Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Producing the musical greats, Narada Michael Walden is a household name

Narada Michael Walden is a musical legend who has produced the likes of Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, George Michael, Mariah Carey and the late great Whitney Houston.
By Al Carlos Hernandez, Herald de Paris

Narada Michael Walden
     HOLLYWOOD – Music writer and producer Narada Michael Walden has produced many household names including: Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Regina Belle, Steve Winwood, Ray Charles, Wynonna Judd, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand, Lionel Ritchie, Elton John, Sting, Carlos Santana, Shanice Wilson, Tevin Campbell, Lisa Fischer, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, Jeff Beck and The Temptations. He was awarded Grammys for Producer of the Year in 1988, Album of the Year for the movie soundtrack The Bodyguard in 1993 and the R&B Song of the Year in 1985 for Aretha Franklin’s Freeway of Love. Billboard Magazine also named him one of the “Top Ten Producers with the Most Number One Hits.”
      As impressive a production and songwriting resume as Narada Michael Walden has assembled over the past thirty years, he has earned equal acclaim as a recording and performing artist in his own right. Beginning as a drummer with the pioneering Mahavishnu Orchestra (replacing Billy Cobham at 19 years old), Narada also toured with Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, and Weather Report. With eleven acclaimed solo albums of his own which produced dance hits such as I Shoulda Loved Ya, Divine Emotions, I Don’t Want Nobody Else to Dance With You along the way, he has achieved greatness in a wide range of sonic arenas. Walden’s music includes groundbreaking soundtrack work on such blockbuster films as The Bodyguard, Free Willy, Beverly Hills Cops II, 9 ½ Weeks and Stuart Little to the EMMY-winning One Moment In Time - the theme to the 1988 Olympic Games.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra
      In February 2012, Narada Michael Walden returned from a well received ten day stint of shows at the Blue Note in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan to perform at the White House in an all-star band for President Obama’s “Red, White and Blues” concert with legends B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Trombone Shorty, Booker T Jones and more. Narada enlisted some amazing musicians and performers for his band on Thunder 2013including: Nikita Germaine (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, and Patty Austin) on vocals, Frank Martin (Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Madonna, Jennifer Hudson, John McLaughlin, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen) on keyboards, Angeline Saris (Gretchen Menn, Zepperella) on bass and vocals, Matthew Charles Heulitt (Zigaboo Modaliste, Salvador Santana, Megan Slankard, Eion Harrington) on guitars.
     Tarpan Records is pleased to announce the national release of Thunder 2013, a new full length album by Narada Michael Walden on September 17, 2013. This release features new songs that span rock, fusion, funk and even a ballad or two. This is the first worldwide official release by Narada Michael Walden on his new imprint, Tarpan Records. Narada enlisted some amazing musicians and performers for his band onThunder 2013 including: Nikita Germaine (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, and Patty Austin) on vocals, Frank Martin (Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Madonna, Jennifer Hudson, John McLaughlin, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen) on keyboards, Angeline Saris (Gretchen Menn, Zepperella) on bass and vocals, Matthew Charles Heulitt (Zigaboo Modaliste, Salvador Santana, Megan Slankard, Eion Harrington) on guitars. Thunder 2013 is a strong new direction from Narada Michael Walden, inspired by his recent successful two-year tour with the Jeff Beck Band. Narada returned home to finish this album and put together his band to tour on his own.
On September 24, 2013 the label will also release Narada Michael Walden’s Rising Sun, an instrumental EP that features Narada and his new band performing remakes of his greatest fusion hits.
      Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez was truly honored to interact with this contemporary music icon and innovator.

