Probably the coolest uncle out there. His voice cuts through your butter softly and makes your yacht float. His swag has lasted for a couple of generations already and still does. Whether it’s your old AOR radio station, your 90’s hiphop collection or just a new Pitchfork-glorified release …his groove will find your ears sooner or later. I’m talking – of course – about Bobby Caldwell, who was so very kind to answer my questions.
I’m always curious about the early years’ musical development. What music got you going as a kid? What influence did your parents have music-wise?
My childhood home was always filled with music. From Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald to Broadway tunes to Big Band. My parents were both singers/actors. In fact, they hosted one of the first variety shows on the old Dumont Television Network in Pittsburgh, PA. I took piano lessons as a kid, and got my first guitar at age 12. The Beatles were my favorite. I think I taught myself every single Beatles song ever recorded. To this day I listen to the Beatles often, along with Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and many more.
What made you pick up an instrument yourself?
My mom and dad kind of force the piano lessons, but I mowed a lot of lawns to buy my first guitar. My passion for The Beatles and all of the songs played on top 40 A.M. radio set me in the direction I wanted to pursue. I wanted to play, sing and write songs.
I’ve read something about a pre-1978 release named Katmandu, but I can’t find any info about really. Could you tell me something about this? Is there any other stuff you recorded or were involved with before releasing your first solo album on T.K. (schoolbands, backing vocals, anything)?
My friends and I formed our own band in middle school. We played at school dances, and of course, the garages at our family homes. Eventually, Katmandu was formed. We actually recorded an album. In fact, I still have a copy of that LP. We played the clubs in the Miami, FL area, and eventually packed up our van and moved to Los Angeles. We played clubs all over California, and at the same time, I started writing songs. For several years I tried to hawk my songs, but I couldn’t get a record deal. I went back home to Miami feeling a bit beaten and dejected. Then my mom brought me a newspaper article about TK Records in Hialeah. She suggested I pay them a visit, so I did. I came out of the meeting with my first record deal. That first album included, “What You Won’t Do for Love.”
I personally first go to know your music because I bought the single of 2Pac’s Do For Love as a kid and then suddenly heard your song on the radio. Then I recently found out that that 2Pac production is considered to be ripped from an earlier J Dilla production….To cut a long story short, your music has been sampled over and over. Were you aware of it being sampled at the time? What was, or is, your opinion on the whole sampling industry?
Quite frankly, I’m flattered to have my songs sampled, or covered. 2Pac’s “Do For Love” brought my original song to the attention of a whole new generation, just as Common’s sample of “Open Your Eyes” in his release called, “The Light,” and Notorius B.I.G.’s “Sky’s the Limit” breathed some new life into “My Flame,” also off my first album.
Your work has been defined as smooth jazz, blue eyed soul, AOR, yacht rock and so on, the list is long. What’s your favorite description/how would you describe your music?
I like them all. I suppose certain songs can be placed into a variety of categories. I have also released a number of big band/standard albums, which basically fit into the POP music of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. My most recent big band album called, “After Dark” was released in 2014. I had a fantastic band behind me, and had a lot of fun in the studio. In fact, I plan on doing another album like this very soon.
Your album covers – at least a lot of them – seem to have a recurring style/theme. Could you tell me something about this?
I do tend to write a lot of songs about broken hearts and unrequited love. Let’s face it, it’s a universal theme, and something we all can relate to.
What do you consider one of your favorite songs by yourself?
Although the song went virtually unnoticed, I wrote a song in an attempt to emulate the sound of the 1940’s. The song is called, “April Moon”off my “Come Rain or Come Shine album. I love the song. I poured my heart out into that one. Please give it a listen sometime.
What do you consider one of your favorite songs by somebody else?
I am a huge fan of Donald Fagen. I.G.Y. is an incredible song!
I can have trouble finding a song that suits my hangover, do you have any?
Check out my latest release with Jack Splash. The album is called, “Cool Uncle.” Put on a cut called, “End of Days” and crank it up, during a hangover.
A lot of people have thought that you were a black singer. Do you have any noteworthy anecdote about this?
A lot of people still think that. My wife used to think that.
Did you ever perform in Amsterdam (my hometown)? And how was that?
I never was invited to perform in Amsterdam, but I sure would love to do so.
Your latest album Cool Uncle was – justly – well received. What are you working on at the moment?
Shortly, Jack Splash and I are going to get back at it for the next Cool Uncle release. This time we’ll be writing and recording in my old stomping ground, Los Angeles.