Interview: Musiq Soulchild – Singer and Songwriter

Posted: December 11, 2008 in interview, music
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Musiq Soulchild

Date of Interview: 12/11/2008

© 2008 Clayton Perry

Since 2000, Musiq Soulchild has amassed seven Top 10 hits on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.  And unlike many of his contemporaries, Musiq’s chart dominance occurred quietly and with a humble air of confidence.

Upon close inspection, Musiq’s prodigious output places him in an elite crowd of R&B heavyweights.  In fact, he is on an incredibly short list of R&B male artists who have been able to release five best-selling (and award-winning) albums within an eight year time span in the past 30 years.  One of six, Musiq stands alongside Prince, Luther Vandross, Gerald Levert, R. Kelly and Brian McKnight in the annals of R&B history, and his string of hits—“Just Friends (Sunny),” “Love,” “Dontchange,” “Halfcrazy,” “Buddy,” “Teachme” and “Ifyouleave”—rival the popularity and notoriety of the industry’s leading soul men.

On December 9, 2008, Musiq Soulchild released Onmyradio, his fifth studio album.  Two days after its release, Musiq managed to find time in his busy schedule to settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on beatboxing, “Betterman,” and the need for responsible music.

Clayton Perry: Since 2000, you have blessed music lovers with several long-standing R&B hits.  Beyond this accomplishment, what do you consider to be your greatest contribution to the R&B genre?

Musiq Soulchild: I think my greatest contribution would have to be providing a realistic perspective on what really goes on in relationships these days in music form.

Clayton Perry: In the early part of your career, you stated that you didn’t really feel like you had reached a point in your career where you could make unapologetic, raw music. When you came out with “Radio” as your lead single, did you feel like you were taking a risk?

Musiq Soulchild: No. With “Radio,” I thought it was fresh. I think that should be the purpose of making music, to make music that people are going to enjoy no matter what’s going on at that time. I was in the studio and I heard the track. I wanted to do it and I didn’t want to concern myself with the fact that it was different for me, at least different coming from me to people, that they wouldn’t accept it. I had confidence that it was good and that somebody was going to like it.

Clayton Perry: When Onmyradio’s second single, “If U Leave,” went up the charts, were you disappointed by radio’s reception of “Radio?”

Musiq Soulchild: I wasn’t disappointed. I actually expected it. I knew that it would take some time to change people’s perspective. In fact, I think it did quite well. But I knew that if I had a song like “If U Leave” to support it, then people would see that just because I did a song like “Radio” that doesn’t mean that I had forgotten to make a ballad like “If U Leave.”

Clayton Perry: As you alluded, you are very well known for your love songs. Do you feel pressure to keep cranking out R&B ballads?

Musiq Soulchild: To be honest, I don’t feel pressured with the writing. If you go back to all of my albums, you’ll see that there’s more on the albums than just ballads you hear on the radio. Don’t get me wrong, those are the songs that people know me for, but there’s more to what I can do than just ballads. Everybody doesn’t listen to just ballads all day long all the time. What happens to the rest of the space and how can I contribute to that space? Not every second of your life you’re listening to R&B songs and not everybody in the world listens to R&B songs. I’m always interested in knowing what I can do to entertain people who don’t listen to R&B songs.

Clayton Perry: When it comes to your lyrical content, what responsibility do you feel to make or create responsible music?

Musiq Soulchild: There’s more to gain from this industry than just making a dollar off of music. In the end, you’re talking about inspiring people and making a contribution to people’s perspective on life. I want to help contribute a more realistic perspective about romantic relationships and anything.

Clayton Perry: When you look back on your personal life, what do you consider to be the hardest lesson you learned in the game of love?

Musiq Soulchild: The hardest lesson I have learned is knowing that people will always disappoint you. Not so much to expect them to disappoint you but be prepared for that. If a person never disappoints you, then that’s what’s up. Having a realistic expectation that nobody is perfect, even though they are going to disappoint you, you still can choose how you deal with that disappointment. You can even choose not to look at it as a disappointment and just recognize that that person is just being themselves. If you want to be a part of their life and you want them to be a part of yours, that’s just something that you’re going to have to deal with. Otherwise, just don’t live with that person.

Clayton Perry: Although many of your songs aren’t necessarily based on your personal experiences, you have a way that gives them a universal appeal. When you start writing your music, do you typically start with the lyrics or do you start with the melody?

Musiq Soulchild: It depends on the circumstance. It’s not either-or. I don’t have a set way with how I come up with songs. Sometimes the melody comes first and sometimes I get the words first.

Clayton Perry: What do you consider to be your greatest source of inspiration?

