Times change. Trends fade. Musical ideas come and go, while questionable ones take their place. But pure vocal harmony remains a timeless component of real music. And four proponents of this precious art form-- Jamie Jones, Delious Kennedy, Alfred Nevarez, and Tony Borowiak, collectively known as All-4-One -- are making sure that they remain steadfast in their practice of it. 15 years ago, they began this quest with their signature a cappella reading of The Tymes' doo-wop classic, "So Much in Love." They gained almost immediate success, and followed quickly with soulful renderings of "I Swear" and "I Can Love You Like That" -- ballads which they transformed into pop/R&B classics from John Michael Montgomery's original country versions.
Although the group hasn't made a lot of noise at home in recent years, they've continued to tour consistently throughout Asia as a group, while co-lead vocalist Jamie Jones has also taken on a number of successful outside projects, including production work for Wayne Brady and releasing his own gospel/neo-soul album. Now, the foursome are ready to make a serious impression once again on American audiences with their seventh album, 'No Regrets.' Encompassing a satiating palette of soul, pop, and doo-wop, the 13-track set runs the gamut from four-part a cappella harmony (a surprising remake of female quartet For Real's 1994 hit "You Don't Know Nothin'") to ballads inspired by 50's R&B ("Ol' Fashion Lovin'") and modern-day realism (the first single, "My Child") to Michael Jackson-inspired dance-pop ("Blowin' Me Up").
Jamie, Alfred, and Tony of the group chatted with Soulmusic.com recently about 'No Regrets,' as well as the group's history, influences, and musical mission.
Justin Kantor: Hi Tony, this is Justin Kantor from Soulmusic.com.
Tony Borowiak: Right on! How are you doing today? Everything good?
JK: Yeah, I can’t complain. First day back at work. I work in an elementary school, so I’m recovering a little bit, but it’s good to be talking with you about the music.
TB: Very cool. Am I the only one on so far?
JK: I think so. I haven’t used one of these before, but I heard it announced that you have arrived.
TB: I have arrived! (laughs)
JK: I’m sure you have many times before, but here we are. Are you guys in Las Vegas right now? Is that where I’m calling?
TB: I think everybody is in kind of a different spot. I’m actually at home. I had a little bit of down time. I’m not sure where everybody else is, to be honest with you.
JK: The area code that I had to call was a Las Vegas code, so I don’t know.
TB: That’s just the company that we call into, because they have a good connection when everybody calls in.
JK: Oh, okay. I’ll start talking with you, since you’re here. Thanks for doing this interview.
TB: Oh, no problem. Thank you for having me.
JK: How are you feeling about the new album coming out and everything? You guys are making a comeback in a sense, even though you haven’t really ever gone away. This is perhaps coming back in a bigger way than the last couple of albums that you did, so what can you tell me about what’s in store for your plans with the new album ‘No Regrets’?
TB: It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s got a little bit of old R&B sound, some of the new R&B sound. Oh, Alfred has arrived.
JK: Hi Alfred, how’s it going?
Alfred Nevarez: I’m good! How are you?
JK: I’m doing great, thanks. My name is Justin, and I’m writing for Soulmusic.com. I was just asking Tony about what things you guys have in store, as far as coming back with a new album, ‘No Regrets’.
TB: I was telling him the basic lay-down of this thing, with the old R&B, the new R&B, and the ‘I Swear’-type songs on there also. We’re actually starting a promotional tour here in about 7 or 8 days. We’re going to be gone for 3 weeks, and then when we get back, we’re actually heading straight to Japan to do a concert, and I was just reading my email, and it says we got a concert tour happening in January. We’re getting ready to go out on the road and have a lot of fun.
JK: It was the two of you who were actually the two original members of All-4-One?
TB: Actually, all of us are the original members. Alfred and I grew up together, and then we met Jamie at a talent show in Lancaster, and about 2 months after that, Jamie called Alfred and I to do some radio station jingles, and we did that for a local radio station that actually doesn’t exist out here anymore, it got gobbled up. After that, Jamie called, probably about a month after that and said, “Hey, I met a producer in church who said if we learn this song called ‘So Much in Love’ then we might be able to get a record deal if they like us”. Then, we met Delious at a Karaoke contest where we were all trying to win some money, and you know we’re the four original members. The group.
JK: So, it was a producer from a church you said, that recommended doing the old-time song, ‘So Much In Love’?
TB: Yes, he and the record label president knew that ‘So Much In Love’ would be a hit, and they just wanted to find a group that would sing it, and that was us. We were kind of in the right place at the right time.
JK: I read, Alfred, that when you and Tony were growing up, that you did some Barber Shop Quartet-type singing. Is that true, or was it something different?