AC: What kind of a family did you come from, where did you grow up and when did you decide to play the drums? What kind of music did you listen to as a child?
NMW: I come from a very cool family in Kalamazoo, Michigan. My dad was 18 and my mom was 19 when I was born. My dad wanted to be a drummer and my mom played some piano, but she loved music. She was a very sensitive person. For Christmas my whole thing at three years old, four years old, and five years old was getting Toyland drum sets - and the drumheads were made of paper! It would be orgasmic to try and play those drums on Christmas morning and the heads would break. And when the head would break, that would be it. So for me that was my early education in music. Also watching records spin on the record player and looking at the album jackets. My uncle played piano, my twin aunts played flute and clarinet - there was always music around. So I was just inundated by music being around of all sorts at a very early age.
      I listened to Patty Page’s Old Cape Cod, Johnny Mathis’ Chances Are, Nina Simone Live at Town Hall: Summer Time, Cotton Eyed Joe, I Love You Porgy. Porgy and Bess songs, their sound track from their Broadway play.Wake Up Little Susie Wake Up. Oh, and at ten year sold Fingertips, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles . . . carried home in the snow . . . Live & in Person Ray Charles, Froggie Went a Courting . . . Little Richard’sLong Tall Sally on Specialty Records 78 set me on an electric current.

AC: At the age of 19 you replaced Billy Cobham with the legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra. How did that happen? What was is like, the first gig with cats of that caliber?
NMW: Actually I was 20 years old, and I don’t look at myself as replacing Billy Cobham. No one can replace Billy Cobham. Just keep that straight. I joined the second incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra but no one can replace Billy Cobham. And how did it happen? I went to the Mahavishu Orchestra concert when Birds of Fire was out, in Hartford Connecticut, and saw Billy and John going at it. Maybe in 17, something like that.. a strange odd meter but playing really furious and fast. It went on so long I walked up to the edge of the stage and could see up in Mahavishnu’s eyes on the lip of the stage, his eyes were back in his head and he’s just playing for so long and so furious I realized it was beyond the mind, it wasn’t memorized, and it just completely touched my life to see that and the whole audience was just spellbound. So, afterwards I met John McLaughlin backstage and I said I want to be like you and I gave him my number and told him my name was Michael Walden and a week later he gave me a call and I was invited to come meet his guru Sri Chinmoy. I went to meet the guru and I became a disciple that night. I was 19 at that time and it changed my life. I went from being a bus boy in a restaurant to then about eight months later joining the Mahavishnu Orchestra.      
     The first gig would be in Buffalo New York. Michael Tilson Thomas was conducting and we played one song, a very long song called “Hymn to Him” and it was just glorious! I did not want to leave the stage! To play with Mahavshnnu, Ralphe Armstrong, Gail Moran Jean-Luc Ponte!! Unbelievable!! With a full orchestra!!! Then we went from that to rehearsing the album music for Apocalypse, then flying to London with George Martin, Beatles producer and Beatle engineer Geoff Emerick and again with Michael Tilson Thomas, this time with the London Symphony at Air Studios in 1974.

AC: What was the music scene like at that time? Who are some of the musicians of that period that inspired you?
NMW: Return to Forever, Chick Corea, Stanley Clark , Lenny White, Bill Connors. What Hendrix had done in 1970 Band of Gypsys, I have always loved that music! You see, jazz/rock/fusion was really hot… anything bubbling with jazz and fusion and rock mixed with Indian overtones was hot. So you know, hard to say, but I remember it being very alive, a very electric time, no holds barred…go for the walls type thing. Spirituality was rearing its head, it was cool for those on the cutting edge to be involved in meditation, be vegetarian, seeking higher consciousness . . . that was all fresh brewing. Carlos Santana was a disciple of the Guru Sri Chinmoy, so all that was going on.

AC: How did your jazz peers react when you started to do R&B, pop, and rock projects? What are some of the greatest songs you have ever written? NMW: My jazz peers, I think, were kind of thrown for a loop when I went more disco. But hell. I had to sell records to save my career. In 1978 Atlantic Records said they would drop me if I didn’t have a hit so I went to I Don’t Want Nobody Else to Dance With You and it saved my career. So at that point it was more important to save my career than to appease jazz critics.
      Greatest Songs? Freeway of Love, Who’s Zooming Who, How Will I Know. My whole first Garden of Love Light Album, my entire second album I Cry I Smile, the third albumAwakening, Dance of Life, Victory Confidence, Looking at You, Looking at Me, Divine Emotions… I got lots of music you see, for Angela Bofill, Sister Sledge, I am very proud of all that. I am very proud of being in music, period.

