A hit on the Baltimore scene

Despite a lack of live venues, Groove Stu has made a name for itself

Celebrity

October 07, 2007|By Ericka Blount Danois | Ericka Blount Danois,Special to The Sun

Over the years, Groove Stu has become a familiar Baltimore neo-soul group whose sound is gradually getting out to the masses.

Since its arrival in 2000, the band has played at some local clubs and at some of Charm City's high-profile cultural events -- Artscape, the African American Heritage Festival and the New Africa Festival.

Groove Stu is quietly making inroads on the larger music scene, taking its brand of soul, reggae, hip-hop and rap to such cities as Washington, Atlanta and New York.

In 2004, Groove Stu released its debut album Authentic 4.10 Sessions.

The group -- now back in the studio to work on a new album -- includes drummer Earl Campbell; backup singer Jerrita Davis; lead vocalist Tiffany Countess; founder and bass player Myron Missouri; vocalist and keyboard player Omar Sharif; and vocalist and MC Jerrod Simpson.

Despite having busy schedules, three of the band's main players -- Missouri, Sharif and Simpson -- made time to talk about the group's plans. How would you describe your sound?

Sharif: Our sound is a mixture of a lot of different things, because everybody in the group was influenced by different things -- like Myron with jazz, Jerrod brings a hip-hop element to it. I was an R&B/funk junkie. Ramel was into R&B and hip-hop, too. We brought all of that together -- it's hard to classify as one specific sound. Especially live, we go a lot of places, a lot of different directions.

Simpson: We kind of came up with the name alternative soul, because there were so many elements in the music, but it was still true from our heart and soul. It's just like a melting pot of music.

Why do you think it is difficult to be musicians in Baltimore and stay in Baltimore?

Simpson: It is difficult because of the live element; though it's growing, there's not a huge culture for it. The culture here is more about the interaction with the DJ than the interaction with the live band. We don't have a lot of venues that are playing live music. We have a lot of venues that have DJs. The DJ is bigger than the whole party.

Sharif: Our biggest competition is not even with other bands, it's really competing with the DJ. A lot of the time we try to structure our shows almost like a DJ would -- where we don't put a lot of stops and starts between songs. We'll transition into a song, the way a DJ would. That kind of influences the way we do our thing as well.

How are you received in other cities?

Simpson: We were in L.A. not too long ago and the people really enjoyed what they heard. We were in Atlanta early this year, and people loved it. We are received really well in other states. But we really want Baltimore to love us.

Sharif: In other cities where there is a really live music scene they are really open to it. We almost don't have to work as hard as we do at home.

What are you working on for your next album?

Missouri: For this new album we have maybe 10 to 13 tunes already recorded. With this album, we probably will work with producers, but the vast majority will be produced, written and played by us. We want to establish the direction of the record before we get involved with a lot of other producers.

Simpson: Groove Stu has a lot of respect and dignity for music. So for that next album, we really want to bring that to light. A lot of artists disrespect the music. I know for a fact it's gonna be a hit. I'm gonna start talking positive but, realistically, we'll probably have some people that would much rather have that pop feel.

Sharif: The biggest challenge for us is to show how we graduated from the first record and making sure that people see the growth, as opposed to kind of giving them what we did on the first album.

What are some of the topics you want to talk about on this album?

Missouri: As a writer, I want to stress hope. It seems like with everything that's put on us with the media and everything we see -- what you don't see is a lot of music that inspires you or music that makes you want to get up and do something.

Sharif: If you think like back in the '70s, you had groups like Earth, Wind & Fire, that could have you out on the dance floor, but if you really thought about what they were saying, and listened to what they were saying -- they were about uplifting people. We kind of lost that balance somewhere along the way.

Simpson: The challenging thing is to write something clever, where a cat can listen to it and doesn't feel like you're talking down to him.

When do you guys anticipate finishing the album?

Sharif: We are shooting for the end of the year. That's why we're taking a break from the shows and stuff, because it's kind of hard to prepare for shows and record and write and all that stuff, so we are trying to pull back and trying to live life a little bit, because that's the only way you can get stories that you want to tell. Where are some of your favorite places to play in Baltimore?

Missouri: The Rams Head, Eden's Lounge -- it's intimate. You can get to know people a little bit. I like Fletcher's, too.

Sharif: There aren't a lot of live venues here -- especially ones that concentrate on soul or black music. For white music, you have tons of venues. Those venues aren't open to us, because they don't think we can bring the crowd.

Who are some of your musical influences?

Missouri: My musical influences were Cecil McBee; Ron Carter; Paul Chambers; Jamie Jamison; Common; Talib Kweli; Earth, Wind & Fire.

Sharif: I am a funk-head, so I like Sly and the Family Stone and George Clinton, James Brown. I like soulful singers like the Isley Brothers, Al Green, Marvin Gaye.

Simpson: My influences early on were Run DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, Public Enemy, Boyz II Men and Jodeci.

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