Q&A: Introducing Indie Soul by AHI

Ever heard about the musical genre indie soul. It´s a musical genre put together of the word independent and soul. Soul music released on a small record company – or released independently without any major recording company backing.

Indie Soul is also the title of the second EP by acoustic soul artist AHI. If any artist should own the title it´s the raspy voiced Afro-American singer and acoustic guitarist, who hides is full name behind the initials AHI, which has become his artist name.

AHIs characteristic, and recognisable raspy and soulful voice and his lyrics and melodies brings to mind thoughts like: What if Bobby Womack was a folk singer and Bob Dylan crossed paths with Led Zeppelin who lets Gil Scott Heron write the texts and letting John Martyn do the singing.

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AHI has recorded two great EPs, his selftitled Ahi – EP back in october 2012 and now in february 2014 a brand new EP, the Indie Soul – EP! Both EPs contains 5 songs each, and that’s closely about 40 minutes of, what I would call raw indie soul from an exciting artist more people should get to know.

It´s time to get to know AHI a little better, so read on for the Read & Hear Q/A interview;

If you ask me, never has a genre fitted better than your self-proclaimed Indie Soul genre. I’m tempted to even push it a bit further and call it Raw Indie Soul, because you have a raspy soulful raw voice and a sound that really IS that genre.
What’s the story behind your sound? Describe the genre to some one who has never heard your music before?

As a musician in a sea of music it’s important to find something genuine about yourself that stands out and to identify that to your listener, and I would say that for me it’s probably my raspy, passionate voice.
When I was in London, UK, last summer it just hit me: “Indie Soul”. That’s what I should call my music because I’m influenced by the Indie song structure, melody and writing style, and I’m also heavily influenced by the feel and emotion of soul music. Also, I consider myself an independent soul, a man of my own heart. Indie Soul is just one of those things that people who appreciate my music will understand right away.

I think I hear bits of classing political singer-songwriters and wish to draw a line between your sound and Bob Dylan, Gil Scott Heron, Richie Havens and John Martyn even a dash of Led Zeppelin. You may have other references than me, so here’s your chance to share it with the readers.
Where do you find your musical inspiration; Which artists or bands made you wanna pick up a guitar and choose music as your life journey?

My top three of all time, in no particular order, are Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson. All three of these musicians have touched on socio-political topics. Then you’ve got Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come”; Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”; Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddamn”; Curtis Mayfield, “People Get Ready”; Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”; and the list goes on. It’s embedded in black musical tradition. I started looking at Richie Havens and Bob Dylan a bit later, when people started comparing me to them. All this stuff comes from the blues, though, and that was the first music I really fell in love with. B.B. King is probably the most subconscious influence in my music career; “The Thrill Is Gone” – who writes like that anymore?

As for picking up the guitar, that just happened. I never wanted to play it, but I was in band that disbanded and the acoustic guitar seemed like the easiest tool to help me continue writing music. But I would have to give credit to local artists like K-os and Murray A. Lightburn (The Dears) for making black males with guitars seem commonplace. Where I’m from it wasn’t commonplace, but I was none the wiser because of them.

I’m getting curious about your name, AHI – it´s always written in capital letters
Is this your real name, or is it short for something. What’s the story?

A-H-I is the initials of my name, but it’s also a Hebrew word when read, which means “brother” or “kindred”. I’d like to believe that my music is brotherly, so for me the name fits.

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Everyone seems to be able to make and release music in their own living room these days, and everyone can, or has to give away or share all music for “free” or a small amount of money through streaming services like Spotify and Last.fm to name a few services
How is it to try to break through in the music business today and live out of making music?

It’s chaos and destruction, total anarchy! Ha ha.

Nah, I think it’s cool. For better or for worse, musicians are able to make the most uncompromising music ever. As a result, there are a handful of courageous musicians doing some phenomenal things today. If you can capture your friends, then you’re good go. Otherwise it’s only getting tougher.

Being a lover of all sorts of music myself, from singer-songwriter to metal, to soul to club and jazz – from nu-stuff to old analogue music. There’s always great music to listen to.
What sort of music do you love to groove to? And what is your preferred format to listen to?

I don’t look at the genre so much because I really can listen to anything; however, not a lot of music inspires me. A good melody, a good message and a unique delivery are what catch my attention.
I love watching live sessions, on YouTube or otherwise; they are so raw and stripped down, and you can really see who has something beyond the studio magic and tricks.

