The genesis of The Courtney John Project is a labour of love and an exploration of different musical forms. Future is the debut album from The Courtney John Project and features lead singer Courtney John, who is no stranger to the music industry – having won awards and topped reggae charts. And it should also be noted that both John and producer The Wizard are descendants of reggae royalty (The Wizard is the daughter of the great Beres Hammond and John is his nephew). With that kind of pedigree, it’s no wonder that they partnered with Steven “Lenky” Marsden, Grammy-winning producer who has worked with dancehall acts such as Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder, and Lumidee.
The Courtney John Project subverts reggae music but at the same time preserves its core elements, where the trio incorporate electronic formations to create a new musical genre, that they describe as rootstronic.
Future is positioned as a reggae revival, reminding us of what it was, and what it can become, and from listening to this album, it can certainly become a movement. John‘s lovers rock vocals harken back to some of reggae’s great vocalists, such as Desmond Dekker, Alton Ellis, and of course his uncle Beres. The album exhibits music’s boundless universality, allowing three people to step right out of the box and into a new musical sphere.
With Future hitting the stores today, we were able to catch up with Courtney John to talk about The Project, his career thus far, and what’s in the future for the group. As you read the interview, you can listen to a couple of tracks embedded between questions.
Muphoric Sounds: How was The Courtney John Project born?
Courtney John: They were looking for a track to place in the Oliver Stone directed movie Savages. The Wizard and I, were working on a track, well actually the first single “Soul of A Man” and we called in Lenky to do some additional keyboard. The song wasn’t chosen, but while in the studio we realised there was a great energy; one that we had to capture more of. A new sound was being created. It was days later that The Wizard and myself decided to call this sound “Rootstronic”…the band was immediately formed.
MS: Will it be a one-off Project in style and sound?
Courtney John: No, I plan to keep the sound evolving and keep the doors to the Project open to have other musicians and artists be a part of The Courtney John Project creative process.
MS: Why did you call it “The Courtney John Project”?
Courtney John: I decided on the name “The Courtney John Project” because it represents what the process was like initially…I was experimenting with a new sound vocally and I invited these two talented musicians into the process and it seemed like we were working on a project.
MS: Your relationship with The Wizard is not only a musical one, but you are cousins! When did you decide to start making music together? How have you helped each other grow as artists?
Courtney John: Yes, we’re cousins. We started out writing songs together many years ago and it kinda segued into a mentorship vibe when she expressed that she wanted to produce. It’s a good working environment because Wiz brings all that is fresh and new and I bring the years of experience. She gives me the ability to always try to innovate and keep things on the cutting edge. I guide her through a lot business knowledge that she needs…writing techniques and artist development.
MS: With the fusing of various musical styles within The Project, did you see it as a risk in the genre of Reggae music?
Courtney John: Not at all. I think the core audience that listens to reggae is an open-minded audience and I think once anything is done tastefully and with a certain quality, this audience normally reacts in a positive way.
MS: Did being Beres Hammond‘s nephew influence your wanting to become a singer? How has he influenced you through the years? What anecdotal story can you share with us?
Courtney John: Yes, he sure did. We are a very musical family, so my other uncle Boyo, a great vocalist also influenced me. I remember Beres always saying, “Whatever you do, do it good. A record, once it goes out, will always be there for people to hear.”
MS: Your style is very reminiscent of Reggae’s beloved vocalists. Who are your main influences and why?
Courtney John: I’m a big fan of Alton Ellis, I think he taught Jamaican singers how to sing. I’m also a big fan of Delroy Wilson, Slim Smith… I am just a sucker for old-time music and old-time singers.
“Gonna Be Alright”
[audio:Gonna Be Alright.mp3]
MS: At the start of your music career, you went by the name of Yogi Bear. What precipitated the change back to Courtney John?
Courtney John: Haha, it was actually Yogi! Yogi was a childhood name given to me by my grandmother Di Di. I wanted to go back to a name that I thought the ladies would like to take home for a hug LOL. Courtney is my first name and John is my middle name, hence the name Courtney John.
MS: From gaining hit records on the reggae charts, to being likened to R. Kelly in your “Lucky Man” video, how would you describe your journey so far? What are some of your greatest lessons?
Courtney John: The journey has been one that only a storybook could describe; It has had its highs and lows, but the character that it has built is worth every moment of the journey. The greatest lesson that I’ve learnt in this business is the importance of family.
MS: How would you describe the musical landscape in Jamaica right now? What do you hope to contribute to it?
Courtney John: I mean, the music I see now is really mimicking people’s lives. With this Project, what we’re trying to do is inspire first, our musicians and peers, to take chances and be creative and then to show our people, that we have a great place that can produce multi-genres.
“Rain Like Gold”
[audio:Rain Like Gold.mp3]
MS: What are your plans for live shows? What do you intend on giving your audience?
Courtney John: Well we’re looking to do Europe first then America. Our aim is to really create an event with the live performance, where it integrates with other areas in the arts, such as fashion, photography, dance, theatre…you name it.
MS: What mainstream artists would you most like to work with?
Courtney John: Bono.
MS: Are there any electronic artists you’re interested in working with?
Courtney John: It would be interesting to hear what Skrillex meets the Rootstronic would sound like. Deadmaus is also a very interesting producer that could work some magic with the movement that we’re on.
MS: What’s next for Courtney?
Courtney John: Traveling the world to get this sound out to people and always writing and making music that I believe in.
MS: What artists are you listening to now?