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Soul Express Interview

By Barry Towler

Marvalous! The return of a Soul Sistah

Soul Express is privileged to speak with Marva King, about her latest and hottest set for Expansion, Soul Sistah.

Soul Express: Marva, firstly a big thank you for taking this time as I know time is a precious commodity for you at the moment, isn't it?! I have to start with your new album that is receiving a lot of interest here in the UK, and rightly so. What was the concept behind this album?
Marva: Yes Barry, I have a lot on my plate at the moment! I conceptualised this CD based on my past, and current experiences with music, life, love, and just the fabric of Marva King. I have taken the opportunity to express some sides of myself that few experience with me one on one, such as my sense of humor, spirituality, sensuality, and my views about the world, and those of us that live here.
Soul Express: And a good mix it is too. The album is one that mixes a lot of styles, and in doing so highlights your intergenerational appeal as well as your versatility. When starting on this project did you have any particular audience in mind?
Marva: Yes, I particularly had soul, R&B, and funk music appreciaters in mind when writing the Soul Sistah project. Needless to say I included a few other styles on the CD as well.
Soul Express: The title song is particularly powerful, I think. A lot was made of "girl power" here in the UK, but to me seemed to be a pointless exercise in promoting loutish behaviour. Your song espouses all that is strong and positive in a woman and is more empowering. Basically, it is an intelligent exercise. What is the rationale behind this track, and what are you hoping to transmit?
Marva: My thought in reference to this song is just as you mentioned. It is my attempt to instil a sense of empowerment for girls of all ages. I also want women of all ethnicities to know that our combined efforts towards moral consciousness, parental responsibility, true acceptance of self, and others, along with our concerted efforts in the labor force has, and will continue to make much needed changes for everyone.
Soul Express: Excellent. You have been on the music scene since the 1980s, and you have worked with many artists over the years. When was it, and who was it that inspired you to get into the music world?
Marva: You are correct in noting that it was the 80s when I broke into recordings. I actually was very much involved on the gospel music scene as a child from the mid 70s, to the early 80s. At the age of 16 I completed my high school academic requirements, so I decided to venture away from the Midwest to try my luck in Los Angeles. I really wanted to pursue my music career, and felt this was a mandatory move. I didn't put much thought, or preparation into it. I just did it with faith that all would work out. There was a family from my hometown of Flint Michigan that said they would take me in until I could get on my feet. I hadn't felt like a little girl since I was 11 yrs old. I was amazingly responsible for a kid, thanks to my upbringing. I felt it would be no problem getting a job, as I had been in the workforce since I was 13. I also had been on stages since I was 7. Well things didn't work out with the family so I had to really get my hustle on and find a place to live, and get a job to support myself immediately. I was fortunate to do so. Soon afterwards I was sent to audition for Stevie Wonder. He hired me to work in his backup band Wonderlove. So I have to credit him with my true introduction to this industry, and the recording studio. I grew up in an era, and an area of the U.S., where R&B, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Gospel, and Country Western was very prevalent, and influential. Musically I have always been a sponge. Absorbing, and mimicking all that I heard. I can appreciate any and all of the artists that were, and are still in these genres of music. Some more than others of course. The most influential for me were Stevie, James Brown, Minnie Ripperton, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Sly Stone, George Clinton, EWF, Steely Dan, AWB, Elton John, Chick Korea, and Roy Ayers. The list is endless! All of these artists, and more encouraged me to want to make a career of music.
Soul Express: Having said this, do you have a leaning towards any particular music style? I have you singing on a number of recordings both soulful and jazzy, and you have even worked in a much broader spectrum as well haven't you?
Marva: I lean more towards R&B, and Soul music and yes I have been featured with and written with artists in the jazz area. I have sang on Brazilian, Korean, and Spanish projects. I have dabbled in Rock and Dance, Hip-Hop, and Classical music. Like I said, I truly have an appreciation for all good music, though I haven't expressed all of the styles that I have been exposed to, and or appreciate.
Soul Express: You have done a lot of backing vocals over the years, and had one solo album - which I still play a lot. Your next solo effort was in 2004. Why was it such a gap? Was this intentional?
Marva: Yes it was a gap in time. I signed 3 record deals with major labels after my first release. I attribute bad timing, unadvised young and anxious decision making. And just recently (meaning the last 5 years) realising that my time to ripen has happened. What I have to offer listeners and the world for that matter could only be after living enough life as an experienced woman, mother, lover, friend, advisor, and businesswoman. I feel very blessed to still be able to do all that I did when I started, and a whole lot more. In the interim I also married for 4 years and mothered, and raised a handsome young man whom I am very proud of. His name is Darius, and yes he is very musically inclined. The funny thing is many people think that we are sister and brother!
Soul Express: I do have to mention some of the artists that you have worked with over the years. You have collaborated with the likes of Kazu Matsui, George Howard, 101 North, Tupac Shakir and so on. How did these hook-ups come about?
Marva: Kazu, and Keiko Matsui both were projects that brought a lot of attention to me in the jazz world here and abroad. I was introduced to Kazu first obviously to feature on his Is that The Way To your Heart album. I wrote two of the songs that I performed on. The first single was Romantic Notions. George Howard initially hired me to sing backup vocals on his album, which turned into some features, and then his last CD which included the single that I sang on titled "Find Your Way". This song was written by both George and myself. Intuitively I initially titled this song "So Long", and George changed it to it's current title. I never saw him again after we recorded this song. We had a lot of future plans to record more. I miss him much. 101 north, was under the direction of the Great pianist, and producer George Duke. I was originally approached to be a part of the group. At the time I was working on a project on EMI Records. Still I sang backup on this album. Tupac's project was actually after he died. It was 2002, that a fellow musician friend Greg Dalton introduced me to one of Tupac's long time producers. I was instantly hired to write, arrange and sing some backup vocals on the CD "Thug Mansion". This gave me my hip-hop credibility. In the states this means a lot.
