Eyes nearly closed, his voice carries on this frigid January evening with the zeal of a minister. Adrian Blu, native Baltimorean, vocalist, musician, and songwriter is describing a life-long love for the art of music and rhythm. Vivid memories of singing on the children’s choir pepper the dialogue between us. Without hesitation he rattles off five well-known gospel singers his Dad listened to during childhood: Reverend Isaac Douglas, Beverly Glenn, Andre Crouch, Walter Hawkins and the L.A. Community Choir. “He played those [records] over and over, and those just got into the fabric of my soul. I remember the melodies… It was just like the music connected with me,” he says.
|Songs in the Key of Life (1976)|
Other influences include such luminaries as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire and Fred Hammond. Wonder’s 1976 album in particular, Songs in the Key of Life, left an indelible impression. “Every week I would ask my mother, can you please play that? I would just listen and look at the lyrics. I just ingested that whole album,” Blu says wistfully. These early childhood connections led to later musical involvement at Northeast Middle School, City College High School and finally, Morgan State University. Along the way, mentors pushed Blu to excel including Ms. Perry and Ms. Marshall during middle and high school, and Dr. Nathan Carter while at Morgan State University in the late 1980s and early 1990s; Carter even awarded him with a scholarship.
While Blu’s educational background is rather conventional, his personal and artistic philosophies challenge boundaries. Its yielded what he terms “soulspirational music.” While this novel genre’s roots remain in the soul music of his creative forefathers, especially Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, it also encompasses progressive Christianity, metaphysics, and the wisdom of theologian and former monk, Thomas Moore, author of the acclaimed Care of the Soul: A Guide for Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life.
”Christianity causes you to relate to the person of God as an individual, metaphysics helps you to actualize that and recognize your unity with the God force,” he remarks. ” I am developing an appreciation for what soul really is and it’s not a musical genre but it’s the process by which we express who we are based on experiences, in relationships and life period.”
Photo by Doug Fulton
Not unlike brilliant writers James Baldwin and August Wilson, Blu sees the beauty of the blues, and ultimately, its celebration of courage and strength. He quotes legendary blues singer Muddy Waters, “In order to get this thing down in your soul, you have to come to church.” It seems that for Blu, spirituality, music, and love are inextricably linked. “I totally understand what he was saying There is a connection. In church you are given permission to emote, scream and howl..,” he adds.
These days Blu lets it all out on his upcoming independent album, Love, Life & Soul (2010), recorded at the Lab Studios. Its slated for release between spring and summer 2011. Blu’s band, Love Sick Blu, formed last spring, and is driven by a desire to challenge one another artistically. The group’s work holds true to Blu’s vision. “I wanted it to represent what I am about. Ulltimately, that’s what I am about, love. If I am going to be sick with something, let it be love,” he says laughing. Comprised of five members, the band includes Blu on vocals and keyboard, Ian Trusheim-Wilson (bass), Brooks Long (lead guitar), Ben Cowan (drums), and Alan Bernard Branch (percussion). Blu relies heavily on Trusheim-Wilson, a frequent collaborative partner. “We push each other musically… through our love and surrender to the music.”
Dropping everything when inspired, Blu often writes weekly; even humming into his cell phone recorder so as not to miss a melody. Although, he admits, this may sound cliche, life is his muse. “I love living. I consider myself [to be] a very alive person. It’s not hard for me to get up in the morning,” he says candidly. While he’s performed internationally in Durban, South Africa and with Fertile Ground in Japan more recently, lately, he’s closer to home. In the coming weeks, you can catch him singing, laughing, and loving the moments of life
at Peace & a Cup of Joe (Thursday, Feb. 17, 8pm) or Joe Squared (Wednesday, March 23, 10pm). Details for these events are listed at the end of this post.
As we conclude our talk, I’m inspired by this intelligent and sensitive artist whose mind and heart are deeply embedded into the music. His most telling statement lingers in my consciousness long after he leaves. “One of the most wonderful experiences that I am having is giving myself permission to accept that our vehicle for touching God and relating to God is relating to one another.” Indeed, community, love, soul and peace are the way forward.
Adrian Blu’s upcoming gigs:
- Thursday, February 17, 8pm (*featured solo artist) at Peace & a Cup of Joe for Acoustic Soul Thursdays
- Address: 713 West Pratt St. | Baltimore, MD 21201
- Web site: http://www.peaceandacupofjoe.com/
- Wednesday, March 23, 10pm at Joe Squared
- Address: 133 W. North Avenue | Baltimore, MD 21201
- Web site: http://www.joesquared.com/?page_id=1035
Follow Adrian Blu on FB @ http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1036443576