Interview conducted in person at the offices of Solar Records in Los Angeles, October 1979
JEFFREY Daniel, Jody Watley and Howard Hewett have quite a few good reasons to feel good right now. As the members of hit group Shalamar, they're enjoying one of their biggest records to date in "Second Time Around", their new album entitled "Big Fun" is out right now and they're getting ready to go on their first major national tour across the States with none other than The Jacksons.
"We're excited about the way things are progressing," the trio enthuse, just a few days before departing for the tour which will take them across country for the first time. "With the record taking off like it is, the tour is going to be a really excellent vehicle for us. It came about through our manager, Dick Griffey (also head of Solar Records, the group's record company) and it's just what we've been waiting for since we realy beagan working as a unit together."
To date, Shalamar have enjoyed two major hits with "Uptown Festival" and "Take That To The Bank" and the two albums released to date have done well for them. They feel unanimously that working with The Jacksons is going to really put the group on the map. "It's going to enable a lot of people to see that we're not just a recording act, not a nameless set of studio singers!
"We've been rehearsing twice a day — and since our roots come from the "Soul Train Gang" and dancing on the TV show, "Soul Train' — there'll be quite a bit of choreography. Hard work? Sure, but we think it's definitely worth it!" Apart from crossing the USA, the group will also be doing dates in Hawaii, Canada and The Bahamas and the tour extends for a full three months.
Just priort to hitting the road, the group's album, "Big Fun" hits the streets. Produced by Leon Sylvers (from the famous family of the same name) and Dick Griffey, the team feel "it's our best effort to date — no doubt about it. It's cleaner vocally, it offers more variety and since it's the second time we've worked with Leon, we feel that we've developed our communication even more.
"He's a great guy to work with — he's patient and he has a lot of good ideas. He gives us freedom to try things and his philosophy about that is simply 'if they lay right, they stay!'"
The album features seven tunes, including the group's current hit and according to Shalamar "each new album is helping us so much to grow and know more about our own musical capability, the direction we're striving for. We've always seen ourselves as a fusion of different styles — we're not just a disco group or a pop group or an r&b group — we're a mixture of all of those things and more."
Although the group's own writing contributions on this particular album are at a minimum, they do intend to be writing more in the future. "We feel that the public particularly digs material that artists themselves write because it gives them a deeper insight into what you are all about — and the public likes that kind of communication between artists and audiences."
With Dick Griffey as their mentor, Shalamar feels that they're learning more and more about the music business, something they really appreciate. "We really want to be around for a long time — for us, the key word is longevity and Dick is helping us grow and know more about what that involves. Naturally, we're very glad to have someone like him in our corner."
Eventually, the group wants to make it overseas "since we understand that our records have done pretty well in some places abroad and we want people to see us in person."
Individually, the group are also aiming for certain specific goals: Jody feels that she'd like eventually to record a solo album and get into acting and more songwriting. "I'd also like to be in a position to help aspiring young performers someday — guide them into how to get into the business the right way," she notes. Howard's concerned about getting more into "songwriting and other solo ventures" whilst Jeffrey concludes that "being an energetic kind of person, I have to be doing something — and right now I'm starting to work with producing another group called Eclipse".
All of which should tell you that Shalamar have quite a few aces up their sleeves. With a hit record too, the sky seems to be the limit for this talented trio.
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.