Emanuel Harrold – Conversation On Drums, Music Innovation, Vision & Songwriting (Interview)
Most of the time, we tend to focus on the lead singer of a band.
Though one lead singer alone wouldn’t be the same without his fellow musicians.
A successful group is one that gathers members under one vision, under one groove.
The more you surround yourself with visionary people and creative minds, the more one leader can expand his own vision.
Today let’s focus then on one particular musician, known to be a prolific sideman in the greatest musical acts, on one hand, and a devoted musician caring about the youth and the prospects of the music industry, willing to build a thriving community, on the other hand: Emanuel Harrold
We’ve discovered him previously, for his debut single off of his upcoming EP
His new single just came out, titled Luv Hurt, written, composed and arranged by Emanuel Harrold, with singer Chris Turner as his guest.
The track counts the most talented and acknowlegded musicians, such as guitarist Andrew Bailie (from Cory Henry Funk Apostles), Peter Slam (vibraphone) , bassist Brian Cockerham (who worked with PJ Morton, Boys To Men , Emily King) , and Emanuel Harrold himself on the drums (also known for working with (Gregory Porter, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)
Let’s talk about this collaboration for this track and other topics along the following interview.
Much more than an interview, this is a genuine conversation, even a documentary on Harrold’s musicianship.
This is also an exchange as he shares the same vision as Sounds So Beautiful, in a way, which is caring about building a platform for musicians, a community, more music with more access….
SSB: First of all, congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished and for your forthcoming EP.
Emanuel Harrold: Thank you. I’ve been working hard whilst juggling touring to get some fresh music out to the world.
SSB: I have a few questions regarding your vision, as a musician (what do you aspire to do in this music industry?) and your growth as an individual, for your songwriting also helps you to find yourself.
Emanuel Harrold: My basic vision as a musician is to write, compose and record with the most prolific artists in the world. In this, the journey of transmitting what I and other artists want to convey in a song format that can allow the listener to hear and feel through the music that is created.
In song writing, it allows me to mould and direct the message of many different ideas, rhythms; feelings; melodies; chords and words into music.
For me, writing opens a door that has by some form of taboo, been closed to those (per say) who are not deemed the frontman. Writing gives me another platform of artistic expression – it’s a gateway into another part of my musical being.
“Desire a better tomorrow in opportunities for Arts, Youth & Culture.”
Emanuel Harrold: Another facet of my music is driven by the desire for a better tomorrow in opportunities for Youth Arts & Culture.
Part of my legacy comes direct from my family.
My Grandfather formed a drum & bugle corp, The Memorial Lancers. This musical group formed from one of the first African American settlements, West of the Mississippi River in St Louis.
Emanuel Harrold: The Bugle Corp allowed kids without the financial means from Kinloch and throughout the metro area to have a voice through musical expression.
This has kept youth off the streets and provided something productive to do especially during the summer holidays.
It includes building positive behaviours such as self discipline, social interaction and self confidence, team building and imparting of musical and other transferable skills and exposure to travel.
This would allow young men and women to grow into a solid and unified team that needed all individual energy and attributes to reach the potential for a solid musical performance, marching and parade scoring.
The idea is ‘many individuals as one entity’.
A better tomorrow for me would be giving youth a solid chance at being an outstanding adult later, by creating a strong foundation in building positive attributes and self discipline and creating opportunities through musical output.
Music is just the start. Math, science, world economics STEM and finance would allow them to compete on a global standing and imparting the foundations to build positive behaviour around learning is achievable through the musical platform.
SSB: Tell me about your vision, as an artist for this music industry you’re working in.
Emanuel Harrold: My vision is to give people great music minus the bureaucracy. As of now I’ve been a successful and diligent sideman in great musical acts.
That’s where I have really learned and was taught from the masters of American music. I was also taught to write, express, dream and pursue.
I want to create positive impact as a role model to the youth of today and build community to esteem individuals to work together to build a better future for generations to come.
SSB: You said something that still resonates in my mind. You said “My goal is not to mimic but to be me […]”. What do you really mean by that?
Emanuel Harrold: To mimic is the first stage of expression. To be ‘me’ is go to the next stage of hearing and presenting my interpretation of the sounds, words and rhythms from my perspective.
For example, I can sit for hours practicing to sounds of Elvin Jones, Tony Williams or Roy Haynes. In this, I become them but, to be individual as an artist, it is important to push beyond that.
To take it in by mimicking the sounds of the greats,
developing skills through practice
and then to put out your own sound from the repertoire you have built
by such means is really the process.
Emanuel Harrold: We will always be influenced by sounds of the greats, popular styles or sounds we are exposed in our everyday.
It’s how we chew it, digest it and produce our own sounds based on the influences that is key in our output – referencing great music, artists and styles in the interpretation. In this, you, as the artist, can create one seriously amazing pot of Gumbo!
SSB: Fusing old school with new school influences is distinctive in your music (traditional jazz, with smooth hints of hip-hop – True Need). How much does your music reflect your identity.
Emanuel Harrold: Embracing the elements that make me who I am will always influence my musical approach and ear.
I grew up seeing Michael Jackson moonwalk live for the first time on the Mowtown Special. Movies like Krush Groove & Breakin’ that had artist like LL Cool J, Run DMC and the Fat Boys.
Going to Church 2 times a week and all day on Sunday and hearing my Grandmother, Rose Evers, turn service out!
All this has embedded deep soul all the way through me and it was the best!
