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Issue 1084

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Feature

Dwele: Soul reviver

Dwele @bluesandsoul.com
Dwele @bluesandsoul.com Dwele @bluesandsoul.com

Itâs not everyday that you get to interview one of the Kings of âNeo-Soulâ. One of the first to be placed into that category, Dwele has been making soul music for more than a decade that can light up a dancefloor or turn up the heat in the bedroom.

Having collaborated with the likes of Kanye West, J. Dilla, Slum Village, and hip-hop legend Bahamadia, Dwele has shown he is more than just a singer; heâs a talented musician too. In the lead up to his new album 'Wants. World. Women' (W.W.W.) being released in Europe in September, Dwele spoke with Blues & Soul about his Wants. World. and Women.

RIC: What listeners can expect to hear on the new album?

DWELE: With this new album, I tried to stretch out more with this album and try a few different things. But I still brought the same feeling that I have been bringing on the last albums, except that itâs kinda updated; itâs the 2010 version. So you will most definitely get what you have been getting [before], but I am trying a few different things this time around. This time around itâs actually broken into three sections. The name of the album is Wants. World. Women.

The first section of the album is entitled the Wants section and that is where I let my alter-ego musically do what it does, you know what I am saying? Thatâs where I get a chance to do things outside of myself musically. You might find me rhyming on some of the songs. On others I am collaborating with people that you would not expect me to collaborate with. I have a song with David Banner on that section, and that has sort of a South bounce to it, but itâs still musical. To feature David Banner on that song is kind of stepping outside of myself a little bit; that is something I really donât do that often, to have outside artists on the album. Also there is a song in that section called Dim The Lights featuring Raheem DeVaughn. With that song I went out and bought a vocoder, you know the one like Zapp and Rogers used to use to play with your singing, so I had a chance to play around with that. I had a chance to have a lot of fun on this section of the album.

The World section that is more political, that is more capturing the feel of the economy today. I feel itâs our job as artists and vocalists to capture the climate of the economy the way that Marvin [Gaye] and Donny [Hathaway] did it back in the day. There are not many artists out there doing it today, so I tried to take the opportunity to do that with that section of the album.

Then you have the Women section which is the baby-making music and the feel-good music for the women. I am trying to do a little bit of everything and cover all bases on this album

RIC: Going back to the Wants Section you said that was your alter-ego, do you have a name for your alter-ego?

DWELE: I do have a name actually (laughs) my alter egoâs name is Rocky Ashton. Donât ask me where that came from (laughs) but thatâs what it is.

RIC: In trying to do something similar Marvin and Donny, is that in singing about more political stuff, or more the sound they produced?

DWELE: I think itâs a little bit of both. With that World section I really wanted that section to be the jazzy side of the album. I wanted more of the live element and instrumentation part of the album, and I coupled that with the more political topics. So I think sonically and lyrically I think it is more relatable to a Donny or Marvin [album].

RIC: How long did the project take from start to finish?

DWELE: Six official months to complete the album, but then I am always working. Since I dropped Sketches of a Man I have been working on songs for this album. Actually there are a few songs on this album which date back to 2003, so if you want to get technical I have been working on this album for 7 years. Usually the way I go about creating an album is I put the skeleton of the album together sort of like a puzzle. Then you look at it and see where the holes are, and then you have to fill them in to create a full picture or full story. Once I finished this album there were still a few holes left in the cd that needed to be covered, and thatâs when I went into the vault to see what song fit, and some of those songs dated back to 2003.

RIC: Which songs were they?

DWELE: I am not going to give that away (laughs).

RIC: How have the record company treated you? Have the record company put pressure on you to release an album quicker than you wanted to?

DWELE: Well it always seems like I put out an album just yesterday; it always feels like that. So I rely on the label to tell me when is the right time to put an album out. The one time they didnât tell me that it was time to put an album out, I think I had taken four years off and didnât know it until someone came and said something. When you are doing the songs and you are on the road the time goes so fast, so it is important for the label to tell me.

RIC: When people think about Neo Soul, your name is always one of the first names that come up after DâAngelo, Erykah [Badu] and Jill [Scott]. How do you feel about that label? Is it something you have embraced?

DWELE: For the most part I am cool with the label, I wish they would just call it R&B/soul. I feel there are songs on this album which do have neo-soul feel if you call it that. I feel there are songs which have an R&B feel, and songs that have an old soul feel. So I feel at the end of the day itâs all soul music, I feel that âneo-soulâ is more of a pigeonâhole term for it. I feel like I have branched out a little bit further than neo-soul, but I am cool with the term. I look at the other artists that they categorise as neo-soul and I respect their music, so I am cool with it.

RIC: So you have been previously Grammy nominated, what was that like?