AN: That’s true. In our city, we would go to different venues and do our barber shop thing, and we eventually got to the talent contest over at AV College here in Lancaster, California. That’s where we competed against Jamie, and that’s how we all got together with Jamie, and later on came Delious.
JK: Okay, so you were actually competing against each other at first.
AN: Oh yeah. It was fun.
JK: You were able to make something positive out of it, instead of being rivals.
JK: When I hear barber shop quartet, I guess I get notions of a barber shop, but were you actually singing at barber shops, or were you singing on street corners or somewhere else? What did that mean?
TB: For us, it really was more of a high school thing. Our choir director just found four of us that would fit, and we actually started learning the songs and he saw some talent in us and actually took us to a big barber shop conference, where there were a lot of professional groups at the time. We got to listen to them, and they heard us and were fairly impressed that younger people would actually enjoy and do well at that music. When we did the talent show against Jamie’s group, we were actually doing Boys II Men songs, which was kind of cool, with the great harmonies and all that, and we turned into All-4-One.
JK: So you got some real training experience before you hit it big, which I’m sure helped you a lot in that respect. What exactly was it like for you, when ‘So Much In Love’ hit, because I guess it was in kind of a short time frame that it became fairly popular. What was the progression of things? How fast did it happen, and what was your reaction when it did hit? AN: When you say progression, it wasn’t quite a progression. It was kind of all in one fell swoop. We were in London at the time when it first hit Number 1, and we were like, “Oh my Gosh!” and then we got rushed off to another interview or what have you.
TB: When ‘So Much In Love’ came out, when we first recorded it, Alfred and I were still working at a local Ford dealership, and I was actually learning to work on cars. The first time I heard it on the radio, I told the guys, “I don’t think I’ll be coming back tomorrow.”
JK: That must have been a great feeling.
TB: It was, and it was rising up the charts real fast. We were with a small record company called Blitzz, and we were looking to find a home, and it ended up being Atlantic, but I remember Jamie saying he was in the studio more than us. They were writing songs while we were working. He’d answer the phone and it would be the president of RCA or Motown, and it just happened real fast. They said, “Okay, you guys have to quit your jobs. You need to finish an album.”
JK: Was it actually first released independently by Blitzz Records regionally?
TB: Yeah, they actually were a little bigger than what we anticipated. They took it out to all the radio stations in the country and then Atlantic picked us up. It happened real quick. They saw that it was gonna happen, and everybody was calling Blitzz Records to try to get a piece of what was happening, and it wound up doing what it did.
JK: Aside from you guys I hadn’t heard anything about that company, so it was interesting that they got that partnership going with Atlantic Records.
JK: So, it was a fast process, recording that first album, and as a result, did you have much input into what the direction of your subsequent music was, especially in terms of what made you famous at first, doing the re-makes of some of the country songs? How did that come about?
TB: We had finished the album completely, and we did have a little bit of say-so on it. Jamie and Delious did write a few songs on the first album but then with ‘I Swear’, the record was done, and we were in the offices, and Doug Morris was the president of the label at the time. He said, “Why don’t you guys listen to this?”
JK: Oh, here’s Jamie!
JJ: Sorry about that guys, I had to go back through my emails and find the right access.
JK: Oh, that’s alright. How’s it going?
JJ: I’m good. How are you?
JK: I’m good. My name is Justin Kantor, and this is for Soulmusic.com, and we were just talking about going back a little bit to when you guys initially signed with Blitzz Records and talking about what your input was into the first All-4-One album, with the songs you had written, and with some of the remakes that you guys did, what that was like...
TB: I was telling him that Doug Morris had us listen to ‘I Swear’, and he said, “OK, good, you guys are going to put it on your album, and a little guy named David Foster is going to produce it for you” (laughs). That’s actually how that came about. It wasn’t even on the cover.
JJ: Yeah, the album was done, it was mastered, the artwork was done, everything was done, and they came to us with ‘I Swear’, and they told us that Gerald Lavert had turned it down, and asked us to do it. We said, Okay!
JK: That’s ironic, because he went and re-made another one after you guys, that song ‘I’d Give Anything’. I guess he saw it worked, so he thought he’d try it.
JJ: I’m sure everybody has those certain things in their life, when they go, “Man, why didn’t I do that?” I’m glad he said no!
JK: It was a good intervention of fate, I think. There was a song I liked especially on that album, I think, the initial follow-up to ‘I Swear’, which was ‘Breathless’. That was one that you guys wrote, or even you, Jamie, wrote?
JJ: Yeah, that was a song that I had written. I was fortunate enough to be able to write half of the record, and that was definitely one of them. It was the follow-up, and it did well in some markets, it just didn’t go as well in all of the markets, but for the most part it did alright.