AC: Early on, you worked with Weather Report and enjoyed a serious reputation as a jazz drummer. Then you worked with Jeff Beck and you have recently toured with Beck - what is the connection with him and his style of music?
NWM: I never thought of myself as a jazz drummer. I come from more of a music and a rock background with a jazz understanding, but I mix it all up with the power of a heavy hitter that’s why my friends call me the original heavy hitter. So in playing with Weather Report on Black Market I brought my arranging skills, my drumming skills and my backbeat. See, Weather Report, they were at a time when they wanted that funk, they wanted that back beat, they didn’t want a jazz drummer, they wanted that pop, so I brought that pop to the jam called Black Market with the brilliant Chester Thompson and Joe says, “Will you join the band?” But I said that I wanted to go more rock after Mahavishnu Orchestra but that I know a bass player. So we brought Jaco Pastorious. Then Jaco auditioned on a song called Cannon Ball with me on drums. Joe trained Jaco by saying, “Don’t play that shit on my song, just play what I tell you to play,” and Jaco got put in the fire and became the Great Jaco Pastorious that we now know. But I never thought of myself as jazz drummer. I am a fusion, I do it all!
      Jeff Beck and I are like old brothers, old friends. I understand him and he understands me. Like he comes from the 60’s which I also love, like he came from the Yard Birds and he brought up Jimmy Page who went on to Led Zeppelin. He was around when Hendrix was blowing up in London and Jimi was tearing it up with Eric Clapton. Mick Jagger was all screaming and carrying on, so Jeff understands all that world. When Jeff hits the stage he wants to bring it on and I do too, so we are an excellent match for each other. And I will say this, where as Mahavishnu is a professor and can be very lofty, Jeff is a hot rod, screaming down the highway, just hot, and you know… we all can get it. I mean he can be very beautiful at moments, like in Nesson Dorma, those types of things, but in general he just brings it like a hot rod.

AC: You are very good friends with Quincy Jones. Can you tell us how he inspired you to become a producer?
NMW: I call Quincy “Borda” and he calls me “Chorda”. Borda means older brother, Chorda means younger brother. He gave me those names. He told me early on, “You could be a good producer and a good songwriter. Take more time to develop your production skills.” I said, “Okay.” He said that the world needs more producers, more helpers and I knew it was true. So after I had my early hits with Stacy Lattisaw and Angela Bofil, he said, “Keep doing it!” Then he asked me to produce my girl Patty Austin, then he brought Tevin Campbell. “You wanna produce Ray Charles?” I said “Sure,” and produced some stuff for Ray Charles; this is Quincy Jones, Quest Records. We became really good friends; we would hang out for hours and just talk shit. He’d tell me everything. Quincy’s mind is like an encyclopedia. He remembers walking down the street with Duke Ellington. He remembers hanging out with Stravinsky. He remembers hanging out with Picasso! I mean he’s got it all in his brain. And he went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, the great classical arranger. He has all those kind of chops he brought to jazz and Frank Sinatra and Count Basie.

AC: What was your first hit as a producer and how did it feel?
NMW: My first hit as a producer was Stacy Lattisaw’s Let Me Be Your Angel. The whole album -that dynamite and jump to the beat for me. It was like heaven on earth hearing my music on the radio, and wow!! Stacy Lattisaw was 11 years old, a little girl. It was For Henry Allen at Cotillion Records. It was such a powerful record, a powerful sound. Then Clive Davis called me and asked, “How did you learn to make that music?” and I said, “I’m a student of music, a musician, that’s what I do,” and he said, “Do you wanna produce Dionne Warwick for me? Do you want to produce Aretha for me?” So that was how my door opened to Clive.