Musiq Soulchild: Life itself is my greatest source of inspiration, even for my personal life. I do draw from my personal life. I just don’t make it so much about my life; I make it more about the situation.

Clayton Perry: Out of your catalog, my favorite song is “Betterman,” which was on your fourth studio album, Luvanmusiq. I’m interested to learn about the inspiration behind it.

Musiq Soulchild: I was in the studio with Raphael Saadiq. The computer crashed and we were waiting for it to come back up. He was playing a crazy bass line on the guitar, so we jammed a little bit and started writing the song. I wanted “Betterman” to tell a story about the good part of a romantic relationship, one in which the person you’re with inspires you to be a better person.

Clayton Perry: In the early part of your career, before you made it big, what driving forces motivated you to push on?

Musiq Soulchild: I ultimately pushed myself through it all, but I’ve been heavily inspired by a lot of the artists from the past – in the seventies, the people that I’ve been listening to. Artists like Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye – I was really inspired by them, so I always had them in mind in my endeavors of becoming a successful artist, not only in the music industry but in music itself, in the history of music, in the culture of music.

Clayton Perry: When you came out with “Just Friends” on Aijuswanaseing, you did a considerable amount of beatboxing. Was that influenced by a desire to play a musical instrument?

Musiq Soulchild: I had to do that to portray a musical instrument. Beatboxing was just my only way of doing because I wasn’t really that good at playing an instrument at the time. I would just start beatboxing because I heard the music in my head and I just wanted to get it out more than just singing it. That was my version of singing the music.

Clayton Perry: If you could’ve played an instrument, what would it have been?

Musiq Soulchild: I love all kinds of instruments, but I probably would have picked up the keys or a bass.

Clayton Perry: In the past, you have tried to clarify the use of “Musiq” and “Soulchild” in your stage name.  Musiq was pretty much the name of the business and Soulchild was the man inspired by the music. Today, how would you describe the evolution of your name?

Musiq Soulchild: There are two perspectives behind those two names. I’ve designated the Musiq part of the name as the recording artist being in this business to be progressive commercially as well as creatively. The Soulchild part was the part that’s designated for the perspective of just contributing to the culture of music. Unfortunately, in this industry because of the way that it’s set up, the business is way more important than the music. I thought it was important to get myself in a position where I didn’t have to focus so much on the business so I could focus more on the creativity.

Clayton Perry: The title of your fifth album is Onmyradio. Playing off the album’s title, fill-in-the-blank with whatever song comes to mind: “When ______ comes on my radio, the entire world fades into the background.”

Musiq Soulchild: I think that would have to be Stevie Wonder’s song “Visions” off his album Innervisions.

Clayton Perry: Interesting choice!  And when one of your songs comes on the radio, what do you do?

Musiq Soulchild: I listen to it to see how it sounds on the radio and then I start thinking about how other people think it sounds.

Clayton Perry: Most artists can be their own harshest critics. So what would you like in as far as pushing the boundaries of R&B?

Musiq Soulchild: I’m not really interested in pushing the boundaries of R&B. I am interested more so in pushing the boundaries of what people expect from me musically. I don’t want people to just expect R&B from me because there’s more to music than just R&B music. I recognize that it’s part of my culture and I’m proud of it and honored that I can contribute to it but there’s more to music than just R&B. That’s a critical point that I’m trying to make.

Clayton Perry: As you have moved from album to album, is there a specific piece of advice that has shaped the course of your career?

Musiq Soulchild: I have received a lot of good advice.  The best advice is probably for me to do what I know to be real and know to be good, because the music that I create is for more than just myself.  Since I’m providing a public service to people, it is important for me to do my best and to do right by the people through music.

For more information on Musiq Soulchild, visit his official website: http://www.musiqsoulchild.com/

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Comments
  1. […] As part of promotional campaign for musiqinthemagiq, Musiq Soulchild managed to squeeze some time out his schedule and settle down for his second interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on a decade of recording, stepping outside “the R&B box,” and embracing fatherhood. [Musiq’s 2008 interview can be found here.] […]

  2. Musiq Soulchild: Traveling Down the Wise Road | AllHipHop.com says:

    […] As part of promotional campaign for musiqinthemagiq, Musiq Soulchild managed to squeeze some time out his schedule and settle down for his second interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on a decade of recording, stepping outside the R&B box, and embracing fatherhood. [Musiq’s 2008 interview can be found here.]  […]

  3. […] As part of promotional campaign for musiqinthemagiq, Musiq Soulchild managed to squeeze some time out his schedule and settle down for his second interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on a decade of recording, stepping outside the R&B box, and embracing fatherhood. [Musiq’s 2008 interview can be found here.]  […]

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