Friday, December 6, 2013

Is the concept of the album over?

I ran across this article a couple weeks ago on +Variety's  website that talked about how the concept of the album doesn't work anymore for today's music listener. There are a lot of good points in this article, and his thoughts are further proven with the reception to +Lady Gaga's new album. As a musician/artist, that just released his first album, the surprising thing is that I agree with him, to a point. If there is a reason that fans/consumers don't want to buy albums anymore it's covered in these two statements from the article: "There are so many diversions that no one's got time for mediocre anymore," and, "No one wants album tracks anymore unless they're every bit as satisfying as the hit." I know we've all been a victim of this at one point or another. You hear the hit single from an artist. You really like that song, so you buy the album. Upon listening to the album you realize the only good song on there is the single, and maybe one or two more songs if you're lucky. The music industry became such a singles driven industry that, that's where the focus was put instead of on the entire project, and as a result the music listener got burned one too many times. Even huge artist have fallen victim to this mindset at labels. I remember reading an interview with +Eminem around the time when the 1st Marshall Mathers LP was coming out. The label was really harping on him to create another silly song in the vain of, "My Name Is." He eventually complied and created the song, "The Real Slim Shady," but out of his frustration he also wrote the song, "The Way I Am," which ended up being one of the biggest selling singles from that album.

So what's the answer to this conundrum? Is their a solution to this problem? Should artists give up on the idea of a straight up album? With the advances in technology we are no longer forced to buy an entire album to hear a song that we like. We can buy the single for .99 on +iTunes, look it up for free on +YouTube , or stream it from +Spotify. Well, there have been a few artist that have shown that it is still possible to numbers in this new technological environment. Artist such as +Taylor Swift, Eminem, +Justin Timberlake, and +Adele have managed to find success and do big numbers. They find this success by simply being the best at what they do and consistently putting out quality work, no gimmicks necessary, and their labels marketing budget didn't hurt either. But these artists proved that if you prove yourself consistently to your audience, they will come out in droves to support you, and will wait with excitement for your next project.

Is the concept of the album over? No, it's not. Nothing beats the anticipation of getting ready to listen to the latest masterpiece from your favorite artist. But, as artist we do need to constantly be working on out craft, becoming better and better at what we do. We have to put out a quality product every time so that our audience knows they're going to get something special when they sit down and listen to our latest project. Otherwise we will be relegated to the Spotify playlists, checking out our latest song on YouTube, and if they really like it downloading the song from iTunes.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

About me

I was introduced to music at a very young age. I started learning and playing the sax in the fourth grade, and it was an instant connection from that very moment. Since the fourth grade on, I have played the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone in bands all throughout elementary, middle, high school, and college.

In 2002 I left home, and joined the Air Force. During my time in the military I earned the opportunity to play with Tops in Blue, the premier entertainment group in the Air Force. With Tops in Blue I got to travel around the world playing music for our troops in the states, overseas, and abroad. It was my time in Tops in Blue that helped me break out of my shell as a performer, and ignited the spark in me to perform and share music with the world.

After my time in Tops in Blue I returned back to my base in California at Beale AFB. It wouldn't take long for me to find my way back to performing again. In 2005 I joined the band Weathered Stone, that featured the talents of other airmen from Beale. After that group disbanded I found another group of friends in, of all places, Lincoln, Ca, and with these friends began to play all throughout the Sacramento area.

It was during this time that I was introduced to Fil "Izreal" Graham. This meeting brought together the pairing of hard hitting hip-hop lyricism with the smooth sounds of the sax, that is captivating audiences to this very day.

Finally, in 2010, as I was transitioning out of the military, I decided it was time to begin working on my first full length album. Over the next three years I began working and collaborating with my talented group of friends to create a style of music that we like to call, Musical Fusion. This, Musical Fusion, consists of all the various musical influences that I enjoy to include hip-hop, jazz, R&B, gospel, funk, and rock. Because of this blend of music I toyed with the idea of initially naming the album smoothfunkyhopandb. I eventually decided on the title, Love Extravagant. On May 21, 2013 Love Extravagant was released to the world!

Love Extravagant is available now on iTunes!

But this is just the start. Stay tuned cause there is more yet to come!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Every song has a story

During the recording of Love Extravagant, there was a story that came with every song. Repentance was a fun song to record, but what really stood out to me for this one was the recording of Izreal's verse. By the time Izreal got to the studio that day we had just finished laying down the keys for the song, and Evan, the piano player, and I had started working on the keys for Daydream. So, I played the Repentance track for Izreal, gave him the synopsis of what the song was about, and what I was feeling for it lyrically. After that brief meeting Izreal went to work righting his verse, and I went back to working on the keys, for Daydream, with Evan. A few minutes later, Izreal poked his head in the room where and Evan and I were recording, and shared the verse he had just put together. Needless to say his verse was exactly what I was looking for. It embodied everything that I felt the emotion of the song was conveying, and so we went to work recording his part. What made this moment even more impressive to me was the fact that he wrote this verse off of no sleep, since he just finished working the night shift before arriving to the studio, and having just heard the track that morning went on to write one of the best verses I had heard from him up to that point. Plus that guy harmonizing on the sax is pretty good too I hear.  Enjoy a little behind the scenes clip of the recording of that verse, and enjoy the full song below. Love Extravagant is available now on iTunes and Amazon

Friday, June 7, 2013

To fear or not to fear. That is the question.