AC: Tell us about your working relationship with Clive Davis. He mentions you quite favorably in his book.
NMW: I’m glad I’m mentioned favorably in the book because I want to be on his favorable list. I want to be one of the people who can say we had more hits together than any people together in music history and I’m very proud of that. Clive is the kind of cat who runs the company but he needs a producer to go and take his visions, take his ideas or even the songs he may find and blow life into them. That’s what I did. That’s what I do. So I’m very proud of my work with Whitney Houston for Clive, I’m proud of everything I did for Aristae, like Kenny G. We sold more records than probably anything with Kenny G. Then I did Germaine Stewart for Clive’s We don’t Have to Take our Clothes off - a song composed by Preston Glass and myself. That’s a lot of music I did for Clive Davis.

AC: You are responsible for Whitney Houston’s seven number-one-in-a-row hits? Given the nature of the new music business, do you think this could happen again?
NMW: Well thank you very much for Whitney’s success. I think that everything in life keeps changing, that nothing remains the same. It either goes up or it goes down and we have certainly been on a bit of a downward spiral recently. But we are going to head back up again and I’m going to help it come back up again with the advent of Tarpan Records and president Steffen Franz, Kimrea, Jim Reitzel, David Frazer, JoeL Angelo Margolis and our staff here finding new talent and new ways to get the music out again. So that’s my hope to really bring quality and class, great beauty and depth and hit records to the top ten.

AC: You were devastated at Whitney’s passing. Did you ever succumb to the pressure of fame and fortune? Does privilege diminish artistry?
NMW: I think you are born a great artist. Whitney Houston was born a great artist. I think our great artists are born with a great gift. I keep thinking, looking at Jimi Hendrix looking at me around the corner here on the wall…see he was born that way. “Jimi” his dad would say, “you sweep the floor” when he was seven or eight years old. And Jimi would clean the room, but then he starts playing the broom like a guitar and there’s straw all over the floor. Father says, “I told you to sweep!” and Jimi says, “I did dad, but then I was playing the broom!” He was born that way. People are born that way. Then you get teachers and coaches to help you refine that talent. You know Carl Lewis, he needs a coach who can teach him how to run that fast, how to jump that far every time. But his natural talent is natural talent.
      God blessed me early on. I had my little dose of doing LSD and it opened my eyes to spirituality and so I’m very blessed that God opened my eyes to spirituality. When Guru’s call came through Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, I went the meditation prayer way, not the drug way, cause I knew the drug way would take you out eventually. But through prayer and meditation you make your inner life stronger. And you can lean upon that and that’s why I have been able to accomplish and still be here now, fresh as a rose.

AC: What has kept you healthy, growing and functional?  
NMW: Spirituality and love of God because I know that all of this is a gift from God. Music is a gift from God and I look at it as such. I want to be able to say that when I die and God says to me, “Narada, did you do what you were supposed to do?” “Yes I did Lord and I had a ball doing it.” “You sure did,” the Lord will say, “I watched you every step of the way and you were having fun.”

AC: How has winning awards affected you?
NMW: Winning awards opened my eyes to a whole new stratosphere of feelings. Before you win a Grammy you think, “Well, you know, it’s kind of cool.” But when you win one, it does change you. It’s like saying, “Yeah, I won’t change when I get a whole bunch of money.” But you do change when you get a whole bunch of money because now you got to watch a whole bunch of money, decide what you’re going to do with a whole bunch of money, who you going to take care of with a whole bunch of money, so it does change things.
     Not in a bad way, just as an eye opener. When I won my first Grammy for Freeway of Love, Aretha Franklin’s first platinum seller! Lord! What it felt like when I went backstage and Quincy Jones is shaking my hand and hugging me. There’s Michael Jackson, there’s Sinead O’Connor walking around, all kind of folks backstage saying congratulations. There’s Jeffrey Cohen, my great writer, so happy. So it does change you for the better. I believe in accomplishment and congratulations on accomplishment. It makes you a better person.

