The best – always
WE’VE BEEN HEARING their names signed to record deal after record deal. We hear the big labelsto which they’ve been assigned and see the namesof top North American and British producers with whom they have become aligned.
But who is behind the sweet music that earned them these deals in the first place?
Behind the scenes, quietly producing and arranging music long after many artistes are asleep, Eliseus Joseph Jr and Julian Griffith are hard at work; making local/international artistes look and sound good.
Under the title of ClassicSoul Productions, Joseph, a sound engineer, and Griffith, an accomplished bassist, are seeking to create an environment of unity and consistency – which they believe are the only elements that separate local music producers and artistes from reaching the level of their American and European counterparts.
“We have to create an environment to be consistent so that we can hone our skills and become better at what we do,” said Joseph. “When you look at a guy like Kanye West, he’s successful because he’s able to do music everyday. Obviously, he’s going to get better at what he does, while we have to juggle this with our day jobs.
“So you’re spending what, about four hours, producing music before you get tired again … this guy is spending 24 hours. So it’s not that we don’t have the talent; Barbadians have it, but we need to be consistent.”
Noting that ClassicSoul, and indeed other producers, come into contact with young talent every day – singers and musicians – Griffith said much quality work is done behind the scenes, thereby taking artistes like CoverDrive and Livvi Franc to a level that has attracted international labels.
“A lot of people don’t know who ClassicSoul Productions are, and similarly there are a lot of people in Barbados who do good work and you probably don’t even know their names but they help artistes to get where they are. A lot of stuff goes on in the background, such as music production, practice in terms of getting artistes ready, getting them physically fit, preparing them for photo shoots, and so on,” Joseph stated.
He added that while much attention had been given to those in the spotlight, the people behind the scenes needed to come together more with the aim of further enhancing that up-front talent.
“Once the producers team up, you’re only as strong as a unit. I always tell people, Jesus had 12 disciples and He was the Son of God. If he needed a team to accomplish some things, who are we? So you need a team, and as producers we want to team up with other producers, songwriters, graphic designers and other behind-the-scenes talent.
“If we come as a united front, then we can really offer a great package, and most of all, be consistent,” Joseph added.
And these two 28-year-olds are not talking through their hats at all. Within their six years of producing music, they worked with a Barbadian who was offered a deal with Hidden Beach Records, as well as with American acts/producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
“Overall, we came together about six years ago, and we wrote a song with a young female artiste and shipped it to a programme director in Michigan. She also knew the head of Hidden Beach Records and she passed that on to him. He said, ‘Have her come here’ off one song. They were definitely interested in signing her. To make a long story short, it didn’t work out at the time. But it wasan opportunity,” Joseph recalled.
From there, ClassicSoul began work with a company called Kairos Music Group, and became part of a developmental team for local artiste Livvy Franc, with whom they co-wrote and produced several singles to land her a record deal.
“It was all done in Barbados, but everyone thought it came from abroad. We got a lot of work done in K.B. Sharpe’s small studio,” said Griffith.
It was then onto musical heavyweights Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
“The amazing thing is that Terry Lewis actually came here just to see us. He heard some of our material, fell in love with what he heard, came with his manager to see who we were and what was going on, then signed us to his production company as songwriters and producers.
“We worked with them for almost a year and a half,” said Joseph.
After having songs used in a few sitcoms, including The Best Years, ClassicSoul worked with CoverDrive, producing the first song that got that local group signed.
“When we were taking Jordan Jay from Geff Records to the airport, he said he doesn’t leave his office to hear a band in England unless he hears four or five songs, but after he heard one song from CoverDrive, he flew eight hours,” said Griffith.
“Our small accomplishments are things that anyone from Barbados can do,” he added self-effacingly. “I don’t think we’re any more talented but we’ve had opportunities. God has blessed us. The key is just to be consistent.”
Eliseus, the son of Pastor Eliseus Joseph, also worked briefly with American gospel artist Fred Hammond before teaming up with Griffith, whose dad is chief executive officer of Family Heartbeat Ministries and noted Wesleyan minister, Reverend Haynesley Griffith.
They also worked together in the band Instruments Of Praise, with Julian on bass and Eliseus as engineer.
Eliseus went to the United States to study and, upon returning to Barbados, teamed up with Griffith to form ClassicSoul.