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Jeff Hendrick's Interview

Below is the interview I had with the very talented jazz/soul performer Jeff Hendrick. This page is best viewed using IE 5.5 and higher and to listen to the audio sample/s you will need a media player (preferably Windows Media or Real Player)

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Sir TY (US contributing reviewer of M2F mag)


Jeff Hendrick's Interview

Jeff Kendrick is a Canadian born and bred singer/songwriter/producer/performer who's debut CD 'Bout Time' is stirring up a storm, gathering rave reviews from Europe to the States. Jeff has traveled a long journey in the process to get to this point, from forming his production company/label (Bout Time Productions) to actually getting the CD finished and ready to go. You might not know his name yet but you will (trust me - you will). I recently caught up with Jeff via phone as he took the time to answer some questions I had about his trip, the recording process and Brian McKnight.

Sir TY: Jeff, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me today. I appreciate it and your fans appreciate too.
Jeff: Glad to do it

Sir TY: Let me ask you this, you did your 1st stage performance at the age of seven, what was the experience like for you seeing that you were so young - Was it surreal, was that something you've always wanted to do ?
Jeff: I think that my very first musical experiences were profound in the sense that they absolutely confirmed my love of music and the fact that I had been blessed with a gift. I distinctly remember my first vocal competition at the age of seven and having this overwhelming feeling of confidence and excitement. I always say that I knew at that moment that I would be involved in music for the rest of my life. I remember not feeling nervous at all, but rather thriving on the moment and the opportunity to share my gifts with the world.

Sir TY: Your father listened to the likes of The Commodores, The Doobie Brothers and Stevie Wonder when you were young - who's been your influences musically.
Jeff: Well, growing up with classical, jazz, pop, and R&B music all around me, I am fortunate to have many eclectic influences. From Faure to Charlie Parker, The Beatles to Prince, I have tried to extract the best that the world of music has to offer and use those influences to help shape my own songs and musical offerings.

With specific regards to R&B and Soul, I love the music of early Motown, Curtis Mayfield, Donnie Hathaway, Teddy Pendergrass, Parliament Funkadelic, Earth Wind and Fire and James Brown. Eighties soulmen like Michael McDonald, James Ingram, and Luther Vandross certainly have influenced me, and in the nineties I was smitten with the New Jack Soul of Teddy Riley. Currently, I am a big fan of the Philly soul scene and especially like artists like Musiq, Bilal, Floetry, and The Roots.

Sir TY: When you told your parents what you wanted to do were they understanding and supportive or did they have their doubts?
Jeff: My parents have been one hundred percent supportive from the very beginning. Naturally, like any parents, they have wanted me to pay my bills and be self supportive, but they have always encouraged my musical growth. I simply wouldn't be involved in the industry if it weren't for the love and support of my parents

Sir TY: You play several instruments ranging from sax to piano, were you self taught?
Jeff: Well, as much as I'd like to take credit, I can't. I have had great music teachers throughout my development, and my parents have driven miles and miles to get me to lessons, music festivals, and band camps! I certainly wouldn't be the musician I am today without the great music teachers I've had over the years

Sir TY: After gaining a degree in Jazz Performance, you hooked up with a local band called Maracujah and played throughout your hometown. Any growing pains from that?
Jeff: I learned so much from that situation and have a lot of great memories. I was in a band with guys that I had grown up with and who were my good friends. It could be the best and worst of times all at once. We were young and naive, but damn!, were we good! Ultimately, we all had to go our separate ways, but we shared moments in that band that will probably never be duplicated. I learned a lot about what NOT to do in the business, but I also learned what it was like to create and develop with guys who were essentially like brothers to me. It was an experience I will never forget or regret

Sir TY: What did you learn about performing live vs. say to performing in a studio? Do you have a preference?
Jeff: My heart is always going to be with the 'live' performance aspect of my music career. While I excel and thrive in studio situations, it is on stage where I can really let loose and make a connection with the audience. I love the exhilaration of really synching with the band and having the crowd pick up on the

Sir TY: In 1997, you made your first demo after a 2 year stint with the band and journeyed to New York to shop it to major labels both that year and the next. Did they show any interest in you and did this lead to you going independent and forming your own label Bout Time Publications?
Jeff: Well it certainly was part of the progression and me realizing that being independent was a good thing but I certainly came close. I had Arista Records interested in some songs, I had a good meeting with Def Jam at the time I always garnered surprise looks when other people heard the material you know and this was kinda my first stuff that I had put together so yeah I had a lot of positive feedback but again if you don't live and stay in New York or Los Angeles and you're not around these people to kinda keep bothering them and without management, it's difficult to keep people's interest so like I said I had a couple of songs that was sent off to other groups and unfortunately nothing ever came of it. I knew my stuff was solid from the meetings and thats all I've ever tried to take away from most things is that you know if any A&R rep is bobbing his head then I know that I've done something right.