There were flashy dressers; jivin’ dancers; bombastic preachers; rhapsodic musicians; lunch room rap battles; competitions for your spot in the band and many more aspects that groomed me and many of my close friends and family for being different and soulful individuals.
SSB: Collaborating with music innovators, from Gregory Porter to Chris Turner and Saunders Sermons II, what is your opinion on music innovation today?
Emanuel Harrold: I believe collaborations afford many artists to add elements to their expression, as well as moving out of the comfort zone musically and demographically.
A different artist means an expansion in audience and style and musical innovation is in full effect. Many artist such John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Ornette Coleman pursued soundscape changes in the 60’s and beyond.
We still have Herbie Hancock who mixes and matches his music since Rocket. Technology is through the roof so a lot of new music is always happening and constantly evolving.
SSB: Chris Turner calls himself the Philosopher of Melodies. Please tell us about what it’s like to work with him. Tell us about his creative process and the experimentation to produce a song like Luv Hurt.
Emanuel Harrold: Chris Turner is long time friend. After i finished writing ‘Luv Hurt’, I felt it needed something extra. It can still be a great instrumental but I wanted to tell a verbal story. I sat and thought what I could add and Chris Turner came to mind.
The way Chris hears shapes and sounds against the words, melodies, and rhythms is mind-boggling.
There are few that can master this poetic artistry in such a way and he is one of them.
When he sent me his verse back with all the interplay, harmonies, and call/response, the biggest smile in a long while came over me!
The song is discussed very well – it’s not an easy tune to play.
To me, Chris Turner is a giant and indeed, a philosopher of melodies!
SSB: In this latest single of yours, you talk about Love in this track, just like in your previous single, Special Time ft Saunders Sermons II (vocalist-trombonist who’s worked with Jay Z, Maxwell and more).
However you kept the spelling ‘Luv’ which has a different connotation from the real Love. What does this song, Luv Hurt, means to you?
Emanuel Harrold: LUV for me is Love Universally Varied. The first lyric says, ‘Grow Pain, Fight Tuff, Live High’. In this my perception of things fluctuate.
For example, pain doesn’t feel good but it is needed for growth.
Going hard and fighting tough in my personal battle (eve in my insecurities) is putting my best foot forward.
Living high is being aware and thankful for the sun, the flowers, other people that exist around me and taking a breath to enjoy the only life we have.
SSB: How well does the instrumental production fit your lyrics?
Emanuel Harrold: This time around, melody and words came first while working on this EP. They come from emotional places, both good and not-so-good.
This makes my music authentic, in a way, and people that hear often say they can connect with it. For me, writing from my personal experiences opens a certain flow and this can be adapted and change.
After that process, I’ll sit and find a strong harmony to help it move in a nice direction. The rhythm just falls in place.
SSB: “Drummers write too” is your motto. So, what is your favorite line and composition you’ve ever written?
Emanuel Harrold: My favourite line I’ve ever written to date is the passage on ‘Special Time’ ft Saunders Sermon II when I say:
“Off to lovers lane, taking a chance on love, sweet romance…
Bloomed by the sun, sparks of life,
Oh, my sweet love can’t you see”
I say this in hope and continue with joy
“my face bares a smile”
in pursuance of deeper oneness I finish with:
“as flowers bud in Spring, loves adventures, now I’m high above the clouds”
The entirety of this song came about as all relationships have challenges. I was away touring and my heart was heavy. The words, melody and song came in this time of reflection.
SSB: As far as Gregory Porter is concerned, what is your relation together, as fellow musicians and co-workers?
Emanuel Harrold: Gregory Porter and I are good friends. Before all the success we were performing together in his band and other bands in and out of NYC.
Now Gregory is on top and really doing great things! He’s boss man and friend all the same. We have great chemistry as friends and colleagues!
SSB: What are your new goals, since you won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album?
Emanuel Harrold: My goals are to keep practicing, writing and building relationships. This allows me to breathe and create as I did with Gregory at the very beginning. A constant progression is what I pursue.
SSB: For someone who cares so much about the Culture, what kind of responsibilities does imply winning a Grammy Award?
Emanuel Harrold: For me caring about the culture using my influence to help a cause is what I’m always aiming for.
Regardless of whether you want to or not, if you’re in the light, you are influencing people. I choose to use my influence as a positive role model when I can.
SSB: You’ve run several master classes and you care about the Youth. What is the most precious piece of advice you gave your students?
Emanuel Harrold: The most precious advice I can give to anyone is:
Don’t quit on yourself – plan and give yourself a chance to win!
SSB: You’ve been a touring a lot these past years (over 2000 shows). How these travels, and the distance from home made you grow as an individual? And I know it affects your music, considering songs like Special Time.
Emanuel Harrold: Making a living doing what you love is grand! Being away from family, friends and no real consistent social network can really put a damper on those lights at times.
As you mention, you can hear the hope in “Special Time”. To love, laugh, hold and to be held is a basic human need.
The most you can do is not be consumed with the travel – keep your head straight, occupy your time wisely as you can and look to where you’re going and not where you are.
SSB: Finally, what are you expecting with this forthcoming EP?
Emanuel Harrold: With this coming EP, I expect to share a piece of myself through song and build a platform to collaborate and create while building community.
I have been fortunate to have some of the baddest musicians on the planet playing on this current, yet-to-be-titled EP.
It’s a message of love and human nature that is familiar and that I want to express with an old-meets-new school musical approach.
SSB: Thanks for this conversation!