If you’ve ever caught The Baylor Project at one of their bi-monthly shows at Smoke then you’re already familiar with the light effervescent quality of their music mixed with the stank-face-inducing grooves that husband and wife duo Jean and Marcus Baylor are able to produce. The band has come a long way since their 2013 debut and has since embarked on a few tours sharing their music across the globe — this live video at Moers Festival being a good example of how this band can absolutely tear the stage apart. Today, The Baylor Project celebrate the release of their debut album via their own record label imprint Be A Light. Aptly titled The Journey, the record is a reflection of Jean and Marcus Baylor’s upbringing as well as the musical and cultural influence of the African American church.
Showcasing their broad melange of musical expertise and their command of several different styles of music, The Journey masterfully traverses through a myriad of sonic soundscapes and has that unique ability to reach out from your headphones and speakers and captivate your full attention from the first cut to the last. We caught up with The Baylor Project, who were kind enough to grant us a moment of their time to discuss their forthcoming record amidst their busy tour schedule. Continue down below to read our conversation.
Revive: The Journey is deeply rooted within the musical tradition of the African American church. For our readers who are a bit more secular, could you explain the importance of the church musically and culturally?
Jean Baylor: As long as we can remember, the church has always been a place where you feel the spirit of music through faith, struggle, unity and love. Those are things that we need in our everyday lives, especially now. What you’re hearing in our music, and so many others, is the culmination of history in this country that permeates every area of American culture. Starting from the work songs of slaves that brought us the blues, infused with religious overtones later known as negro spirituals, the experience of suffering and faith was and still is reflected in American music. Those musical and cultural influences have become the very foundation for so much of what we hear in today’s American music. And that’s what causes people to have such a real connection to The Baylor Project. You might come to our show just to chill, but end up laughing, crying and hopefully inspired.
R: In a record store, the genres of gospel, blues, soul, and jazz are separated. But The Journey is a good example of how all those so-called genres inform each other. Do you guys differentiate between each style of music, or does it kind of fit under one umbrella?
Marcus Baylor: Thank you! Jean and I are both preachers’ kids that have had a lot of different musical and cultural influences growing up. I’m from Ferguson, MO and Jean is from South Jersey and played lacrosse in high school and college. Culturally, we had a balance of great music growing up listening to gospel and popular music such as Whitney Houston, The Police, Anita Baker, Dr. Dre and a lot more. Jazz came later in high school and college and it totally blew our minds. Through our experiences we don’t really see music as a genre but a feeling and how it touches the soul.
I think “genres” were created to separate and categorize music so it can be labeled, marketed and sold. Jean is a former member of the R&B duo Zhane’ which was a successful platinum selling group and the start of neo-soul. That sound came out of soul music and they never thought of putting a label on it during the process. I had the honor of touring with Cassandra Wilson and being a member of the Yellowjackets, both of whom are trail blazers in the way they infused musical influences rooted in African American and World Music. Our music is made up so many ingredients with inspirations from the past and present including John Coltrane, Nancy Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Kirk Franklin, Commissioned, and Kenny Garrett. But, music is music and gospel, blues, soul, and jazz are easily interrelated because they all fall under black music. Through time, each sound has developed its own “language” but the underlying feel is still the same. Those four sounds in particular happen to be integral parts of our personal influences and experiences, which is why they are such a strong part of The Journey.
R: In putting the record together, I’m curious to find out what the process was like when it came time to choosing, arranging, and writing songs for the album. Was it a step-by-step collaborative experience between the two of you?
MB: Now, let me just start off by saying that when I came up with the idea of The Baylor Project, Jean said, and I quote “That’s a dumb idea – it makes NO sense.”
[laughs] That’s usually what she always says, so I pretty much know to stick with my “dumb ideas.” But seriously, as producers, we wanted to make sure we produced a complete project from start to finish. In the beginning of the recording process, we had a handful of songs we knew we wanted to record. But, after that first session we needed to figure out the rest of the music, so we starting gigging. Performing every other week at NYC’s Smoke helped us to cultivate the concept and that made it easy to know what to record. It also helped to build the value, buzz and brand of the band playing sold out shows domestically and internationally!
JB: [laughs] It’s true I don’t always get the vision! But, Marcus had some great ideas to add some finishing touches on the project that completed the sound as a whole. Once we were there, we knew we had our story. As independent artists with our own label, Be A Light, we knew it was important to make sure we got it right with the songs, production and story we wanted to tell. It’s a process but I think it was worth it!
R:What should fans expect from The Baylor Project in the near future?
JB: With the release of the CD, we are looking forward to touring in a city near you and bringing The Baylor Project experience to the fans. When you come see The Baylor Project, we want you to sit back, have a good time and be uplifted and inspired!