Sir TY: At this point you'd return back to Edmonton and opened shows for Liquid Soul and The Philosopher Kings Did they offer you any advice?
Jeff: Um.... I can't say that they did unfortunately in these situations a lot of these bands are not always so talkative and they kinda come in as the headliners that sort of headlining attitude I would say and I don't mean that in a bad way its just the reality you know and to be honest I was secure in the knowledge of my abilities and there's certainly people out there who I would want to learn from and in the most instances I sort of just took away elements of their stage show and things like that, things that I kinda already knew but its one of those situations where I didn't feel I was out of my league by any stretch of the imagination so extracted what I could and tried not to look too much into their silence.

Sir TY: You hosted a segment of Impressions a weekly jazz show shown on Bet on Jazz, how did that come about?
Well um they (BET on Jazz) had contacted the Jazz Festival in Edmonton where I was living and they were looking for local artists to help them co-host some of these shows someone that would know a lot about the festival and a lot about the city so somebody gave me, they had asked another musician and somebody gave me a call and I said I'd love to do it. I'm certainly not shy about that kind of stuff so it worked out really well they sent a young girl up here to do a focus they were doing segments on each of Canada's Jazz Festivals and so it was the Edmonton segment and eh we went around town and shot several clips to use in their show and then they went to different venues and shot clips of artists so it was a really good experience unfortunately I didn't get to see it but I certainly know that it aired.

Sir TY: You went to LA in 1999 and had the opportunity to play the Roxy Theatre but also worked with a famous crooner in his own right in Brian McKnight. What was it like working with him and what was the work ethic?
Well I'm gonna have to clarify that one, I didn't actually get to work with him I got to serve him one on one in the studio and that was an opportunity given to me by the studio owner who I knew so it was a good learning experience again you know he wasn't the most talkative guy in the world, he didn't really know me and I certainly wasn't going to charm him with my opinions as he was sitting there recording a song but it was interesting to look at a major label artist work in the studio I was certainly jealous you know because he had an on call engineer. It wasn't the headaches that I certainly go through when I'm putting music together.

It was neat I mean it was cool 'cos he's a multi-talented instrumentalist as well and that was something I didn't know he's a really good bass player and he can play keys obviously and guitar and a really killer band so you know I just picked up some very high level studio stuff and you know it wasn't like he wasn't receptive but he didn't know me and so he wasn't gonna chit chat with me for a long time you know but I just took it in and saw what it was like for people in that position to work and again you know I think that's some things that I certainly wasn't intimidated by that situation as well so it gave me a lot of good feelings about my abilities.

Sir TY: The debut CD is called 'Bout Time' is there a meaning behind the title?
Well it's been a long journey for me. I had that name for a production company and a label about 10 years ago and I just never had an opportunity to use it and when it came time to doing the first record I was just convinced that I had to stick with it and people had been waiting for a real record from me you know I had lots of EPs and stuff so it was just an appropriate title. It was the truth it was more than about time and so it just worked out well as the title and I really like keeping it as my company title as well.
Sir TY: Absolutely and it reflects what you've put in as far as your work is concerned so...
Jeff: Well the point of the matter is that its not an easy journey as you know and I certainly wasn't heard done by but on the other hand to get a record done if you're the only one in your corner you can say that scrounging up $4000 that's nothing but most people in this world it is a lot and so it took me literally about 5 years to come to realize that I wanted to be a singer again and it took a me another couple of years to realize that R&B/Soul was the real direction I wanted to go in and then you know it took me time to be able to afford to make a record so nothing happens overnight except for the people on TV
Sir TY: Ain't that the truth :)
Jeff: (Jeff laughs)

