We’ve Got a Thing For Him, & We Can’t Let Go…

Saturday, September 1, 2012 11:25

An Interview with Bobby Caldwell

By Casey Pukl

It’s hard to resist singing along to one of Bobby Caldwell’s prolific hits. Somewhere between the smoky rhodes, poppin’ horns, and Caldwell’s easy voice, one can easily get lost in a musical feel-good zone. Almost 35 years past his classic single, “What You Won’t Do For Love”, Caldwell is not only still writing, recording, and touring, but doing all three more than ever. Having fully embraced the digital age, Caldwell is well on his way to not only continuing to nurture his long-time fanbase, but also gain traction with a younger audience. To say it’s impressive would be a huge understatement. His latest record, House of Cards, touches on some of Caldwell’s signature sounds and topics, yet explores some newer contemporary jazz territory. Read on to find out what inspired his latest album, how he’s had to adapt to the ever changing industry, and just what our San Diego audience can look forward to at Caldwell’s upcoming show!

CP: Tell me a little bit about what inspired your latest record, “House of Cards”?

BC: First of all, I think that it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been restructuring our business, and bringing everything in house. So this is a result of a couple of years of songwriting, leaving stuff I really wasn’t wound about to the wayside, and trying to get a more eclectic and diverse mix of stuff. Music today seems to have a sameness about it, and I just wanted to get some real diversity on this record.

CP: Can you elaborate on restructuring your business model to bring everything in house?

BC: Sure! It’s no secret to the fans and everyone in the music business that we’re on the brink of a new paradigm. There are changes that are going on in everything from radio to retail. We’re trying to embrace this new paradigm, and we’re trying to find new ways to get the product out there. It’s not easy, but I think we’ve got a handle on it now. We’re fairly well positioned on iTunes. We do a lot of business through our website, BobbyCaldwell.com, and we do a lot of business at performances. Between these three avenues, people can easily reach out and get product. We’re focusing on alternatives.

CP: Have you found yourself playing more live shows in the last 5-10 years?

BC: Yes. To be frank, I’m performing more and working harder than I have probably ever in my life!

CP: It’s amazing to see established artists like yourself who have been around for anywhere from 10, 20, 30, even up into 40 or 50 years, have to completely change your business model and embrace the new industry. Not everyone has been able to successfully.

BC: For the new up and coming artists, it’s clearly something they’re born into. For us, there’s a learning curve— there’s no denying that. But you know, in life, change is inevitable. Rather than run away from it, you really have to embrace it. It’s going to happen one way or another, and this was bound to happen to the music business with technology and other forces at play. I think in a lot of ways, it could end up being a better music business. We’ll see how that plays out.

CP: Tell me a little bit about the new sounds you wanted to bring to this record.

BC: My influences are so broad. I had a lot of good fortune during the late 80’s and early 90’s, especially with easy listening and smooth jazz radio. In a lot of ways, I was one of the staple vocalists of the format. When I go back and review the content of the work I put out through the 80’s and 90’s, in many ways, I can’t really repeat that or try to emulate it. That was the style; that was the sound that was in style then. This wasn’t just an opportunity to do something new. This was an opportunity to do things that I wanted to do in the past, but couldn’t because of format constrictions. I had my hands tied in a few ways. That’s actually one way in which the changes in the business have really freed me up. That’s nice.

As I’m putting this new record together, I’m noticing that the smooth jazz format is morphing and changing as we speak. It’s kind of going back to vocals, but not vocals that are generic. It’s going toward things that are distinctive and have a calling card on them. What I wanted to do on this record was branch out and capture some new listeners while hopefully keeping my old listeners.

CP: That seems to be one of the hardest challenges, and in the smooth jazz market in particular! That market has some of the most dedicated and opinionated fans I’ve ever encountered. That audience can be so hip to new ideas, but then if they don’t dig it, they’re loud about it.

BC: Yes, but you know, my fan base is actually almost 3 demographics. I have people who have been fans since 1978 with “What You Won’t Do For Love”, and then they’ve grown up and have children who are having children, and now they’re all coming to the shows. I’m serving a lot of masters there. But all in all, they’re really solid people. It’s awesome to see them come out! They’re really dedicated people who stay true to their artists and don’t mind going out for an evening of entertainment.

CP: I’d love to dive into a little bit of your songwriting process. How do you usually get your start?

BC: It’s different with every song. Sometimes it’s a melody; sometimes it’ll be a groove or a series of chords that lend themselves to a melody. I think the process really becomes clear to me when I’ve started something, and it keeps calling me back to finish it. If I have a situation like that, there’s a reason it keeps calling me back. The things that don’t probably don’t deserve to be finished anyway. When I’m putting a record together, I try to wind up with a surplus of songs so I can pick and choose. That way I can pick the best and send the rest into the cornfields [laughs].

CP: [Laughs] Where some of them belong! What are you most looking forward to about this upcoming date at Anthology?

BC: At this show, we’re going to be doing a lot of tunes that the majority of fans have indicated that they want to hear in a show. We’ll also be featuring several new songs from the “House of Cards” CD. I think it’ll be a really well rounded show. Hopefully no one leaves upset [laughs].

But I love the venue. This will be the first time we’ve been there with the R&B band. I think the last time I was there, we were doing standards and stuff. This will be the first time it’s the full-blown Bobby Caldwell show that my fans have grown accustomed to.

Special thanks to Bobby for his time (and preview copy of his new CD, House of Cards)! Be sure to come on out, and enjoy the smooth sounds of this incredible vocalist!

Bobby Caldwell on Spotify

WHAT: Bobby Caldwell
WHEN: Friday, September 7, 7:30 & 9:30pm
TICKETS: $10-$44 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile