by Dominique Carson, Singer’s Room

The music industry can make room for another husband and wife duo, The Baylors (their professional name The Baylor Project). Jean Baylor is from 90’s R&B selling platinum group, Zhane and Marcus Baylor is an accomplished musician and drummer. Together, The Baylors released The Journey on February 10th, their self-produced debut which is a mixture of gospel, blues, soul, and jazz  and shows their unique and authentic musicianship. It was titled “The Journey” so listeners can learn more about The Baylors’ musical journey. It was imperative for them to take control of the songwriting, arranging, and collaboration process for the album.

The Baylors also have a lucrative gig as live performers at the Smoke Jazz Club. Jean and Marcus said performing live has allowed them to flourish as a band and build a fanbase for The Baylor Project, which topped the iTunes pre-order list last month. As independent artists, they also surpassed jazz legend Tony Bennett because talent and creativity speak for itself. Judging from listening to this record, music is a central component in their life.

I caught up with the married duo about music, The Baylor Project, marriage, and so much more.

Check out our interview!

The Baylor Project
Marcus: Well, we are in the next phase of our life. It’s crazy, every idea I come up with as a husband is a dumb idea (lol). We did a lot of musical collaborations together as producers already. But we never really played live on a consistent basis with Jean is singing. The last record was Jean coming out as a solo artist, and we’re producing the record together. Playing the drums is my first passion, and it was great for Jean to take a break from the R&B side. She was eager to explore music and create a new sound. I mean when we first met, Jean always wanted to do a jazz record. She was a jazz major in college; I didn’t know about this, but I had friends who would talk about her singing. So then, we get married, and Jean let me listen to some of her jazz recordings, and I was like “Oh, she is serious.” For the record, she can be just Jean Baylor and not from “Jean from Zhane.” The jazz world is completely different. Eric Robeson is on the album.
Jean: Marcus comes up with these bright ideas when he steps out of the shower. He says, “Hey babe, I was thinking maybe we should do this.” And that’s how The Baylor Project came about because I really started thinking about what he said and it made sense. I had to say you’re right, I’m wrong, but that’s going to be the last time I say that to you lol. It’s a record you can play all year, and as independent artists, we can go to churches and other places with our music.  We are expressing our musical pasts and creative fabric as a married couple and individually.
Marcus Meets Jean
Marcus: Eric Robeson was there that night when I fell in love with Jean. I’ll let Jean tell the story.
Jean: Eric was performing, and I was performing. At one point, the band wasn’t playing, and I did a song by myself with the piano, and Eric Robeson saw it with his own eyes, the look Marcus gave me when he first saw me. Eric is the true storyteller, but Marcus’ looks just changed with that whole dramatic effect. A year and a half later, Marcus tells him we’re engaged, and he was like wow.

Music on The Baylor Project

Marcus: So when you think about The Baylor Project, it’s like jazz, R&B, and gospel music comes from the same place. So when you hear our music, it’s a mixture of everything. I don’t have to say this is jazz or R&B music. All of the elements are intertwining in our music, and that’s from us growing up as Christians and pastor’s kids.

Balancing Music & Marriage

Jean: There are times where I want to pop him, smack him up upside the head. I called his mother and asked him “Can I smack him?” She said to me, “Do what you need to do with him” lol. Our birthdays are a day apart; I’m six years older than him. We are alike in a lot of ways, but there are a few differences in our way of thinking. So we have trouble at times, but we learned not to take everything too seriously. But overall, working together musically is just easy because our backgrounds are similar. We grew up in the church. I grew up in a Baptist church in New Jersey singing hymns. Marcus grew up in Pentecostal church with a different musical flavor; there were hand clapping and the drums. For me, all I had was the piano. But when we come together, it’s like the meeting of the minds. When you develop a broad musical spectrum over time, it allows you to go to into different situations musically. So if I have an idea, I’ll bring it to his attention and Marcus will say we can put a different spin on the record. So that’s the beauty of co-writing and co-producing together; you have more than one set of influences on the record.

Marcus: I also learned that in a marriage, you need to still make time for each other outside of music. We have to take trips with no music.

Jean: We have to schedule husband and wife time. We are going to end up talking abut business anyway, but it works.

Previous Accomplishments Helping To Launch The Baylor Project

Jean: Absolutely, our previous accomplishments helped us get to this point in our career. I started in the church singing hymns which brings a great flow of melodies. You have to think about the structure and what goes with the melody. You have a verse, hook, and refrain. I didn’t realize until years later that learning abot hymns helped me write a song. In Marcus’s church, they didn’t really perform hymns and if they did, the church will sing one part of it. But, the feeling and sensation to the table which would grab people. So, that’s how it got started. In middle and high school, I as pretty much involved in anything that pertained to singing. I was a busy body. In high school, I also did renaissance style singing and that was with more intricate harmonies. But, you have to know how to blend with other voices. So I used all of those skills when I sing my background vocals. There are so many skills you develop that you don’t even realize because you’re having fun. So, I think the kids today say they want to sing but they don’t sing in their church choir or sing in clubs because you don’t like the songs. But, if you can sing, you can sing any song.

Limited Music Education

Marcus: One of the biggest issues I see today in music is the lack of music knowledge. It’s like the kids don’t know about the artists that came before them like Aretha Franklin. We have to bridge the gap musically. We’ve been blessed to be exposed to the doors that paved the way for us as artists. We went to school for music. But the real source of music began on the streets of Harlem. So we need to educate ourselves and other cultures about our culture. That should be a Black History Month or history lesson for the youth. I think the kids should be exposed to these things as a way to develop their foundation in music.

Performing Live

Jean: I love it. WE love it.

Marcus: The stage is the fun part for us!

Being Independent Artists

Jean: When you’re independent, you have to do everything. We added two people to our team, but before that, we were the team, but it’s still a blessing. It takes consistency and managing everything that you need to be successful. It’s a serious grind. I’m excited about being independent but tired, lol.

Marcus: We really don’t talk about our past musical endeavors because we want to build from that place. When people think about as independent artists, they’ll say you came from the “yellow jackets or you were in this group.” It’s like this with those brands: if you decide to tour and make a record again, the door is open. But when you’re on your own, you have to build the value. I was like if we have to play in front of 10 or 20 people at a jazz club, let’s start there and make it happen. You have to put yourself out there. You have to hustle and invite everybody we knew so they can hear our music. Your talent will open those doors. But in order for us to create the value, we have to put bodies in those seats. We have our own record label, Be A Light Music, and we are involved in everything. Nobody gives you anything, you have to do it yourself. Build your value and once you do that, you have something going on.

Launching the Album in February Intentionally (Black History Month & Valentine’s Day.

Jean: Let me tell you about this guy (Marcus) right here. He has a crazy marketing mind. I don’t know what it is, but he can market something. I don’t know how he came up with the idea; maybe because we’re independent artists.

Marcus: When you think about Black History Month, it’s a heavy time for blacks. We also do churches, too, as a way to market the album and release concerts. Valentine’s Day works because we’re husband and wife. We pre-ordered the album for everyone. Most labels tell artists the fourth quarter is a horrible time to release an album. You’re not a big artist, and you get swallowed up. Now think about it from a business perspective: what is the biggest heavy buying time of the year in the world? Sor for us releasing music, I always think about the cause. I have to think about the right time to release an album. I think holidays are always great because people are in a buying mood.

As independent artists, we can create our own price market. Labels have a tendency to charge their artists more when they want to promote to get their album to sell. I’ve been blessed to have family members who are strong in marketing. My niece is a graphic designer, and my brother knows a great deal about marketing. My niece did the artwork for the album. With being said, when people see that you’re doing your thang, God opens the doors, and people assist you on your journey. They recognize and see your vision. But you can’t expect people to give you certain things. When you start walking in your calling and purpose, the doors open. People believe in you and your work.

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