- Published: 10 March 2015
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Fala Fil talked to Norman Brown, Grammy Award Winner and one of the best Guitar players in the World.
Read below the full interview.
We noticed you are a Christian with great faith and always very grateful to God for everything in your life. With regard to your work and your talent, what you consider a gift of God or technique that is possible to learn in schools?
Well, actually I do not really consider myself a part of any religion. I do believe in God and I believe in love. I believe that the world would be a better place if we just loved one another and took care of each other. I am truly grateful to God for all that He has done for me and given to me. Anything is possible to learn. You do not even have to be in school to learn it, but I am a big advocate in making sure that schools keep the music programs. I think it’s a great thing for children to learn. My gift of music is definitely a gift from God. It was chosen for me.
How and when you found that music was your business?
My older brother played guitar and so I used to sneak into his room to play it. I was only 8 years old. One day he came in and saw me playing his guitar and I thought for sure he would be mad. Instead he told me, “I didn’t know you wanted to play the guitar! You should have told me. As a matter of fact, you can play it whenever you want.” He was so happy that I wanted to learn to play. I have been playing it ever since.
As you know, I have just returned from a period of study at the Musicians Institute, where you were a student and teacher. What were the main lessons absorbed in your time at MI?
When I was a student there I pretty much took all of the theory and performance courses, and of course classes mainly to do with guitar. When I graduated, I came back and taught a lot of those guitar classes and theory classes. I learned a lot!
Your music is extremely light, cheerful, lively and always full of love. Your music is a reflection of your personal life?
It really depends. At times it is and at times it is not. Sometimes I write cheerful songs to get me in a better mood when I am feeling down. I also write music when I am having the time of my life. Life is full of ups and downs and music for me is a way to express what I and so many other people are feeling.
Your work has some influence of gospel music?
Yes it does, in fact that is where Jazz music and most of the music you hear on the radio playing today has its roots. Gospel music has influenced every genre from rock to pop to R&B.
In your first CD, “Just between Us,” recorded 20 years ago … You had the participation of Stevie Wonder. Of course it was a great endorsement for your work, how it happened?
It was my record company at the time that got all of the amazing artists that I had playing on my record to come and record with me. Stevie Wonder, Boyz II Men, the Perry Sisters, Verdine White from Earth, Wind & Fire and other members from that group, and so many other artists. MoJazz, which was under MoTown Records, did a lot for me my first years as a recording artist.
Also in “Just between Us” you had the participation of Brazilian musician Paulinho da Costa. Your work has some influence of Brazilian rhythms?
I love Brazilian rhythms; I think you hear it a lot in today’s Jazz music. We love it!
Personally I think that “Smooth Jazz” has similarities with Bossa Nova / MPB (Brazilian popular music). In your opinion both music styles have something in common?
I think both styles borrow from each other. It all traces back to African rhythms and that is what you hear in Bossa Nova, MPB, Jazz music, and just about every genre.
Which Brazilian Artist you admire the most?
That is a hard one. There are many Brazilian artists that I love. Antonio Carlos Jobim is one artist whose music I enjoy listening to.
Would you like to record with some Brazilian Artist? Who?
Probably Antonio Carlos Jobim
Would you like to record some Brazilian song?
I have played a lot of Brazilian music and I am never opposed to playing more. I love the Samba, Bossa Nova, and many other Brazilian rhythms.
In your work you always have the participation of other smooth jazz greats such as: Brian Culbertson, Gerald Albright, Bobby Lyle, Paul Brown, Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun and Russ Freeman, among others. The jazz musicians are more united and take more pleasure in playing together?
I think so. It is like with any genre of music. People want to see their favorites playing together so we try and make that happen. It is always a pleasure and a great experience.
In 2003 you received a Grammy Award, the most coveted award of the music industry in the world. What changed in your career after that and what you meant to have won a Grammy?
Winning the Grammy the very first time I was nominated is beyond words. I worked so hard and I was so happy to see that they saw my efforts and granted me that great honor.
In your CD “Sending my Love” you had the participation of your daughter, Rochella Brown. What did this mean for you?
It was such a blessing to finally have her record, produce, and arrange a song on one of my albums. She had been asking me since she was a little girl and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for her. She had been touring with me for 4 years at that point so I knew she was ready. I felt so proud of her. Her oldest sister recorded background vocals on my Celebration album so I am just trying to keep it in the family.
At the same CD you have the participation of the incredible group “Sounds of Blackness.” You always feel privileged to have the collaboration of great artists?
I was a huge fan of their music and knew the choir director. The reocrd company thought a Gospel group would sound great on “Celebrate Me Home” so I thought Sounds of Blackness would sound great on the song.
Very often when we hear your music, we feel that your guitar is speaking. If your guitar could speak, what she would say?
All the songs I have written. That is what she has to say.
What gives you more pleasure … Composing or playing?
Both! They go hand in hand. I am both a composer and a performer. I know how I want my songs performed and I get so much pleasure out of being on stage performing and interacting with my fans.
Which song from another artist that you wish you had made?
That is a hard one my friend. There are so many! Maybe “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder.
Which artist would you like to play or have played?
I would have loved to play with some of my heroes like Wes Montgomery or Jimi Hendrix. Also Michael Jackson. But someone who is still alive today would be Prince.
Considering that the audience of “ Fala Fil “ is predominantly of young people, what you have to say to those who claim to be professional musicians?
Stay true to the music. Listen to those who came before you and learn some things. Always stay passionate about what you do and practice everyday!