As the silky voice that delivers the titletrack of Cool Million's Back for More opus, Eugene Wilde is no stranger to soul. His #1 R&B streak began in the mid-80's with "Gotta Get You Home Tonight" and "Don't Say No Tonight" on the classic Philly World label; and continued into the 90's with quiet-storm favorites "How About Tonight" and "I Choose You." Following a venture into writing for pop superstars and producing his son's debut CD, Eugene is now getting back to his vocal roots -- and moving forward in a very funky way...
Justin Kantor: Hi, this is Justin Kantor of Soulmusic.com, coming to you with a first class R&B musician, singer and songwriter who has served us up plentiful helpings of soulful classics in the form of the #1 slow jams ‘Gotta Get You Home Tonight’ and ‘Don’t Say No Tonight’ as well as ‘Diana’ and ‘How About Tonight.' But what many may not realize is that he’s also performed with, and penned hits for a host of artists ranging from Sheena Easton and Lulu to Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and folks from all genres of music. I’m speaking of course about Eugene Wilde, who after a lengthy hiatus is literally back for more with his strong new cut featured on the Cool Million CD of the same name, ‘Back For More’. Please welcome Mr. Eugene Wilde. How are you doing today?
Eugene Wilde: I’m doing fantastic, Justin. How about yourself?
JK: I’m doing really well. It’s nice to be talking with you after enjoying your music for a bit now. You have a lot of great albums under your belt.
EW: My pleasure, man.
JK: It seems like you’re getting an enthusiastic response from the new track, ‘Back For More’. Tell me about how that came about.
EW: It’s crazy, man! One day I went into my email and I see there was this group who I had no idea who they were at first, Cool Million the production team out of Denmark, and they asked me, “How would you like to be involved with this project that we’re doing?” I just did a quick scan on them and checked out some of the background, and I checked it out and dug the type of stuff they were doing; it just reminded me of all the stuff that I was doing in the 80’s. Of course I jumped on it and said, “Let’s do it!”
JK: So it’s right up your alley.
EW: Right up my alley. It just took me right back home.
JK: How would you describe the sound of it for fans who haven’t heard it yet?
EW: It’s really an 80’s flavour, it has a Dance/Euro vibe to it, it has some R&B elements to it, some Pop stuff, and I’m just ecstatic about the project.
JK: You’re in really good company too, with other great artists like Meli'sa Morgan, Peggi Blu, and of course your sister Dee Dee Wilde and your brother Al are on the project as well, right?
EW: Yeah, and also Audio is my brother on there as well.
JK: Does he have a track on there as well?
JK: You collaborated with your sister on a track called ‘Loose’ and both of those songs, ‘Loose’ and ‘Back For More’ that you’re soloing on have been released on a 7-inch single over in Europe, which is kind of neat for vinyl junkies.
EW: I’m totally excited about that as well. Like I said, the whole idea is that 80’s kind of vibe, and to me, the 60’s ,70’s and 80’s was definitely my style. That was just my vibe of music, and even right now when I’m vibing to music, I like to go back and listen to some 60’s ,70’s and 80’s stuff, and maybe early 90’s too.
JK: Did you write the song ‘Back For More’?
EW: I co-wrote it with the guys form Denmark, Frank & Rob, and also with my son DuJuan, who is a producer and an incredible vocalist who has an album that’s coming out in the very near future.
JK: I heard one of his songs that you had a sample of up on your website. It sounded pretty cool. You’ve done various work overseas over the years, because I know you have a following over there. Are there any particular musical activities that you have been involved in that have helped you establish yourself over there, when you mentioned these guys are from Denmark and the following that you’ve gained in the UK as well?
EW: Actually, ever since around the early 80’s really, I’ve gravitated toward the European vibe. I really love the R&B stuff that comes out of there, as well, like Loose Ends. I’m really taken by that kind of stuff. Groups like that, Heatwave with Rod Temperton and Johnnie Wilder and those guys; anything that had that flavour, I gravitated to it.
JK: You got a chance to work with some of those cats yourself when you were first starting on your solo career, because what came to mind when you mentioned those guys was Nick Martinelli who was involved in producing or mixing some of your early efforts. So, take me back a little bit. Tell me about your earliest memories of listening to music and making music, as far as your childhood and so forth.
