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Soul Express Interview

By Barry Towler

Jeff Hendrick’s Celebration Of Soul

Soul Express speaks with the highly talented purveyor of blue-eyed soul from Canada, Jeff Hendrick, about his latest album, “Soul Celebration”, and his plans for the future.

Soul Express: Well, here we are with a second album! This album has received a lot of positive response from the critics, including myself. How do you feel about this new album?

Jeff: I am extremely proud of the album and the response is has generated across the globe. I didn’t know what the reaction to the record would be when I started working on it, but the feedback has been overwhelmingly complimentary and positive. There’s no greater feeling than knowing that your music has made an impact on people…especially people from all over the world!

Soul Express: Your first official album was released in 2003, and received a warm welcome. Had you committed anything to record prior to that? If so, what?

Jeff: Yes, I did have an E.P. of demo material that I was trying to pitch to labels more for song writing and publishing opportunities than anything else. I spent considerable time in Los Angeles and New York, pounding the pavement and trying to meet with record labels…I came close on several occasions, but the music environment at that time (late 90’s) was very plastic and pre-defined…I can’t tell you how many times an A&R listened to my music and said, ‘the music is great but how will we market it?’. I take a lot of comfort in the fact that the music elicited similar positive responses then as it does today, so despite not signing on with a label, I knew I was on to something good!

Soul Express: I also note that you are not one of the “studio artists”. Getting out and about is important to you. When and where was your first appearance on stage?

Jeff: My first appearance on stage happened at the age of 7 as a young boy soprano singer…I believe it was my first solo in a local music festival and I distinctly remember the moment because it truly was the moment I knew I would be doing music for the rest of my life…I remember being a little nervous but knowing that I had to overcome that feeling if I was to truly project my talents…I simply ‘went for it’ and placed first at the festival!

Soul Express: How often do you tour? Are you currently touring?

Jeff: Sadly, the life of an independent soul artist is not an easy one…I perform with some regularity locally but certainly haven’t toured as much as I would like. I am excited about my upcoming trip to the UK and Europe to perform at the Birmingham Luxury Soul Weekender, and hope that it will lead to some more touring opportunities.

Soul Express: I see that you are a very talented – or should I say a multi-talented -artist. You also, I believe, are a Saxophonist and a keyboard player. Where did you learn this and what was it that motivated you into making music?

Jeff: I was very fortunate to have some amazing music teachers over the years, and they certainly helped shape my abilities both as a vocalist and as an instrumentalist. I started as a boy soprano, and when my voice broke I picked up the saxophone. I pursued that all the way into university before returning to my vocal roots in my mid twenties. Keyboard is something that I picked up at a young age and have utilized for performing and recording ever since.

Soul Express: A lot of your music is what I have often described as “happy music”. Is this an intentional part of your writing?

Jeff: Absolutely! We live in very uncertain and often depressing times and I am proud to present some positive and uplifting music that stimulates the senses and allows people to forget their worries and enjoy the moment!

Soul Express: Just what we need! What is it in the make-up or chemistry of any song which makes you feel good?

Jeff: Definitely the pulse and the melodic structure of the song. I pride myself on writing catchy, memorable melodies and hooks that people can hum at anytime and grooves and rhythms that get people moving. I think those are the elements that are really resonating with my fans right now.

Soul Express: Do you ever share your ideas with close friends or family – I mean do you “run ideas” with people, or do you just do what feels good to you? In addition, does the awful word “commercial” ever influence you in what you do?

Jeff: I certainly am making more of a conscious effort to bounce ideas of friends and colleagues to make sure that I’m maintaining diversity and getting some impartial opinions and feedback on what I’m creating. As someone once told me, it can be dangerous to ‘fall in love with your music’ and I think it’s important to take a step back and get some other perspectives. In regards to the word ‘commercial’, it doesn’t bother me nor offend me. I think artists have to maintain their integrity while still trying to reach as large of an audience as possible. I think you can have music with commercial appeal that still satisfies the more introspective listeners and other musicians.

Soul Express: OK. You are DJ-ing at an old school party. What would be on your playlist?

Jeff: Wow! Where to begin! Definitely some Earth, Wind, and Fire, Kool & The Gang, Stevie Wonder, classic Michael Jackson, The Commodores, and the list goes on and on!

Soul Express: I bet it does, I know mine would. How much exposure does soul music actually get in Canada? Is there a healthy following? Is there a big following or is it quite an underground phenomenon as it is here in the UK?

Jeff: Well, R&B and Soul music in Canada is still a minor player. With only 30 million people in a country as geographically divided as Canada, it certainly is a challenge to make waves as a Soul artist. Rock and Pop still win out, but make no mistake the love of R&B and Soul in Canada is growing and I hope that I am contributing to that in some small way.

Soul Express: Being an “old school” follower like myself how have you approached, mentally, new technologies such as the digital download and the iPod? I am only just getting to grips with the notion of the iPod and I must say the more I think about it, the more I like it.

Jeff: I love new technology as it pertains to music and more specifically to my music career. I welcome digital downloads and playback devices like the iPod because it continues to allow for more opportunities for the music to get out there and be heard. The big record labels are suffering now, but it is an exciting time to be an independent artist…so many new ways to expose your music!

Soul Express: What are your future plans? Will you ever work with other artists or even produce for someone else?

Jeff: I am excited to start working with other artists and really hope my albums spark some production interest and offers…it’s really what I had intended to do exclusively, but obviously my own music has struck a chord too. I do plan on working on my third release this summer and potentially releasing it from the UK. I’m also working on a saxophone album.

Soul Express: Would you ever foray into other musical styles such as Jazz?

Jeff: Well, I certainly have a respect and love for jazz as it is what I pursued and studied all the way into University. As I mentioned, I am working on a smooth jazz record now and my respect for the idiom will certainly shine through on the recording.

Soul Express: Would you approach the music in the same manner as you do now, or would a change in sound necessitate a change in approach of consciousness?

Jeff: I don’t think I would over think the project and try and change what I do best…which is making good music that people enjoy! There certainly will be other projects in the future where I will change the colour and consciousness, but until then, I like the direction I’m going in.

Soul Express: The major labels are ignoring what I call “real” talent today. That talent is out there, and needs an outlet. Someone reading this may have that talent, and not know which way, or whom to turn to. What would you offer by way of advice?

Jeff: Well, I think I can feel that pain as much as the next artist and all I can say is that you have to work hard, BEYOND hard, in order to succeed in this business. And it is a business…artists must understand that. If you have talent and are just waiting around for things to come to you, they never will. You have to dig deep, make good music, and get out there and let the world know who you are!

Soul Express: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. I’m sure we’ll be doing this again in future! Any final thoughts for your listeners?

Jeff: Thank you and thank you to all the people around the globe who are enjoying my music and supporting my career. I truly appreciate it!

Read the reviews of Jeff Hendrick CDs:

Jeff Hendrick: Bout Time
Jeff Hendrick: Soul Celebration

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