Two years after Geoff McBride blew away millions of viewers – and judges Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green, who quickly swiveled around - with his explosive twist on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” during the blind auditions phase of NBC’s mega-hit talent competition, the versatile powerhouse singer is delivering big time on the promise and praise.
Incorporating pop, R&B, urban jazz, gospel and rock, his new independent album Journey of the Soul goes beyond strict genre boundaries to showcase the depth of his artistry. Its lead single, a cover of the Todd Rundgren penned pop/gospel classic “Love Is the Answer,” is receiving substantial airplay across the country on contemporary jazz and R&B stations. The album was produced by renowned music industry studio veteran, keyboardist and recording artist Trammell Starks, owner of Studiomagic Recording Studios in Apharetta, Georgia.
If McBride seems confident, self-assured and seasoned for an emerging talent, it’s because he brings a unique history as a onetime Arista recording artist to the mix. Signing to Clive Davis’ famed label – whose roster then included Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles - after also receiving offers from Motown and Atlantic Records, he released his lone album Do You Still Remember Love? It was produced by the late Gerald Levert and spawned the Billboard R&B chart hit “No Sweeter Love.”
JazzMonthly: I love the title Journey to the Soul. It sounds like it has multiple meanings for you.
GM: I named it that because I truly believe this album goes into depth about my musical abilities and the many aspects of myself that I want to convey as an artist. It is all about digging deeper to share my soul. I honestly love all genres of music and I think this album is unique in that it transcends strict stylistic categories. After working in so many genres of music over the years, I thought it would be cool to put together a project that had no boundaries – but featured music that would touch a large audience. Music is a universal language, so why not speak it boldly? Thematically, many of the songs are about staying true to yourself and not giving up.
JM: The genre known as “smooth jazz” has a lot of R&B elements in it and a lot of the festival lineups feature classic soul artists and newcomers. Where do you think your music fits in on the landscape of what people call urban jazz?
GM: I think the genre has a lot of diversity in it and has a unique mix of pop, jazz and soul, which allows me to fit right in. I prefer to call what I do urban jazz pop.
JM: You seem to draw from a lot of different influences? What did you grow up listening to? Was jazz of any kind, or music people call jazz, part of the mix?
GM: I grew up in church and was singing lead in the choir at age six, so gospel was a big part of the mix! But I would say my earliest soul influences were vocal groups like The O’Jays and The Manhattans. To me those groups have transcended into contemporary jazz because you see a lot of those groups at jazz festivals. I also loved Teddy Pendergrass and George Benson, but really got into what people call urban jazz around 18 or 19 via David Sanborn and later Jonathan Butler. Then there was Grover Washington, Jr., Take 6 and Anita Baker, who I felt embodied that pop/urban jazz vibe. I remember my dad was always singing Sam Cooke to my mom. He had an unbelievable voice. The TV in our house was rarely on, but when it was, we were watching some music show. My brothers and I would get together in one of our bedrooms and sing like we were the Jackson 5 or the Osmonds. Music has just always been my life.
JM: Tell me about the process of making the album? How did it come together?
GM: Basically after I was on “The Voice,” my wife Lisa and I talked about it and thought if there was ever a time for me to get back to my dream of being a recording artist, this was the time because I had the momentum. I started to inquire around and called up my old friend Trammel Starks in Atlanta. We had worked together years ago. He was happy to hear from me and asked me to sing the vocal track “Summer Breeze” for the single of an instrumental album he was working on. He loved the idea of me doing a solo project and hooked me up with (two time Dove Award winner) Sam Mizell, who wound up writing “Angel,” “You Got Lips,” “When You Got Love” and “Walk Away.”
I told Trammel I wanted something that was well rounded and would appeal to all ages of listeners. I picked the tunes we recorded out of an initial batch of 40 we had considered. I am a songwriter but for this album I chose songs that I didn’t write because I loved them and responded personally to their emotion and great lyrics. Another one I picked was Jerry Peters’ “Wipe Away a Tear.’ We hired the musicians and backup singers and after recording their tracks, I came in and laid down my lead vocals. Another theme I began picking up is that these are not religious songs but many have a spiritual element. It’s like the music played at Woodstock. When you listened to songs in that time, the world was in chaos but the music made it a beautiful place.