CoverDrive looking to score big with new record deal
AT A TIME when the rich musical talent of Barbados is blossoming into young individuals like Shontelle, Hal Linton and Jaicko – all led by Rihanna – here comes a band of four artistes who are also seeking to make waves on the international music scene.
Ranging from ages 17 to 22, the group is CoverDrive, which has just signed a publishing deal with Sony and a recording deal with Geffen of Britain. And it’s not that they think they have arrived; in fact, they’ll be the first to tell you that the work has only just begun.
“Most people want a record deal, but it doesn’t mean instant success. The deal is the easy part, what’s the hard part is the demanding work, dedication and creativity needed to land a good product. Then there’s the standard of excellence worldwide, a higher mark which you have to hit,” said lead vocalist Amanda Reifer, the group’s main spokesperson and lone female.
CoverDrive’s deal proved that – like Rihanna’s “lucky” audition with ace producer Evan Rogers and subsequent signing by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z – dreams can come true sooner than we think. According to Amanda, the group posted a few videos on YouTube filmed in the basement of the drummer, T. Ray Armstrong’s house, where they spend most of their evenings rehearsing.
“People almost immediately loved it. We soon got a lot of fans commenting. We didn’t expect this would happen so quickly. Never underestimate the power of the Internet,” they told WE Magazine.
Within two months, the group which is influenced by the music of No Doubt, Blackeyed Peas, Rihanna and Bruno Marx, was getting more than a few signs of interest from labels, particularly Sony and Geffen. And it didn’t take long for them to sign strategic deals with the advice of their parents, mainly T. Ray’s mum and dad, Kerrie and Ray Armstrong, who both have longstanding backgrounds in the music business.
“We got the best of both worlds [by signing different deals]. Geffen understood that we wanted to be a global band and were ready to work hard, and that we had our own sound, Caripop [a mixture of Caribbean reggae and soca and American pop music].
“We also wanted to record with a label that would take us to the next level, and find the right mix between our work and the producers’ plans. Holding on to our sound can be challenging,” said Amanda, who is also the group’s main writer.
T. Ray throws some wicked drum licks into the songs, guitarist Barry “Bar Man” Hill does timely chants, and Jamar Harding’s bass passages are a standout on YouTube.“
When we got our deal, we didn’t have a bio and lots of photos. Listeners just loved our music. Music speaks for itself, and loving what we do also resonated with a lot of people,” was how Amanda put it.
The unofficial fifth member is veteran artiste Ray Armstrong, who travels with the group and acts as chaperone. He is also the man behind the quartet’s name.
Cricket fanatics, like Ray, know that a cover drive can be one of the most graceful and simultaneously aggressive shots a batsman can execute; which fits this foursome that is a combination of youthful innocence, raw talent and shrewd business knowledge – so much so that they have had to decide between their budding music career and academia.
“We all really appreciate our education . . . but being a creative person in school in Barbados is a little restrictive. There’s not much you can do to explore and develop your talents, so it’s really good to be out of the school setting because we can spend more time at our art,” said Amanda.
Jamar said while his parents were a little skeptical about the music venture at first, “my mum really saw it in my eyes, that this is what I wanted to do, and that I enjoyed doing it rather than studying languages. She’s behind me 100 per cent, my father as well, and my brother who is also a musician”.
Music, meanwhile, is Barry’s life: “School was actually great for me because my main interest was always music. So I came along studying music at Alexandra, and even skipped some classes to do it. I also did music at Barbados Community College. I believe in staying focused on what you believe in, and doing what you love.”
For Jamar and T. Ray, both 17, Amanda, 20, and Barry, 22, it’s exciting to be the first local band to be signed to a label following on the heels of individual Barbadian artistes like Livvy Franc and Vita.
“It excites me when you put it that way – the first band! At the same time, I’m so proud of Rihanna, Shontelle, Jaicko, Hal Linton . . . there’s so much talent in Barbados! I’ve met some of them; meeting Rihanna I got star-struck but I know Livvy and Vita, and I know they work really hard.
“It makes me proud for Barbados, with all this talent coming out. We also know unsigned artistes who are working hard, rehearsing every day. Barbados is like a treasure,” Amanda added.
Speaking of hard work, the four rehearse daily for about four hours, after awakening at 5:45, getting an early morning swim, physical training with Ray, a few chores, and music from about 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. They have been doing this consistently for over a year.
“When you’ve been given an opportunity like we’ve been given, you have to make a choice. Are you going to continue school or pursue your dreams? Sometimes the two can work together, but you just have to focus and go full force after what you want,” said Amanda, whose mother is a teacher.
Furthermore, they have little time for the distractions that usually attend adolescence.
“We don’t party or chill on weekends. It’s a lot of sacrifice…but the business is demanding so we have to work. It is a sacrifice but it’s all for something greater than us,” noted Barry. The group, which now has to produce an album for Geffen, will travel to Los Angeles to continue studio work on Monday, so stay tuned.