A son of British soil whose roots extend to the Caribbean, world renowned Jazz and R&B soul singer/songwriter Tony Momrelle has breathed new life into the jazz scene. Travelling the globe with Reel People, Incognito, and Sade, among others, Momrelle has been enchanting audiences the world over with his golden voice for almost two decades. Lacing classic jazz and soul vocals over contemporary tracks, Momrelle has often been compared to Donny Hathaway, even earning the honour of being called the Stevie Wonder of this generation. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to connect with his fans, we catch up with Tony Momrelle as he prepares for the release of his long-anticipated solo EP, Fly.
WBM: Who is Tony Momrelle?
TONY: Good question…Who am I? I guess I’m just a normal guy who has been blessed with a great gift…humble, I know, (laughs). Where are you from and how has it influenced your career? Well, I’m British by birth…Mother is from Jamaica and father from St Lucia…I guess the music and roots from the Islands has played a big part in my upbringing…and growing and living in London has been a huge part, as London is a melting pot of many cultures, as well as musical styles.
WBM: How long have you been in the music industry and how did you get your start?
TONY: Funny thinking about it now…but I grew up in church and was always around music; but singing was never on my radar of things to do. My parents always felt I would be someone within the entertainment industry, but [were] not sure what path I would take. When I was young, I was so into hip-hop, still am, but back in the day the trend was B-boying, so I was a body popper and breaker…then I got into beat boxing, and then finally rap, which is where I stayed for many years…I never thought I would become a singer, NEVER (laughs). I had a group at the time and we were doing really well, selling out our own shows as well as recording material, but as we grew older, I guess, mindsets changed. I was away from church quite allot, I wasn’t attending anymore, (teenage years!) then I remember waking up and having the urge to go to church. When I got through the church doors I could hear singing…and it was a friend of mine who was singing so nice!!! Whilst sitting there I thought…“hmmmm he doesn’t sound bad at all…” (Laughs)… remember, I never wanted to be a singer!!!
After a few weeks, I really started to enjoy the youth choir, and would sing along with the congregation… under my breath so no one could hear me! Until one Sunday someone did and said “hey man you have a great voice…you should join the choir.” Cutting a long story short, I joined the choir and, after a short period, was singing lead on many songs. This was the foundation for me and my music career. I learnt that if I could have the courage to sing in front of a BLACK church…I could sing anywhere!!!! Black churches are hard to please when it comes to singing (laughs) so that was my training and still is.
Moving on to how I got my start. A few years later, I was working with in the field of marketing, and a friend of mine who had a session agency called me up at work and asked if I was free to do a recording session. I said no due to work commitments and that I really didn’t want to do that; after a few calls he said that he could have the session moved to a weekend so it would be a perfect time for me to do it. After twisting my arm, I agreed and asked if he would be there, which he said he would. I turned up at Olympic Studios London, went through to Studio A, and sitting there on the couch was Gloria Estefan!!! Just her and her producer!! I thought I was in the wrong studio, but I wasn’t…my friend believed in my voice so much he set me up!!! (Laughs) The session went well, and I went on to do a few TV promo shows for the single I was working on with her. After me getting my feet wet, I went on to do many other recording sessions as well as TV promos, which gave me the wings to quit my job and fly. Like I said, my parents always knew I would be in the industry, and this was the push I needed… I’ve never looked back.
WBM: When did you know this was something you wanted to pursue?
TONY: I guess I always knew I wanted to be an artist or actor, but it took a few things in life for me to see this was really for me.
WBM: How would you describe your musical style, and is there any particular musician(s), producer(s), and/or genre(s) that has influenced you?
TONY: Well my style is a mixture of things. Like I said, I grew up in church, so most of the influence, vocal wise, is Gospel. When people hear me I often get told that they hear the following: Stevie [Wonder], Donny [Hathaway], and Fred Hammond. Those are my three main influences. I remember hearing Fred for the first time, and he reduced me to tears…it was at that point I knew I wanted to sing like him! Through the gift of music I have been able to meet on a few occasions two of my mentors and blessed to say one of them is now my good friend!
WBM: What opportunities have the world of music opened up for you?
TONY: Well many, since that time in the studio on my first recording session I have worked with a multitude of artists, as well as done my own projects, and toured the world over and over.
WBM: How would you describe the energy that St. Lucia Jazz brings to the island, and the music industry on a whole?
TONY: St Lucia is a special island to me…it is one of the few islands that has not been spoilt, so when you go there you really see paradise!!! So imagine the scenes, being on stage at St Lucia Jazz and playing to crowds in the thousands while the sun is setting and you can see the warm ocean and the famous pitons as your back drop!! That whole vibe creates an amazing energy. It’s been a few years since I was last there with my band Incognito, so I would love to have that opportunity again…JUST SAYING (Laughs). The music industry is a huge business, and the festival is really good at bringing the right acts, so it’s not just Jazz, but a whole range of styles. This does well for the island, as well as the fans that come to see the shows.
WBM: Which one of songs best personifies you and why?
TONY: Hmmmm…that’s a tough question, as I always try to put myself in the songs, whether I have written them or not; it’s like asking an actor what was his best role? I guess everything they do is their baby, and likewise for me too.
WBM: If you could perform anywhere in the world that you haven’t already performed, where would it be?
TONY: Well, the only place that springs to mind that I haven’t been is India. Their music scene and festivals are growing at a rapid rate for western music, so hopefully I will get the chance to play there.
WBM: What does it mean to be a musician in 2013?
TONY: Well, being a musician in any year will have its highs and lows. For an artist I think as the years go by you want to have some relevance…you want to be stronger, deeper, wiser…and write or perform better.
WBM: Why does what you do matter?
TONY: It matters because I’m being creative. To be able to sing a song and move someone to tears, or for someone to say, “Your song helped me through a tough time,” or for someone to say they admire what you do, is a tall order, so I take what I do very seriously.
WBM: Define success
TONY: For me, success is not about how you rise in life…but more how you grind in the lows! It’s a frame of mind. If you can work hard and take the hard blows life can sometimes deal you…and still stand….then you can rise and fly! But it takes work….and the only place you will ever see the word “success” before the word “work” is in a DICTIONARY!
WBM: Biggest Accomplishment to date?
TONY: You’re really hitting me with the big questions huh? (Laughs) Everything thing I do is a big accomplishment. Working with my big sis Sade was major, on the record and the world tour.
What’s one thing that many don’t know about you?
TONY: I like to do close up magic .
WBM: What’s next?
TONY: Right now, I just got back from the U.S. & Italy…so home for a couple days, then back on the road to Spain, Germany, Kazakhstan, Brazil and a few other places…then back in the studio to finish my album.
WBM: Your long-awaited, first solo EP is due out in the month of August 2013, have you titled it yet?
TONY: Yeah, it’s called Fly.
WBM: Where can your fans go to purchase it?
TONY:iTunes, Amazon, etc.
WBM: Are you doing any dates to promote the project?
TONY: Soon…but nothing in the states as yet.
WBM: Where can your fans and potential promoters go to get in touch with you?
TONY: Well you can always reach my on Twitter @tonymomrelle. I have all the other pages too (Laughs)…if you tweet me I respond.
WBM: Any advice for those looking to pursue their goals and dreams?
TONY: Keep pushing no matter what…the only person that can stop you is you!!! You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to become great!