JK: Was it hard to balance some of the, I mean no artist likes to categorize themselves, but to balance some of the music that ‘I Swear’ might have fallen into at the time versus a more straight-ahead, soulful R&B track like ‘Breathless? I guess people might have been expecting one thing and then hearing something else.
JJ: It’s funny. If you go back to the first All-4-One record, and you listen to the whole record, every song except ‘I Swear’, because that was the album. You know ‘I Swear’ wasn’t even on the album, and the album kind of had R&B undertones to it and of course some pop things too, but ‘I Swear’ was a straight 100% a pop song, because it had been converted from a country song. That one song alone gave the whole album more of a pop, I don’t want to say appeal, but it gave the album more of a pop title if you want to say.
JK: It was kind of the momentum for it.
JJ: Yeah, exactly. The thing is, we always wanted to do more of the R&B stuff, and we did some with ‘(She’s Got) Skillz’, which was on that, and ‘The Bomb’ and ‘Breathless’ and ‘Without You’, and they all have kind of an R&B overtone to them, but I’m sure it might have caught people off guard to come with ‘Breathless’ and ‘Skillz’ after such a big pop record with ‘I Swear’. JK: I just wondered, because it seemed like it wasn’t promoted as much with a video or that kind of thing.
JJ: It was kind of a test. There were a couple of breakout markets in Ohio and these places that were really feeling ‘Breathless’, and we wanted to go with ‘(She’s Got) Skillz’ at the time, and of course our president said, “We’re going to go with this one because it’s already working.” Me, I’m thinking, “Cool! I’m a writer on that one.” It did well in some of those markets, whereas some of the other markets were already playing ‘(She’s Got) Skillz’ and didn’t want to play it. So we decided we’d go with ‘(She’s Got) Skillz’ and that’s why we did the video for ‘(She’s Got) Skillz’ instead of for ‘Breathless’.
JK: After that, you guys won a Grammy the next year for ‘Best Pop Vocal’. What was your reaction to that?
JJ: You know, the funny thing is, we were in our hotel room when we found out that we had won, because it was a pre-telecast Grammy’s, and next thing you know, as we’re getting dressed, it was Access Hollywood or one of those things, they knocked on the door and said, “How does it feel? You just won a Grammy.” We were pretty excited.
JK: You can’t think of much better happening than that, I guess.
JJ: Yeah, we were sitting through the whole show with big Kool-Aid smiles, because there was no more suspense for us. We already knew that we had won.
JK: Wow! You went on to do a very successful second album as well, ‘And The Music Speaks’. Was there any difference in how you approached that album?
JJ: I don’t think so. I think that after the success of ‘I Swear’, our whole thing was we pride ourselves on being somewhat smart, and it was like we had been accepted and loved from the people who enjoyed ‘I Swear’ and those kind of songs, and we liked singing them! ‘I Can Love You Like That’, the first song off the second record, was a natural progression, and it was something that we didn’t think would, pardon my French, piss off the fans, because we’re trying to do something totally different now. We enjoyed doing that, I think as much as people enjoyed listening to it, and it was like it’s working, so let’s continue to do this.
JK: Yeah, it worked really well. You guys also did, not long after that, the original version of ‘I Turn To You’, which I thought was a very nice interpretation of it. I preferred it myself to the one that became really popular. What went on at that time? I don’t know if it was between the band and the label or between Atlantic and Blitzz, but there was some friction that happened that caused you to have to lay low for the next couple of years before the next album came out. I think it was originally called ‘Keep It Goin’ On’ and then it was 2 years before it actually came out.
JJ: It wasn’t really friction, it was that we had been learning the business, and we looked at our contract, and looked at our deal, and said, “We believe that we’ve proven ourselves as artists now” and we just wanted a deal that artists who have sold the amount of records we’ve sold, we wanted the same type of deal, and it wasn’t about being greedy, it was about being fair. We took the time and said, “Fine, we’ll record at our pace and straighten up our situation and get the type of deal that we deserve now. We want to be rewarded for all the hard work.” It wasn’t a big problem at the time, it just took a long time because our label at the time, Blitzz, they weren’t used to us taking that type of stand. No one wanted to move for a long time; it was, sorry Al, a Mexican Standoff. AN: (laughs) I love you.
JK: When you mention Blitzz, even though Atlantic was distributing, were they just the distributor -- and you were pretty much still dealing with Blitzz as far as the actual company?
JJ: Yeah, only because we signed with Blitzz Records, and then Blitzz did a deal with Atlantic Records, so basically Blitzz Records was furnishing our songs off to Atlantic Records, but All-4-One was always signed to Blitzz. JK: Were they acting as the management as well?