I read on the blog on your homepage, that a top UK House producer would love to work with you. Is this secret?
If not, could you give us a teaser about who would love to collaborate with you?

I wouldn’t call it a secret, but we are still in the writing stages of the project and he hasn’t begun talking about himself so it’s probably better not to say. He sent me some tracks and it was a challenge to really position myself in the House music environment, but I’m pretty excited about what we’re doing and I’m looking forward to the outcome.

AHI EPsHear previews and download the AHIs EPs here: “AHI – EP” (left) and “Indie Soul – EP” (right)

In the liner notes of your latest EP I read that you write, perform, and produce most of your music yourself.
Is it easy for you to make music? What is your secret trick?

I write and perform all the songs, but I do have to give a lot of credit to Orin Isaacs who produced my last two EPs. On the Indie Soul EP, I created demos and brought them to the studio and we built the songs together from those demos.

Making music is easy; it’s making good music, remarkable music, that’s the challenge. So it’s more of a discipline than a secret trick. You really gotta start with a good song in its simplest form and try to get it as close to your idea of perfection as possible while still allowing it to retain its simplicity. From there you build it piece by piece with caution. You never want to take away from the essence of a great song, which can easily be done.

The EPs is a teaser for a forthcoming album I would guess, is there a plan about releasing this in a short time?
Are you seeing how the EPs are selling before you choose to release a full album or if you have a release plan, when will it be available for your audience and fans?

Ideally the Indie Soul EP is a platform for a full-length album of the same title presenting Indie Soul to the world. I would like to do an LP, but it has to make sense not only economically but just all around.

And as for the final question – here it’s up to you to empty your heart.
Tell your fans at least 3 words about why 2014 is going to be a fantastic year?

The Indie Soul EP drops on Feb 11th, which is fantastic, and that’s just a teaser. I’m writing some powerful songs that I’m really proud of, songs that I as a music consumer would be thirsty for. And that has always been my aim, since I first started out.

2014 is the year AHI introduces Indie Soul to the people, and I think the people have been waiting to hear this kind of music.

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You can read more about AHI on his homepage
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The Read & Hear Q&A; Lonnie D Hillyer of Maggie’s Dream – solving the mystery!

One of my favourite bands from the early 90’s are Maggie’s Dream. They released one album, the self titled “Maggie’s Dream” back in 1990. The album was, and still is, a great hybrid of groovy retro rock, funk and soul. The band disbanded after a few years. They did just this one album – and it’s without doubt a great lost and largely overseen classic rock album!

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The self titled Maggie´s Dream album can be downloaded on iTunes here!

The members of Maggie’s Dream were;
Robi Draco Rosa – Lead vocals
Tony James – Drums
Lonnie Hillyer – Vocals, bass
Raf – Vocals, guitar
Danny Palomo – Vocals

The bands retro-rock songs reminded me of Lenny Kravitz – and was released just a year after Kravitz released his classic debut “Let Love Rule” back in 1989. Being a dude who reads every word in an album cover – I became amazingly curious when I discovered the Maggie’s Dreams guys thanked my hero Lenny Kravitz in their liner notes. This has been a mystery for me ever since the albums release, back in 1990 until now. That’s 24 years ago! And now it seems like the answers finally here!

I’ve been searching to solve the link between the band and the retrorock/-soul star, and I found out a while back that Mr Kravitz had actually been working with the band according to a Wikipedia post about Maggie’s Dream.

I then happened to stumble upon Maggie’s Dream on YouTube and to my surprise I found several tracks from an unreleased album, rare video clips, interviews and music videos. On closer inspection, it seemed like this was posted by the band member Lonnie D. Hillyer.

A few mails back and forth proved I was right, it WAS Lonnie from Maggie’s Dream, and we agreed to do this Q&A / Interview

This picture is borrowed from Lonnie D Hillyers Flickr album, edited in black and white by me; Read And Hear editor GlennVU
From left to right; Lonnie D Hillyer, Lenny Kravitz and Andrea Alvarez. November 2011
The Read and Hear Q&A about Maggie’s Dream, Lenny Kravitz, the band members now and then and Lonnie D. Hillyers favourite records! 

I’ve been loving the Maggie’s Dream album ever since the release in 1990, and remember I was so surprised to read that you (the band) thanked Lenny Kravitz in the liner notes and has since 1990 been wondering what was the link between Maggie’s Dream and Lenny Kravitz? A few months back I read that he was once part of Maggie’s Dream.

