“Everything’s live, I mean all the guitars are played in live, the bass is played in live, all the vocals are done live. The only time I use software is creating string arrangements, horn lines and stuff like that. But the majority of things, all the guitars, your basses and stuff, that’s still played in live. And I think that’s what gives me my sound.” Elliott Macauley
Manchester-born and raised recording artist, multi-instrumentalist & producer Elliott Macauley has been sprinkling his Jazzy/Funky/Soulful musical essence and production gold dust on artists on both sides of the Atlantic and across Europe. Now with the imminent release of his infectious double a side single, ‘All My Life’ and ‘Mamas Baby Boy’ on 18th August, courtesy of Dave Welding’s and John Anderson’s home grown and visionary and Soul Junction Records, 2014 may very well be the year that Mr Macauley’s talents are illuminated to their fullest. Michael ‘The Dood’ Edwards set about bringing the musical masses up to date on this unknown entity named Elliott Macauley, his current single, which is causing such a stir in radio land globally, as well as the numerous other projects he has in the offing.
The Dood: How would you describe yourself first and foremost, as a singer, songwriter or producer?
Elliott Macauley: It’s a little hard to answer that as one question. I started really as a kid singing and then moved onto playing instruments…As a child I used to play steel pan with my friends father; he was the music teacher in Manchester, a guy called Mr Culpeper. Arthur Culpeper, he was very well-known in the music sector around Europe. So I sort of like got into music that way. And then I started getting into the bass, through listening to Luther Vandross and hearing Marcus Miller playing bass…I studied bass and went to school at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. I then sessioned for a lot of different guys, up until I realised that I wanted to create my own music. And that’s how I got into production, if that makes any sense to you.
The Dood: Where did you grow up and was it a musical household?
Elliott Macauley: I grew up in Manchester and my dad was a Jazz-man, he was also the keyboard player. And my mother was a Nat King Cole fan, she loved all the Opera; she loved all operatic music.
The Dood: I think both our mothers would have got on well.
Elliott Macauley: I think that that generation of our parents, it was like that for a lot of them…It was the Jazz era, your Miles Davis’, your George Benson’s. Your mothers were looking for the more lyrical thing, the sweet vocal, of which of course Nat King Cole was the man at that time. Then your other artists started coming through; your Billy Paul’s with ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ and things like that. So I grew up listening to fantastic music, I was lucky.
The Dood: You’ve been on the live circuit for quite a few years, having cut your teeth as a session musician playing in Japan, the Far East and Europe. So when did you make the transition?
Elliott Macauley: The transition happened when I was living in Spain to be honest with you. I realised then exactly what I wanted to do.
The Dood: What year would this have been?
Elliott Macauley: We’re talking around 2001; getting into production and then realising now that computers have come around and virtual studios were more accessible and affordable. And once I knew I could do that then that opened a new path for me to sit back and learn ‘Logic Pro’ as a program, learning to know how to engineer, to produce and to arrange. It’s not an easy game; you need to take time out to get your production right you know. It’s not about cutting and pasting and putting things together in the way I do things. I still do things very old school; everything’s played in.
The Dood: When you say played in, you mean as in live instrumentation?
Elliott Macauley: Everything’s live, I mean all the guitars are played in live, the bass is played in live, all the vocals are done live. The only time I use software is creating string arrangements, horn lines and stuff like that. But the majority of things, all your guitars, your basses and stuff, that’s still played in live. And I think that’s what gives me my sound.
The Dood: The instrumentation is very light and crisp on both the tracks of your new single on Soul Junction Records. Who played the instruments?
Elliott Macauley: Me!
The Dood: So you’re a one-man band, you play the instruments in individually and then overlay them on to make tracks yes?
Elliott Macauley: Well that’s it, you’ve answered it, I’m a one-man band – I play everything, I arrange it. I do absolutely everything!
The Dood: You’ve paid your dues working as a producer and session musician for many years, and now you’re stepping into the limelight with your captivating double ‘A’ side release on Dave Welding’s Soul Junction Record label. How did you come to be signed to the U.K.’s most underrated, but highly respected record labels?
Elliott Macauley: You know when you use the expression, “Anything Can Happen!” That’s how it happened. Basically, what happened was, I released ‘All My Life’ – it was actually done this time last summer, but I didn’t release it up until the beginning of this summer (2014).