JJ: Yeah, they were our management.
JK: One thing that a lot of fans heard about a couple of years later was an album called ‘All-4-One Has Left The Building’, which I don’t think actually surfaced, so what was the deal with that?
JJ: It was just our way of trying to find our way out of the whole Blitzz and Atlantic thing, and we hooked up with this small, independent label and started this record called ‘All-4-One Has Left The Building’, which is actually a good, good record. It’s a really good record. We’re sorry it never came out, but we had some disagreements with them, and the record ended up not coming out.
JK: I think the title alone intrigued a lot of people, and then the fact that it didn’t come out was kind of ironic. When I heard the title, I was thinking, “Does this just mean that they’re going to change their name, or that they’re done as a group?”
JJ: Well, you know it was the first package that we did after Atlantic Records, and it was actually more of a freedom thing. We left that building. We were on to other things. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to work it out and release it, because it’s a really good record.
JK: Around that time, Alfred I think you had an accident that forced you to retreat for a while from the whole music of the group?
AN: Well, it was actually blown a little bit out of proportion. I dumped my bike, and all I had was a little quarter-sized scratch on my back, and the record label at the time was just trying to generate some more sales by saying that I got hurt.
JK: I read that it was a slick road and you had to stop for a year and that sort of thing, but it’s interesting what they’ll try to say to generate some publicity.
JJ: I will say this, when it did happen, Alfred, it was kind of a wakeup call for everybody in that it could have been much, much worse, and I know personally, I was very busy with my production and my songwriting and I was very thankful to God that Alfred didn’t get seriously hurt, but it did kind of open my eyes a little bit. We’ll always be All-4-One and we’ll always be together, but maybe it is okay to take a little time to try some other things. I did a Gospel record, and Delious started doing things with photography, and Alfred was really heavy into his motorcycling like he is now. Tony was opening a music shop, so we all took some time to just try some other things and do some other things. Even though he didn’t get hurt really bad, it was kind of an eye-opener to say, “Why don’t we just take it easy for a little. If some gigs come up overseas that we want to go do, we’ll do them, but we won’t focus so much right now on All-4-One, let’s just focus on life and do some things that we want to do.” We’ll always be brothers, we’ll always be together, and that’s what we did.
JK: Tony, what kind of music shop did you open?
TB: It was your typical guitars, amplifiers, recording equipment and that kind of stuff.
JK: This was in California?
TB: Oh yeah.
JK: Jamie, you also produced for Wayne Brady’s album that came out?
JJ: Yeah, I did his whole record with my partners.
JK: That’s pretty cool. How did that whole connection come about?
JJ: Wayne has been a really good friend of mine for years, and I tried for years to get him to sing, and he kept saying, “Yeah! I want to sing. I want to make a record.” I said, “Man, since James Brown’s tragic passing, you’re the hardest working man in show business.” I could never tie him down, and after life gets a hold of you, and I was doing everything at that time, but we found a sound that was right. We went into the studio, recorded some things, did a record for him, and we sat down with him, because he’s a really great writer, and wrote the whole record. We actually have another record coming out here in November with him, a second one that we did for Disney; we have a kids’ record. It all just happened first and foremost from being great friends.
JK: Was that how the association for you guys came about with Peak Records?
JJ: Yes, my team and I - The Heavyweights - did a song for Peabo Bryson and we just established a relationship. We like them a whole lot, started talking to them about the Wayne deal, the Wayne situation, did a record there and had a good experience with them, and just started building that relationship with him, and then the talks came up about another All-4-One record. Everybody was down to do it. The guys were down, label was down, me and my production team, we were down, so it was a natural thing to do.
JK: What is the significance to you calling it ‘No Regrets’?
JJ: Forgive me for being the talker. The guys know I'm a big mouth, and I can’t help it. (Everyone laughs)
TB: That is true (laughs).
JJ: For me personally, we’ve gone through a lot of stuff as a group, as friends and brothers. At times it’s been good and bad, but at the end of the day, it’s all those experiences that make you into who you are and who you become. Sometimes you have to fall to learn which road not to take. At the end of the day, if you can look back on your life and say, “I like who I am and I’m thankful for the opportunities and the things that I have. Even the bad stuff, the bad stuff helped shaped me into the person I am”, the whole ‘No Regrets’ thing, it wasn’t easy. We didn’t come up with that title, ourselves a friend of Delious’s did. He said “I love that quote. You guys should call your album ‘No Regrets’” and a little light went off, because we had talked about it before, but we never really said, ‘We should call the album ‘No Regrets’.
JK: It was a possible song title or something like that?
