Interview with Freddie Jackson Of 1994

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
Freddie Jackson To say Freddie Jackson is at the cross roads of his career would be something of an understatement. As far as cross roads go, Freddie's reached his spaghetti junction    .. . in the rush hour! A slew of silky smooth hits in the eighties, kick started with undoubtedly his best collection to date, the two million selling "Rock Me Tonight" in '85, which of course, contained the monstrous title track along with the likes of "Calling" and "You Are My Lady", has, over the course of nine years and five albums gradually slowed down along with record sales. As the era for the smooth candlelight and champagne crooners in the '80's has given way for the riff happy, baggy jeans, bandana and Timberland hip-hop/soul homies in the '90's, naturally many of the older guard have been left concerned with the change of pace of their careers. Freddie's switch to RCA Records after a lengthy tenure at Capitol along with the decision to work with new names in conjunction with long time collaborator, Paul Laurence, suggests that Freddie was one of them.
Waering a navy blue suit, nursing a heavy cold, polite and very polished in his interview technique, as we chatted at Hush Productions' basement studio in their Manhattan offices, Freddie struck me as being surprisingly younger looking in real life than he appears in his publicity shots. As he attempts to avoid the hardshoulder on the motorway of soul and make back on to the fast lane, weaving in and out of the slipstream of the high flying R&B pretenders, here's what Freddie had to say almost a decade on from his debut set.


"I'm excited about being part of a new family over at RCA. Elvis' old family! It's predominantly produced by Paul Laurence who was responsible for the majority of big hits I had with Capitol Records. I feel I'm around a lot of new energy at RCA. It's not like I recorded an album and handed it in to the label who kinda knew it would do okay on its own without any real push which was part of the problem that was happening at Capitol.

"Some of the new guys I worked with aren't that well known and that was a purposeful move on my part. Kyle West, Al B Sure!'s cousin who produced most of Al B's big hits is fairly well known, then I worked with Lathan Grady out of Detroit and Christen Warren out of LA whose really crazy in the studio. Overall I think those guys made me sound a little funkier without taking away from what I do."


"Most people think I only make songs for the ladies but on this album there's one, "My Family" that addresses guys' problems. The family is so separated and split today and guys are walking away from their responsibilities, if they have kids. I've been around a couple of fellas who for what ever reason can't really be with their family. That song is appropriate for guys who want to pick up the phone and say, "Look I want to come by and see my baby. Let's talk this over". The most important thing is the child. I am concerned with the family. I was born and raised in Harlem. I know what a broken home is about. I know what it's like to be brought up with mommy being mommy and daddy. It's a big responsibility to have a child and you have to dedicate a lot of time. That's one of the reasons I probably don't have a child myself because you have to practice what you preach. Sometimes my life is very confusing and before I embark on that there are some things I have to fix with Freddie."


"Paul is a lot more relaxed now that he used to be. Me and him go way back to the days of singing in church together. I used to be part of his group LJE (Laurence Jones Ensemble). We've actually been friends for 25 years. When we first started working together, he had so many different expectations of me. He knew exactly how he wanted me to sound. He'd really drill me in the studio and sometimes it was a bit intimidating, especially when we did the first few albums. I'd be so upset with him and at times he'd drive me crazy! Now he knows what I've accomplished whereas in the old days he treated me like a baby brother. This time round it was a lot more relaxed on both sides."


"We had some great successes and no one owed anyone any money. I wasn't gonna be dropped or anything like that, it was just time to move on and get some new energy. RCA was very exciting and the cheque was very exciting, too!

"At Capitol I had four different presidents during eleven No. 1 records.

Each president brings in their staff and they have their own little thing they want to prove and they want to bring in people they think they can make or break. On my first album I was a new name. It was all very exciting and I sold two million copies of that album. Then as the heads and the chain of command began to change so did the people and the new people don't love you like someone else does and they might not give you the same attention. That problem began to happen. With the new situation at RCA, I'm with a group of people who are ready and willing to love and embrace me as was the situation when I was first with Capitol."


