Photo Credits A. Duane Jones
Legendary singer, songwriter and producer, Paul Laurence is presenting his jazz infused songs at the Stage Door Theater this upcoming weekend.
In case you’re wondering who Laurence is, just know that he isn’t a fly-by-night entertainer.
Laurence began keyboarding during the late 70’s at the White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem. Ironically, Freddie Jackson, as well as mega-songwriter, Valerie Simpson (Ashford & Simpson) attended the same house of worship. Simpson whom was already proficient at playing the piano, taught Laurence how to play as well.
A few years later, Laurence started a singing group called the Laurence Jones Ensemble with longtime friend, Freddie Jackson. The two performed at various nightclubs throughout New York City before signing under Hush Productions.
While under the label, Laurence wrote and produced principal songs for Melba Moore, Me’Lisa Morgan, and Freddie Jackson, with “Rock With Me Tonight,” being one of the chart topping hits.
He also produced songs for Stephanie Mills, Evelyn (Champagne) King, Kenny G, Keith Washington, Lillo Thomas, and Kashif.
Although Laurence is scheduled to hit the stage on Saturday, we thought it’d be a great opportunity to speak with him before the show.
What brings you to Charlotte for the concert?
Well, we lived there for about 5 years and we are still close to the area.
What else are you working on?
I’m doing some new music by myself. I have one project that’s 90 percent finished with a new artist that actually lives in New York. I’m actually behind because I was supposed to release some new stuff on me, but the concert took presidents. Once that’s over with, I’ll be promoting the new act I’m working with.
You mentioned in previous interviews that you were disillusioned with the industry because you were finding artist to work with instead of getting the paid… However, I was always told that if you work for the money and not the passion, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. What is your take on that?
You do it for the art, but once it becomes an actual job, you can’t help but do it somewhat for the money. I would never have broken through if I would’ve started out for the money. Once it becomes a situation where you have to take care of your family and pay your bills, you have to start paying attention to that because you’ll just be out there.
Did you think that the artist you worked with in the past would be as successful as they were?
Not as it was going on, but in hindsight when you do the work and you realize—even now, there are some things that I can’t believe that I actually did because it sounds so surreal. In the initial process… no.
What was your favorite album that you worked on?
Believe it or not, it was probably my very first Lillo Thomas album. The song was called, “Good Girl.” That was the first time I did a whole project by myself without a collaborative producer. I was the sole producer and had to take charge of the whole project. I guess that was my dream come true. While growing up, I always thought that I’d be a producer. So, prior to that I was doing collaborations but not solely by myself. That was the first one. So, to me, that was the most special.
You said that you knew you were going to produce music. Do you believe that the power is in the tongue? Should you speak things into existence or make the connections yourself so that you can get into the music industry?
I believe in speaking it into existence. That’s where it starts, and that leads to the connections. I believe strongly that if you depend on you to do stuff then you will always need to depend on just you and that’s where it becomes a problem. You’re going to have to do the same thing every time and those fears of it not working are going to surface because you’re doing it all yourself. I think that’s where people get caught up and it becomes an issue. If you believe in the power that God’s got you, then all the pressure is on that power.
What do you think about artist and their sound today? Do you see less rhythm and blues than when you first started out?
In terms of what makes it through, for the most part, it’s watered down. I don’t believe that there isn’t talented people out there because God is always giving out great talent. I don’t think there’s a specific generation where he gave out all the talent. I think it’s just harder today, for all those great artist to break through. I don’t think that talent is a representative of the mainstream that’s really out there. I actually think Beyoncé is the real deal. People throw stuff at her, but I actually think she’s the artist with the exception.
Is there anyone that you’d like to share the stage with or work with?
All my heroes are dying. The Prince and Michael's—they were my measuring stick in terms of today. There’s only a couple artist that I can think of like Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross. After those two, at this point, it’s hard to say. In terms of someone new… it’s hard because they go away for a while, and it’s difficult to remember who came out during what era.
When you first heard about Prince’s death, how’d it make you feel?
I actually got a call from my wife. I think I was in Costco of all places and she called me and asked if I heard. I didn’t really have a reaction because I couldn’t believe it. Once we hung up, I walked around to see if people were talking about it and they weren’t. It didn’t hit me for like a day or two. Once I heard the radio station playing my favorite song, that’s when I knew, and the emotions erupted. It took me a couple of days to feel an authentic feeling about it.
What was your favorite Prince Song?
“Pop Life” is my favorite, and then prior to that, “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” The instrumentals just wears me out.
How did you become not just an instrumentalist, but a writer as well?
Once you’re plugged in, you can kind of do what you want to do. I always wanted to be an artist to begin with… Once the Jackson 5 came on the scene, I was excited. Me, and Michael, was the same age, so I knew I could do it too. At that time, I couldn’t sing as well as him, but I was in the same pitch.
You had a movie score that was on the Death by Temptations Soundtrack… How does a songwriter and producer get movie scores?
Well for me, it was James Bond III, which was the director of the film—we were working with the same management company and he came and asked me.
Do you think you’ve done everything that you need to do to maintain your legacy?
I’m still excited about getting out there and doing some stuff, but it’s not like it was when I was obsessed with it. The obsession isn’t there anymore but I’m still excited about it.
Other performers set to hit the stage: ELIAH and Beverly Crowder
Visit for ticket information: http://www.blumenthalarts.org/events/detail/jam-tonight-an-evening-with-paul-laurence-friends