EW: To be honest, I can’t remember not being involved with music. There was always music in my house. My mother was a keyboard player and still is, and my father was a singer and he still is, and all of my brothers still play music, so my whole thing was, I was a lot younger than they were, and they were already out playing in bands, and my whole thing was like, “Yeah! I’m waiting in the wings!” Me and Dee Dee, but Dee Dee actually got the jump on me, she was a little older than me, so she got a taste before me, but the whole thing man, I was always involved with. I started playing keyboards around age four, and then I picked up bass and drums and I was always around music. There was always music in my house 24/7.
JK: I was going to ask you if your parents were involved, because it is remarkable that you and all your siblings have had records out, because you don’t see that a lot of times these days. That’s pretty cool.
EW: Me myself, I couldn’t get away from it. I wanted to be a football player, man, and it wasn’t gonna happen!
JK: It’s second nature, right?
EW: Definitely. It wasn’t gonna happen, because every time I went to sleep at night, I was woken up by music. It never stopped in my house. There were always instruments there and it never stopped. To be honest, I don’t know how my mother and father put up with it.
JK: Being lovers of music as well, I guess they were on your side, right?
EW: Exactly. They were always sittin' there, like, “Play that again! I like that!”
JK: That’s awesome to have that encouragement, because I know a lot of young aspiring musicians would like to have that encouragement. One of the first groups that you were involved in was a group called Today Tomorrow Forever, or TTF for short, and you guys were signed to Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records, distributed by RSO, the same label that put out the Fame soundtrack. So tell me about the beginnings of that group and how you came to be involved.
EW: TTF was a group that was actually South of us. They were actually in the Homestead, Florida area, and we were in Miami and we would always see this group perform. They were actually my age. My brothers were a little bit older than me, and so they were actually playing around all the time, and I would hear that group and say, “Wow! These guys are really talented.” What happened is, they had a keyboard player, and I think he actually moved. He moved, and they asked me to come and join their band. They said, “Hey man, we’ve got this thing happening, we just signed a deal, and we would love your influence to come in and be a part of what we’re doing” and that’s how that happened. I was going back and forth from Homestead back to Miami.
JK: How far away is that from Miami?
EW: Not too far. Probably a round trip of maybe 90 miles.
JK: Enough to make a little dent in your day, but not too bad.
EW: The only thing was the traffic getting back and forth.
JK: I was listening to that record the other day. I actually have it in front of me, and if I’m correct, you weren’t singing lead on any of the songs.
EW: That’s correct. Actually, I didn’t play on the record. The record was already out and they keyboard player left, and they wanted me to take a photo and be a part of the group and play live with them.
JK: I was trying to listen for characteristics that might remind me of your sound but I couldn’t quite put it together, so that explains it for me. I know they did another album and I saw that you weren’t on that one, so I wasn’t sure what the whole deal was.
EW: That was really brief, because what happened was, right as that record was taking place, my brother Al actually moved to another state, so again, I had to move back and forth with my family. They were like, “Okay, you gotta come home now.” TTF was a great place to visit, but you can’t live there.
JK: Now, is that when you started doing work under some of the other names that I’ve heard? I’m not sure if you released things under these names, The Tight Connection and Life?
EW: Right. I think we had more names than any band probably in the history of music. We went from Ben and the Magnificent 4, The Chevrons, The Tight Connection, Life, oh man we had so many different names it was ridiculous.
JK: Were these names that you used to perform around town and so forth?
EW: Exactly. They were named that the locals sing with, and of course when we put out our own record on TK, that became the Broomfield Corporate Jam later on.
JK: So you actually put out records under those names on TK Records?
JK: Do you recall the names of the songs that you put out?
EW: Of course! ‘Does Anybody Really Know’ was the first record that we recorded.
JK: How would you describe that one?
EW: That had to be early 70’s, and we put it out.
JK: So even before TTF and all that?
EW: Oh yeah.
JK: So you were a little boy, pretty much.
JK: That’s pretty cool.
EW: Oh man, that goes way back. I’m not really sure, but I’ve heard someone tell me that they actually have it on Youtube. It’s funny you mention that, because I’m actually gonna go on and see if I can find it.
JK: That would be cool. Speaking of that, I was just watching today a video clip of the family and it was of the family, when you guys took on the name La Voyage. I’m sure you’ve seen that one.