AC: How did you get into movie soundtrack work? What is the up and down side of that sort of thing?
NMW: Easy, the phone rang and someone said, “Would you make us a smash out of 9 and ½ Weeks?” or “Would you make smash out of License to Kill for James Bond?” There’s only up side to it. The up side is to challenge yourself to see how vast your imagination can be to make a hit out of a title License to Kill and the other up side is when you hear it and see it in a movie house, when the credits are rolling. It’s just overcoming to hear your music in those types of things. It’s all good, there’s no down side, and it’s all good. I want to do many, many more movie soundtracks and in fact, I want to direct movies. I want to bring to life to the screen: the Louis Armstrong story, the Stevie Wonder story; there are so many great stories to be told. And then put the music to those. That’s what I want my life be fulfilled with, not just the music half but also the visual.

AC: In the beginning of this story I have included the who’s who of artists that you have worked with. Is there anyone left who you haven’t been able to work with?  
NMW: Yeah, I’d love to work with Prince. He and I are friends. I hung out with him when he was cutting Morris Day with The Time Gigolos get Lonely Too. You know it would be nice to work with him because we are both cut from the same cloth. I’m from Michigan and he’s from Minneapolis. He loves Hendrix, he loves rock, he loves funk, he loves disco, and he loves Joni Mitchell. He’s like I am. We both love an eclectic blend of music where we take all those worlds and spin it together in our own brew. So it would be fun to work with him because he gets it. I would have liked to have worked with Michael Jackson but he passed before we had a chance to work together. Joni Mitchell’s still around - I love her. My girl, Laura Nyro’s passed, I world have liked to work with her more. Sting; let’s get a smash on him. Bono, Beyonce, GagaI . . . I always say don’t block a blessing. Who ever wants to come, let them all come.

AC: I understand President Obama is a huge fan and that you have done some things for the White House. How does that make you feel? What kind of White House things have you done?
NMW: Great! The president is awesome. When I was there, I took my mother there to meet him. My mom almost fainted. He said, “That’s your mom?” I said, “Yes,” and he said, “Well I got to hug and kiss your mom.” He bends over, hugs her and she almost fainted. It’s so important! Michelle is gorgeous, tall, thin, black dress, black high heels looking just incredible! So for me it was one of the best moments of my life to play in front of him with, you know, with BB King The Thrill is Gone, who’s played the White House over 20 times. Buddy Guy . . . Jeff Beck’s there, Mick Jagger. Oh that was wonderful! I love the president. I am a real fan of our president and there is nothing I wouldn’t do to help . . . play there more often and do more things with the president.
      At the very end of Bill Clinton’s era I played at the White House as Stevie Wonder’s guest on our Christmas song I Love You More. It was a Special Olympics gathering in a tent outside the White House that the Shriver’s were putting on and Bill Clinton came on stage and hugged and kissed everybody. And Stevie! For those of you who don’t know, there’s talent! There’s genius! And there’s Stevie Wonder. Oh and there’s Ray Charles too! They both live in that rarified air. They can’t see, so God said, “I’ll give you something extra.” They got something more!

AC: Tell us about your brand new album Thunder 2013. I’m told it’s inspired by your recent collation with Jeff Beck.
NMW: Yeah, it’s inspired by my touring with Jeff. Jeff and I got out there, we hit it so hard with the rock and the blues and I saw how people can just open up their hearts to the blues. And Jeff… just … Jeff plays that stuff! I got really inspired, reactivating my love for what I knew Jimi Hendrix does and we actually played Little Wing with Jeff, Jimi’s song. I was singing that and playing. So all that comes back to me again. Thunder’s like my own version of how I would do my own blues/rock soul/jazz thing now. And Rising Sun is like revisiting some of my early jazz stuff now. My next album could be dance again, but I like doing homage to different periods in my life.