2 Timothy 1: 7 - "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

Today as I sit here on the eve of the album release concert, there are two very real thoughts/fears running around in my head. They're the fear of failure and the fear of success. When stepping out to do any type of project or endeavor these thoughts always like to try and rear their heads. You'll start asking yourself questions like what if this doesn't work out or what if I'm not ready for this. Well at least these questions like to swirl around in my head from time to time. The good thing about these fears and questions are that it's my choice as to whether I accept and dwell on them, or just step up to the challenge, enjoy the ride, and see what happens, and on June 7th at Heritage theatre that's exactly what I'm doing!

Before the release of this project I was always the guy there to lend support to the other artists or musicians that I was playing with. This aspect of playing and performing had started to come easy to me, I still had the I want to do a good job nerves, but I was comfortable doing it, and it's always in these moments of comfortability that God decides to shake things up in my life. And shake it up he has. This Friday, June 7, I will be stepping into unfamiliar territory in the role of "frontman " as I present, Love Extravagant, to the audience. To be honest with you...I'm pretty excited about it! The whole process of creating this album has been my own, personal walking on the water experience, and I'm looking to taking another step of faith on this journey. The band and I have put in a lot of hours practicing getting ready for this show. So all who attend better be ready to "let the groove get in," as one of the other Justin's would say.

Love Extravagant is available now on iTunes and Amazon



Friday, May 31, 2013


"Proverbs 18:16 - A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men." 

Oftentimes musicians and artists get asked who their influences are. Well I'd like to take sometime and talk about one of the biggest influences in my life. Most times this question is answered with the names of legends in their field, and I do have some legends that have had an impact on me as a musician, but today I want to focus on the man that had an impact on me not only as a musician, but as a man also, Mr. Willie J. McAllister, or as his students called him, Mr. Mac. 

As some may know I grew up in Detroit, in a single parent home with my mom and sister. Now, this isn't some woe is me sob story. I'm just sharing some background on my story. As a matter of fact, though my dad wasn't there, I was blessed growing up to have many men step into my life, and play that father figure role for me, and Mr. Mac was one of the first such father figures in my life.

Mr. Mac was my band director growing up from elementary to middle school, my last two years of high school, and as part of my church orchestra, and he was the one that introduced me to music as more than just something that you listen to. He taught us/me that music is a craft and something that if you work hard and practice at it, it can open up many doors and opportunities for you. He focused on and taught us excellence in everything that we do. As part of his bands I got to travel to a lot of cities and states at a young age, and got a lot of experiences that others my age never had. One of the concepts he instilled in us, even as elementary school students, is that the saying, "practice makes perfect," is in fact not one hundred percent true. Instead, its, "perfect practice makes perfect." Meaning that if you practice the wrong way, if you're lazy with your practice, come showtime, you will not get the results that you want. That's something that I've remembered to this day, that's a part of me, and that I infused into the way a practice. Mr. Mac is also one of the reasons I love funk music to this day, and a large reason why there's a big funk influence on this album. As part of his bands he had us play music from the likes of +Earth Wind & Fire and +Tower Of Power The Band, and it's crazy to think that years later I had the privilege to get to play and record with one of the founding members of the later band, more on that later. 

With Mr. Mac it wasn't just about music. He taught us life lessons, and that it's important to be a complete person. In fact there was a point in high school where my grades where straight up horrible. There's simply no other way around it. I was not applying myself at all. So, Mr. Mac sat me down, and let me know that if I didn't show some improvement and bring my grades up that I would not be able to play and travel with the bad. Come next report card, when those grades weren't up, sure enough, Mr. Mac stayed true to his word. Now, he wasn't being mean or cruel. He was being that father that I needed in that moment. Basically telling me that yes while you may be good at music the rest of your education is important too, and that I needed to give my education the same level of focus and attention that I gave to music. It was not fun having something that I loved taken away from me. Needless to say, I brought my grades up on that next report card. 

This is just one of the stories and examples of the ways that Mr. Mac has impacted my life. A lot of his impact can be seen and felt on what I was able to do with and on Love Extravagant, and I am extremely grateful and blessed to have had and to have him in my life. Both as a musician and a man. Thanks Mr. Mac!

Love Extravagant is available now on iTunes and Amazon

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My plans vs His

Proverbs 16:9: "A man's heart plans his way. but The Lord directs his steps."

When I initially started the process of creating this album, I had my own plan in mind. I have a few friends that are great producers. I could just hit them up, ask them to send me some beats, and take it from there. After they sent me the beats, the plan was to have some musicians take those beats, and play out the parts with live instruments. That sounded easy enough to me. The only problem with that, is that there was music in me that God wanted to come out, that would not have come if I would've followed my original plan. Perhaps my original idea may happen with another album, but that wasn't what God wanted this time around. Boy did I fight it though. I came up with every excuse in the book I could think of to stay with my original plan. I can't do that, I'm not a writer. I'm not that good of a producer. I'm just a guy that plays the sax. These were just some of the lies that I told myself at the beginning of this process, and that I almost convinced myself were true. My friend Ryan Jones, of the band Colorfair, even suggested several times, "why don't you just produce your own songs," and I would give him those same answers. Eventually he was able to get through to me. Once I finally conceded on my original plan, and said ok, I'll do this Your way, a flood of inspiration started to come, and it would come at some of the most random of times in the most random of ways. Now at the end of this project all of those things that I said I wasn't, I can now say that I am. No longer am I "just" a guy that plays the saxophone. I'm a writer, composer, producer, arranger, and more. This has easily been one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences of my life, creating this album, and I am so glad and thankful that I did it His way instead of mine.

Love Extravagant is available now on iTunes and Amazon