Q: So here it goes; Would you like to share with me and the blog readers the true story about the Maggie’s/Kravitz link?

A: Danny Palomo and Raf Hernandez were friends Lenny years before Maggie’s Dream, then he sang on the demos of “Love and Tears”, “It’s A Sin” and one other track that did not make the album after we signed with Capitol Records. He sang on those demos before the band was signed and was already working on his debut album”.

Q: If Lenny was part of Maggie’s, was he somehow involved on Maggie’s self titled debut – probably uncredited? I could swear i hear his recognizable voice on at least a couple of the songs (backing vocals), especially on “Human”

A: Lenny Kravitz did not sing on the Maggie’s Dream album.”

Q: Do you still have contact with any of the Maggie’s Dream members? If you have contact with them, what are they doing these days?

A: The drummer (Tony James) and I speak occasionally and I saw Rob a few months ago in Buenos Aires Argentina (played a few t.v. promos with him). Haven’t spoken with Danny Palomo or Raf Hernandez in years”

Q: Have you and the guys ever considered to assemble the band back together again?

A: As far as putting the band back together, haven’t heard anything about that and I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Q: What was the musical inspiration behind the classic Maggie’s Dream debut album? I sense a little retro-rock – and some Kravitz inspiration or is this only coincidental?

A: Lenny and we grew up on much of the same music and we’re all about the same age, so, many of the collective musical influences are similar with the exception of jazz; that is a heavy influence because of my father who played trumpet with Charles Mingus and he was a great jazz musician who played with some other heavy cats. There was a very talented singer Lenny worked named Tony Lemans with whose demo triggered that vibe but for many of us, it was a natural direction, musically.Tony was signed to Prince’s label Paisley Park Records. He subsequently was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Q: Robi Draco Rosa, former lead vocals in Maggie’s Dream has made several albums – and had major success as a writer and producer for i.e Ricky Martins “Living La Vida Loca” and solo. Tony James has worked with names like Cyndi Lauper, Charles&Eddie (what became of them?) Hugh Harris (great debut album) and Jeffrey Gaines. Then it comes to Raf I haven’t found any history besides his Maggies Dream years. What is your story after Maggies Dream disbanded?

A: Raf and Danny were in a band with Dan Reed named “Adrenaline Sky”; Raf also played briefly with Peter Lord Moreland (who was in the Family Stand) for a little while and after that he was writing and playing with this singer who was in the broadway show “Rent”, I think his name was Adam Pascal. Danny dropped out of the music scene all together and became a chef”

Q: Who have you worked with during the years? What has been the highlight of your career so far and who is the most inspiring to work with?

A: I’ve recorded with Billy Joel (River Of Dreams), Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, toured Love Spit Love (feat. Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs) and a few other artists. Also, auditioned for the Stones in ’93-94; also, played on a few Jeff Gaines albums as well as Charles & Eddie; I toured parts of Latin America a few times with Rob Rosa as a solo artist; there are some videos of various performances with Rob on YouTube, most notably an MTV International live performance which was probably Rob’s coolest band and the drummer in that video (Frank Ferrer) has been playing with Guns & Roses for the past 6 years or so. You can hear some of the artists with who I have played on my YouTube channel. As far as the most inspiring artist I’ve ever played with, well, that’s a tough question, I just like to play music… it’s all inspiring.”

Q: I love to get a sneak peek into the record collection of the ones when I do my Q&As – so now it’s your turn: What recordings are you’re all time favourite albums? Mention as many albums as you like!

A: Here are few of my favorite albums, not in any particular order:

1. Sly & The Family Stone Greatest Hits
2. “Fresh” by Sly and The Family Stone
3. “Gratitude” by Earth Wind & Fire
4. “Grace” by Jeff Buckley
5. “Thrust” and “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock
6. Any Parliament Funkadelic album before 1990
7. “Songs In The Key Of Life” and “Innervisions” by Stevie Wonder
8. Any Jimi Hendrix album before his died.
9. “Solo Monk” by Thelonious Monk
10. “Superunknown” by Soundgarden
11. “Sea Of Cowards” and “Horehound” by Dead Weather
12. “Discipline” by King Crimson
13. Any James Brown before 1975
14. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
15. Any Charlie Parker recording
16. Any John Coltrane recording
17. Graham Central Station
18.Betty Davis
19. “Heavy Weather” by Weather Report
20. Any African-American blues before 1960
21. Most bebop and hard bop
22. Bootsy Collins in the late 1970s

Q: What does the FUTURE for Lonnie D. Hillyer look like? Any cool protects going on?

