This next interview is with a true music legend, Vernon Neilly. As long as Skope has been in existence we have been covering Vernon’s work as a musician and as an entrepreneur. Vernon spends alot of time working on his music and his love of the guitar. When he is not doing that he runs his impressive indie label, Boosweet Records. I wanted to talk with Vernon after finding out about his new tribute album to Stevie Wonder and see what he has been up to lately!
Stoli: Please offer a brief history of Vernon Neilly and your rise in the music industry?
Vernon Neilly: I come from a musical family in Nassau, Bahamas started playing piano at 8 years and became interested in guitars at age 9 when I saw the Beatles “Hard Days Night” movie. Started playing in bands at 14 years making money, started playing with major recording artist at 19, and producing recording artists at 21. Also at this age started working with the late legendary Motown producer Norman Whitfield for his independent label, played with more top artist like Etta James, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Teena Marie, recording with Warren G, was the guitarist in a major independent label recording group. Started an independent label with a buddy in 1992 and we ran that label for 7 years together, left the label in 1999 to form my own label Boosweet Records, which was one of the first labels in the world to distribute music globally on the internet! I released my first solo CD project in 2000 called “Kaliedescope” a mixture of r&b, rock, pop, funk, and blues. Started to distribute the musical works of other indie artist through my label internationally. In 2003 released my second solo CD “G-Fire” which won a contemporary jazz award, songs from this project ended up being used on TV, and on other compilation discs that included George Benson, Hall and Oates, Lee Ritenour, and other major label artists! Went on my first Brazilian tour and became affiliated with Tagima Guitars, the company that builds my signature series model guitar, went back to Brazil a few months later to perform at Expo Music which is South America’s largest music trade show. Picked up some more major endorsements by companies there Meteoro Amplifiers, and Giannini Guitars and strings, they make my signature acoustic instruments, and my signature series “Power Strings”. 2004 received a call to participate in my first major motion movie “Along Came Polly” with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. 2005 I released my 3rd solo CD “G-Fire II” that also featured Kevin Chokan musical director of Diana Ross, and George Benson protege Mark Whitfield. This CD yielded a top 10 FMQB AC hit written by Kevin and Vince Hall called “Unconditional Love”, I also won my second consecutive contemporary jazz award for this CD. Songs from the CD were played on MTV’s “Made” program, as well as BET television’s “Jazz Impressions”. “G-Fire II” ended up on the Billboard Top 10 retail charts in it’s genre, which was a milestone accomplishment for me as an independent artist, and for me as an independent label owner. I was called to participate in my second major motion picture release in 2005 called “Starsky and Hutch” starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, I also this year started digital downloading of products from Boosweet Records knowing that this would be the way of the future, so I was way ahead of companies like CD Baby who just recently started offering a digital sales format. I also started to get calls to participate in popular TV shows such as UPN Networks “Girlfriends” and “One ON One”. 2007 I did my first solo tour as an artist in Japan, and did radio and TV interviews during this tour, I was also called to participate in my 3rd major motion picture called “Walk Hard” with funny men John C Reilly and Tim Meadows former cast members of Saturday Night Live, and it was released late December of that year and is currently on DVD, and playing on cable stations internationally. The begging on 2008 I started to put the finishing touches on my recently released 4th solo CD “A Tribute To Stevie Wonder” which features in addition to myself tremendous musicians and producers such as, Greg Howe who has played with Michael Jackson, N-Sync, Enrique Iglesias, and who himself has had a 20 year solo recording career. It also includes Kiko Loureiro from the power progressive rock group “Angra”, Bill Hudson from “Cellador” and currently playing with both “Circle 2 Circle”, and “Power Quest”. Also Grammy Award winning bassist Juan Nelson who is a member of Ben Harpers group, sensational French guitarist “U-Nam”, and other top players and artists from the US, and South America.
Stoli: When you first played the guitar, was it love at first string?
Vernon Neilly: I saw the Beatles playing the guitars in the movie “Hard Days Night” and immediately fell in love with the look and sounds of guitars! Later I saw Jimi Hendrix and heard his music, and that truly sealed the deal. I just love the look of guitars, just like I suppose women love shoes and handbags…..ha ha ha!
Stoli: What gave you the inspiration to put out a tribute to Stevie Wonder?
Vernon Neilly: I have always enjoyed the genius musically, and voice of Stevie, but also I wanted to show how he has been such a big influence around the world on other artist, not just here in the US. I also wanted to do his works from a perspective that had not been done before, and that is by having artists from all different genres interpret his music, so it is an eclectic mix of styles and genres, and one of the reasons why I feel the recording has sold thousands already!
Stoli: What is it about Stevie’s music that you can relate & connect with the most?
Vernon Neilly: His creativity is so broad, and his songs are so timeless, so I truly appreciate that he can write rock, pop, r&b, funk, jazz, reggae, the fact that he can connect with so many people through his music around the world regardless of their musical preference.
Stoli: You have brought along your friends on this album. How did you decide who you wanted to have play on this album?
