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Warren Hill: 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: Warren Hill.

Warren Hill has just released his first single in over ten years. The tune is titled “Simple” and the buzz is solid at smooth jazz radio.

Warren, thanks for taking some time with us! Tell us about this new single.

Thanks Allen! Well, contrary to the title, life has definitely not been simple lately! (Laughs)

This song “Simple” came about very organically. My daughter Olivia (Rox) wrote the song, and she and Tamara had the idea for me to record it. When they brought me the song, I was very touched by the emotion that it captured, I feel that it carries so much hope and love for the future. It’s emotional, raw, and almost a bittersweet kind of happiness. Tamara stepped in to produce the song, et voila! Therefore, it felt apropos to finally release a new single. I can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years since my last release of my own music in the US - but let me tell you - it feels good to be back!

I checked out the music video. Very cool and at the same time ‘Simple” – nicely in line with the song title!

Haha thanks! We had fun creating the video - We wanted it to speak to the message of the song and be solely focused on the performance and soul of the music. Nothing too glitzy or over-produced, something to really showcase the song - just keeping it “simple”!

You are one of the veteran artists in the smooth jazz genre. Winning multiple awards, selling over a million albums in your career, 13 CD’s, countless tours and such.. Why has it been so long since your last release?

Yes, it has been a minute since I’ve released new music of my own here in the U.S. Time flies when you’re doing what you love to do! What you may not know is that I am still deeply immersed in music in different ways within the music industry. Even though it’s been a while since my last single in the US, I’ve released music specifically for Asia, where I have also toured and developed a new saxophone company, and I’ve done extensive touring internationally.

Oh, and the big news is I have also created my own signature mouthpiece line and we just released it last week! This has been a top-secret project for years. After countless years of research and development, meticulous tweaking and hundreds of different versions we have finally found the secret sauce and have achieved the sleek, aerodynamic shape that makes this blue mouthpiece’s sound so “big”, thus the name, “The Big Blue”. This mouthpiece is inspired by my one-of-a-kind original blue mouthpiece that I have recorded and performed live with for over 30+ years. People have been requesting this for a long time and I’m so happy to say it’s here and each piece is hand inspected and played by yours truly, to make sure it is up to my standards! You can find them on my website.

And, I guess maybe the biggest thing keeping me extremely busy is creating and producing 19 music festivals of many different genres over the past 7 years. It’s been a true honor to get to keep the music alive for the fans in such a substantial way.

You have been a real trail-blazer when it comes to smooth jazz oriented events. Tell us about some of the cool experiences you have created for smooth jazz fans via live venues and events.

It’s been a wild ride, that’s for sure! Many folks forget that I was the originator of the world’s first Smooth Jazz Cruise back in 2004. It took 2 years of extremely hard work and a lot of faith to get the first one up and running. But it was an instant success. This was the first time I was forced to put my music aside, because it was so much work organizing the cruises. After 4 years of sell-out sailings, I decided to get back to music and I sold my interest in the business. In 2016 I purchased and developed the Cancun Jazz Festival with the intention of creating the same cruise concept, but on land. It quickly became a flagship yearly event in multiple destinations that has been selling out ever since, expanding further to Los Cabos in 2019.

I truly do it for the love of music, and the fans - to create the absolute best events, with the top artists, incredible venues, and the epic stages that these legendary artists were meant to be seen on. Being an artist myself, I’ve learned firsthand how live music should be heard and presented, and that’s the expertise that I bring to every one of my events. It’s not only an amazing experience for the fans, but for the artists and musicians as well. At my signature events, I produce, host and (of course) perform as well, which are always my favorite shows of the year!

Some of my favorite events are my jazz festivals which are actually coming up soon; Cancun Jazz Fest Nov. 11-13, 2023 and Los Cabos Jazz Fest Oct. 8-10 2023 This year is going to be an incredible time. It’s a pretty unique experience - we create events that are not only a music festival, but a full all-inclusive music vacation in the most gorgeous spots around the world. So, you not only get to see your favorite artists perform at night - during the day you stay at a luxury hotel where all of the gourmet food, alcohol, hotel and entertainment is included. It’s similar in that way to my cruises that I started back in 2004 - but an on land experience. I really wanted to create something spectacular like this for the fans to combine their tropical vacation with going to a music festival, so that’s just what we did, and here we are many years later, with another 4 events this year!

However, if I am being honest, there was something quite magical about my very first Jazz Cruise in 2004. It was the first of its kind and it took a lot of convincing for me to get everyone there. However, everyone that attended, artists and fans alike, felt the electricity and knew it was going to be the beginning of something incredible.

What are some of your most rewarding highlights from your various destination events?

We are always striving to bring good music to the fans! It’s been the honor of a lifetime to work with some of the world’s greatest and legendary recording artists.

