How can I best describe the cruise? … it’s like the first day of classes on a …. um….Performing Arts-Traveling-Vacation-College-Boat?! :)
Imagine if you will…. Attendees, armed with schedules in hand, trying to navigate their way around a 1000 ft. floating luxury campus to classes before they fill…… The comforts of well-known courses and professors, as well as the joys of being exposed to new subject matter that reaches deep and leaves one talking…CD’s in lieu of textbooks, trips to the cafeteria, and of course, the obligatory parties to get loose and better acquainted. Oh and throw in some sunshine and exotic locations for good measure.
What makes this analogy particularly apropos for me was feeling the nervous energy of being a freshman while at the same time the regard of being a starting player.
First Night: On stage with Patti Austin, Rachelle Farrell, Chante Moore, Eric Roberson, Cheryl “Pepsi” Riley, Kindred, Vinx….. with George Duke on Keys – A freestyle not for the faint of heart and your boy actually closed it out…….. (talk about peer pressure lol)!
My Set: Performing “Sail Thru” on a “Big Ass Boat” just about summarizes the grand nature of this experience. Looking into the front row and seeing so many of my soul contemporaries was such an honor and at the same time a humbling experience. Everyone in attendance received a “Love Revolution” button and, with fists raised, I knew we had started a Revolution across land, and now, sea.
Conversations: Sometimes I get a bit discouraged with the music scene… not the making of it, but the business of it. I realize the radio doesn’t reflect my craft or my taste, and wonder if people still buy music etc…. But these conversations were like a shot of adrenalin. It reminded me that there are people who LOVE music and really appreciate what we do. I am so grateful because it has really energized me for the Journey ahead.
Community: This was one area I hadn’t prepared myself for. The level of comradery among the artists was really amazing – with every one balancing their schedules so they could support and enjoy each other’s sets. I had an opportunity to develop my relationships with so many as well as ask questions and see how similar our roads are.
You have to understand…. I am a FAN, so to have personal conversations as well as stand on the stage with these Musical Innovators was an arrival moment. I really feel like a contributing member in this soul music tapestry.
Whether it was, late night lessons in life from Patti Austin, cutting up with Aja(Kindred), Jennea and Ursula Rucker @ 5am, lunch with Carol Riddick before interviewing her and Deborah Bond for Frances Jaye and the Neo Soul Cafe, freestyling with Conya Doss, impromptu building with Sinbad, trading licks with Angela Johnson…. it goes on.
These are some of those “moments”:
(Special thanks to Eric Roberson for his sage advice).
Indie Artist Panel: My “Storytellers” moment. Where “These Walls Could Talk” about the album and the process to a receptive audience.
Piano Bar: Freestyling with one of my favorite singer/songwriter/pianists Frank McComb. One evening in particular I combined vocalizing and a calisthenics workout…… (sorry you had to be there). Shout to D-Mo for the Soul Tom-Fool-Er-EEE.
This was also the birthplace of Eric Roberson as “The Robe”.
Teamwork: If you have been following me, you know of the 2 guys that wear many hats -my manager Miles Anthony and myself. It is a lot of work and it was definitely cool to be able to kick it and have a moment to enjoy the fruits of a lot of labor.
House Call: Spending a few hours in my home away from home in Jamaica: Check out that view.
70′s night: Watching the ship transform into a period piece for one of my favorite eras in music as well as being able to personify my Love Revolution alter ego Cool Calvin Clay.
I get’s deep: You know it’s serious when Scuba Diving in Grand Turk is not even one of your greatest highlights….. but the site of huge sea turtles still bears mention.
In closing (and because I love beating a good analogy to death)……by weeks end I recognized fellow class/shipmates, made new friends and colleagues, knew my way around campus, signed a few yearbooks and learned priceless lessons that I am sure will help me in the advanced classes.
Class dismissed. (Jazz Hands Ya’ll!)
Special thanks: to Aileen the “graphics queen” and Kevin Cross for helping me get the buttons and shirts done. Stacey Jordan for helping to style a brother. Taty “sorry I forgot” Mott for ….. too much to mention, and a great show.
The amazing band for inspiring me…… with my own music! DeAndre Shafer (keys, MD), Dennis Turner (bass), Bisquit Bynam (drums), Robbie McDonald (guitar), Aaron Harding(keys), Alyson Carney & Kenny Wesley (vocals).
Big thanks to the staff that made a boat feel like a home. Such a family vibe from lovers of music. They also made sure that us freshmen got some serious burn. Tynisha, Selina, Dwayne, Darrell, Mitra, Shani, Ray, Lori, Chellee, MJ, Big Dave, and to Cliff for the opportunity.
I want to thank the passengers for supporting music, being open and adventurous enough to try some new flavors, and heading to their respective homes and sharing.
Side note: Must have been a rockin’ good time b/c I didn’t get my lands legs back for nearly a week!