"The impact of soul music on socio-cultural implications has been profound, contributing to the advancement of civil rights, cultural expression, musical innovation, and global cultural exchange. My hope is for Soul music to continue being a powerful force in shaping society and influencing cultural attitudes and movements."
Marcel Smith: Soul From My Soul
Whenever soul dynamo Marcel Smith begins to sing, he commands the attention of anyone within earshot. There’s an obviously deep musical talent at work, but there is more importantly an authenticity and sincerity that captures people’s minds. That has never been more evident than on From My Soul (2023), his second album for Little Village Foundation. Combining soul, gospel and R&B, Smith’s voice is seductive and alluring, piquing interest with the anticipation that listeners just might find a secret and comforting message being sung expressly for them. It’s the believability factor, and Smith’s got it. From My Soul features five songs co-written by Smith and a fistful of others that he makes his own from the very get-go, including songs from the likes of Jimmy Liggins, Willie Nelson and the Bee Gees. (Marcel Smith / Photo by Bob Hakins)
Producer Christoffer “Kid” Andersen realized the intuitive power in Smith’s music when he first started working with him several years ago. Smith knows that making a connection with the audience members is what wins them over. He simply follows his intuition and passion. The approach was born of an early interest in gospel quartets. Smith learned from some of the best by studying the Soul Stirrers, the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Dixie Hummingbirds. Gospel veteran Willie Washington heard him singing in church as a 15-year-old and within a year invited him to join his band, the WD Gospel Singers, in 1994. Smith’s music is more about a participatory journey than a simple sound experience. His sympathetic understanding of the power of the songs story combined with impassioned vocals is an intoxicating mix that sets his performances apart.
Interview by Michael Limnios Special Thanks: Kevin Johnson (Proud Papa PR)
How has the Soul and Gospel music influenced your views of the world?
Both genres significantly shaped my perspective. Growing up in the 70s and coming of age in the 80s as a child of the mid-60s, Gospel and Soul music deeply permeated my formative years. Timeless classics such as "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke, "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye, "I'll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself" by the Staple Singers, "The Mighty High" by the Mighty Clouds of Joy, and "We Are the World" by U.S.A. For Africa, played a pivotal role in elevating my awareness, revealing the profound narratives woven into each song. These musical works shed light on the human experience, fostering faith, hope, and addressing themes of love, charity, and hate. While there are numerous other impactful songs, these examples from my lifetime have empowered me to empathize with the less fortunate, uplift others, advocate for change, and champion justice.
Currently you’ve one release with Little Village. How did that relationship come about? Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album “From My Soul"?
The influence of the late Roy Tyler (Gospel Hummingbirds/New Direction) and Rick Estrin of the Nightcats played a pivotal role in introducing me to Jim Pugh. Aware of his remarkable career and keyboard artistry, I first met him in San Jose, California. Our paths intersected on local shows alongside Jim, Christoffer (Kid) Andersen, and Rick Estrin. This connection eventually led to my evolving relationship with Little Village, culminating in the collaborative effort on my debut solo project for Little Village, "Everybody Needs Love". (Marcel Smith / Photo by Bob Hakins)
"Understanding the spirit, music, and the meaning of life is a deeply personal and subjective experience that can vary greatly from person to person. However, I can offer my general perspective."
What moment changed your life the most?
Losing my father on September 19, 2019, and my mother on September 30, 2021, just two years and two weeks apart, was a profound blow. I shared a deep bond with them, and as the oldest among my siblings, my parents were my greatest supporters in my musical endeavors. I used to seek their input and valued their honest feedback on my original songs, as well as when selecting songs for recordings or concerts. Their absence is deeply felt, and I long for their presence to provide me with their invaluable feedback on "From My Soul."
What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
Watching my two adult daughters as they impressively navigate through life truly inspires me. I love them dearly. One of the greatest moments in my career was the opportunity to perform on the legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise (#39) in October 2023. It was an incredible experience to network and share the stage with numerous talented artists and meet remarkable personalities. Additionally, the release of "From My Soul" was on the LRBC in the Mexican Riviera. This was an especially thrilling highlight for me.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past?
I long for the classic "flat-footed" singers of yesteryear. Whether they're smooth crooners or intense shouters, there's something special about their style. While I know that such vocalists still exist, it feels like there aren't as many these days. Samara Joy has emerged as one of my new favorites from this generation, as she exudes a Sarah Vaughn vibe while incorporating her beautifully unique style.
What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I sincerely hope that genuine vocal artistry doesn't succumb to artificial computerized manipulation, as there's a certain warmth and conviction that only a true artist can bring to the forefront. (Marcel Smith / Photo by William Henderson)
"Throughout the years, I've come to realize that my musical journey isn't defined by chart-topping hits or widespread recognition. Instead, it revolves around conveying a meaningful message to a vibrant and diverse community, fostering a music environment that is uplifting, enjoyable, and thought provoking."
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I would ensure that every person, regardless of their background or financial means, has access to music education and opportunities for musical expression. Music has the power to inspire, unite, and bring joy, and by ensuring universal access to music education and resources, we can unlock the potential of countless individuals who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to explore and develop their musical talents. This could lead to a richer, more diverse musical landscape and bring the myriad benefits of music to a wider segment of the population.
What is the impact of Soul music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
The impact of soul music on socio-cultural implications has been profound, contributing to the advancement of civil rights, cultural expression, musical innovation, and global cultural exchange.
My hope is for Soul music to continue being a powerful force in shaping society and influencing cultural attitudes and movements.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
Throughout the years, I've come to realize that my musical journey isn't defined by chart-topping hits or widespread recognition. Instead, it revolves around conveying a meaningful message to a vibrant and diverse community, fostering a music environment that is uplifting, enjoyable, and thought provoking.
John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand: spirit, music, and meaning of life? (Marcel Smith / Photo by Bob Cosman)
Understanding the spirit, music, and the meaning of life is a deeply individual journey that often involves introspection, exploration, and the pursuit of personal growth and fulfillment.
It can be shaped by cultural, philosophical, and religious influences, as well as by the unique experiences and perspectives of each individual.
As I sing, I try to connect with the audience as we are collectively in the space ushering in a musical spirit that elevates us together. As I sing, I strive to engage the audience, creating a shared experience that raises our spirits through music.
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