Sir TY: Do you have a favourite song on the CD?
Yeah, my favourite song is 'Fine...Late Night Thang' it's been getting a lot of good responses especially in the UK and you know I remember it hitting me in the studio at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and I went continually 'til 6 o'clock in the morning the next day and I had it done so it was one of those tunes that just fell out of my mouth and out of my hands and it really just struck a cord on both sides of the ocean. There's a lot of tunes that I like on the album and some of those tunes I was thinking from a publishing side so there are times when people are going to put the pop label on me and I don't even take offense to that because the bottom line whether its soul or R&B or Hip Hop is that if you don't have something that sticks in peoples head then you're probably not gonna be around long in this business so the next album will be you know soul driven but overall I'm happy with the whole album and that song definitely sticks out

Sir TY: You do it all you write/produce/perform your material - which do you prefer doing the best and why?
I think in the end the performing is still always going to be the favourite because it's just such an opportunity to unleash a lot of emotion and it's just a fulfilling, mental and physical phenomenon that takes place and that's my chance I'm an emotional kind you have to be in this industry and that's my chance to really get sometimes get things off my chest not in a negative way but immense emotion and sometimes to let go I don't do drugs and I don't drink that much so that's my drug that's my release I don't think anything is going to change in terms of that I certainly get excited in the studio I love the creative element so that would probably be No. 2 on the list and I think the writing just goes hand in hand but I think overall performance will always be most impressively exciting and then the studio comes a close second

Sir TY: Who would you like to collaborate or work with singer or producer and why?
Well I think....there's a couple of guys. Right now I'm focus on guys from the Philadelphia scene I'm very much interested in a guy named Eric Roberson and The Mamas Boys producers and I'm also interested working with the Scotsman.....Steve Harvey. His work with Donnie on his album and the Frank McComb album I mean first of all he's a first rate drummer I would really like to incorporate more live drums on my new record so if someone can help me get through to him that would be great.

Sir TY: Canada's not known for it's soul acts but with the emergence of Remy Shand, Glenn Lewis and yourself do you feel that is changing?
I think so I think there's a big emergence of soul, R&B and Hip Hop in Canada unfortunately because I don't have the major label connections people in this country certainly are starting to know who I am not to the same degree as Remy Shand or Glenn Lewis but I think its starting to happen I would not be shocked to see more I know there's a new girl on Motown Melanie Durrant she signed from Toronto you know you're gonna see it you know I'm hoping that often artists come from the Toronto area, Remy Shand is from Winnipeg so I'm hoping more of our country is represented by that I mean the only thing that people know is Toronto and its certainly the epicentre in terms of the music industry I suppose but its not indicative of all the talent thats in the country.

I would not be surprised to see more soul artists coming out of Canada whether the country would be the one to break them or not I'm not positive I myself and the success in the UK I'm more interested right now in having another country recognize me because Canada is still very fresh in this game and it's still very much a roots rock oriented country and those acts gets precedence you 'cos Glenn Lewis was around for quite a long time and is an amazing singer was on several compilations and as far as I know it was still Sony US that signed him first but Canada has had that complex sometimes we tend to not always recognize certain people until they're big in other parts of the world.

Sir TY: I think you find that with practically every country that has a lot of up and coming artists you do see the same kind of thing happening with the Neo-soul artists here in the states where unless they really blow up large like in Erykah Badu or Jill Scott the Ledisi's and N'Dambi's and so forth are still under the radar
Absolutely and I know from what I've heard in terms of record sales, the women in neo-soul has out sold the men by a long stock and even in terms of what we know now, the bottom line for me as a record label not all neo-soul artists are probably selling enough now that all depends on the dedication of the labels for them but even with Glenn Lewis not reaching platinum sales, for Sony that may not be enough to make them happy but I could be wrong, they could be dedicated to him and that would be nice because that's often said of major companies thats never followed up on

Sir TY: Do you remember where you were when you first heard your song on the radio and what was your feeling at that moment?
The first time I heard one of my songs I actually had a girl record it and it was on a local FM station in Edmonton and I remember her and I just happen to be driving somewhere 'cos I was using her for a lot of session work and yeah we heard it come over the airways and we heard some complimentary things by the announcer I worked with my friend on the mix and he's the same friend that helped me with the mix on 'Bout Time' and I never you know just like I did on this record the first thing that stood out in my mind was 'Wow'. Our mix is FM worthy considering we're using almost nothing compared to a large studio it's all on computer software for mastering you know it was an exciting moment I definitely got on the phone and called a lot of people and you know I worked hard to have the opportunity. Now its exciting when I hear it come on the radio in the UK or in Toronto my songs got a lot of rotation on Canada's first urban station.