JJ: There’s a song on the record called ‘Regret’, and it’s a love song that says ‘I don’t regret not being a player, and I don’t regret not hanging with my friends, because that’s what happened and one of the parts of it is, “No Regret No Regret” (singing). It’s one of the things that a lot of people will say when they hear the record, "Oh we love ‘No Regrets’" and with Delious’ friend, a light went off. We were just talking about it not too long ago, not regretting the road that we travelled, because it made us who we are.
JK: Alfred, how would you say this album is different from previous All-4-One Albums?
AN: I would say we have a lot more control over this one. We’re very proud of this album. Not to sound cliché or anything, but this is our best work we’ve ever done. We have some songs that resemble ‘I Swear’, the old doo-wop ‘So Much In Love’. It’s not very far from the originals, but at least we have more control and we’re a lot more proud of this album.
JK: Tony, how important would you say the a capella aspect is for you guys this point? I know that defined a lot initially what you guys were known for. What part of the equation is that at this point?
TB: Especially with All-4-One, that’s what a lot of people know us for. We are real singers and there’s not a lot of digital in us, which is nice especially when we do live shows. Everybody goes, 'I forgot, they really, really can sing, so it’s very important for us.'
JK: You guys seem to have a noticeable amount of up-tempo tracks on this album compared to some of the previous ones. Did that just happen naturally, or was it an intentional effort?
JJ: It’s definitely intentional. We love to have a good time. We got known early on in our career as balladeers. We love ballads -- you can say a whole lot. but we love to dance and have a good time as well. When you’re doing concerts and you’re doing a whole night of ballads, it might get a little boring if it's not Valentine's Day. Even with that, you have to throw in some up-tempo stuff, you know?
JK: Jamie, did you do a lot of writing and producing on this album?
JJ: I have a production team -- there's a few of us called The Heavyweights, and we handled all of the musical sides of things, and Delious actually joined us on a lot of the writing. He’s a really good writer as well, and has been. Tony and Alfred didn’t write as much on this one, really, and we just kind of made sure that everybody heard all the songs, and made sure everybody liked the selections as we were going into the verses. We said. “Here’s what we’re working on, what do you think?” and we put the record together.
JK: How did you guys decide to do the old For Real song ‘You Don’t Know Nothin’’? I was really surprised when I heard it. I was listening to the CD and I was like, “I recognize this song!” I had to go back and think, but there’s a reason I know this. It was that group For Real in the 90’s.
JJ: We actually did a few shows with them, and they had opened for us on a couple of other shows, and when we heard them singing, we were instant fans. We loved hearing them sing, because there were no other girls that could rock it like that, singing a capella and bass and the whole nine. They were really cool. When we were trying to figure out what a capella song to do, and on all the previous albums it’s always been a remake of something. We were trying to decide. I had worked out the arrangement of 'God Bless the Child,' and it was kind of cool. Do we do that one, or do we do something different? Delious called me one day and said, “Do you remember For Real?” And I said, of course, I remember For Real! We used to wear their CD out on the bus. He said, 'I just happened to run across their song "You Don't Know Nothin’," the old video on YouTube. and thought it would be cool to do that song. I know it’s a girl song, but it would be cool to hear the guys do it, and lyrically it’s just a straight-up love song. It’s not really an “I love you girl” or “I love you guy” kind of song. It’s a universal song that anyone can sing. The main thing was arranging it for us, which was a lot of work, but it paid off.
JK: Let me mention a few of the specific songs on the CD that really stuck out to me, and if any of you guys want to comment on them, what meaning it has to you, that’s cool. Starting with the first single, ‘My Child’. Tell me about that song.
JJ: A lot of times when we write, there’s lots of different ways that we do it, but one of the ways that we do it is, I make parts, I make tracks, and I have my ideas, but I’ll record the tracks and give them to Delious or somebody else to see what they can come up with, then we get together to combine our ideas. That was one that I did with Delious, and it came back sounding more like my style. Where did he pull that one out? There are so many songs, and I watch him, and he’s a good songwriter, and all of us have friends who have gone through that. Alfred’s a father, I’m a father, and I can’t imagine how I would feel if I did have to go through that. As much as I love my children, I know how it is. One of the good things about doing what we do is we can be the voice for people who don’t have that voice to say and let the world know what they’re going through, whether it’s a love song or something like ‘My Child’. When Delious brought the idea, I said, “Alright, that’s cool” and I love the fact that it’s different. It actually says something, and it has some meat and some substance. We kind of saw it through and it became the song it is today, which we were really happy about.
JK: What about the song ‘Blowin Me Up’?