"I think back then when Melba Moore, Me'lisa Morgan, Kashif, Lillo Thomas and Nagee were all having hits and walking in and out of these rooms, helping each other out the music was more original. It's not original anymore. For instance, I was driving from my home in Pennsylvania into the city and I heard four records that were all remakes of old songs. Kids these days may think the new music's original but it's not. People like Kashif and Paul Laurence were original and created a brand new sound. When you here their stuff today it reminds you of their era but the music today is just a mixture of things that have gone before and it's a bit confusing. I don't think a lot of today's music has the longevity of the Kashif and Paul Laurence stuff of the '80's. I mean I heard Howard Johnson's. "So Fine", which I sang backgrounds on, on the radio the other day and it still sounded really fresh.

"Also, everyone sounds the same as everyone else. There are fifty groups out at the moment and you can't tell them apart. Everyone's riffing the same. One of the things they used to say about me in interviews was that I riffed too much. Now, we have groups called RIFF! I like groups like Boyz II Men. They're exciting and are being groomed the right way. A lot of groups may be the hit of the year or the month but when that fades away what have you got? It would be nice if record companies began to groom their acts again. A lot of the new groups have no idea of what it's like to be in show business or if they really want to be in it. From some of the actions of some of the new groups I don't know if they really want to be in this. You have to want to see something down the line. If you don't see that, your career will be short lived.

"I wanted this album to still be Freddie but through working with younger guys I wanted to bring a fresh approach to the music. I'm not trying to act like I'm 16 at thirty something years old, wearing rap clothes! I'm not regressing. I want to go on. I'm going to be part of this industry but in my own way. You have to bring people around to what you do and what they want to accept you for. There's no way you can be 35 and come across like you're 16!"


"I was working a full time job as a word processor operator and it was my friend Paul Laurence who pulled me from behind the desk and said you've got something to offer the world. I was so dismayed with the industry because I was going around during my lunch hour taking my demo cassette for people to hear and sometimes getting the door slammed in my face. That was during the disco era. I sang too much for disco records. They didn't need singers, just a good beat and a half way decent singer. When Paul introduced me to Hush that was when I started doing things on the road for them. I didn't have a deal when I recorded the "Rock Me Tonight" album. It was a birthday gift from Hush Productions to put me in the studio. They fronted me some money and I recorded the album and they sold it to Capitol Records.


"I did the Budweiser Superfest infront of 30/40,000 people in one shot. I actually don't like performing so far away from the audience, though. As much as I like the money for those things I dislike the lack of intimacy. There are some artists who like playing jazz clubs as opposed to theatres. I like theatres but I don't like arenas because I think my music is more suited to an intimate set up."


The Mandela 70th Anniversary at Wembley Stadium was amazing. It was something I'd never experienced before. I mean I looked at the names that would be appearing - Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, George Michael and I got nervous. I mean I was kinda doin' it in my pants! Stepping out there at Wembley was unreal. I finally had the chance to experience what people like Michael Jackson and Elton John must feel.

"The Blues & Soul 25th Anniversary concert was wonderful, too. Me, Will Downing and Mica Paris -I think we had more fun backstage than onstage! The room was so wonderful and prestigious. To see people want to come out and see all this soul. That's what I love about the UK -their love for soul. I know I could go to the UK and perform my "Rock Me Tonight" album even though I've just released my new album and I could sell out Hammersmith. Music isn't dissected in the UK the same way it is here. That's why it's so confusing in the US right now. That's why I don't listen to the radio anymore, just the jazz station, CD 101.9"


"When I was recording my new album, Anita Baker and I were recording in the same studio complex. She was recording upstairs at The Hit Factory here in New York. We had lunch a couple of days together. I'd bust in on her session and she'd bust in on mine. I saw Luther when he was here performing at Madison Square Garden. We had a sit down dinner and had a laugh. I think everyone has their own agenda, though, so it's not like it's easy to just hang out."


"I can't record when I'm completely stressed out. That happened one year when my life was in turmoil and that's what the album sounded like. No one else knew because it was a beautiful bunch of songs that just didn't match."


"I've had a place there for six years. I still have my place in the city (New York). I love being in the Pokanose. I love the woods, the deer, my lake, my horses. It's completely different from New York where I lay in my bed and hear fire engines and ambulances and at any time of the night the city's still going. Getting away from it keeps me at peace with myself."


"We're getting ready to start band rehearsals. I'm gonna get my old band from the first tour back together for this album, because that was a swingin' old band. I'll hit the road in April. I don't know where I'll start but I guarantee Freddie Jackson will be playing somewhere for someone in April." (JL B&S 1994)

Copyright © 2004 - 2024 SOULANDFUNKMUSIC.COM. All Rights Reserved.