EW: Yeah, that’s another name that we were also (laughs).
JK: Was that a family label, Trans A Records?
EW: Exactly. We also had Mountain Records as well.
JK: That’s the one that Aaron had his record out on, ‘I’m Gonna Miss You’, correct?
JK: You did an EP called Never Lookin Back, which has actually been reissued on CD recently. During that time when you were La Voyage, what gave you guys the impetus to say, “Let’s put out a record on our own?” That was the first time in a while that you had done that, right?
EW: Right. The whole point of doing it ourselves was because we could basically make the record that we really wanted to. The major record companies, they say, “We want this, we want you to sound like that” and for me, I didn’t think we had our own individuality, because at that point we thought, “Let’s do our own thing, and if we have to form our own label, we can do the music that we actually want to do.”
JK: How was the experience for you when you did that?
EW: It was great. There was no pressure first of all, and we just went in the studio and had fun. It was early on in our career and we weren’t even used to being in a recording studio, so that alone was an experience.
JK: Did you mostly release it regionally, through Southern Florida, or how large of a scale did you get to with it?
EW: It was actually totally a local record; Miami, and maybe went up as far as the West Palm Beach area. That was basically it.
JK: Were you surprised years later when it came out on CD in Japan with all those early songs?
EW: Yeah! Of course when you’re doing a record, you have it in your mind, you’re not thinking 20 or 30 years down the road, what’s going to happen. That’s just too far-fetched to even think about, and to go back and rewind the tape is totally incredible for me.
JK: How did you end up hooking up with Philly World and how did you come up with yet another name change with Simplicious?
EW: Another crazy story! I have tons of them. We were performing in a club in Miami Beach called the Forge Nightclub and there was this guy who came in, and we were performing with the Life band. We were performing and he said, “I’m really interested in getting into the record business and I’m really interested in you guys, so how can we make this happen?” We sat down to talk about it, and to make a long story short, the guy says, “I have a relationship with a record company in Philadelphia, so why don’t we make this work where you guys can come up and do an audition or whatever?” We went to Philly and of course, we have a football team of brothers and sisters, so we rushed these people, and they were totally overwhelmed like, “Whoah! This is like two Jackson 5’s” (laughs). They were like, “We gotta trim this down” so they actually wanted to do just a solo thing. My thing was, I was like, “It’s not going to be with me. I’m a keyboard player.” To make a long story short, they kind of backed up and I was the one that was standing up front, so they were like, “Okay, this is the one that we’re gonna make the solo record with” and I said, “Not me” but it happened to be me. We went and started recording the Simplicious record and it made it over to Europe and that’s kind of how it happened from there. Simplicious went, and I was the lead singer from Simplicious so I’m leaving the group to do a solo record.
JK: They didn’t want to be bothered with such a large group, is what you’re saying.
EW: They couldn’t handle that.
JK: Interesting. It’s funny, because I notice for several years on, it seemed like every time one of your singles would come out either here in the States or in the UK, they would put that song ‘Let Her Feel’ on the B-Side of it. I don’t even remember, it might have even been on the first album maybe, of your solo album.
EW: It actually was on the first record. It actually went from Simplicious, but it was really Eugene Wilde.
JK: I didn’t discover until later that it was actually Simplicious so was it actually you doing most of that record as opposed to the other family members?
JK: How did you come up with the stage name of Eugene Wilde?
EW: I tell this story, and people are amazed by it, but it’s totally 110% true. One day we were in the studio, and the group was Simplicious but I was doing an album now, so of course I had to have a name, and so I was happy with my name Ron Broomfield, and that’s great.
JK: Nothing wrong with it.
