Interview with Billy Valentine, following the release of the album ""Billy Valentine And The Universal Truth"".
What are your first memories of music when you were a child?
I’m one of 13 children so music was in the house all the time. I would have to say my older brother Alvin was really the one person who inspired me at a very early age.
Was there a lot of music in your house? What were we listening to?
We all sang or played an instrument. I remember hearing a lot of Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Charles Brown. My parents loved Ruth and Charles Brown!
Do you remember one or more albums that you particularly liked when you were a child / teenager?
I listened to a lot of Otis Redding ‘Live In Europe’. I listened to everything by Otis.
When did you know that music would have an important place in your life?
I found my passion for music around 15 years old. I was working nightclubs with my brother Alvin and became the opening act for a lot of fabulous performers in New York and New Jersey. Watching those performers gave me confidence. I knew then that was what I wanted to do.
Who are the artists who influenced/inspired you the most?
Ray Charles. Otis Redding.
What are the most significant encounters of your career?
Working with Ray was big! He was my idol. My idol covering one of my songs was
You did song for Ray Charles and for the Neville Brothers. When you work for someone else, is it easier or more difficult than for yourself?
Definitely easier working for someone else. I’m terribly hard on myself. I think most artists are that way.
You have just released the album “Billy Valentine & The Universal Truth”. How would you present it in a few sentences?
My most important work to date. What it is saying and how its presented with that incredible band.
Recording began at the legendary East-West Studios in Hollywood. What is it like to record in a place like this?
I’ve recorded there many times thru the years. I’m in awe every time I work there.
There are strong themes addressed in these songs. Is it important for you to talk about these sometimes difficult subjects in song?
It is important that when you see something, say something. At the time of our recording there was a lot going on- Black Lives Matter protest, George Floyd- our government divided. It was my way of speaking out. But this whole thing was the brainchild of Bob Thiele, Jr.
How did you choose the songs for this album?
Bob approached me about being the first artist for the label his father, Bob Thiele, had started, Flying Dutchman. He brought some of the songs from the original label to this. ‘Home Is Where the Hatred Is’ and ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’. That was really a great start!
Is there a particularly important song for you in this album? If so which one and why?
That’s been rough for me to answer. ‘Home is Where…’ and ‘My People.
And la chanson that you particularly like to sing?
‘Le Vie en Rose’ - Piaf - is a song I would like to sing.
How did you choose the musicians to work with for this album?
Bob Thiele Jr put the band together.
Can you tell us about them?
Larry Goldings- piano. plays with James Taylor, Diana Krall.
Pino Palladino - bass. one of the greatest bass players around today.
Jeff Parker - guitar. out of Chicago. One of the younger guys of this group. Really making a name for himself.
James Gadson - drums. played with Bill Withers and Many others.
Linda May Han Ho - upright bass. She’s incredible!
Clair Daly- baritone sax. Amazing on ‘The Creator’.
Finally, what would be your definition of music?
For me - music is a healing source that feeds the soul.