Legendary and Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter and musician Jeffrey Osborne who’s one of the most recognizable and distinctive voices in music from his earliest beginning with his band L.T.D., “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again”, “Love Ballad”, to his iconic solo career, “You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)”, “On the Wings of Love”, “Only Human” to name a few, has returned with his new album Worth It All, a 12-song collection of all original material, which is available on all digital and physical platforms. I caught up with Jeffrey Osborne in an exclusive interview to discuss the album, the importance of touring, his longevity, state of R&B and much more...
LISTEN TO HIS SINGLE “WORTH IT ALL” BELOW:
TERRANCE: Congratulations on the release of your new album, Worth It All. How does it feel to still be able to do what you love after more than 40 years in the business?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: It feels great. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a new recording out of original material. I had a Jazz standard album out a few years back and before that I had an R&B album of cover songs, but this is the first album of original material that I’ve had out in about 13 years, so it feels really good. It’s been a long time coming and so I’m happy to finally get it out there.
TERRANCE: What prompted you to come back to R&B after going in the Jazz direction?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: Well, I’ve always just wanted to do a Jazz record. I’ve never really left the R&B realm. George Duke had produced most of my solo albums and we had been talking about it for years and we finally got the opportunity to do it. But interestingly enough, this new record is with Mack Avenue Records which is really a Jazz label and so they heard my jazz record and they approached me about doing a smooth jazz record and so we talked and I said, okay and then I started writing and then when I started writing I realized my writing was not going towards smooth jazz, it was going more towards my old R&B roots and so I got back together with them and told them I think I’d like to do an old school R&B record. They said they didn’t have anything on their label like that, so they were happy to have something like that, and so that’s how this project actually came about. It came about through the creative process with my writing. Once I started writing it took me back to my roots.
TERRANCE: The title track has climbed to No. 30 on the Billboard Urban AC Chart. What inspired that song in particular?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: That song is about what I guess we all live as people in relationships. I’ve been married 36 years and through those 36 years we’ve had a few bumps in the road, we’ve had a couple of hurdles to get over and we’ve had trials and tribulations and I think everybody goes through that in long relationships, but I think the most important thing is that you pull it together and if you really love somebody, it’s worth going through all of that and it’s worth fighting through the hurdles and pain you may go through every now and then, because why start over? Now you gotta go through a whole new set of problems that might arise, so it’s best to hold on to somebody you love, work your way through it and that’s what the song is saying and in the end, love is worth all of that stuff you have to go through and that’s what it says, ‘love is worth it all’.
TERRANCE: Compared to previous releases, what was the recording process like this time around?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: Well, I produced it myself so it’s a little different when I produce it myself than when others produce for me. I kind of enjoy doing it myself actually because I’m more relaxed when I’m doing my vocals and I don’t have to impress the producers. I know what I kind of want so I can take my time when I do it myself. I miss having someone like George Duke because he was the epitome of class. He was a musical genius and so I miss having someone like him around, but he allowed me to learn so much over the years from him. He did a bunch of my albums and I got a chance learn a lot working with George, so I decided to put all the things I learned from George into the project of producing it myself. I’d say it’s a longer work load. When I do an album and George is producing it, all I gotta do is show up and sing. When I produce it myself I gotta be here through the whole process so it’s a lot of responsibility but I really enjoyed it. The beautiful thing about this record is all the guys that are in my band who’ve worked with me for 20 to 25 years are the ones that played on the record, so it felt real close-knit and there was a brotherhood vibe and so it was kind of cool.
TERRANCE: Your son Jeffrey Osborne, Jr. is featured on the song “Work It”. What was it like working as father & son?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: (Laughs). First time ever for me. My son is kind of a late bloomer in music. I didn’t really think he was going to be into music because he was into basketball. He was a great High School basketball player and then he went to College and then he came home one time and said he been hanging out in the dorms with his boys and they’ve been rapping. I’m like, you’ve been what? I’ve never heard you rap before, so he kind of picked it up late in life and he’s been doing his own projects, writing a lot and he’s really grown a lot. He’s working with me now on the road. He does sound engineering for me, so he’s come a long way and when I approached him with this record I said, you have a more youthful approach to music than I do so maybe we should do something together and so he said, okay I’m going to write the track for you and he writes the track and it ended up probably being more of an R&B song than any song on the record. I thought he was going to give me some Hip Hop stuff (laughs). I actually thought it should’ve been the first single. In this business once you’re in it for years you learn to kind of go with the flow and go with the majority. When you put a record out, everybody at the record company and all of these people around you, everybody listens and you kind of see what everybody feels and kind of go with the majority. The majority was feeling, “Worth It All” as the first single and I was still feeling, “Work It” as the first single and I still think it should’ve been the first single, but it is what it is. We got a lot more room to go on this record, so it might be the next single.
TERRANCE: You spoke about being on the road, so what’s the importance of touring for an artist such as yourself?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: Well, it just keeps me in front of people I think that’s the most important thing. I love what I do and I enjoy performing live more than anything. I prefer that over being in the studio. I think there’s a certain chemistry you get in front of an audience. It’s kind of a give and take. You give the energy and they give it back, you don’t get that in the studio, so that’s kind of my favorite part. Now that I have a new record, it just kind of bring more energy to the tour now. People are looking forward to hearing it and so I love touring. I don’t like the traveling aspect of it anymore. Traveling kind of sucks (laughs). You know having to get to the airport early, the PSA's and all that you have to go through, but once I get on the stage man that’s what it’s all about. I’m still enjoying it and I got a bunch of dates this Summer to do and I just came off a bunch of dates in Seattle and so I’m staying busy. The tour dates are listed on my website www.jeffreyosborne.com so people can keep abreast of where I’m at and what I’m doing.