EW: Yeah! I love it! So we were actually recording the music, and I don’t know why, but everyone was revealing what their middle name was, and so it just so happens when it came to my name and I said Eugene, as I said Eugene, my manager happened to walk right through the door and said, “Whose name is Eugene?” and everybody pointed at me. So, he said, “From now on, your name is gonna be Eugene.” It’s funny. Everybody turned around and said, “Man, you can’t call that guy Eugene!” (laughs) So, my name was gonna be Eugene, so he said, “Listen, we have to find a last name to go with Eugene, but it’s definitely going to be Eugene.” It just so happens I went to New York with my manager and I was in the hotel room, and I’m actually going through a magazine and I get to this club, and I don’t know anything about what it is; I don’t know anything about New York, and I’m going through the names, and I see several names and I see Townsend. I’m like, “Eugene Townsend? Naah.” I came across a club that was called Wildflower’s and so I said, “If I take the flower off and just make it Eugene Wild and add an e to it, that’s alright!” So, I was actually writing it down and it looked pretty good. Just as I thought of that, the phone rang, and it was my manager. He said, “I got your name” and I said, “It’s funny that you should mention that, because I was just about to call you because I have a name also” and he said, “No, listen to this. How about you be called Eugene Wilde? We can spell it with an e on the end” and I dropped the phone.
JK: It’s destiny, right?
EW: Oh, absolutely.
JK: And to think, initially you were so skeptical. Was Eugene one of those names that as a kid, you didn’t want anybody to know or something? It was your middle name, but then it ended up being the thing to go with.
EW: Well, you know people just thought that was a funny name and I loved it; my Grandfather’s name was Eugene. That’s not funny, it’s a great name!
JK: It works really well. So you got the stage name Eugene Wilde and you came out in a really big way. Your first official solo single ‘Gotta Get You Home Tonight’ went to #1, so what more could you ask for, right?
EW: What happened was, my manager was actually from the UK, so we had some success but now we need to follow it; we needed to have an album done.
JK: What was your manager’s name?
EW: His name was Bedrock. He’s actually deceased now. I was writing with my buddy McKinley Horton and he said, “Why don’t we go to Europe and write this album?” so the record company said, “Wow! You must want to spend a lot of money on this album to go over there and write it. If that’s what you want to do, go and do it!” So we go to Europe and we’re writing these songs and it’s funny because we came back and we told them, “This is a hit record! Oh my God!” and we took it to the them and they listened and they were like, “Wow! You mean you guys went to Europe and you wrote this kind of garbage?” They didn’t initially like it, and they said, “I don’t think Gotta Get You Home is the record” so they were playing around with ‘Lately’ being the first single, and that never even became a single period. It’s kind of funny because what happened is, my manager is like, “I think 'Gotta Get You Home' is the song. We gotta do it and put it out in Europe” and the Europeans just gravitated to it right out of the box.
JK: Did it actually come out there first?
EW: Oh yeah.
JK: Was that the point where Philly World finally said, “It’s a good record and we’ll put it out here”?
EW: Yeah, once it happened in the UK, it was almost like they were forced to put it out, because it had already been determined that, “You guys might be wrong”. It’s amazing, the record kept gaining momentum because it actually started off really slow. I think it charted maybe in the 90’s or way down in the high 80’s and it just chugged along, gaining momentum, until people said, “Wow! You know that record 'Gotta Get You Home' by Eugene Wilde, we like that.” It was crazy!
JK: It ended up staying on the charts for a long time too, like 23 weeks.
EW: It stayed for a while, but it took like 16 weeks to get to #1.
JK: That was one that you wrote yourself, right?
EW: Well, me and my partner McKinley Horton wrote the first two albums together.
JK: You worked with some really good company -- producer-wise, too, on that one with Donald Robinson, right?
EW: Oh yeah.
JK: And Michael Forte. You also had one of my favorites on there, ‘Rainbow’, produced by Bunny Sigler.
EW: Bunny Sigler, an amazing guy.
JK: So obviously that set you up for a good future with Philly World, because you had equal or greater success with your second album, Serenade. I think ‘Don’t Say No Tonight’ was #1 for several weeks on the charts. What was it that shifted gears, because I know that somewhere in that second album, you ended up going over to MCA and it was a little while before we heard the next album from you? What was it that caused that, after all the success you had with the first 2 albums?