The Dood: Was it already a complete package at that time with US soul singer Joe Leavy already on board?
Elliott Macauley: No! It was an idea; I had sent it over to another friend who I work with, a guy called Andrew Mayo, who co-wrote the song. He came up with the verse idea and we connected them both together. I had been speaking to Joe (leavy), because me and Joe had got talking, because Joe had his album, ‘A Guy Named Joe Leavy’ in the UK Soul charts, and I had my album, ‘Retro’ in the UK Soul charts. So that’s how me and Joe met, and then Joe approached me saying that he’d love to do something with me. So I said, “Look I got this little idea, maybe it could be something you might be interested in.” I sent it to him and he said, “Elliott I love it!” I already had the hook of the song, so he could hear where it was going; he just needed to put versus to the song. And he came back to me with some amazing versus. He gave me two ideas for the verses, but I went with the first one. We put the vocals down, and then I called in Myke Wilson on drums.
The Dood: Myke Wilson! He’s one of the U.K.’s premier drummers.
Elliot Macauley: Well Myke’s on drums on that track, “All My Life.” I’ve known Myke all my life, he’s a Manchester boy and obviously when I was working at the Jazz Cafe, Myke was with ‘Swing Out Sister’ then, so I used to see him a lot back in the Jazz Cafe days as well. The reason why Myke got involved was because this time last summer I was doing like a live jam thing around Manchester with the best talent and stuff. Myke had heard about it and got involved. Then I talked to Myke and I said “Look, I would love you to put some drums on these tracks?” So when he heard the tracks he said, ‘Elliott, I love it! I’d love to play on it!” So Myke put the drums on and I sent it back to Joe, and Joe was just like, “Wow! This sounds amazing!”
Then when it went out, your man, Mick O’Donnell (Solar Radio) was playing it, and as he was playing it, Dave (Welding) picked up on it through Mick’s show. He’d heard it a couple of times and phoned up Mick and asked, “Who is this guy? I need to get in contact with him.” And then Mick called me up and said, “Listen, I’ve got a guy who’s really interested in putting this track on vinyl.” And that’s how it came across.
The Dood: It’s all about connecting the dots.
Elliott Macauley: And that’s how it is, I believe in that, I believe in those destinies.
The Dood: But overall you’re happy to have these two tracks released via Soul Junction Records?
Elliott Macauley: Yeah! Dave (Welding) is such a cool guy and I love what he’s doing. I’m privileged in a way because I’m the only UK artist on the label.
The Dood: The term ‘Retro-Soul’ is unashamedly stamped on your work, especially on the B-Side ‘Mama’s Baby Boy’ which has a subtle ‘Loose Ends’ vibe of to it, especially that killer bass guitar. Discuss?
Elliott Macauley: With ‘Mamas Baby Boy’ what had happened was, as we do, we have to thank what we had from our parents… I mean I’m a sixties child, so the times when I was growing up were tough. But my parents did everything they could, they showed me love… And what they could give me they gave me. So in return when I lost my parents – It’s six years ago now since they’ve both been gone – I wanted to write a song about the love that my parents had shown me. So that’s how, “Mamas Baby Boy” came about; like I said the hook was there and I was in talks at that time with Cleveland Jones who’s a phenomenal vocalist! And I sent it over to Cleveland and Cleveland says, “Okay, I’m hearing the hook, I know exactly what to do.” Seriously, and I mean this from the heart, within ten minutes he’s sent me an idea back for a verse. And it was done as quickly as that!
The Dood: I’m not surprised to hear you say that; many artists I’ve interviewed, including Leon Ware have said the same thing about their classic hits, they’ve written them in five to ten minutes.
Elliott Macauley: Exactly! Me and Cleveland we’ve got this strong connection, he understands me and I understand him. And Cleveland just understood it straight away; he’s also a Mamas Baby Boy, so he got it straight away! So when he was writing, it just came straight from his heart, he heard it up until it got to that chorus, and then bam! And then he just hit those long for falsetto notes, and it was just like, “Wow! This sounds amazing!” When you’ve got someone on the same page as you, things happen spontaneously, very rapid.
The Dood: So who sings what on ‘Mamas Baby Boy’ and ‘All My Life’ respectively?
Elliott Macauley: I’m singing backing (vocals) with Cleveland and Cleveland is singing the lead. With ‘All My Lif’e it’s the same again, backing (vocals) is me and Andrew (Mayo) and Joe Leavy is doing the lead (vocals).
