Q&A with Stevie J Blues of Urban Ladder Society, all star band with the most diverse and unique musical style ever

"Music plays a huge part in everyday culture, it is important to have music that speaks and relate to a person's everyday situations, sometimes you can be having a very bad day or even dealing with a situation in life and all it takes is the right song at the right time to turn things around, encourage, or even shine light on a total different perspective on the issue at hand, that's another reason why writing is so important."

Stevie J Blues: Urban Ladder Society

Urban Ladder Society is an all star band with the most diverse and unique musical style ever! This band offers Blues, classic rock, and R &B all with a heavy saturation of metaphoric hip hop lyrics. Front man Victa Nooman, is a Jackson Mississippi hip hop MC with countless singles and sessions to his credits. Henry "The Rooster Man" Stevens is one of the most experienced guitarists in the south, known to most as Stevie J Blues. Urban Ladder Society will be the reinvention of a legendary musician! Chris Gill is one of the most authentic delta bluesmen anywhere! His gritty vocals, slide guitar, and resonator arrangements gives this fusion band yet another element and layer of blues. Jonte Mayon is one of the most powerful female vocalists on earth! A New Orleans native she spends most of her time working for the BB King clubs brand on land and at sea. Collectively they form Urban Ladder Society AKA U.L.S. A band very capable of rocking any audience any size anytime! This is Urban Ladder Society!  (Photo: Stevie J Blues)

Mining an original groove that fuses blues and hip-hop, Urban Ladder Society's debut 11-tracks album, The Summit (2021), puts a whole new multi-genre spin on roots music. What started as a conversation between frontman Victa Nooman and the iconic Taj Mahal, this project has taken just over a two years to bring to fruition but has been well-worth the wait. Victa shared the idea with Stevie J, and he tapped into a wellspring of talent from across the blues world to put the band together. The album's 11 tracks take a journey from deep funk to rock, gospel, soul and more, each with its own specific grove and all built on a foundation of The Blues. It might be The Summit, but for Urban Ladder Society the sky is truly the limit.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Beats and Funk/Soul music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Funk and soul are a huge part of my musical DNA. Music anybody can feel because its created solely on heart felt rhythms, arrangements, and beats anytime a beat comes from the 2&4 you can't help but nod your head or pat your feet!

How started the thought of ULS? How do you describe "The Summit" sound and songbook? Do you have any interesting studio session stories about the making of the new album?

The thought of ULS came from a conversation held by Victa Nooman and Taj Mahal about the fusion of Blues and Hip Hop. I will say at first it seemed so far-fetched it took me a minute to grasp the concept... but I love a challenge. the ULS Sound and Summit songbook is best described as a gumbo of genres with a heavy saturation of blues guitar and metaphoric hip hop lyrics. add a little classic rock and some R&B tones and you have ULS. Yes, when we were recording prophecy, I created the track from a description Victa gave me. When it was time to record vocals, he showed up with two authentic rostamen and I was like WTF!! But after the session started, I knew we were on to something great!!

"Funk and soul are a huge part of my musical DNA. Music anybody can feel because its created solely on heart felt rhythms, arrangements, and beats anytime a beat comes from the 2&4 you can't help but nod your head or pat your feet!" (Photo: Victa Nooman, Stevie J Blues, Chris Gill & Jonte Mayon)

How do you describe ULS sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

Fusion of American cornerstone genres. Blues, Rock, and Hip Hop. The drive for me comes from doing something that hasn't been done. It's really easy to mimic or copy what you've heard and even put your own spin on it, but it's only special when you create it yourself! The ULS idea was so far-fetched to me it took a couple of days to register before the light came on. of course, at that point I was all in!!! it's all about fusion and the evolution of the Blues.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? What has remained the same about your music-making process?

I feel I have grown as an artist/producer from levels of experience, fan base, and production skills. The one thing that will always remain is creativity and innovation. We vow to always push the envelope to create music outside the 145 boxes at the same time staying true to the original compass.

What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?

Basically, the old saying by the words of Willie Dixon the blues is the roots and all other musical genres are the fruits of the blues. I hope people feel the freedom in exploring the boundaries and limits of the blues. and the ability to think outside of the box. innovation is always fresh, it never copies! Its all about finding your direction and sharing your voice. too many are simply plagiarizing what they saw and heard someone else do... this will cause stagnation to find your voice.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

As always, I have to share my most memorable blues gig moment, we were in Cognac France For their Cognac Blues Passions Fest. and met musicians playing the blues and we went to talk to them. NOBODY spoke English! Mind blowing moment!!!

"Keep your ideas, dreams and plans to yourself!! Not everyone is creative enough to create their own lane; some can only exist from what they see or hear from others! Make sure your paperwork is in order publishing companies to LLCs and EINs." (Photo: Stevie J Blues)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

What I miss mostly is the great writing techniques and craftsmanship of arrangements, nowadays everything is so rushed until the songs don't make any sense, it's like writing the words and hurrying to the solos!! In the south the soul of soul music is being replaced with gimmicks and gadgets...people if you can't hold a tune without a gadget on your voice just be a writer!!

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

To erase all genre labels let artists, writers, and producers create freely without having to worry what box it's gonna be put in. Let great music be GREAT!

What would you say characterizes Mississippi music scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?

Mississippi is the birthplace of the blues and for that fact local musicians are held to a certain standard of expectation. Muddy Waters, Jr. Wells, BB King, and Robert Johnson are ALL from Mississippi!! Greatness and innovation should be a part of every artist from Mississippi's standard...

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Keep your ideas, dreams and plans to yourself!! Not everyone is creative enough to create their own lane; some can only exist from what they see or hear from others! Make sure your paperwork is in order publishing companies to LLCs and EINs.

"What I miss mostly is the great writing techniques and craftsmanship of arrangements, nowadays everything is so rushed until the songs don't make any sense, it's like writing the words and hurrying to the solos!! in the south the soul of soul music is being replaced with gimmicks and gadgets...people if you can't hold a tune without a gadget on your voice just be a writer!!" (Photo: Stevie J Blues)

Who are some of your very favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Junior Wells fan! His harp and vocal phrasing along with his flashy style of dress and ability to command an audience at will... epic performer!! There are quite a few but at the top of the list are Christone "Kingfish" Ingram and Tommy Castro.

Do you consider the 'Fusion Blues' a specific music genre or a state of mind? What does the blues mean to you?

State of mind. Again, it's all about creativity! We as blues artists have to find a way to bring about a younger audience to the blues. The only way to do that is to appeal to them musically...if we don’t, we are gonna see kid rock and Ron DNC headlining many more blues festivals. blues to me is the mother of modern-day music and the cornerstone of global musical culture.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Music plays a huge part in everyday culture, it is important to have music that speaks and relate to a person's everyday situations, sometimes you can be having a very bad day or even dealing with a situation in life and all it takes is the right song at the right time to turn things around, encourage, or even shine light on a total different perspective on the issue at hand, that's another reason why writing is so important.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Chicago 1968 to have a chance to see Buddy Guy playing behind Muddy Waters, to see him tag team with Jr. Wells, and to meet John Lee Hooker!

Urban Ladder Society - Home

(Photo: Victa Nooman, Stevie J Blues, Chris Gill & Jonte Mayon / Urban Ladder Society)

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