JJ: That’s funny, we were talking, we need something that has that European or Japanese, old soul kind of flavour. The thing that they love over there is, they love that old soul. They love the old ‘Off The Wall’ Michael Jackson and a lot of that kind of stuff over there. There are a lot of singers who like that as well, including us. How can we do something that drum-wise, has more of a feel of what’s going on today, but musically, on top, has that old soul melodically, and when you hear it, it makes you smile. Like a Brand New Heavies record -- it’s like everything they used to do with those happy chords. You hear ‘Dream Come True’ and you’re just smiling and singing it. JK: It definitely evoked that feeling for me. It’s a feel-good record. Is there anything that you sampled, or does it just have that feel of that time frame?
JJ: It just has that feel. Everything on there, we played and produced, but what we did of course through technology is you can filter stuff and make it sound old like a sample. It’s kind of a way of sampling without sampling, because I’ve done a few records where I’ve used samples, and believe me, it wasn’t fun.
JK: The legalities of it and everything?
JJ: Oh, yeah. You work and work and then you’ve got to give most of it away, even though you only use a small portion of it.
JK: What about the song ‘Ol’ Fashion Lovin’? What can you tell me about your thoughts on that?
JJ: We look at the album like being in 3 parts; having this really old school sound that’s many different types of old school. ‘Ol Fashion Lovin’ kind of has that 50’s thing in the choruses, and in the verses it has more R&B, Stax-type verse feel. ‘Blowin’ Me Up’ is another one having that old school feel, but we went more after that "Off the Wall" kind of feel. It’s still considered old school, but it’s definitely different from ‘Ol’ Fashion Lovin’. There are a few different songs, like "If Sorry Never Comes" has that 'wall of sound' kind of old school thing, but ‘Ol’ Fashion Lovin’ kind of fits into our old school sound, and then there’s songs that have the new school R&B sound, and the classic sound like ‘Perfect’ and ‘When I Needed an Angel’. We kind of split it up that way, and that song was one that my partners and I had written and we played it for everybody, and everybody really loved it. Everybody thought that it would be really cool and that we could do it. We went ahead and did it, and it turned out for the best.
JK: You mentioned ‘When I Needed An Angel’. I read that you guys were doing something in conjunction with a charity for that song?
JJ: Go ahead, Tony.
TB: Well, it’s called Donate Life, and it’s for organ donations. When you sign up for your license, you just check ‘Yes’ so you can be an organ donor. It’s a very important thing to do. I can’t remember what the figures are, but there are so many people out there just waiting for a liver. We got in contact with them and they’re nice people working for a great cause, and we had to help out.
JK: That’s a good effort, because it’s not one that gets a lot of attention.
JJ: No, it doesn’t.
JK: How has the recording part of the industry and the actual sales part of the industry changed since you guys got involved in the 90’s? What have you felt have been the main changes?
JJ: I think the main changes are, first off the recording process and technology is so awesome. When we first started recording, we would have to sing every chorus and it was an old school way of doing it. By the time we got to the second record, they had technology where you could just sing one chorus and then fly it to the next, and as technology progressed, it’s become a lot easier now to make records with just your laptop and a microphone -- make a whole record. When we did the Wayne Brady record, we recorded half of the record in the Venetian hotel room! When we first started, you needed a whole room full of equipment in order to create that. Now, you can do it with anything. I’ve got a 4-track recorder on my iPhone. As far as the business is concerned, technology again has a hand in that, because we live in a society and a world of convenience, you know wanting everything to be convenient. Now with downloading and things like that, the whole album experience isn’t the way it used to be, where you want to get the artwork and read the ‘Thank You's’ and now there’s this whole iTunes 9 and they’re trying to bring that whole experience back. That’s what you lose in the digital world. You don’t really get that. As far as the downloading, there are a lot of people who like to get their music for free.
JK: Not just iTunes, but with all the technology that’s coming out now where you don’t even have to have a connection and you can be offline in the subway or in your car or wherever you are and have access to thousands of songs instantly by just paying a monthly fee. It’s convenient like you said, but I think it takes away some of the enjoyment, because you’re always looking for the next thing. Maybe you’re not taking as much time to sit down and enjoy the music as a listener. One thing I was curious about, and I know you do a lot of touring when you’re not recording, but how is it making a living off just being performers? Do you do that, or do you have to do other things intermittently, or how does that work?