Soul Express: One really big connection was with the legendary Prince and his NPG outfit. This must have been fantastic! Tell me all about it!
Marva: Oh definitely, this was probably one of my most important jobs in the industry, not to mention the notoriety I've gained as a result of working with him. Prince encouraged total performance freedom. I learned to get wild on stage without an ounce of embarrassment. And that we did! I was also encouraged to focus on playing percussions more as well. I have a lot of respect for Prince for many reasons. One being that he was brave enough to release independently over the Internet before most even knew that online distribution, and promoting even existed. I watched this history take place in 1997. He started two separate recording projects on me during that time. We were living on the road, which made it very difficult to concentrate on my CD then. I left at the beginning of 1999. I thought that I was planning to leave in secret, but he noted one evening in Belgium that his angels revealed my plans to depart to him. I was speechless, we discussed it. He gave me his blessing, we went onstage and killed the aftershow. I am glad to see him on top again. He truly has earned his place there.
Soul Express: Apart from being a fantastic singer, you have fingers in other pies. How and when did you move into the acting / performing field?
Marva: Well first I would like to mention that I either wrote and produced, or co-wrote and co-produced this Soul Sistah CD. I am very excited to add production, arranging, to my credits. I have been a songwriter for many years with one top five billboard hit, and several others that charted. The area of acting was purely accidental. It is now proving to be a career-enhancing move. I have 3 new films, in which one is a true story that I will star in. There are a couple of other projects in the making as we speak. I am currently enjoying this arena of entertainment very much. Look for a lot from me starting this year.
Soul Express: You have appeared on stage, TV and in film, and have appeared in Tyler Perry's multi-million dollar grossing film "Diary Of A Mad Black Woman". This must have been one hell of an experience!?
Marva: Oh that goes without saying! I didn't want to do theatre, so I hid from the situation for almost two weeks after I was approached to do the lead in this production. I am now very glad that I conceded that this would be a good challenge for me. I have an incredible fan base as a result of my performance in Diary. I am grateful.
Soul Express: I understand that you have written about this experience. What made you do this, and what response has it garnered?
Marva: I wrote about my experience on, and behind the scenes. Though it is very truthful, I purposely left out some names, and small details at times as not to convict ones that might not want to be identified. The book is very funny, informative, and entertaining. I have been offered a major distribution deal, and major bookstore deal. I am proud of this accomplishment. Because of all that is on my plate I am currently deferring the grand release date until I complete my more pressing endeavors, and engagements.
Soul Express: My understanding is that you will be appearing in another feature soon, called "Resurrection". What is this about?
Marva: Reurrection is currently being prepared to go straight to DVD. It is a true story about a legendery baseball pitcher JR Richard.I play a sports newscaster.
Soul Express: Does acting and singing have some symbiosis in that both are intrinsically performances, or do you treat these as two separate entities?
Marva: They really are two separate areas for me. Though they both require a tremendous amount of attention, and concentration. I am told that I have a natural acting ability, and music is in my bones so right now it is all a pleasure.
Soul Express: The other thing, of course, as I see ion your website, is your calendar work. This really is excellent stuff. When did this become a part of your life?
Marva: As of really realising that it is a really good marketing tool. People love to look at people. I notice that men particularly like to have any piece of what they determine attractive to them, so I thought I would document a part of myself to share with everyone. This is my second calendar. I don't know if I will do another one though. It was a lot of work for me. I orchestrated everything with this. It was a lotta fun to shoot, but very stressful to put all together.
Soul Express: Would you say that you have very successfully reinvented yourself in recent years, or is this all a natural progression and expansion for you as an artist and a person?
Marva: I think of it as a natural progression. I am more true to myself, and everyone else than ever. I am proud I made it! Life is great for, my child is grown, and I am more vibrant, and optimistic about life than I think I could be.

Soul Express: Obviously, we have had 2 albums in as many years, but with the success of your latest film "Diary Of A Mad Black Woman" and your pending role, as well as your book, will music making still be an important thing for you?
Marva: Of course it will. Music is almost like the air I breathe, it will always be a part of me. This is one of the bigger things I was put here to do. Everything else is considered "Gravy"!
Soul Express: With a lot under your belt and a lot going on at the moment, what do you have planned for the future?
Marva: I will continue to act, write more music, produce music, and artists. I am in talks of having a cooking show, I come from a line of artist family members, so I will start painting, drawing, and designing clothes when I see a window to do so.
Soul Express: Thanks for this interview - I hope that all your projects work out very well, and please keep making music and spreading positivity. Its needed more today than ever before!
Marva: You are so very welcome. Thanks for allowing me to thoroughly express myself to you, and those reading this info. I try to be as positive in my life as possible, and it would be a crime not to share these feelings and words with others. Peace and Love to you Barry!

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