DWELE: When I heard the news I almost ran my car off the road, I had to pull over as I was driving when I got the call. I was most definitely excited; it was a great experience. I think once you do it once you feel like you have to go back every year, so that is definitely the plan to get there again. To me things continued as usual, but it added another title, because when I was doing shows they would say âGrammy nominatedâ, but it didnât really change much for me.

RIC: You play a lot of instruments like guitar, keyboards and trumpet. Are there other instruments you can play as well?

DWELE: I can play pretty much anything well enough to make a song out of it. You give me a ukulele or banjo and I will make it sing.

RIC: Can we expect an instrumental album in the future maybe?
DWELE: Yeah that is something I have been playing around with. I do have some songs in the vault which are strictly or purely instrumental. That is something that we have talked about; we are just waiting for the right time. I think that is something weâd probably drop in-between albums.

RIC: The last show I saw you perform in London I noticed you called a few women to come up on stage and dance with you. Is that part of your usual shows?

DWELE: No that doesnât usually happen⦠I donât know⦠you know the show changes from day-to-day. I am all about entertaining the crowd, entertaining myself and the band, as we have got to do the same show every night.

RIC: You know the women do love you, you are aware of that right?

DWELE: Yeah (laughs) yes I am, thatâs a good thing. Yeah over in States it gets a little wild.

RIC: For the record is there a âsomeone specialâ in your life? Does that create a problem?

DWELE: Right now I feel like I have a relationship with my album, my album is my girl, other than that I am single.

RIC: When did you realise that music is what you wanted to do permanently, not just as a side hobby but as the main thing?

DWELE: Well I knew early on that I would always make music. Its just what I love and enjoy to do. I think it actually hit me probably around 1998 after I put out the album Rize which was a demo album I put together; I saw that people were interested in it. So I said to myself âthis might be something, I might be able to do something with thisâ. My management took the album and shopped it around, and people were interested. The opportunity came at the perfect time, so it was the perfect time to jump on it.

RIC: What are your memories of working with J-Dilla?

DWELE: Dilla was crazy! I always called him the MPC Stenographer, kinda like the lady in the courtroom who takes all the statements on the small typewriter. He did the same thing with MPC, he was crazy with it, like it was an extension of his arm. I remember when I was in the studio working with him on the song Think Twice; a lot of people think I sing on that song, but I actually just play the trumpet and keys. J was singing [on that track], but he got in the studio smoking a blunt, and he was smoking the blunt and singing at the same time; I had never seen that before in my life. He was amazing, and most definitely a talent, and I am glad he left a lot of music.

RIC: Are there any artists that you have your eye on at the moment?

DWELE: Yeah I am really checking for Janelle Monae right now. She is like extra intriguing to me, so I am really checking for her. Monica Blaire who I featured on the album is also a great performer. She is a ridiculous vocalist, and Iâd like to see her do a little more travelling and hopefully go overseas to do some more shows. Those are the two that come to mind, there are a lot more but I would be here all day otherwise.

RIC: On your last few albums you have used more cuss words and profanity, was that a conscious decision or just where you were at when you were recording?

DWELE: Thatâs just who I am. It is not a conscious decision to do that. At the end of the day sometimes I do listen back, and think âman I donât think I am meant to do that that muchâ but by the time I hear it itâs too late itâs done. It not a conscious decision itâs something that⦠I feel sometimes in the song to get a point across I let it fly in.

RIC: Are we going to be seeing you in more videos with this album?

DWELE: Yeah actually since the last album I have upped my video editing equipment. I have plans to shoot a video for every song on the album, and hopefully Iâll be able to put together maybe a dvd story that I can distribute, which will have videos to every song and tell the story of the album.

RIC: Plans to tour Europe?

DWELE: Yeah we have plans to tour Europe and the UK after September we will be there, probably around October or November.

RIC: Now to close here are my quick fire questions I ask everyone that I interview.
Name your three buckwild party songs, that you go crazy when you hear them
When I am at a club, I like to hear Over by Drake, Wasted by Gucci Man, that song gets me crazy in the club. And finally Iâm Good by The Clipse

Name three artists dead or alive that you would like to perform with or produce?
Minnie Ripperton, Donny Hathaway or Lalah Hathaway; her whole style is just like Donny. Finally I would have to say Bilal

In five years time you are on the cover of Billboard or Variety Magazine, what would like the headline to say?
âDwele receives his 20th Grammy in 5 yearsâ (laughs) How about that?

RIC: Finally is there any message youâd like to give to Blues and Souls or your Europe fans?

DWELE: I would just want to say I appreciate the support thus far. I hope they thoroughly enjoy the album as much I enjoyed working on it and making it. And I canât wait to get over there so we can dance, party, sing, and throw it down! 2010 bigger and better!

Catch Dwele's "Wants, World, Women" album available on e1 records from all good retailers now.
Words Richard 'Ricardito' Ashie

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