JJ: That was one of the things we had started as far as our time off and finding ways for us to create an income stream as well. We’ve been very fortunate that we’re able to still perform and we just got back from Japan last month and we’re going back in October. A lot of people thought we broke up, and we never broke up, we were just going overseas a lot because we can go over there and constantly work. It’s definitely gotten a lot harder though, I mean you can’t rest on your laurels as some people say, and you can’t really just rest on “We had hit records” because that doesn’t really mean anything. You’ve got to get out there and get your hustle on, and make sure that the booking agent and the management and everybody is on the same page in that you guys are out working and then of course I tell a lot of younger artists that come into the studio with me. You have to treat your artistry and yourself like a portfolio, like a stock portfolio. You need to not only re-invest in yourself, but you need to diversify yourself, find yourself some other things that you can do so that if one stream of revenue is a little low, then there’s something else kind of blowing up, like if you get into a really good money market account, that’s the beauty of it. If one stock is underperforming, then you’ve got enough of them that hopefully one of the other ones is performing well. It’s the same type of thing. It’s always hard; it’s never easy, but what we’ve tried to do is make sure we’ve set ourselves up with some other things that will help to keep things rolling, and then doing as much performing as we can.
JK: At this point, what would you say is setting you apart from a lot of the other groups that are coming out? Do you want to be set apart or do you want to fit in?
JJ: You know what, it’s a little of both now. I think what we would really like to do now is be part of the revolution of artists who are really trying to bring real music back to the forefront. There’s so much stuff out there, and I’m not going to call it all crap or anything like that, because I like a lot of the stuff that’s out there, but at the same time, the switch got flipped on R&B. At one point, it got away from being musical and having lots of nice melodies and things of that nature to taking a hip hop beat and singing over it, and instead of having chord changes, we would just change the melody here and there to try to make one section different from the rest. It’s like you couldn’t tell the difference between a hip hop rap track and an R&B song. One of the reasons we did wait to try to get new music out there was we had to do it right. We had to do it when we knew people would accept it, otherwise why do it? Nobody wants to fail. There has been a nice, steady stream of producers, and especially some of the folks coming from overseas, singing real melodies and kind of re-introducing this generation to that stuff, and it’s been pretty positive. Of course, there was also recently, something really sad happened, with Michael passing, but the one good thing from his passing is that I believe Michael Jackson has done it again. He’s helped to change music, because mainstream radio is playing his music again, and his music was always very melody-driven with all these cool changes. It was always cool, but it was always real music.
JK: His music blurs the lines a little bit, like it’s not just R&B or pop, but for myself, I like things that cross those lines.
JJ: It was always R&B with a great pop sensibility, or pop songs with an R&B sensibility because that’s just who he was.
JK: You mentioned the producers overseas, there was an album you did, and I don’t know if you did it overseas or if it was just for the overseas market called ‘Split Personality’?
JJ: It was just for Asia, because like I said, we’d been going over there a lot, touring and what not, and one thing I’ll say is that our Asian fans have been so, so good to us over they years, constantly supporting us and bringing us over. Like I said, there’s always a lot of music in us, and at the time, we didn’t feel that that that record ... It just wasn’t right yet. It’s like this record, very melody-driven and things of that nature. When we released that, the Dirty South hip hop sound was still really big for all records, whether it was pop records, whether it was R&B or rap, it was like they all had the same beat, and that’s just not what we were doing. JK: Was it you, Alfred who said “MmmHmm” when he was talking about Asia?
TB: No, that was me.
JK: What do you like about touring or performing in Asian countries? Are there any countries in particular that you guys really enjoyed or have done a lot of activity in?
TB: We just like to travel in general. That’s one thing about these young artists have to learn -- that if you want to be successful and keep touring when things are a little different than in the United States, you have to go over there and spend the time and that’s one of the things we did. Like Jamie said, they were truly loyal, and part of the reason is because here, I don’t know how many groups are trying to come out this year. 30,000 you know? I’m just throwing numbers out, but over there, not everybody goes over and takes the time, and luckily we did, and we can still go over there and do some great concerts right now.
JK: Tapping into the Asia and international markets, is that something that’s possible for artists that are just up and coming to do, or do you think that you already have to be established to go and explore that, if you’re from America?
JJ: I believe that it’s open. I think one thing that will always be key in the music business, whether it’s now or 30 years from now, is a hit song will always be a hit song, and because of the World Wide Web now, I remember that we had written a few songs for this guy who had won Australian Idol, and we were able to get broadband in our studio, and it was such a trip to us that we can finish a song and have it to him in 10 minutes. It used to be that they’d send us a song and they’ll have it in 2 weeks, because it takes us that long to get it to you. Now you can be everywhere on the planet Earth at once, and a hit song is a hit song. If you have a hit here, there’s a good chance that if it’s a really good song, it’s going to work everywhere. If you take the time, you can cultivate those other markets.
JK: When you did your solo album, was that something that you primarily marketed through CD Baby?
JJ: It was through CD Baby, but it was also under iTunes and all over the Internet. It was a Gospel and Inspirational CD and it was all done independently. CD Baby was one of the places we went to.