EW: I called it the biggest mistake in history, because we had so much momentum coming off ‘Gotta Get You Home Tonight, and then we went into the Serenade record, and right of the bat, ‘Don’t Say No’ plows right into #1 and it’s #1 for another week, and another week, and as it’s going up, we decided the next single was going to be ‘Diana,' and ‘Diana’ is working its way up, and all of a sudden, my manager said, “Let’s take a train ride”. I was in Philly, and we took a train ride. I said, “Where are we going?” and we’re just riding up the coast and he said, “Let’s go to Boston and then turn around. I have some things I want to discuss with you.” He opens up his briefcase and he takes out this contract and he says, “How would you like to go to MCA Records?” and I’m like, “Yeah! After this album” and he said, “No, now” and I’m like, “I don’t think you can go over to another record company when you have a record out and an album already happening.” He says, “Oh yeah, that’s what we’re gonna do” and I said, “I don’t think it’s done that way.” At the time, MCA was totally overwhelmed. They had every act that you can possibly have. Every R&B act was under that umbrella. I thought we were kind of where we need to be, we got our own thing happening. We were under the Atlantic Records umbrella, it was Philly World/Atlantic, and I’m like, “After this record is over, then we can make a decision, but I don’t think you can just stop,” and, man, he was adamant that this was the right move to make, and that immediately put the brakes on everything. We went over to MCA and there was so much competition over there and so many young acts and so many acts that already had a following and had so much momentum behind them. It was like, “Whoa!” I just got pushed in the corner with a whole lot of other great acts that were there, as well, who were doing great things, as well. Everybody got pushed back, and they were going to become this young company with all these young stars, I guess.
JK: It is ironic, because around that time was when Philly World went out of business, right?
EW: Yeah, that ended for a while, and I think they had a couple more acts that came through, but that was it.
JK: I remember you had one single out that I really liked that was on a soundtrack that was directly on Atlantic, and that was “First Love Never Dies” with Joanna Gardner.
EW: Oh yeah, that was one of my favourite records.
JK: I guess it was really frustrating to be sitting on the roster on MCA for a while and not having an album out for a while, but you did have a couple of interesting things out in that time. You did a great record with the Jazz group Cabo Frio, ‘I’ll Get Back To You’, which is one of my favourites, and one thing that surprised me that wasn’t really released that widely, you did the duet with Sheena Easton. How did that come about?
EW: You know who put that whole thing together? And I love him to death. Nick Martinelli. What happened at that time, Sheena Easton was doing a host of songs with Kenny Rogers, and everything they were doing was Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton, so they were getting ready to do this other thing, and Nick was like, “Why don’t y’all try somebody new?” and they said, “We don’t know anybody” and Nick said, “I know somebody. Why don’t you get Eugene Wilde? I’ve been working with him down in Philadelphia, he’s this new guy that’s coming up, so why don’t you give him a shot?” I flew out and met with Narada Michael Walden and Randy Jackson and all these people and Sheena, and they played the track, and I was like, “Oooh! Yeah, this works perfect. Let’s do it!” That’s kind of how it happened. Nick was kind of vocal behind that whole thing.
JK: It was really cool. It seemed like one of those ballads that combines the best of both Pop and R&B together, sort of like ‘First Love Never Dies’; it had a really wide appeal. So, when you finally put out your first official album with MCA, you produced some of that yourself, with ‘I Can’t Stop This Feelin'’ and the title track, ‘I Choose You (Tonight)’ and you also worked with some interesting people on there like the late Gerald LeVert.
EW: Oh yeah.
JK: What was the experience like, doing that album? Was that something that you had been working on since you started with MCA, or how did it come about and go down?
EW: Louil Silas, Jr., who was the Executive over there at the time, who was actually my A&R man said, “Hey Eugene, you need to get with Gerald” and I knew Gerald; we were really good friends. We were promoting records all the time together. We had a great rapport already, and he was just a great guy so we became very friendly, so when he mentioned the fact that I had an opportunity to actually do something on the record side with Gerald I said, “Oh man, that’s my buddy! Of course!” He was kind of instrumental in putting that whole thing together. I went back to Philly and Gerald played a couple of his tracks, I was like, “Yeah! Let’s do it!” Louil’ whole thing was, “You’re this ballad guy, but let’s see if we can do something on the up-tempo” and that’s how that happened. We have the ballads, so let’s do something up, so we did ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business’.
JK: It had a New Jack Swing sound, which was really different.
JK: I know you had a couple of up-tempo songs out before, like ’30 Minutes to Talk’ and ‘Chey Chey Kule’, but that one had a definite kind of different edge to it. Do you consider yourself first and foremost a balladeer or do you like to be thought of differently?