Sir TY: As far as achievements, what's been your biggest achievement so far and why
Oh... I think my biggest achievement is the fact that I'm still in this game you know, its a really tough industry and it's really hard and its really getting to me now even to not management. A lot of people ask me why but management is not an easy thing to attain because like any other business enterprise managers they want to make money and they're quite happy to pick up a flavour of the week type of artist and make some fast money and I'm the type of project that's gotta be a long term investment so I'm most proud of the fact that I've been able to handle all my business, go through some real ups and downs in this industry and still year after year be able to come back and say well this happened this year and this happened this year and I just won't go away I'm not saying that don't want me to go away it's a cruel, cruel industry I can't say it any other way. I had a meeting with EMI records in Toronto and typical of most A&R meetings is that they scan through your music in 2 seconds, tell you that they've heard it all before and then in the exact same year I get emails come from the UK that I can't even believe I'm getting telling me you know Jeff there was a big soul week-ender you know somewhere in Manchester and they played 'What's the Deal' for 2,500 people. One guy wrote me and said you're one of the artists thats changing the face of soul music you know I try to take that with a grain of salt but still the sentiment is there.

Like I said sometimes it a double edge sword because sometimes its a tough pill to swallow to know that people out there like you but that doesn't necessary make thing better or pay the rent but it certainly in the whole scope of things I can walk away at the end of the day and say hey you know this just confirms to me that no ones never believed what a major record label A&R does because let's face it they're not thinking globally they're thinking well maybe in Canada it's a tough act to sell. You know all I really want is if I can have a name I mean I think this new album I plan on delivering a record will be undoubtedly like popular especially in the UK, and if I can carve out a niche crowd in Europe and in certain provinces of other places and sell 5 to 10,000 units in a cycle I mean it sounds like a lot but in radio play it's not an impossibility you can carve out a pretty decent life and what I'd like to get on is the festival circuit if there are festivals like this soul week-enders if I can get involved in those I'd be xstatic

Sir TY: For those who have inspirations of becoming a performer, what advice can you share with them
Its hard to say and I'm not looking back in regret I think if I was a young, when I talk to young people now and they have a clear vision of what they want to do in music, I would recommend that they move to the larger centre I just think that it's a reality and its happened Prince stayed in Minneapolis and The Neptunes still live in Virginia Beach but it's a lot easier to come back home when you got 40 million in the bank. I would say you know like anything when I was in Jazz Branford Marsalis said it you know like hey I'm from New Orleans but the first thing I tell young sax players is move to New York if you wanna play jazz you know. Its not even about the city its more about where the top people are in your industry because I think I've missed some opportunities because simply I wasn't there and you know what they may of called me if I could of been there in like 10 mins you know they're not going to call you if it's a 2 hour or 12 hour flight. That's even my dilemma in the UK is that I have some popularity there but I feel estranged from it and thats why I would like to make more appearances in the UK to keep closer. And then other than that just sticking to it you know the same old things you know sticking to your vision, always trying to get better and not letting the people in this very cruel industry make you think that you shouldn't be in it, most of them have no clue to what they're talking about.

Sir TY: Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans?
Oh I just wanna thank all the people that are new to enjoying my music and all the people that have been there for me from the start those are the people that keep me going they're the ones that when times are tough they're the ones that make me believe that I have a place in this industry and I'm gonna stay here 'til I drop basically I'm not going anywhere and I keep promising to deliver better and better music you know I'm not a total youngster but I'm not that old and I don't think that has anything to do with it I plan on delivering a lot of good music.

Sir TY: Jeff - Thanks again for your time, continued success in your career and here's hoping the CD blows up big time - All the best
Thanks a lot - keep in touch

Listen to Jeff Hendrick's latest hit 'Dance with me'

Listen to Jeff Hendrick's 'What's the deal'





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