I would say the highlights for me were presenting my own personal legends – the Artists I grew up on and having all of my friends from a lifetime in the music business be a part of this is truly rewarding,: Earth Wind & Fire, George Benson, Smokey Robinson, David Sanborn, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clark, Spyro Gyra, Michael McDonald, Gladys Knight, Bob James, Tower of Power, Sheila E., Kenny G, to name a few. There are frankly too many to mention, since we have roughly 15-20 acts per event, and there have been 9 or 10 Jazz Fests since I started. Bringing all of these amazingly talented people together and giving them the big stage - the platform they deserve is what it’s all about.

This year is going to be an incredible time in Cabo and Cancun with Artists such as Jill Scott, Gregory Porter, Jeffrey Osborne, Najee, Pieces of a Dream and Avery Sunshine.

I have to ask about your incredibly talented daughter Olivia, who I recall was born within days of my daughter, also named Olivia… I hear she also has new music coming out soon.

That’s right! I remember the time that our two 7- or 8-year-old Olivias were playing together, dancing in front of the stage at my Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert in Cleveland! It’s one of my fondest moments, literally bringing a tear to my eye thinking about how much time has passed and how simple life was back then. Now they are all grown up and have become smart, talented, and beautiful young ladies. How is your Olivia?

Our Olivia followed in our footsteps and chose the music path. She is an amazing singer and songwriter. Her debut album PopRox had 5 songs on the Top 40 charts. She then released a Christmas single which has become a staple on the charts for 3 years now, prompting her to release a full Christmas album which charted #8 on the Holiday Pop charts/ #15 Billboard last year. And, if that doesn’t blow my mind enough, she also wrote a science fiction novel during the Covid shutdown, due to be released later this year. She is a creative force unlike anyone I have ever seen.

I think because of her upbringing in the jazz world, being taught by so many of our musician friends and artists, and hopping on stage with me at hundreds of my concerts throughout the years, she not only has Jazz chops, but she also understands the ins and outs of the industry. I remember when I was 24, I had just graduated from Berklee, but I had half of the knowledge of the industry as she already does now, and I had barely been out of Canada. She’s already been to 5 continents, speaks multiple languages and with those experiences comes empathy which shows through in her life and music. I know - I’m gushing Allen - as Dads, we can talk about our daughters for hours! If anyone wants to check out Olivia’s music (and hopefully“buy” her albums) please do so, I highly recommend it! Her artist name is Olivia Rox.

And I know you are a very proud father. You, your wife Tamara and Olivia truly are a ‘power family’.

Ha ha after that rant - yes, I’m definitely a proud father! Tam and I are both so proud of her, and the craziest thing is how the three of us work together so well as a team. Tam and I have been producing albums since we met, but now Olivia is right there with us in the studio, following in our footsteps!

I have to say that Tamara is a powerhouse in the music industry, and I am so proud of her. Breaking barriers and proving that women can do it all. She is a veteran in the entertainment world, and it’s her culmination of talents which have brought her where she is today. For many years she’s established herself on the creative side of things as a prominent, award-winning record producer of Jazz, Pop and Alternative Rock, as well as shooting album covers and directing music videos. But she has also taken on the business side as the CEO of Songbird Records, overseeing all the music releases, from inception to the proverbial digital record store shelf and radio!

It’s been fun bringing all three of our talents together, supporting each other’s careers and endeavors daily, as we strive to achieve our individual and collective dreams. Recently we had a great moment where we were nominated for an award as a production team, the three of us together for Best Producer for Olivia’s Top 40 single Shooting Star. proving that hard work does pay off, and families can actually work together!

We’re so thankful to be able to work together as a family in support of each others careers, on a daily basis, as we strive to achieve our individual and collective dreams. So, if doing what you love, with the people you love, makes us a power family - I’ll take it!

Tell us about some of your other business ventures. Your own line of saxophones?

It’s been a dream come true to design a line of saxophones and mouthpieces. For years, countless sax players would ask me to recommend a good entry level saxophone, and the truth was that I could never find anything for them that wasn’t ridiculously overpriced. I’ve seen so many young people get discouraged from playing the horn because either the instrument was too expensive, or they bought something online that was essentially unplayable. A friend of mine asked for help - his son was trying to learn sax in school, but he couldn’t get a decent tone. So, I asked his son if I could try his horn. It was so awful, not even I could get a note out of it. I had already been working on designing a horn, but that kicked me into high gear. So now, I’m proud to say that my team and I have perfected my line of saxophones and mouthpieces. It’s taken a long time, but it’s worth it. We created a horn that I would play on stage, for the price of a student model. And now, when someone asks me, I finally have my answer to their question.

Can we expect some more singles for smooth jazz radio?

Absolutely. I’ve been gone for a minute, but now I’m back and I’m here to stay. I’ve been working on a new album with Tamara and Olivia that I can’t wait to share with you all soon! I will be debuting some of the new music at my festivals coming up in October and November, so if you don’t want to wait to hear my new stuff - that’s the perfect place to hear a sneak peek!

Keep up with Warren Hill on his website, here.

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