It’s been a lengthy hiatus, but a familiar face with a signature sound is marking his return to the music scene by breathing new life into R&B. The music that super producer, songwriter, singer Paul Laurence created during the ‘80s has transcended decades and has become the soundtrack of many of our lives; from romantic interludes to party jams. Laurence is most known for his work on hits like Stephanie Mills’ “(You’re Putting) A Rush on Me,” and Evelyn King’s number one hit back in the summer of 1981, “I’m in Love.” The ’80s would not have been complete without Freddie Jackson’s Laurence produced and penned tracks like “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake),” “Tasty Love,” and “Jam Tonight” to name a few.
Laurence also stepped in front of the mic as an artist; signing with Capitol Records in the ’80s. He released his debut album Haven’t You Heard in 1985. Singles such as “She’s Not a Sleaze” featuring Freddie Jackson and Lillo Thomas, “Strung Out,” “Make My Baby Happy,” and “I Ain’t Wit It” revealed that Laurence had the ‘Midas’ touch for creating timeless music. Laurence made the decision to walk away from the industry for several decades but recently returned back to the studio. From his new group Melodik, to re-launching his career as an artist and producer, Laurence is hoping to set a precedence for the industry going forward through his imprint Poplar Music Entertainment Group.
I had the chance to chat with the legendary Paul Laurence about some of his career highlights.
Shameika: Who are some of the artists, producer, or songwriters that influenced you?
Paul Laurence: If I had to go back to the beginning I’d have to say James Brown. He was at the forefront of music even then, and if you listen to it now, in some ways it still sounds ahead of its time. Nobody has been able to, even in regular R&B or per say you can kind of reach for and kind of sound the same, nobody sounds like James Brown, even today. I’d say he is the true Godfather of R&B black music evolving into what it is today. To me, he is really the innovator of it all.
Shameika: What would you say is your favorite moment in musical history?
Paul Laurence: The first time I heard the first a song that I had worked on-heard it on the radio, that was big for me. That was a personal historical moment. That was the culmination of a dream, and this was before the internet, so it was a big deal to hear your stuff played on the radio. It was the song I did with Evelyn King called “I’m in Love.”
Shameika: You took a 30 year break, then you returned to the industry and released a couple of singles and now you are working with the group known as Melodik.
What made you decide to come back to music?
Paul Laurence: It’s one of the things that I can truly do well and I enjoy it. There was a time when that particular brand of music that I was doing; well nobody was really into anymore. So now everything seems to have come full circle. I believe the industry has settled after the whole Napster downloading issue. I think it’s finally now settled into a thing where people do miss the stuff that I do. Hopefully I’m not tripping (laughs).
My music is starting to now resonate with young folks today because maybe they heard it growing up and it reminds them of their parents because they listened to it. So it really has come full circle.
Shameika: What would you say your sound is as a producer, artist, or even as a songwriter? Can you describe the Paul Laurence sound? Is there a formula that you follow to get that particular sound?
Paul Laurence: There’s a lot of great stuff that has influenced me that I can’t call it. If I had to pinpoint it; I’d call it R&B that actually changed the world. From the ‘70s to Motown and all that is what influenced me; so what you hear from me is a culmination of all of that Motown from the ‘60s to the ‘70s. Then you have the funk bands from Earth Wind & Fire to the Ohio Players to Teddy Pendergrass to Al Green; so my sound is really a gumbo of all of that.
Shameika: Let’s talk about the production backstory on a few songs.
How about your 1989 single “Sue Me?”
Paul Laurence: That song was actually written for Earth, Wind, & Fire. I had met with Maurice White in California and he loved the song, he just had a problem with the words “Sue Me” (laughs). So he’s like ‘we want to do the song but, ‘Sue Me?’ really?’ So I said it’s not what you think, but I think even if I had changed it, he still wouldn’t have done it. At that particular time he was meeting with a bunch of us that were hot at the time, like Larry Blackmon, myself, and some others. So when their next album came out, none of us were on the album, they just used the producers and writers they had been using. That’s the back story. I didn’t want it to go to waste and I loved the song, so I recorded it. Those high parts on the song were supposed to be for Phillip Bailey and then Maurice doing the lower stuff. That’s how it was concocted.
Shameika: How about any of the Freddie Jackson songs that you wrote or worked on?
Paul Laurence: At that time Freddie and I were like brothers and had been in each other’s lives for about 6 or 7 years. He would come in and knock it out and we’d go on to the next one. He gave me the nickname ‘Mr. One Mo’ because I’d always says “One More Time!” That became my name around the studio and he’s the one that started it.
Shameika: What’s the story on remaking Prince’s 1982 hit “Do Me Baby” with Meli’sa Morgan?
Paul Laurence: Actually that was an idea from Capitol Records. The head of A&R called and asked what I thought of Meli’sa Morgan doing the song and I thought it was a great idea. I was thinking of the whole arrangement in my head while we were talking. I didn’t hear anything else during that conversation until we were hanging up. I heard the whole song in my head as he spoke. So we went into the studio and did the song exactly the way I heard it in my head. Of course Meli’sa did a great job with it.
Shameika: How about the song “Help Yourself to My Love” that is on Kashif’s 1983 Kashif album?
Paul Laurence: We were in the studio one day and Kashif was working on his album. We were sitting in the control room one day and I was on the piano and he was on the Moog Bass and we were working on a song. Then he said “LJ, you got a song for me right?” The first few times he asked I didn’t have a song since I think I was working on a Lillo Thomas project. Anyway, so finally I walked in and gave him something. I walked over to the piano and he was actually working on another song at that particular time, and he put it to the side to listen. So I started playing it and he said cool. So he sat with it for a bit so he could figure out what he wanted to do with it and add his touch to it; then we started jamming and recorded it.
Shameika: Talk about your new group Melodik.
Paul Laurence: Melodik is a female group out of Virginia State University. I met one of the members prior to the group. Her dad got in touch with me a few years ago and wanted me to check her out to see if she had something. She had it. Of course over time she went to school, she got in touch with me and said she was singing with a group and I didn’t take it serious, I thought it was some choral ensemble or something. She got in touch with me and sent a video of the group, and I saw the three of them and thought wow. A year prior to that my guys and I held auditions looking to put together a female group and got nothing. So it just kind of fell in place when I wasn’t looking. I asked them if they’d be interested if working on a couple songs of mine and they did. In terms of the future, I’m actually getting ready to record some more stuff with them and we don’t really know what’s out there. It’s about doing music and seeing what happens at this point. It’s about doing music so younger folks can get back into R&B because you don’t hear it much anymore. You don’t really see some real singing from the younger artists anymore. So we’re just trying to get that stuff back out there and get folks used to hearing it again and hopefully something will kick off from it. The first single is called “I Still Miss You.”
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