EW: I think I was a balladeer in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. Now, I don’t think I want to do another ballad (laughs). I was talking to Frank from Cool Million, and I actually think that we’re going to do a whole album in the very near future. I said, “I’m definitely in, if we’re going to keep the record an “Up” record, happy, Euro meets R&B Pop record” and he was like, “We can do that, but of course you have to do one ballad for the world” and I don’t have a problem with that, as long as it’s predominantly up-tempo, I’m happy. To be honest, I love doing ballads, but I think I’m ready to be the up-tempo dance man now.
JK: I really enjoyed the dance mix you did of the song ‘Catch Me I’m Fallin'’ that was on your website, and I didn’t even know about it until last week.
EW: Actually, it was out in Europe, and people really loved the record. It was maybe #1 on a couple of High Energy charts over there. It was a single, and then I think it went on a couple of compilations. It was for a record company called Global Harmony.
JK: I saw that you had done an album last year called Compositions that was mostly ballads, but I guess you didn’t end up really releasing that.
EW: Right, it hasn’t officially been released yet.
JK: Right, because the version of that song on there is more of a ballad, but then I heard the dance mix on your site.
EW: We want to go back and really release that record because people in Europe are just really vibin’ that record.
JK: I really like that style of music, whether it’s House, R&B, Dance, it’s just real feel-good kind of music, and I think your voice sounds really good on it. It would be cool to hear you do more of that if you end up doing a whole album with Frank & Rob; that would be awesome.
EW: I’m in transition to do that right now, and plus I’m having a great time doing it. The ‘Loose’ record, at the same time, it’s not that dancy, but it’s Up. It has a groove to it, yeah. I was telling Frank, I would love to do a worldy kind of ballad, like a Coldplay kind of record. I would love to do that, but a ballad R&B record, I don't know...
JK: So you’re looking to expand your musical genres at this point, and I’m curious, how did you land yourself in the world of writing for really big Teen Pop acts, because you wrote a couple of really big ones for the Backstreet Boys with ‘I’ll Never Break Your Heart’ and ‘All I Have To Give’, and Britney Spears, Victoria Beckham. How did that all come about for you?
EW: It’s funny, because actually ‘I’ll Never Break Your Heart’ was going to be my first single (laughs).
JK: I was going to say, it sounded like a song I could hear you singing.
EW: It was actually going to be my first single.
JK: Do you mean back in the day when you were first coming out?
EW: No, I mean right as the Backstreet Boys were finishing up their record. That record was actually done, and I had a buddy of mine take the record up to Jive Records. Kevin Wagner who was actually acting as my manager at the time, he took the record to David McPherson and he said, “I have a hit for you man. We just did this new record and I want you to check it out” so he plays it for him and he’s like, “It’s a hit! For my new group. I’m doing this new group, it’s a boy band called the Backstreet Boys and this record will work perfect. Why don’t you get Eugene on the phone and see if he will let this record go and let the group do the record instead. Man, I was ecstatic. I was like, “Yes, please, let them do it!” Actually me & Dee Dee were on our way to Hong Kong. We had a contract to go to Hong Kong for, like, five months and do a jazz piano thing. I said, “That’s great man. Perfect timing.” So, of course nobody in the world expected the record and that group to go through the roof the way it did.
JK: It kind of parallels the beginning of your solo career as well, because at first, they didn’t really take off here and they ended up releasing their album in the UK a year before they actually put it out here.
EW: Exactly. Nobody wanted anything to do with Backstreet. It’s funny, I get a phone call back from David, and he’s like, “This album is really starting to rip over in Europe” and they had the first record out and it was a hit, but it just couldn’t get over that hump. I loved the record, but I they weren’t getting any play on it; it wasn’t happening. They just kind of picked up their things and got out of there to go across the pond where things are happening like crazy. I get a phone call back saying, “We’d like to do a publishing deal with you” and I’m like, “Wow! Let’s do it!” To make a long story short, I had no idea they wanted to do this contract so quick, because that record had already sold like seven million copies.
JK: Was it including the song of yours on it already, with ‘I’ll Never Break Your Heart’ over in Europe?
EW: Yeah, and it was ripping through Europe. The sales were just crazy. I did the deal and now I’m sitting back as a songwriter now, so I’m doing a songwriting camp, and they’re like, “How would you like to just write music?” and I’m like, “That’s all I ever really wanted to was to just write music.” I didn’t really want to be an artist; I could play my piano and sing a couple of songs every now and then with my family and I was happy.