AC: How do you feel about touring? Why do you still do it? What kind of venues do you prefer? What has been the audience reaction? Are they young, old?
NMW: I love touring because it brings out the best in me. You know producing a record can bring the best out over a long term, but walking on a stage and having to do something that is going to make people go wow or scream or applaud is a whole other special talent. Playing the Albert Hall with Jeff and playing Madison Square Garden were highlights. I like the big halls. I like the big joints. I like to think, “Can I rock the person that’s way up at the top of the very tier? Way, way up there! Can I get him?” and then I look in the spotlights and I see Mother Mary come down, or I’ll pray Jimi comes down, or I’ll pray Mitch Mitchell comes down, or Santa Claus even. That inspires my live show. That only happens on the stage, not in the studio. That’s why I like touring.
      Everybody comes. Young and old. Like Carlos says, “We don’t leave anybody out!”

AC: You have some heavy hitters in your new band. Tell us about the musicians, what is the direction of the music, and what is your highest hope for this project?
NMW: My highest hope is musical liberation, where we can just fly high and be free. On keyboards is Frank Martin, my old veteran who’s played with me since I first moved to San Francisco in 78’ - I Should Loved You Days. On bass is a newcomer who I met at my house when she was only 13 years old. She was with her high school band. Angel Funk Angeline Saris! She’s a bad ass on the bass, funky chick. And on guitar is Matthew Charles Heulitt, an up and comer, a new cat who can play all the styles I love and can burn it and kick it hard. There’s Nikita Germaine to sing when I want Whitney stuff and Aretha stuff and our new sound. I have a great, tight, small powerful band.

AC: I understand that there is an instrumental EP being released at the end of this month as well.
NMW: Rising Sun, the four compositions that I did earlier in my life. We re-cut them with this new band so we can play them for our live shows and people can enjoy them again. I think a lot of my early stuff. People kind of forget about the early stuff so I just want to cut them again and keep things alive. Some of that stuff is way ahead of its time

AC: Would you characterize the music fusion, R&B, rock, or are you in a position to transcend traditional categories at this stage in your legacy?
NMW: I have always been able to transcend categories, even as a youngster, because I love music so much that I never bought into names and categories. I never understood that. Something was either good or bad.

AC: You still tour and just came back from Japan - do you see your music as global? Do other countries esteem the type of thing you do more than folks in the USA?
NMW: I think the world market place is more open-minded generally than America. America’s this place where we invent the music, blues, jazz, funk, it comes from America, but the rest of the world is more open to appreciating it. And this is what I love about the rest of the world.

AC: I was told by Linda Ronstadt that there is no music business anymore – the whole model has changed because of new media. Is that true, based on your experience?
NMW: Yeah - not that there is no music business – there is a music business; it’s just that it’s changed. I mean in the sense of how you get your music and how you get your music heard and how you make a living with it. But people still want music and cherish music. When I’m out touring with Jeff, every hall we played was packed. They want the experience. They want to be shake, rattled, and rolled and feel something. If I hadn’t done that tour with Jeff, I might be sitting here thinking people don’t care about music any more. But they do; they want it! We just got to give it to them. You got to find people that will help you give it to them. Where are the promoters who will stand up and build with you, growing with you?

