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Belton Mouras Jr.: Behind The Beats

Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Belton Mouras Jr.

Belton Mouras Jr is new to our Smooth Jazz world, but he has had a successful career as a musician, artist and film maker. His recent short film “Mickey’s Tree” has grabbed the interest of film festivals and the soundtrack is perfectly geared for smooth jazz. The first single “Don’t Let The Music Die” was the Smooth Jazz network’s “Pick of The Week” recently and we thought it would be great to get to know the artist better and share with you as well!

Belton, thank you for taking some time with us. Tell us about the smooth jazz single “Don’t Let the Music Die” and how it came about.

I composed it with a lot of personal emotion as a very upbeat high passion danceable song that reflects one of the main messages of the movie-- which is don’t ever give up—find the creative spirit deep within you and put your art/music out to the world. The two vocalists Ann and Keith, and Otis the saxophonist, did a phenomenal job of adding the energetic spark to it. And special thanks to my super dynamic musical engineer, Craig Long, with Paradise Studios. A portion of this song is sung in a very heartfelt actual live performance scene between the two co-leads of the movie-- who are coming out of some tougher emotional challenges in their lives.

And it fits perfectly with your film “Mickey’s Tree”. I know the story has some personal meaning to you…

The beauty of film is the story telling element it conveys. As I was writing the story (and eventually script) there were many incredibly beautiful emotional moments that arose from my past that I was able to convey and pass on. One of those experiences dealt with that very heartfelt love of a special pet in your life, in this case for me it was a little dog named “Mickey”. That human-animal bond knows no limits and I know it is felt by millions and millions of people in the world and this film felt like such an important way to express that message.

Your family has musical and creative background. Tell us about your early influences.

My mother played piano, both gospel and pop type songs, and I was inspired by the soothing piano music she played every day. My grandfather, a Cajun from Louisiana, would take me as a small boy to Cajun music festivals and large regional musical hoedowns where Zydeco music was played. I was constantly amazed at the incredible talent of so many musicians playing accordions, guitars, banjos, singing, etc.

And you were somewhat of a prodigy on the piano as a youth…

I gravitated to music, especially the piano, at a very early age and have found it exciting and inspiring throughout my life. I started experimenting with creating my own melodies and music pretty much from the beginning. Along the way, I continued trying out many other types of instruments including guitars, woodwinds, percussions. I completed my first CD of original piano compositions about twenty years ago. Music has always flowed very easy for me and I was able to read and write, but also play by ear and probably most importantly-- by intuition—which have all helped tremendously—especially later in life as a composer.

Your piano training was primarily classical. How did you get into jazz?

Although I was heavily classical trained starting at age five, I first moved into blues and rock and roll music in my later teenage years as they were mainstream musical genres in this country by the 1970s and I loved their new sounds. I was especially drawn to the new electronic music era and jazz fusion sounds that were also emerging during that time, with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis leading the way. I loved the “cutting-edge” sounds and compositions I could create in this new world. That E-music helped me segway and open up my interests into the jazz world and I began pursuing it with a passion. I love the feel and freedom of jazz and its improvisational qualities, but I do love and play all genres of music.

How did you get into film making?

My first film experience began about fifteen years ago when I produced a couple of mini documentaries on Cajun lifestyles (I wanted to capture some of that colorful part of my family background while my father was still alive). A few years later I executive-produced a feature film (Jakes Corner) that was loaded with beautiful music and shortly after started doing music scores for various short films. Mickey’s Tree was my first film that I wrote and directed and composed the music.

And you are also a painter!

This came later in my life—approximately twenty years ago. I was constantly doodling and sketching everyday items around me and my wife asked me to go buy some canvases and paints and start painting, which I did. And I loved it immediately as it was an incredible new way to express myself in a fresh and exciting visual manner. Because of my musical background, I immediately began putting musical expressions into many of my paintings. Also, I’m a huge animal lover --I found myself painting cute poses from our pet dogs and other animals I would find in nature. I really believe that these visual arts experiences helped me tremendously to become a passionate musical film composer because it allows me to blend both the visual and auditory elements of a film together in a very energetic and passionate manner.

Belton, thank you for sharing your musical talents and some of your story with us today! Best of luck with the new single and all of your adventures to come!

It’s so exciting to be able to put my first single out into the Smooth Jazz Network—a lifelong dream. I hope you enjoy the Mickey’s Tree Movie and the music. There are several beautiful songs that are being put into a Mickey’s Tree EP-- expected out in October. I feel so blessed—ART, MUSIC, and FILM—I’m in Heaven every day!

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