Q&A with triple threat soul/blues man Derrick Procell, digs deep into soul and blues, music you hear and never forget

"I feel that the Blues is a very misunderstood genre outside of the actual community. But even there, traditionalists tend to thumb their noses at artists who are trying to expand the genre. I think it’s ok to have a preference for a style or period of Blues, but to also be open minded about the future of the music. Even my own music is often hard to put into just one category…even on the same record!"

Derrick Procell: Heart, Soul & Mojo

Derrick Procell is a triple threat soul/blues man: a soulful singer with a big, hairy baritone voice; a harmonica player who's melodic and tasty while playing down and dirty; and a two-fisted piano player who drives the rhythm home. He’s also a smart songwriter who digs deep into soul and blues, music you hear and never forget. Derrick was playing in bar bands before he was legal.  He did his first recording as a lead singer in Nashville when he was 16. And that was that. He knew he'd be a performing and recording musician for the rest of his life. Originally from Milwaukee, he's always been a sought-after front man. For years he wrote and performed with award-winning touring band, Arroyo. Derrick has logged thousands of hours on stage. In the ‘90s, he moved his career into the recording studio. Derrick provided vocals and voiceover for scores of advertising campaigns, including McDonald’s, Chevy, Ford, Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s. He's the Beer Voice Guy. If it's not a microbrew, he's sung for their commercials.

(Derrick Procell / Photo by Ryan Bennett)

Derrick's been writing songs for over 40 years. Beginning with writing for his live performances, he later moved to studio recording exclusively.  Derrick’s songs have been recorded by artists such as BigLlou Johnson and The Cashbox Kings, as well as Grammy nominee and BMA Album of the Year winner Shemekia Copeland. Derrick also writes, performs, and produces music for TV and movies. Derrick’s songs have been included in projects by The American Cancer Society, Music from the Heart and The Children’s Heart Foundation. He has also been the recipient of songwriting awards from the Wisconsin Area Music Institute, Los Angeles Songwriters Showcase and Billboard Magazine. Chicago-based soul/blues belter Derrick Procell will be released on August 1st, his debut Catfood Records album titled Hello Mojo!. Produced by award-winning blues singer/guitarist and fellow Catfood labelmate Zac Harmon, recorded at Sonic Ranch, Tornillo, TX, with The Rays as the backing band: Johnny McGhee - guitar; Dan Ferguson - keys; Bob Trenchard – bass; Richy Puga – drums; Frank Otero – trombone; Andy Roman - saxs; Nick Flood - saxs; Mike Middleton – trumpet; plus SueAnn Carwell, Meredith Colby and Jessica Ivey – background vocals. Zac Harmon is also featured as special guest for three tracks on guitar.

Interview by Michael Limnios                     Special Thanks: Mark Pucci Media

How has the Blues/Soul music influenced your views of the world and the journeys youve taken?

I’ve been a fan of many genres of music for my entire life. I was raised in a house where music was everywhere all the time. I took piano lessons as a kid and loved Elvis AND Andy Williams! When the British invasion hit, that was it for me. I loved ‘em all, but especially artists like The Animals, The Stones, Spencer Davis and The Yardbirds… Blues and R&B based acts.

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

My music is a true blend of all that moves me, that I’ve listened to and performed. My philosophy in general… and musically… is that it’s all about heart & soul. Always being genuine and never just phoning it in. I’ve been on a creative tear the last 10/15 years. Once I get into a creative project, I’m all in… feet first. When I started working with my Grammy-winning writing partner, lyricist Terry Abrahamson, 10 years ago I knew that his clever word play would eventually put me in a position to help him win his second Grammy award!

"Be the kind of musician that others want to play with… musically, personally, etc.  In other words, if you’re a sideman be someone that people like… prepared, attentive, considerate, etc… just like in real life! As a leader, being generous and flexible are the best qualities that I can think of. Never take anything for granted. And most importantly… don’t be a dick!!" (Derrick Procell / Photo by Ryan Bennett)

Why do you think that the Windy City Blues Scene continues to generate such a devoted following?

The Blues baby!! Chicago is 90 miles from where I grew up… Milwaukee WI… and when I was learning about the Blues from the aforementioned Brits, just south of me folks like Muddy Waters & Howlin Wolf were playing the juke joints and inspiring those same Brits. Chicago has always had some iconic associations worldwide… Al Capone, the Cubs, Deep Dish Pizza and BLUES!

Are there any specific memories or highlights of your career that you would like to tell us about?!

I made my first record… a vinyl 45… at age 16 when I travelled to Nashville with my band Mothers Worry. I spent a month there recording, touring and basically falling in love with what I was gonna do for the rest of my life. Many bands and shows later…plus a very successful studio career… and now I’m ready to hit the airwaves again.

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

I feel that the Blues is a very misunderstood genre outside of the actual community. But even there, traditionalists tend to thumb their noses at artists who are trying to expand the genre. I think it’s ok to have a preference for a style or period of Blues, but to also be open minded about the future of the music. Even my own music is often hard to put into just one category… even on the same record!

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

Be the kind of musician that others want to play with… musically, personally, etc.  In other words, if you’re a sideman be someone that people like… prepared, attentive, considerate, etc… just like in real life! As a leader, being generous and flexible are the best qualities that I can think of. Never take anything for granted. And most importantly… don’t be a dick!!

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

I don’t think that much about this genre in those terms. It’s mostly about hitting people where it counts… whether it’s emotionally or just to make them wanna dance around. I feel there’s plenty of that on my new record.

"I’ve been a fan of many genres of music for my entire life." (Derrick Procell / Photo by Ryan Bennett)

What are the lines that connect Music and Activism? What touched you from The American Cancer Society, Music From the Heart and The Childrens Heart Foundation?

As you have referenced those particular organizations, I have always been involved with any cause or movement that touches my heart and is about healing.

In recent years, I have become even more involved musically with social/political events. Terry Abrahamson… an old hippie like myself… is quite passionate about many things going on in the world today. He’s supplied me with deep lyrics about any number of subjects that we have ultimately turned into what we like to call our Artist Activist catalogue. You can check the out here.

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