through Disc Makers back in 2002 I believe. I actually submitted a work and was accepted. However, due to copyright issues relating to a sampled work on the recording, I decided to back out from the competition. I have always been a fan of the IMAs, as I am a fan of independent music. I have followed the IMAs for many years now and have attended one of the award shows. I think it’s good when independent artist can have a forum where they can display their talents and be recognized for their work.
What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Success is when your work can effect change in people. Having the ability to inspire people through whatever it is that you do, and have a positive impact in that person or people, to continue and improve upon that; I believe is success. You don’t have to be rich to be successful. The people will let you know. Once that is the case, then you know you have achieved it.
How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals? I think it is an honor to be an IMA nominee as there are great artists in the entire competition. This is a great addition to my portfolio as I believe the IMA has a standard when nominating artists. So to be seen as an artist who has been able to achieve a nomination will definitely make people pay more attention to my work, as I will make sure that I highlight the achievement.
Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique? My fans are boys, girls, men and women of all ages, colors and creeds. It’s a beautiful thing when a child as young as 10 as well as an older woman in her 40s comes to you and says “I really love that song” or “That track is hot!” In the same manner people from different ethnicities are able to connect to the music. I think that diversity is unique—when your music becomes that universal language that can speak to everyone.
What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour? I don’t really have any guilty pleasures. If there was one, it would probably be sleep. As long as whoever’s driving is good to go, my eyelids will be shut. Whenever I can get it, please believe I’m getting it. Long rests, power naps, whatever. One time we were crossing the border into Canada. I woke up in the back of the van while the immigration officer was questioning us. I had no clue where I was or what was happening. I started questioning the officer. By the time I regained composure, the immigration officer threatened to jail me on share suspicion. It wasn’t funny then, but looking back at it…hilarious.
Who are your musical heroes & influences? There’s so many. I’m influenced by so many different genres of music: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Buju Banton, Sizzla Kalonji, Capleton, Busy Signal, Lupe Fiasco, A Tribe Called Quest, Big Daddy Kane, Maestro Fresh Wes, T-Soul (R&B/Hip Hop Toronto native), MC Lyte, Michiee Mee, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Gil Scott Heron, Sam Cooke, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Sly & Robbie…the list goes on and on.
Are there any songs you wish you wrote and why? I wish I wrote Bob Marley’s “Crazy Baldhead”. It’s real rebel music. Who can’t relate to chasing someone out of town that is only there to cause trouble? Everyone can relate to it because someone has experienced some form of it. The whole arrangement of the song, from the smooth upscale introduction to the heavy bass guitar, is excellent. The lyrics are positive and strong and have a true message. This is definitely one of his greatest hits in my opinion.
What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans? Maybe not so much artists, but genre. I love oldies. Reggae, Ska, Dancehall, R&B, Soul, especially ranging from the late 60s and 70s. That to me is real, timeless music. That era can’t be replicated. It’s like the saying goes, “often imitated, never duplicated.” Music from that time was full of originality and emotion. It made sense. It wasn’t just art for art’s sake as we often have just now. Artists had to be more skilled, talented and truly earn their spot.
How do you discover new music? Do you buy music or are you content with streaming? The great thing about technology is that we are privy to so much music from all around the world. We are truly in the era of an overabundance of information. With YouTube and Google I am able to hear so much music that I don’t hear on a mainstream radio or television. I listen to a lot of music shows on community radio stations as well. I purchase music of artists that I want to support as a result.
How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free? With music being pirated and so forth, I think musicians have to seek other avenues to make a living. Selling merchandise is a good way—t-shirts, hats, sweaters, etc. Trying to put on shows and charge a fee at the door is another, if it’s not a paid gig or touring. Otherwise, chances of making money, simply through sales is difficult. There is still hope, however. There are still plenty of educated fans out there that understand the grind that artists have to go through who really want to represent for their artists and support them by buying the music. Those fans deserve a round of applause. Shout out to them.
What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today? A lot of fans don’t understand just how the industry works. They are not aware of how much time and effort it takes for music to be heard and truly get out there. The industry’s like an obstacle course with no end. It’s like that old Atari video game “Gauntlet”. There are all different types ways to go about making it. Strategy has to be applied from one hurdle to the next. Even when in the lead, you still need to strategize in order to keep moving forward. Artists have to work very hard to get to a position where they can be “comfortable” where music alone, can truly provide a lifestyle.
Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future? Sadly. People will probably take the singles that they enjoy and create their own customized album for that particular artist. I think there will still be artist that release full albums, but I think we are so locked into real time that after a 3-month period for some songs, it is perceived that they get stale. And since we people have become such a consumer-driven market, we want to hear something new immediately. I think that with the rise in digital sales for a single ringtone, for example, artist are starting to say to themselves, “why make a whole album when I can create one hit song and make a couple mill?”—allegedly of course, but you get the gist.
Finish this sentence: The music industry is… like the economy. Just when you think you got it figured out, you realize that you don’t have a clue.
What do you have in the works for the upcoming year? I am hoping to release my debut album, which has yet to be titled. I have worked alongside New York-based Reggae/Dancehall producer, Darkstaar, for the entire project. I am really looking forward to it as it shows much of my versatility. I think the people are really going to like this one. I also plan to complete a collaborative project album with Toronto’s own, Makai Black, Hip Hop and R&B producer. This project is going to have a greater R&B/Hip Hop influence. This will definitely shock some fans definitely in a positive light. Otherwise, there will be plenty of shows in the works and music video I’m due to shoot in Korea later this year.
Where can fans find you and your music? http://www.WELLSHARP.com