JK: Is that what you were doing in Hong Kong when you performed with Dee Dee? Were you primarily playing piano and she was singing?
EW: Right. Dee Dee and myself, we were doing this piano bar thing and it was just fantastic.
JK: Was it with Zomba? Is that who you signed your publishing deal with?
EW: Yeah, I signed the deal with Zomba and they started sending me all over the place to work with all these great writers. A key place for me was Nashville, and I was there every other week writing and writing, but they would never allow me to write Country. They were like, “No, we want you to write for the Backstreet Boys. We want you to write for Britney Spears.”
JK: It’s interesting, there are a couple of R&B artists that I liked from the 90’s who recently went into Country. One is a guy by the name of Chris Walker. I don’t know if you remember him, because he used to tour as a drummer with Anita Baker, and he had a record out in the 90’s called ‘Take Time’ which was really big, and also another guy by the name of David Black, who was actually under the Bust It label that MC Hammer had, and he was an R&B balladeer, and I posted an old clip of his on Youtube, and when I posted the description, I said, “Does anybody know what happened to this guy? He’s really talented” and this guy sent me an email saying, “Yeah, I know what happened to him. He’s my partner in a Country duo now” and he sent me a link to his Myspace page, so you never know. If you feel it in you, I’m sure you can find a way to do it. I guess it’s just s matter of getting people to get over their preconceived notions of what style of music you do.
EW: Right. I thought at one point I was going to have to buy a house in Nashville, I was there so much.
JK: Was it just a lot of the writers that they wanted you to collaborate with were based there?
EW: Exactly. Zomba wanted me to collaborate with these writers and, of course, the Country guys wanted to expand on their writing, because the country guys were just unbelievable. I thought I was a songwriter, and then I went to Nashville and these guys take you to school, man. You find out that you’re not really as good as you think you are. You find out really fast when you start writing with those Nashville guys. They can really tell a story.
JK: I wouldn’t describe myself as a big fan of country music, but you can tell when it’s a good country record because as you said, the writing is really real and it’s said in a very direct way that’s simple so that you can understand, yet it doesn’t sound like everything else that’s been in a song, you know?
EW: Exactly. It’s amazing how they can tell it. If they’re telling you about a dog, they can tell you about a dog, a truck, whatever; it’s really amazing, man. They can really write music. Every time I went there, I said, “Wow! Let me just learn.”
JK: So tell me, do you have a label now?
EW: That’s my partner, Celerity Records. Mine is Eugene Wilde Entertainment/Celerity Records. Actually, my partner is Veit Renn, who did all of the Backstreet Stuff, he did all of the *NSYNC stuff, this guy is an incredible producer.
JK: What’s his background exactly?
EW: He’s a guy out of Germany, and he used to be managed by Lou Pearlman and did a lot of stuff with Johnny Wright and did a lot on the *NSYNC first and second albums, he produced ‘I’ll Never Break Your Heart’, and he’s an incredible songwriter and producer. He’s still signed over at Zomba.
JK: How did you feel about the final output when you had for instance, the song ‘Dear Diary’ recorded by Britney Spears or ‘I Wish’ recorded by Victoria Beckham? Were you pleased with the results of how it came out when it was recorded?
EW: Especially with the Britney stuff, it was incredible because this was going to be Britney’s first record that she wrote on an album, and to have me a part of it, it was just crazy. That’s something I could never forget, because she’s just great. She just goes and gets the job done. I don’t care what people say, she gets the job done.
JK: You mentioned that you’re working on a record for your son now, and you have another male artist right now -- whose name I can’t remember-- on the website. So tell me about those projects. Is there a timeframe for putting those projects out, or what can we expect musically from them?
EW: Actually, my son, we actually have two albums in the hold with him now and what we’re doing right now is, we’re just expanding because he’s working with a couple of different writers now, some other guys that he worked with out of Orlando, and they’re just doing all kinds of different things; they’re doing World music now, and a whole lot of Euro, Dance, just really cool stuff. I told him, “We have these other albums in the hold. Let’s just continue doing the stuff that you guys are doing, because that stuff is blowing me away.” We’re just waiting for somebody else to come to the party with capital to really make this happen. You guys know there’s great music, but if you don’t have a great campaign behind you, it suffers.
