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  • Smooth Jazz Network

Lin Routree: 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: Lin Rountree.

Your new CD “Fluid” comes out in a few weeks. Tell us about the process of producing a new album during this challenging time period.

Challenging is an understatement! 2020 was an unprecedented year for all of us, particularly in the music industry. When everything first happened and all of live shows started to get cancelled, there was a lot of anxiety, fear and general feelings of hopelessness amongst the music community. But as we emerged from our despair we realized that we still had the ability to create music. In fact because we weren’t traveling from show to show, hotel to hotel, we had more time to devote to music which is why I think the songs on FLUID are among some of my best to date.

We were able to really take our time on these tunes, get all of the right musicians in on them without dictating deadlines or hearing the “I’m on the road and can’t record till…excuse” because everyone was in quarantine..LOL. We had the luxury of being able to experiment with different concepts and alternate melodies and instrumentation. Interestingly when we recorded the single “Fluid” the would be title track to my new CD we collectively decided to release to radio knowing full well we wouldn’t drop the album for at least another year. But because the song just felt so good and folks were dealing with the pandemic, cultural and racial angst, etc. we wanted to put it out to give them some positive energy to help cope during this turbulent time. The song did extremely well at radio going #1 on the SJN, Billboard and Medibase charts respectively. And unlike a normal year where the project is usually complete by the time you release the first single we were able to use it as an indicator/benchmark of sorts, that we were on the right track sonically and vibe-wise with the rest of the project.

I’m hearing a lot of buzz about Michael Broening. How was it to work with him on this project?

If the buzz is that Michael is an amazing producer I can attest to it being 100% accurate. The very first time I worked with him was on my last project on a song he wrote and produced called “Pass The Groove.” Which went #1 on national radio. It was then that I realized he and I came from the same “Soul” mold. So naturally when I started on Fluid it was a no-brainer to bring in Michael to both produce and engineer the project.

Working with Michael for me is both easy and challenging at the same time. Easy in that every groove he sends over to me I can instantly vibe to. He seems to know exactly what type of groove will fit my unique playing style. The challenge is making sure I’m on my “A” game when recording with him as he’s worked with and produced for the best of the best. Michael wrote two songs for this album and co-wrote another two. One song in particular “Amazing Love” I had written and produced along with Dana Davis (another great producer) some 12 years ago. The song itself is a soulful mid-tempo groove with gorgeous chords but for the life of me I could not come up with a melody that fit. And because the tune was so good I didn’t want to settle for a sub-par Chorus. So the tune was put in the vault. As fate would have it I came upon the tune looking for some old files (something to do during quarantine) and sent it over to Jeff Lunt at the Label. He immediately said send that bad boy over to Michael to see what he can come up with. Michael sent the tune back with a Piano chorus melody that was so sweet we decided to leave it as is and just feature him. And when Mel Brown and Freddie Fox (Bass and Guitar) added their flavor out came a GEM!. That's the genius of Mikey B!

You also brought in another recording artist, Freddie Fox on guitar for the single “Release”.

Yes, Freddie is playing on “Release” and 3 other tunes on this CD. I love Freddie’s vibe…the way he layers his guitars to support both the rhythm and my solos. His placement and soulful grooves are near perfect for whatever song he plays and like Michael, he’s cut from that Soul Mold! The Guitar is essential in my music. In fact out of my now 7 albums I don’t think I have more that 2 songs without guitar and one of those songs would have had it but I ran out of I’m very happy to see Freddie break out into a solo career. Long Overdue. I’m hoping to return the blessing on one of his recordings in the future.

Any other career highlights on the collaborative side?

I’ve been blessed to record as a featured soloist on over 63 different artists’ projects in the last 10 years. It’s an honor to know that your sound resonates with your peers when they invite you to collaborate. I guess my recordings with legendary C-Jazz and R&B artists’ KEM, Dwele, Conya Doss, Jessica Jolia, George Duke, Tony Terry, Glenn Jones, Chieli Minucci among others stand out.

Anyone who you’d love to collaborate with in the future?

I would love to record with the likes of Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Ledisi,

Maysa (She and I have talked about a collab), Moonchild and new soul

sensation H.E.R.. I’m a Neo-Soul fanatic. An R&B connoisseur at heart. That said I have a very righteous collaboration on FLUID with my soulful sista Lindsey Webster on a track called “Me for Me” produced by myself and Matt Godina.

How did you choose to play the trumpet at 11?

I’m not sure if I chose the Trumpet or it chose me! But the story is legendary! My Father played a Coronet in high school (before switching to guitar) that used to belong to his Mother who passed away when he was 10. He placed that very Coronet on the mantle in our living room as a sort of memorial display. He told me that the only thing in that room that I could not touch was that Coronet. That I would be in big trouble if i did. Of course temptation got the best of me and one day I pulled the coronet down and attempted to play it. My Father (The original Jedi Master) knew I moved the horn and sat me down to talk about it. I thought I was in big trouble but instead of getting angry he told me that since I picked up the Trumpet I would now have to learn to play it. His most absolute rule was to “always finish what you start son.” So at that very moment I was a Trumpet Player as I still am to this day! When I graduated Highschool my Father gave me that Coronet and I now have it on my mantle.

How did your college experience help you to prepare for a career as a professional musician?

Being a part of Florida A&M University’s famed Marching 100’ Band was an experience like no other. It prepared me in many ways to be able to successfully navigate the hills and valleys of the music industry. Everything dealing with the band was earned through hard work, practice, initiative, excellence. I mean to get into the band on scholarship I had to pass a series of tryouts. Then in order to get to march on game day we had to individually perform the show in front of the entire band…EVERY WEEK! And excuses weren’t accepted. If you didn’t cut it that week you didn’t march. I’ve carried this philosophy with me throughout my professional career. It’s why when you leave my live show you feel thoroughly entertained. Its why when you listen to my recorded music you hear the attention to detail, the dedication to the groove..etc. All this I learned through my time at FAMU!

Advice for musician’s embarking on a career in music?

Some of the best advice I received was to first learn the music business. Everything you need to know is in a book somewhere but surprisingly many musicians don’t even attempt to seek out this knowledge. They assume that if you’ve studied your music and mastered your instrument that it amounts to a successful career. Thats the farthest from the truth.

Next I tell young musicians to enhance their book knowledge with some real life experiences. Use every gig as an opportunity to learn. Do every gig you can. From playing at a local club, to you aunts 60th B-Day party to whatever terrible wedding gig you’re invited to play. The entire process of booking the event to signing the contract to setting up equipment in the venue to performing to getting paid after the gig is essentially the same in all realms. Then be learn to be patient. Control what you can and let the rest play out as it will. Meaning make the best music you can… be the best musician you can be…create the best look for yourself, choose to play the music you love to vibe to. Don’t worry about who may not like you..focus on those that do. Make them like you more.

Plans for 2021 and beyond?

As we continue to navigate this uncharted territory we have to just take one day at a time and that’s what I’m focused on. 2020 was revealing and allowed me to take a step back and re-assess my career. Moving forward I realize that I needed to follow my own advice in making the best music, getting better as a musician, physically looking good and being healthy. I plan to make the most of my opportunities to entertain my fanbase and never take those that support me for granted by worrying about opportunities that may have passed me by. I’m once again excited for everyone to hear this new music and can’t wait til June 18th!! Thank you and I’ll see you soon.

Stay up to date with Lin Rountree and get more information on his website.

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