A: I’ve been in Buenos Aires, Argentina working with the drummer / singer Andrea Alvarez for her new album. You can go to www.andreaalvarez.com for her info.”

Q: If there´s something you could say to my blog readers what would it be? Here´s your chance to say whatever you like!

A: All I can say is stay true to yourself and the music and keep on playing.

If you wanna get to know Lonnie D. Hillyer even closer, watch this great 30 minute interview with Lonnie D. Hillyer from september 2013 by Fernando Martín Alvarez

…And while you’re at it; Feel free to check out this short documentary of Maggie’s Dream, by Mark Pellington

And last but not least, check out The Maggie´s Dream playlist on YouTube here!

It’s so great to feel the mystery has finally been solved, and the unanswered questions have been answered. Make sure you check out the music of Maggie’s Dream I swear you won’t be dissapointed! 

PS! I Love Stacy Barthe

If I say Stacy Barthe – does the name say you something? I guess your answer – sadly – is “No”
Unless I ask you if you know; Britney Spears, Rihanna, Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child, Kathy Perry, Cheryl Cole, Brandy and Miley Cyrus? I bet your answer is “Yes, I know those!”

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If you know or/and love one or more of those artists, you´d probably have heard the songs of Stacy Barthe. She has written for all those and a bunch of others. To mention a few male artists she has even worked with Rick Ross, Akon and Sean “Diddy” Combs.

…This is why i love Stacy Barthe

The first time you hear the voice of Stacy Barthe, close your eyes. What you hear is a voice so smooth and soulful. Deep and lush and it sounds like she has sung all her life. A mixture of Sade, Rihanna (as when she sings on her slow jams), and Nneka maybe?
I´m tempted to call her a female Drake because she, just like Drake on his “Thank Me Later” album strips down the melodies down to drums, percussion, sometimes a piano and/or a acoustic guitar – naked and organic sounds and full of air and allowing quietness to be a part of the music. The quietness in the music is important to let her fantastic warm voice be the main ingredient in the songs. She flirts sometimes with reggae – and it´s not over-the-top – and it works! When she slows things down and do a spoken word at the end of a couple of her songs. I´m sold again!

She has under her own name released three fantastic EPs “Sincerely Yours, Stacy Barthe” in 2011. “In The Inbetween” and “PS! I Love You” in 2012. These three albums all together contains 25 tracks – and over 90 minutes of music. And before you ask; Just marvelous tracks, no fillers! That’s a huge smile and two huge thumbs up from me!

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All of the Stacy Barthe EPs can be bought on iTunes
and
You can stream parts of “PS! I Love You” , the complete “Sincerely Yours, Stacy Barthe” and “In The InBetween” here through Spotify

On her first release under her own name, she even worked with one of 2012s best artists: Frank Ocean. He did vocals along with Stacy on the beautiful “Without You”, and Rick Ross joins her with a rap verse on “Hell Yeah!”. I could go into mention single songs, but with Stacy Barthe, it´s not any use to recommend some songs – because they´re all so damn good and by not mention anyone, no one is let out.

A few did-you-knows at the end:

  • Did you know it was Beyonce who made Stacy Barthe decide to release her debut EP, “Sincerely Yours, Stacy Barthe”
  • Did you know Stacy Barthe is working with Miley Cyrus forthcoming album, which will (mark my word) be Mileys major mature breakthrough
  • Did you know she even knows and has worked with artists like Alicia Keys, Estelle, Andre 3000, Elle Warner, Brandy, Stephen Marley and T.I.

About the music of Stacy Barthe, she says it best on her own homepage
“You can find hurt and pain in my music while finding the light. It represents empowerment… I speak from a very truthful and sincere place…with love”

The Q&A; Little Brother Eli “A spectrum of influences!”

One of the new faces of modern blues and rock is called Little Brother Eli. A new duo with Alex Grew on lead vocals and guitarist Joshua Rigal. The band is inspired by modern rock, as well as blues, soul and hip hop – with rock as their main ingredient. The band has played together for a little over 6 months only and have their a self titled debut 3 track EP out now.

