by Kenneth Bremer
Copyright © 1999 Kenneth Bremer, All Rights Reserved.
“Color Of The Truth” is a powerful debut album and it has been very well accepted by a lot of west coast music fans around the world. Were you surprised that it was people with west coast music taste that have taken this album to heart?
First, I want to thank you and everyone reading this so much for your support of this CD. We had a great time making it and it sure is a good feeling to know that people who like the great artists of the West Coast style would also enjoy “Color Of The Truth.” I love your web site and what you are doing for West Coast music.
To answer your question in a sort of round about way, I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. In addition to being influenced by the great jazz music that was going on there and all the Motown artists, I really loved the sound that was coming from the west coast. I was (and still am) a big fan of Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins and all the music like that coming from California.
As a kid I would learn all their tunes and do my best to sound just like them. I guess you could say that I am not surprised that people with similar tastes would find something in a CD like “Color Of The Truth.”
I was impressed with this album because all the tunes are well arranged and your voice is in perfect harmony with the tunes. Normally a debut album from a new artist has some influences from other well-known artists. But your album is difficult to place. Do you have any artist that you can compare yourself with in style or have you been working out your own style?
First of all, I appreciate your kind words. I would say that my musical influences come from a variety of styles. I love music that makes me think. I love lyrics that make me think. I tend to be drawn to music and arrangements that are a bit more complex rhythmically, harmonically and lyrically.
If I had to select one big influence, Donald Fagen (Steely Dan) would be a great example. As far as a personal style is concerned, I have gone through stages where I have tried to have a “certain sound” but it always ended up sounding forced. I am constantly learning that the best thing I can do is not get in the way of the music.
What is your main influence when you write music? Do you have a special working structure? As a keyboard player is the piano a central place in your song writing or do the songs come to life in another way?
I love the piano. I think I do my best just sitting there playing and singing. I do use electronics as well. I have a small studio here in Burbank that I use to write and record. Technology is such that it makes it easy to manipulate arrangements and explore many options in a very short period of time. You have the ability to hear what musical passages would sound like if they were moved, cut in half, sped up, etc., without having to go through a lot of steps.
This is a great tool, but it can also get in the way of the creative process as it does have the tendency to entice you to rely on the technology itself instead of the music. You can end up cheating the song because you are concentrating on that cool new effect that you just discovered. The challenge for me has been in learning to maintain a balance between the two.
On your promotion material from your record label there are some words from Stevie Wonder, Bill Payne and Greg Phillinganes. Stevie Wonder is saying: I love this CD. There’s a lot of great stuff here! How is it to get this great word from an artist that is world famous?
I am very fortunate to have worked with Stevie for a number of years. Growing up a musician in Detroit, learning Stevie Wonder songs was like learning your alphabet. I will never forget the day I first met him, let alone how much I have learned from him. He is not only one of the greatest musicians on the planet, he is also one of its most loving, compassionate inhabitants. I have also had the great pleasure of working with Greg Phillinganes and Billy Payne. I would also say the same of both of them.
You are a new recording artist for many people. What were you working on before your solo career?
I have been inspired by music ever since I can remember. I began playing the piano when I was 5 years old and have been at it ever since. I studied music at North Texas State University and moved to Los Angeles almost 10 years ago when I was signed by a small label. That didn’t quite pan out but I stayed anyway.
I’ve worked as a side man, a studio session player and singer, I’ve composed and produced music for commercials and other artists projects, you name it. I have had the great pleasure of working with some of the most incredible musicians of our time. My only dream for the rest of my life is that I will be able to continue.
On the album you have Gerald Albright, Nathan Watts, Bill Meyers, Gerry Brown, Michael Landau, Phil Perry, Brandon Fields etc. All these artists are well-known for their studio work on a lot of different west coast-and contemporary albums. Was it a good experience for you to work with these people and is it important to have musicians that know this type of music style to get the tunes in the right musical mood?
I am attracted to people who love what they do and are great at it. Whether it is acting, juggling, carpentry or horn playing, when someone has spent a great deal of time perfecting a craft their skills are absolutely mesmerizing to me. It is especially true with musicians. All of the musical guests on “Color Of The Truth” are personal heroes of mine.
I am nothing short of lucky to have them playing on this CD.
I will always do my best to be surrounded by these types of people as it seems to make me perform better. I have a theory that most musicians who are involved in West Coast Music tend to be this way so it just naturally works out well.
Do you think that it is difficult for an artist with the music style that you are working with, when the music business is mainly dominated by young dance, pop, techno artists that break through with music mostly made by breakbeats etc. Normally it is difficult to get west coast and contemporary music to break through international. What are your feelings about this?
I love the music. I am not as concerned as I once was with labeling something a success based on the way our mass markets define success. Our mass markets have less to do with music than they do marketing. Being a musician and being a pop star are two different things these days. Popular music, contemporary and otherwise has not been the same since corporations discovered there was a lot of money to be made. These corporations have put such a choke hold on the industry that the budgets for the promotion alone dictate that the sales of a product must reach into the millions to be called even a minor
Although disheartening in a way, I think that opens up a world of possibilities for people like you who now have international marketing capabilities via the Internet. There are billions of people on this planet and not all of them want to listen to the type of music that the industry tells them they should like just because everyone else is doing it.
I find it fascinating that there is such a demand for “West Coast” music when here on the actual west coast we can’t even give it away. Most of the artists are finding their audiences in other parts of the world. That’s one great thing about the Internet.
“Color Of The Truth” was recorded in 1997, released in US in 1998, but has first been released in Europe in early 1999, what took it 2 years to get there?
I would have to point to the previous answer. The music industry is not in a position to explore the art form so much anymore. It is now big business, and business is profit for the sake of profit. This does not leave a lot of room for niche styles of music to be marketed on a grand scale. “Color Of The Truth” just seems to have a life of it’s own. It was privately financed and independently promoted here in the U.S. Then some overseas fans of West Coast music just found it and welcomed it into the fold. I sure am grateful for that. I also think it is a great indicator of the future of the music business.
When will the follow-up album for “Color Of The Truth” be released? Will you still be writing music in the same style?
We are working on the follow up as I write this. As I pointed out, the independent process is a bit slower but what are you gonna do? It is definitely in the West Coast style, in fact we have a lot of well known guest musicians and producers who are gracing us with their incredible talents. It should be out before the end of the millennium.
In the mean time, I just finished doing the vocals for a tune written and produced by Bill Meyers and Ross Vannelli. It is the love theme for a romantic comedy (movie) starring Allison Eastwood (Clint’s daughter). It’s called “Who’s On First.” Bill Meyers did the score and it is incredible. It played in Cannes last month and should be released soon.
Will “Color Of The Truth” and maybe new material bring you to Europe for playing gigs in different countries?
I sure hope so. I love Europe. I have traveled there with other artists and always have a great time. When I come can I stay at your house?
Do you have a word for all the “Color Of The Truth” owners?
Thanks for your support of music. Also, we’d love to hear from you.