Behind the Music Of “The New Old School “Album”

Interviewer:

You have just put together a new album, “The New Old School”. The feature cut is the song “We Are the Ones”. What is the story behind that song?

James Whitney:

We Are The Ones” is about all of us joining together again as we should have always been and realizing that we need each other to battle things such as COVID-19, the political landscape , the environment . If we do not join, we’re not going to make it through this. That is what that this is about. It is about we are the ones that we are waiting for, because we cannot wait any longer because the future is getting more and more bleak daily.

I write a lot of message songs; all of my writing seems to be set in that direction. “We Are the Ones” is one of those songs. I have watched how things have transgressed through the world and what is going on with COVID-19, Black Lives Matters, the political landscape and things like that. I have followed those kinds of things all my life.

I think we must realize that humanity is just one body and we all have to be together to fight back against things such as COVID-19 and we can definitely not be biased.

I was inspired when I saw this thing with Black Lives Matter. Saw a lot of things on the internet that were so disturbing that I could not sleep at night. I was at the point of tears quite a few times, seeing people hurting each other this way. I could not handle it anymore, so I started to write about it.

Interviewer:

How would you describe the genre, the tune and the tempo?

James:

It is like an anthem, a march, it has got that kind of feeling to it. Through the music I try to make you feel like we have a banner, or a flag or something for all of us to get together and join together as one power, to try to maneuver through whatever objective we have right now.

Interviewer:

Why should people give the song a listen, and what do you want them to take away from it?

James:

I want them to feel what I am talking about. I want them to be able to carry this into their lives, into society and try to help, to heal whatever we can. As individuals what we can to do to heal the earth, the people. The emotional concept through the music is to try to reach someone’s heart. Make them feel and speak of what we are talking about and spread it around as much as possible, because we are all in this together.

Interviewer:

What is the “New Old School” album all about, and why did you decide to put it together?

James:

Message songs, R&B, old school, funk. There’s funk, there’s ballads, there’s messages, there’s couple songs that are even what you would call like an anthem. Then there’s a couple that have blues influences.

Through time, I worked nightclubs from the time I was 12 years old. I was one of the doo-wop guys on the corner singing. I grew up through that era, and I worked with a lot of major artists. With this album what I did was take all these different elements of time, the ’70s and ’80s, and consolidate them all into what I would consider a new old school kind of a feeling.

In writing the music I wrote a lot it in a lot of different styles from Reggae, to old school R&B ballads. even back to orchestral, where they have songs with interludes and different type of construction that has not been heard or used in quite a while. With this album I have put them all under roof, and that is why I am calling it “The New Old School”. I think I have covered as much ground as I can with this album.

Interviewer:

What are some of your favorite cuts on the album?

James:

There’s one that I wrote called “I’ve Got Somebody”, and it’s like my influence is from being down South. It’s got all those different kind of blues runs and yet it’s positive because it says I got somebody. That feeling.

Then there’s “Whatcha Gonna Do About Me Tonight” it is another ballad, old school style, but it’s about back in the day where the boys would be on one side of the room and the girls would be on another side, and you’d be choosing each other across the room and saying, “Oh my god, am I going to have fun tonight. That was the influence of that song. It’s got the buildup to where finally you get the nerve to walk over and say, “Can I have this dance?”

Then there is one called “Magic Circle”, it is like Latin reggae. Life is a magic circle with love going around. It’s got a Latin influence, but it’s got the reggae influence. It all sort of comes together in one song.

Then there is “Mystic Flight”, I wrote it for Michael Jackson.

Interviewer:

Tell us a little bit about that song and how you came to write a song for Michael Jackson.

James:

There was an artist Bobby Taylor he was a producer, and he came out with a hit song, “Does Your Mama Know”. Bobby met Michael Jackson and brought him to Berry Gordy of Mowtown Records. He was the actual person that brought Michael Jackson to Berry. He did not have the opportunity to do a production for a few years because they were The Jackson 5. When they left Motown, they became The Jackson Family. During that stretch of time, Bobby was looking for songs and that was about the time that we met.

I actually wrote three songs for Michael Jackson.

One called “Goodness Knows”, another called “Sweet Music” and another called “The Disco Kids”. Those three songs were recorded but they were not released because they were having a little turmoil with the record label. They were trying to sign a new label deal and it was not working out, so they did their own thing. They ended up signing with a record company before that stuff was released. Maybe two of the songs were supposed to be on the album, it was the Off the Wall album.

My three songs stood out so much and were so different that they did not put them on the album. So, they sat on the shelf for many years. Michael was into ethereal sort of material at the time, so I wrote a song called Mystic Flight for him. Mystic Flight had the influence of Earth, Wind & Fire.

He never recorded or released the song and I really wanted to share it with people, so I included in on this album.

Interviewer:

How would you describe your sound , who were your influencers?

James:

I sing similar to a lot of different artists, but I don’t sound like any one artist. I was like from Luther Vandross to Charlie Wilson to Stevie Wonder. I grew up with the element of their styling. The Baptist church is where a lot of us began and I was lucky enough to meet most of them. I realized that in this gospel sort of a feeling, everybody could relate with it one way or another.

I was also influenced by Bob Marley, he was a message song writer, just like I consider myself.

I also worked with a guy named Pete Gardens who was close with Fleetwood Mac. The guys that worked in Fleetwood Mac, some of the guys were in my band like Bob Welch.

Interviewer:

What will people hear when they download the album?

James:

It is really unique and different but at the same time very familiar. It has all the familiarity of the chords and the patterns and structure that makes them like other songs people know and like. It is very interesting to the ear. I call it ear candy.

I did orchestrations. I didn’t just use the computer. I think people will have fun listening to this. It’s different, it’s unique and at the same time it’s very hooky. It will stay in your mind; it will stay in your head. Once you hear it once or twice, two or three times, it’s going to stick with you, and you will find yourself singing some of the songs as you’re going along down the road.

I put my own label on what I do and what I have done for many years, after doing everybody’s material imaginable. From hard rock to R&B to even oldies. I have done all those kinds of gigs all my life. Every kind of gig that you can think of. I have opened for Santana at Shrine Auditorium; I’ve opened for Tower Power.

I have opened for lots of major artists. This album has all those different flavors. You can listen to it once and then you can listen to the whole thing again. You can listen to it three or four times over and over, and I don’t think you’ll get bored because you’re going to hear something different every time you hear it, because it’s fresh.

Interviewer:

Final thoughts?

James:

Just really that “love needs love”, by the way that is one of my favorite songs by Stevie Wonder. We all need to find ourselves within ourselves. What we have learned in society is not the reality that God meant for us to have internally, for us to appreciate each other. We are not separate from each other. We are all part of God’s one body, the body of humanity. I had to say that.

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