TERRANCE: What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B and soul music respectively?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: I don’t even know if there is a current state of R&B music (laughs). I mean, it’s all gone basically to kind of a Hip Hop and Rap state. Not a lot of R&B is being played anymore. It’s totally different from when I started, but that’s the nature of evolution. When I was coming up my brothers and sisters were listening to Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and all of those jazz people and they kind of got phased out and that’s what’s happening now, you see these old R&B artists almost kind of getting phased out in this new generation of R&B and Hip Hop. But I think the music to me doesn’t have as much character as the music back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. We wrote differently then. We wrote a verse, we wrote a bridge, we wrote a chorus. I think today’s music is shallow in comparison to the old school music, but it’s not to say it’s not good, it’s just totally different than the way we approached music back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
TERRANCE: You’ve witnessed many of your peers come and go in your industry. What has been the key to your longevity?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: Well, for me it’s been taking care of myself. I’ve always taken' care of myself and always been into physical fitness and working out. I workout 4 or 5 days a week. I’ve been running everyday since I was 17 years old. I just celebrated my 70th birthday and I’m still running everyday and working out. I’ve turned vegan almost a year now and it might be the best thing I’ve done. I feel better. I have way more energy and I don’t have any aches and pains anymore. It takes all the inflammation out of your body. That’s what has kept me going along with the fact that I’m always out there. I’ve never stopped touring and I think being out among people keeps you young and keeps you vibrant. The worst thing in the world you can do is sit around at home and not exercise and not take care of yourself and then the quality of life goes down quickly. The most important thing is the quality of life. People can live a long time but they may not have a good quality of life. They may have all of these ailments and that’s the one thing about being vegan to me, I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends that have gone vegan and witnessing other vegans, let all pharmaceuticals and drugs go out the window. You don’t need those meds anymore, because you’re actually eating stuff that is healing your body. Meds only put a band-aid on it and it’ll keep you coming back for more, but there is a healing process with food and if we realize we have to eat to live and not live to eat. I loved seafood and I grew up on it on the ocean in Rhode Island and that was the hardest thing for me to give up. I loved steaks. I loved all of it, but I’ve learned now that it’s not so much about what tastes good that’s important. It’s what’s good for you and so for me it’s working. I can’t push what I do on everybody and I never will do that, but I’ve opened the eyes up to a lot of people and I’ve seen a lot of people starting to go that way and it’s a lot of people in the industry surprisingly you wouldn’t realize are vegans. Even in sports like basketball and football, there are a lot of people now that are going that way. It’s something you have to try or just see people on it. It’s the testament when you see it happen. My whole family went vegan at the same time and I could see the results in everybody and it’s just so positive, so I’m a believer right now. That’s what keeps me going, but I’ve always been health conscious. I’ve never been overweight. I’ve always been running and working out, so I feel good.
TERRANCE: How do you feel about your music being sampled over the years by everyone in Contemporary Hip Hop and R&B from 2Pac to Rick Ross, Future & Trey Songz.
JEFFREY OSBORNE: (Laughs). I guess it’s a compliment. It really is. That people would be able to listen to what you do and take a little bit of it and have another creative process on top of that, so it’s like I’m enabling more creativity through what I did. It’s kind of an honor. When it first started it wasn’t so cool because they were just ripping us off and no one would get paid for it, but now everyone is getting compensated when they sample your music. It’s kind of flattering that people would go ahead and take my tracks and do what I never thought I would do on top of it (laughs), so it’s kind of cool.
TERRANCE: Not many may know you wrote “All At Once” for Whitney Houston’s self-titled debut album. How did that come about?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: That’s interesting because I didn’t write that for her. I wrote that for myself and I guess I was recording the Stay With Me Tonight album. I wrote that song with a good friend who’s not here anymore, Michael Masser, who wrote a ton of number-one hit records. So I wrote it with him and we decided not to put it on my record because we had so many ballads that I didn’t use it but then he called me and said, I’m producing this young girl by the name of Whitney Houston and I said, I ain’t never heard of her and he was like, well she can sing and I was wondering if I could use the song on her since you didn’t put it on your record and I said, go ahead and use it, and that’s basically how that came about.
TERRANCE: Overall, what do you hope listeners take away from the Worth It All experience?
JEFFREY OSBORNE: Well, I hope that they leave satisfied. I hope I was able to satisfy what they wanted to hear from the ballads to the uptempo's and just good storytelling and going back to the old days of love because I’m a romanticist. I write a lot about love and I kind of think we need a little more of that in the world today. There’s so many dark things going on out there and songs that have dark stories with them. So I’m hoping that they listen to it and they feel that spark of romance maybe and that it takes them back to those good ol’ days in the 70’s and 80’s. This is what I think my audience would like to hear. I feel sometimes like they say, well music doesn’t sound like this anymore, so they kind of put it in a little box and can’t open that box because this is old, but people still want to listen to good music and they still want to hear vintage R&B. I think we take listeners for granted. I’m hoping that when people listen to this record they get fulfilled a little musically and they can feel that same love that they had for music back in the 70’s and 80’s.
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