JK: How did you find that avenue of just doing it online as opposed to approaching the larger scale release tactics?
JJ: For me personally, I learned a whole lot about the back end of the business, the actual business side of doing it, and that was actually one of the reason my wife and I partnered up. Another reason is that I went through major labels, and I actually had some interest from major labels, but everybody wanted me to change the album and wanted it to be something different, and I’m at the point in my career where I know what I’m doing, I know how to make good music, I’m just looking for somebody who's gonna trust me and share the vision, rather than tell me how to do it. Going independent was the way to go and do that.
JK: I guess it’s hard to enjoy it if you’re compromising but so much of the style that you want to do.
JJ: Yeah, at the time I wanted to do something more inspirational. It was just something that -- I started when I was out of church, and I just wanted to do something to return to do it. I didn’t want to force that on the guys, if they didn’t want to do it. It was just something that I felt called by God to do. For me, there was no compromise at all; it was going to be one way or no way at all. Because of the technology and resources and doing this for so long, you don’t have to rely on anybody if you don’t want to. You can put the future into your own hands.
JK: In closing, are there any things in the near future or long term that you guys would like fans to know about, or things to look out for with the group or individually?
JJ: Right now, and I’ll let everybody add their cents, but right now, our main focus is All-4-One. We are really thankful to do it again, and so far the fans have been really accepting us and are supportive of what we’re doing. Our main goal is that in a week and a half or so, we’re going on a pretty long promotional trip and we’re just going to try to give back to people where they are and let people know about the new music and then eventually start touring again here in the States.
JK: That would be great. I think a lot of people would like to see that.
JJ: We’re looking forward to it as well. We’ve got the taste in our mouth again. We did a show on Valentine's Day with Babyface at the Nokia Theater here in L.A. and it went really well, it sold out and we had such a good welcome from people and fans, and we’re really looking forward to doing that again.
JK: That sounds like a good show; a nice combination.
TB: We also want to point people towards our website. Jamie, do you want to take that?
JJ: Yeah, it’s simple. It’s www.all-4-one.com and we’re doing our best to make sure it’s always updated, for the people who want to know what we’re doing. Our new video for ‘My Child’ is up there, and the album is also up there if you want to go listen to it and preview it, so we’d love people to go meet us up there.
TB: We’re also on Myspace and Facebook and Twitter. Twitter, I’m not even sure what that is, but we 'twit.' We’re a little confused about the Twitter.
JK: Are you doing some Tweeting to fans?
TB: I don’t do it, because I don’t know what it is. It scares me. You can find me on Facebook. Jamie’s our Twitter (laughs).
AN: He’s our Internet guy.
JK: So we might see some blogging or something like that, of what you’re doing, touring and that kind of thing?
JJ: Oh yeah.
JK: Are there any things in particular that you guys are enjoying listening to right now, as far as other acts that are out there, or even old stuff? What are you listening to?
JJ: For me right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder, and of course Michael. I’ve got every Michael Jackson record I ever had out, studying them. As far as some of the newer artists, I listen to a lot of Gospel music as well, like I’ve been listening to Israel Houghton a lot, that record that I really love, and Kierra Sheard, and of course being in production, I’m always listening to whatever is new, and finding stuff that I like. Believe it or not, and I know people may look at me sideways, but I love the new Miley Cyrus song ‘Party in The USA’. I love the melodies and stuff on it, and I’m always listening. I kind of have to in order to be a songwriter, because you have to know what’s going on out there if you’re going to compete.
JK: You’ve got to keep it eclectic.
JK: Well, thank you guys very much for taking the time to talk with me.
AN: Thank you, Justin. Thanks for taking the time.
JK: I’m sorry that Delious couldn’t join us, but maybe I’ll see if I can catch up with him separately. Anyway, I wish you the best with the new album, and I look forward to hearing a lot more from you guys.
TB: Thank you so much.
JJ: We really appreciate you. You did your homework, man. You knew stuff that we didn’t even know. We really appreciate all your help man, and we thank you.
JK: You’re welcome. I was in high school when you guys first came out, so I bought the albums, and it was a real pleasant surprise to hear about the new album coming out, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s great!
JJ: You sound like you’re still in high school! (laughs)
JK: I think my voice gets a little higher on the phone. I don’t know if it’s nerves or what.
JJ: I have the same problem.
JK: I passed the 30-mark, so I can’t say I’m still in high school, but I feel young.
JJ: We all are. We’re right there with you, man.
JK: Okay, well take it easy, guys, I hope to meet you at some point.
About the Writer
Justin Kantor is a freelance music journalist with published works in Wax Poetics and the All-Music Guide. A graduate of Berklee College of Music's Business and Management program, he regularly writes liner notes for reissue labels.