NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - U.S. singer N’Dea Davenport returned to the Brand New Heavies not long after a close call with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ten years after she had left the band at the height of its success.
Brand New Heavies, which originated in Britain and helped pioneer acid jazz in the early 1990s, released a new live album this month and are in the midst of a world tour.
Davenport, one of the four original members, spoke to Reuters after dealing with success, two new albums the band is recording and why she left and rejoined.
Q: The band’s music has been popular across the world from Japan to Australia to Europe since the band’s debut album in the early 1990s. What’s the secret to the wide appeal?
A: “We are multicultural. We are from different countries. We are very diverse in our friendships and our musical tastes and styles, and that represents something of who people are in the world at large and how we are all actually merging so much more together. We just got a little jump on being in this position.”
Q: After hits like “Never Stop” and “Dream Come True” on the self-titled first album, the band was labeled as pioneering the acid jazz movement. Do you agree with that?
A. “I do somewhat agree with it. However, I think in the British Isles there is much more of an understanding about what acid jazz at that period of time represented. However, there is still a lot of confusion in the United States about what is acid jazz? ... But we are pretty cool with that title I guess.”
Q: What made the band so successful then?
A; “In the late 1980s people had heard so much programed music — like fake synthesizers, fake horn sections — people had basically let live horns and actual instruments fall by the wayside. So when we emerged on the musical scene, we offered something to people that they were familiar with, and at the same time it was contemporary enough and fresh enough that people coming from new generations — especially hip hop or dance music — that they could identify with as well. It represented a lot of different mediums so it was the perfect time for it.”
Q. Why did you leave the band in 1995 at the peak of success?
“When you get that experience unprepared it can be very, very overwhelming and it can cause a lot of confusion with all the people that are in your organization. It can be very strange. It was hard at that time, literally we were jumping from country to country. There was not really a lot of down time to be had for several years. And one can almost forget about the person, who they are and I didn’t think that was worth sacrificing. So I needed to let go and put my hands in the dirt and on the ground again and ride a bicycle and do the normal things that make a person well rounded so they can get some perspective. And thank God I did. Seriously.”
Q, And then why did you rejoin?
A. “I had a home in New Orleans and an apartment in New York. Being involved in the tragedies of 9/11, that day my life sort of changed. I really started looking at things in a very unique way I really hadn’t experienced before. I really had to almost start over that day. I think through that challenge and that struggle I kind of dug myself out of a really weird hole. I started thinking more about family and important things in life, and then 10 years later a person that was at my former record label in Los Angeles started communicating with us and I really recognized we did have unfinished business.”
Q: You are currently touring, as well recording two new albums to be released in 2010, one that is a follow up to 1992’s “Heavy Rhyme Experience” combining hip hop emcees with the band’s music, and another new studio album that follows the band’s more traditional sound. How do you keep everything fresh?
A: “We have grown as people. We have grown as musicians ... I think we haven’t really reached our potential to be honest. ‘91 was a very amazing time. It was an introduction but we have so much to do. We are just now adult enough to figure those things out.”
Editing by Patricia Reaney