JK: That’s what Dee Dee was telling me, because I was telling her, with the other guys from your family, you guys are so prolific with your output, but a lot of your stuff hasn’t surfaced yet, as far as coming out, and I know there are people out there who want to hear it, but like you said, it’s just a matter of just doing it the right way so that people know it’s out there.
EW: Exactly. You have to let people know this is available and let us know what you think about it. That’s where we’re at now, finishing up some stuff and letting people become judgmental.
JK: Who are you listening to these days? What musicians or singers or even producers or writers do you enjoy, whether new or old?
EW: I’m a total Lionel Richie fanatic. I love the simplicity of his music. Lyrically, as well as chord progression, everything is just so simple when you take a song like ‘Truly’ and still, I’m just blown away. In terms of really getting into harmony, which I love, it’s really great and Heatwave just knocks my head off! When I listen to that stuff that Rod was doing, like Michael Jackson "Off The Wall" and stuff like that, it just blows my mind.
JK: Heatwave, the one that always comes to mind is ‘Mind Blowing Decisions’.
EW: It’s funny, because I didn’t know people even know about those songs.
JK: I think that’s probably one of my favorites of theirs.
EW: It’s funny you should mention that. ‘Head-On Collision’ man. That’s incredible.
JK: There’s another really talented musician that you worked with, who I forgot to mention, which is George Duke.
EW: George did my last album, man. To sit back and watch George work is totally mindblowing.
JK: I think my favorite cut on there is ‘If Only You Knew’.
EW: (laughs) Great!
JK: It never would have occurred to me that George Duke would have something to do with that.
EW: It’s crazy, because I was listening to a lot of different songs then, and I had no idea George Duke produced that. Like, "Let's Hear It for the Boy" from Deniece Williams? You gotta be kidding me!
JK: He always jokes about that. When he does a show, he’ll play a little bit of the main keyboard riff from it and say, “I wrote the song” but it has such an 80’s stamp on it, I guess sometimes people think it’s cheesy, but it’s a good song!
EW: He can go from that to doing stuff with Stanley Clarke, you know what I mean?
JK: So Rod Temperton, Lionel Richie, anyone else in particular?
EW: Oh yeah, you’re never going to get past Stevie Wonder. I’ll always love anything that Coldplay does, U2, and so many different cats. When it gets to ballads and stuff like that, I love the stuff that Westlife is doing. If it’s great music with great harmonies and melodically it’s there, I gravitate to that kind of stuff.
JK: It shows in your music. You have that built-in appreciation for that, so that’s pretty cool. You might do some kind of tour over in Europe for Back For More?
EW: Yeah, just some public appearances to see if we can really make this thing happen. I told the guys, whatever it takes to make this thing successful, I’m a part of it. If you don’t get out there and promote it, nobody knows it exists. Whatever it do, man, I’ll scratch the surface. I’m about to go and shake some trees (laughs).
JK: It seems like they’re getting a pretty good buzz going for it. There have been some things in this vein before, in recent years, that came out but didn’t really get a lot of mileage, because there weren’t the funds to promote it, but with Rob and Frank, I guess they have some connections that are helping them get the word out there. I hope it goes as far as it can, because it really has that 80’s sound, and I’m not going to say it has a contemporary twist, but it has something of a timeless feel, because it doesn’t sound outdated, even though it’s an 80’s sound. I think it’s something that people out there could really get into, even if they might be fans of more of the contemporary stuff, because everything comes around full-circle.
EW: Exactly, and you do remixes and you can make it as contemporary as you want it to be.
JK: That’s true.
EW: They’re doing some mixes on it now, like I heard a John Morales mix on it that sounds really cool.
JK: On Back For More?
EW: Yeah, and I heard that they’re doing a couple more. I heard that they did some on a Meli’sa record, and they really turned it around beautifully.
JK: Well listen, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk. It’s been a real pleasure.
EW: The pleasure is all mine, man! I appreciate you hooking me up! Thanks for letting me interrupt your Easter to do this (laughs)!
JK: No problem! I realized I might be cutting into your Easter, so I hope I didn’t interrupt it too much, either.
EW: Oh no, every day is a workday, man. There’s no such thing as a holiday in this business.
JK: You take it easy.
EW: Have a good one, brother.
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.