The Dood: Who are some of your vocal and instrumental influences?
Elliott Macauley: To be honest with you, when it comes to my influences, mainly number one is Al Jarreau. I’m a big fan of Al Jarreau. On the British scene, I’ve got a hell of a lot of respect for ‘Incognito’ and Bluey. I think he set the road for a lot of musicians…I love his work, I think they’re fantastic! And then the greats; I’m a Jazz-Funk boy, so I like all your Jeff Lorber fusions, your Stanley Clarke’s, your Marcus Miller’s; anything with a good groove man. If it’s groovin’ then I’m on it. There’s no one in particular, I like all aspects of music, but my number one artist is Al Jarreau.
The Dood: Do any particular tracks of his come to mind right now?
Elliott Macauley: For me, ‘My Old Friend’ by Al Jarreau. I love that track and I like the new release on the new album that’s dedicated to George Duke. And also they’ve released another track, ‘No Rhyme, No Reason’ which George Duke wrote when he had an affair…But lyrically he’s unbelievable! The lyrics for me and the music, it just touches my heart.
The Dood: What aspirations do you have for this single and do you have enough material written for a sophomore album as yet?
Elliott Macauley: Well…’Retro’ which I released last year (2013) hasn’t really got around yet, so I’m still pumping it and people are still picking it up. The more I’m doing good tracks and putting them on iTunes, people are going back and saying, “Woah! I’ve just heard ‘Retro’ man, what an album!” So people are still getting to know about that.
The Dood: So how did you release the album?
Elliott Macauley: I released it on ‘Duet Records,’ which is my own label. And then the next I was pumping out singles. There’s a single I did with Nataya from Drizabone called ‘Feeling’, that’s out there. So people are still getting on that and stuff. Obviously I’m done quite a lot of singles this year, so the next thing is putting that entire package together as an EP. So they’ll all be on the EP ‘All My Life,’ ‘Mamas Baby Boy,’ because they’ve all been re-mastered. ‘Future’ will come into it.
The Dood: Speaking of ‘Future,’ can you briefly give us the lowdown on your most recent project, working with American vocalist Marwan Akil.
Elliott Macauley: Marwan is an absolutely amazing vocalist! What I love about Marwan is that he hasn’t got your typical ‘Soul’ voice, he’s got that Neo-Soul touch, he makes it today, he makes it modern. So I like the flow that Marwan’s on; he reminds me of a very young Stevie Wonder with some of the tones that he’s got in his vocal. Him and David Lee Andrews, saxophonist, what I love about these two cats is they work super-quick! I send them my ideas and within days it’s like, “El, Bam! What you think?” And I’m like, “Woah!” And I like guys who work spontaneously, very quickly. So with Marwan and David I’ve got two tracks on the EP. We’ve got ‘Future,’ which as you know is lying at NO.6 in the UK Soul charts at the moment as we speak. Then we will be having another track, which I’m finishing off at the moment, I’m literally waiting for Marwan to send me now the actual stem on the track. And that track will be called, “Work That Thing.”
The Dood: So if you’ll excuse the pun, ‘The Future’ is looking bright
Elliott Macauley: As long as it’s not orange! (Laughs)
The Dood: So finally, are these tracks all coming out via Soul Junction Records?
Elliott Macauley: The EP will be going through me, Soul Junction are only working with, ‘All My Life’ and ‘Mamas Baby Boy.’ So they’ll be releasing those two tracks as you know on 18th August, and then after that is when I will be releasing the EP, because not everyone is going to be on vinyl tip.
The Dood: Thank you for your time Elliott and we wish you well with your current and future releases. Teamwork makes the Dream-work as they say, and it looks like you have a very tight team around you – quality vocalist and writers as well. We look forward to seeing your career blossom over the coming years.
Elliott Macauley: Thanks very much Michael.
Michael J Edwards
Elliot Macauley – ‘All My Life’ (feat Joe Leavy) b/w ‘Mamas Baby Boy’ (feat. Cleveland Jones) (7” Vinyl, Soul Junction Records, 2014) Out August 18th, 2014
Metaphor by Elliot Macauley (2014)
Retro by Elliot Macauley (CD, 2013)
Al Jarreau – My Old Friend – Celebrating The Life of George Duke (CD 2014)
Breaking Away (Album 1981)