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The three tracks is quite and eclectic sounding and the EP kicks off with the rock track “Animal Fair”; A raw live-in-the-studio sounding rock song with dirty guitars and a vocal intro – not to far from Elvis “Trouble” – before drums and disco´ish high-hats kick in. The guitars make me think about the dirty sound of Jimi Hendrix´ played with his six string when playing live. The sound is raw and if you draw a line from Jimi to Jack White – you´re not too far from the sound of Little Brother Elis first track.

When questioning the bands guitar player Josh Rigal about what artist they are inspired by
And by asking what are their favorite records are – you´ll get an exiting sneak peek into their eclectic rock sound.

-Both Alex and I draw a great deal of inspiration from the likes of Jack White, Led Zep and The Black Keys, but we each have our own personal musical influences which we bring to the project. For example, I know Alex learnt a great deal about melody by listening to his dad’s Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) records. Equally I’d say Stevie Wonder and Beastie Boys are two influences for me which I hold close to Little Brother Eli.

-Our favourite records? Alex: Consolers Of The Lonely – by The Raconteurs.
Josh: Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers

As you can see from Josh answers, Little Brother Elis eclectic style even draws inspiration from hip hop and soul, and on the second track “Awkward Position” you can clearly hear hip hop inspired drum playing. There´s no studio flickering here, just a great slice of their soulful-blues-inspired rock. Real music, real musicians!

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Do you both write the songs together? Who comes up with the ideas? And does the songs or melodies come first?

-Our writing process started off fairly unconventionally, separated by 167 miles between London and Sheffield, we we´re emailing bits and pieces of melodies, riffs and beats back and forth. When we properly got together and wrote the material however, it tends to be a similar case. Alex might turn up with a melody, single line of lyrics or occasionally a whole song that just needs piecing together. Or I’ll sit down at the piano and feel something out and we’ll build the song section by section until the day is out or the song is finished. There’s no set formula, it just kind of comes together when we set ourselves to it.

I had to ask the band about if there will be a full album, and when is it planned to be released?
Can we expect to hear more of the same?

-As I alluded to earlier, we do have material. For us though, we’re just starting off. Our fan base is slowly growing, we’re playing more and more live shows and we’re working really hard to build a project which has some legs. So we don’t have the audience or financial capabilities to put together an album quite yet. It’ll get there though. We’d like to hope within a year? maybe? possibly?

-With regards to what can be expected…A carefully arranged selection of songs, put together to create some interesting dynamics. You’ll hear a more full spectrum of our musical preferences. Swing, funk, soul, rock, blues, hip hop – however it comes.

The last track on the EP is my favorite track and the song where the band let their musical influences really shine through. A real show off track, in a positive way; It´s called “When she sings” and is an eclectic song that mixes bluesy soul, with a bit of Jeff Buckley inspired vocals, that suddenly glides into a short raw guitar solo in front of the mix. After the short solo, the song slips into reggae then a bit of do-wop which segues into a sing-a-long la-la bridge before it ends like it starts; as a soul track, with a falsetto vocal. All this is done within 3 minutes. 6 musical genres into one short three-minute song, almost like mini-miniature rock opera. Fantastic and amazing!

Little Brother Eli (smile)

I can’t believe you only have played together for a half-year, how did you meet? Have any of you played in bands or had solo earlier? When did you first start to play music ?

-Alex and I have been friends for a long time. We used to play in a band together as teenagers, as you do. We learnt a lot, built on our craft and had great fun for 5 years or so. That group disbanded, but a few years later Josh and I were hanging out and decided to jam out a song together and lay it down on the laptop. We’d always had great results writing together, but It was at this point we decided we should write a whole album’s worth of material, and the project kind of built up from there.

-My first instrument was the trumpet at age 10, but that took a back seat at about 16 yrs, when I discovered my love for bass guitar. Alex tells me that he’s been making noises and dancing about ever since he could stand. Although he’s had no musical training, he’s been performing and singing from a young age, but has really found his voice in the last few years.

Josh Rigal, thanks a lot and it was great chatting with you and I look forward to hearing more from you – and look forward to follow your career.

Do you wanna read or hear more about and from the band? 

If I should choose a tagline at the end, why you should love Little Brother Eli, I´d love to quote vocalist Josh Rigals own worlds:

You’ll hear a more full spectrum of Little Brother Elis musical preferences;Swing, funk, soul, rock, blues, hip hop – however it comes!