Vernon Neilly: Well for example Greg Howe is an amazing guitar player with a unique style that loves Stevie’s music also. He is very well known in the guitar world, and from playing with Michael Jackson, and N-Sync with Justin Timberlake. I knew that his presence, love and appreciation for Stevie’s music would help the project shine. Kiko Loureiro from the Brazilian power rock group “Angra” is also a tremendous guitar player, but because he is Brazilian it brings a different perspective to the project musically. U-Nam is from France and is also a tremendous guitar player and producer, and just by virtue of him being from France, again it brings a different perspective to the project. Bill Hudson from “Cellador”, “Power” is a shred master who did an amazing arrangement of “Superstition” in a heavy metal format. Having a Grammy winning bassist on your project like Juan Nelson, is just an incredible thing, he brings that same power and groove to the CD the same way he does with Ben Harper, he just understands the music and what it needs on the low end so well. There are some fantastic vocalists in Fabyan Irving from the US, who sounds somewhat like Stevie, Cris Clark from Brazil, and also former “Outworld” vocalist Carlos Zema, who just gave tremendous performances on the CD in their own unique way! The point was getting this super talent from different places in there world to show how they were influenced by Stevie. I am just very fortunate to have very accomplished and super talented friends who I can call upon.
Stoli: You are offering an awesome deal for fans that order the CD on www.Boosweet.com. Please explain what the people can end up winning?
Vernon Neilly: Well I always like giving something back to my fans, and new fans who support me and my music, so when a copy of the CD is purchased directly from the label website at Boosweet.com only, they are automatically entered into a drawing to win a brand new, custom hand made guitar from my personal guitar collection that is signed by the guys on the CD. The guitar itself is worth $1,500.00, but the signatures of these elite artist make the instrument a collectors item and truly priceless. The winner will also win some other swag from my merchandise collection.
Vernon Neilly & Friends: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder:
Stoli: Has Stevie heard the album and if so what did he think about the music & the tribute to him?
Vernon Neilly: A copy of the CD was given to a good friend of mine who has played with Stevie for years to give to him to take a listen, but I do not know if he has had the time to listen yet because he has been touring this year, but of course I would love to know what he thinks about it, because it’s different.
Stoli: You are an incredibly busy musician and entrepreneur. Where have you been traveling lately and for what events have you played outside the US?
Vernon Neilly: Up to the moment of this interview, I have been to Brazil 2 times in the last couple months to do concerts and TV show appearances, like the “Programa Do Jo” which is the largest TV talk program in Brazil on it’s largest network Globo, seen by more than 200 million Brazilians. I have also been doing a few select dates here in the US. Japan and Australia are on the agenda for 2009 after the Namm Show 2009 where Bill Hudson, Carlos Zema, and I will be performing together.
Stoli: You are the man behind your label Boosweet Records. What made you decide to make your own way and start your own label?
Vernon Neilly: Honestly, because I have some incredibly talented friends who could not get their music out to the masses that deserved to have their music heard. It has also provided the vehicle to release my own solo projects internationally. My label is nationally retail distributed in the US and Canada, and we also control our own digital distribution internationally.
Stoli: From a musicians standpoint what was the advantages to starting up your own label?
Vernon Neilly: To have total creative control over what I release as a label. No one can dictate to me what I can include or not include on a project. For example the current “Stevie Tribute” project would never been able to be released through a major, it’s too diverse, they would not know how to market and promote it because it does not fit into their little nice neat classifications of music, but we have been doing it for a decade now, so at Boosweet we know how to market eclectic things because we have experience at doing it and being successful at it. To be able to work with unique artist and be able to give them the freedom to be creative, and express themselves artistically, without having to lock them down in one category. I have been blessed with a good ear for music and for knowing what will sell, also my history in working in radio as an air personality helps also, because it helps you to recognize music that will have an appeal to others.
Stoli: How do you choose what artists to have on Boosweet and are you currently seeking fresh talent?
Vernon Neilly: I look for artists who have a fresh approach, and unique sound to their music regardless of genre. We are always looking for talented hardworking aspiring artists who understand that this is a business, not music camp!
We have just developed a new program that will launch the first part of 2009 called Boosweet Indie, where a couple groups, solo artists a year can earn a record deal with Boosweet Records. It is a new an revolutionary approach to finding talent and giving them a shot. For those who read this interview and are interested in finding out more about this program, they can email the label at email@example.com.
Stoli: In closing please explain to my readers why they should check out the new CD “A Tribute To Stevie Wonder” and what we can look forward to from Boosweet Records?
Vernon Neilly: Concerning the CD and why people should get the CD, simply because they have never heard the musical works of Stevie Wonder done in the way this way before, it’s amazing! We have sold out on amazon.com several times already, the distributor has sold out already and ordering more, so this is just an affirmation that we did it in a way that people are really liking!
I just kind of touched on it, the Boosweet Indie program, it’s going to give that shot to artist who are not afraid to work for it. A lot of independent artist hit a ceiling and do not know why they cannot get past a certain level on their own. Well their is a reason and most of it is financial, and having access to certain things that make certain wheels turn is another!
Stoli: Thank you Vernon!
Vernon Neilly: Skope it’s always a pleasure for me to speak to you, and the readers of your magazine.