AC: What do you think of shows like The Voice and American Idol? Do they find real talent? Why are you not a judge on this type of programming?
NMW: I would judge if they would ask me. Some of these people are narrow-minded and think they want household names for their judging - more so than a good judge. I would be an excellent judge, because that’s what I do, I put together vocals in the studios for the greatest singers of all time. But even when I let them know I’d like to do it, I don’t get a return phone call..
These shows are double-edged swords. On one hand, they can give exposure to great talent. Kelly Clarkson was great, Carrie Underwood was great and my other chick, Jennifer Hudson, was great even though she came in second. They do give exposure, but the bad thing is that to get the exposure on the things that you’ve got to do to be noted are so over the top, that it become less musical. What you’ve got to do to win the damn thing is be so over the top that often times the song is lost

AC: In which musical directions would you would like to move? Who are some of the newer musicians you listen to?
Classical! I am working with an opera singer named Hope Briggs. I saw her when she played a black nun in the Sound of Music, singing Climb Every Mountain. I got her in to cut that and I’m going to put some dub step to it and do an aria with her and another thing that Barry Manilow wrote called One Voice - I’m composing new pieces. I love all forms of music.
      Justin Timberlake’s got a hot new sound, I like that. He’s been around for awhile but his new album is hot. I like Miley Cyrus’s music. I know people are in arms about her performance but she has good songs. I’m a student of music. I learn from the music. All music. And that’s why I try to keep my mind open, to not close my mind and become old. I want to stay young and fresh and with it. Daft Punk with my man Pharrell. Pharrell is always hot! I am glad to see my man Nile Rogers back on the scene with Daft Punk and Pharrell. That makes me happy. Greg Porter, he’s good too, and I like Katy Perry. I like that Robin Thicke was able to be inspired by Marvin Gaye on Blurred Lines, again with Pharrell. That’s definitely Marvin Gaye. But see, Marvin’s always hot. You wanna have a hit, rip Marvin.

AC: When you look back, what would you like your musical legacy to be? What impact do you think you have made on music since the 70′s?
NMW: Well, God’s blessed me in that I’ve been able to hit music from different sides of the fence. I started out in jazz/rock/fusion doing high Mahavishnu Orchestra. I mean I may never play that high again. I hope to, but playing with John McLaughlin is a completely different planet, and those who have done it will attest to what I am saying. The man’s phenomenal! To work with Joe Zawinul of Weather Report? God, I am so happy I did that! I worked with Tommy Bolin before he passed. Now I can say I worked a lot with Jeff, who I love.
     There are a lot of great things that I am proud of . . . working with Ray Gomez and Will Lee and David Sanchez. And then going over to working on the pop side of things with all the great diva vocalists with Gladys Knight, Patty Labelle, Whitney, Aretha, Mariah, Barbara Streisand and Grace Slick, of all people! I’m just proud I’ve crossed so many genres that I think my legacy is that I’m boundless, a music lover. If you’ve got it, I can work with you. If Merl Haggard’s up here, we can do a smash on Merl Haggard. Who ever it is, I don’t care. If you’ve got some talent, bring it! I’m ready for you!!

AC: What kind of advice would you give to the tens of thousands of young musicians who want to be as successful as you have been?
NMW: Wash your hands, take care of yourselves, be safe, and slow things down. It doesn’t happen over night. Practice, enjoy practicing, enjoy writing your songs, and enjoy doing what you do. Like Lou Rawls said, “It’s supposed to be fun.” Keep it fun. Always take time to be courteous and kind to people because all people appreciate someone who’s nice. Nobody wants to be around the most talented cat who’s a jerk, so be nice! And be consistent. It may not happen the first year, the second year or fourth year . . . it may happen the fifth year. It may happen the sixth or seventh year. So that’s the test of how bad you want something . . . that you can hang in there and stay inspired with your love of God and your gift.

AC: Aside from music, are there still some things in life you haven’t accomplished yet? Do you have a bucket list?
I wouldn’t do it at this stage of my life, but when I watch the cats fly in the sky like birds in the bird suits . . . if I was a younger, younger person, I would have liked to have done something like that. It looks like something I could easily do, fly in a bird suit. But I’m glad I didn’t, and I’m not doing it now because I’ve got too much to live for. But I coulda easily done that.
      Earlier in my life I would have liked to have been an astronaut. But now in my life, I want to do movies. That’s my next thing. I want to have a company big enough to do wonderful things in the world. That’s my wish.


Edited by Susan Acives

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