Timothy Bloom

“From Stevie to Ray Charles, you’ve got these cats playing as amazing as they do, and they have no sight to see what they’re playing, but they feel the music – That’s phenomenal for me! … It’s genius, it’s just ridiculous! So my respect for them is on much higher level; you’re going beyond the rim of music.” – Timothy Bloom

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Timothy Bloom is one of those rare artists who silently, but effectively go about their work composing and writing genuine lyrical masterpieces for numerous stars such as Smokey Robinson, Ne-Yo and Chris Brown; earning him to Grammy Award nominations. His reputation and integrity as a musician’s musician within the music industry has increased markedly over the past five years. The high-profile backing of industry luminaries such as Herbie Hancock, who appears in the video for his new single ‘Standing by Your Side from his impressive eponymously titled Deluxe album, suggest the word is definitely out about this talented young singer-songwriter/composer and multi-instrumentalist. Michael J Edwards met up with a poised, well presented and astute Timothy Bloom prior to his sublime performance at London’s world-famous Jazz Café, as part of a double bill with compatriot Anthony David.

Michael J Edwards: Greetings Mr Timothy Bloom, welcome to London and welcome to the Jazz Cafe. Is this your first outing here and are you looking forward to it?

Timothy Bloom: Yeah, this is my first outing here, the first experience as a performer here in London, and I’m downright so excited about! It’s like a burning desire; I’m ready to get on stage even right now.

Michael J Edwards: For those yet to be enlightened by your music, vocal styling and lyrical compositions and musicianship, please give us a quick synopsis – where were you born and raised?

Timothy Bloom: I was born in El Paso, Texas, I was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I finished my schooling in North Carolina. There was a passed through Atlanta, Germany; we’ve been all over the place.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: Growing up as the child of two pastors must have instilled discipline into you, but also imposed heavy restrictions with regards to music you and your four siblings were exposed to in your formative years. How did you get exposed secular influences?

Timothy Bloom: The secular influences happened and I was a little kid; I started rebelling then because there was this firebrand desire in me to know more. So that’s when I was exposed to people like Bob Dylan. I ran away from the so-called house to listen to the radio in the car! (Laughs) Then I started flipping through channels and I got exposed to a lot of amazing music, and I was like, “Wait!”

Michael J Edwards: Was it like an epiphany moment?

Timothy Bloom: It was a very extreme moment; it’s like you’re sitting there still, and you’re just stuck for a very long time! And I remember that, I remember being stuck for a very long time. And I was thinking, “Wow! Why can’t we listen to this?”

Michael J Edwards: Why did your parents hold it back from you do you think?

Timothy Bloom: What you need to understand is the dynamic of growing up as children of Pastors. As a Pastor you want to control your household, you want to control what’s being filtered in, because music is a spirit. I’m glad that they did, and allowed us the ability to make our own decisions whenever we wanted to when we got to a certain age. But I was already making those decisions when I was at a younger age, aged eight. That’s also when I started playing the drums, and my mum started playing piano; and I had this fire burning desire to want to play. So she would take lessons from this lady by the name of Becky White, she’s an amazing organist. She also used to play for the Clark sisters, the gospel singers. So she would take those lessons, and I would sit at the piano, and I would go back in and learn the exact same thing she would play by ear. And my mum got freaked out and she said, “We need to put you into lessons!” So she put me into lessons for a couple of weeks, but I got bored. Because it was too structural and you had to read music, and I was bored by that. My natural ability was just to learn by ear; and that’s the same for guitar, and that’s the same for the bass and anything else. So I stopped playing for a couple of months, but I was still playing drums. Then all of a sudden that desire and passion came back and I just wanted to pick it back up again and start playing. Even now it’s an extreme part of my career and my craft.

Michael J Edwards: Your career thus far could be likened to that of a caterpillar going into its cocoon and emerging as a butterfly, spreading its ebullient coloured wings and flying freely. This being in relation to the fact that for many years you have written lyrics for many household names most notably Smokey Robinson, Ne-yo and Chris Brown, and you are now bringing your gifts front and centre for the masses to enjoy. Would you concur?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Timothy Bloom: Definitely! The writing and producing stuff started at an early age; but when I was writing and producing I was doing it for myself, I wasn’t thinking of a Smokey (Robinson) or a Ne-Yo or a Chris Brown. But the amazing serendipity was being in the right place at the right time. They heard the sound and they were like, “What! What is that! I want that in my sound! And every single time it happened it happened the exact same way….”I want that! What is the sound?” …One of my good friends used to be a dancer for Ne-Yo. We would write together and make music and stuff like that. She was listening to the track for ‘Say It’ which eventually came out on his ‘Because of You’ album.

She was on the bus playing the track and Ne-Yo was like, “What was that?! I want that! What is it?!” It was the exact same thing with Chris Brown; he wanted a track that was already going on an EP that I was putting out via Interscope records. And I obviously couldn’t give it up because it was already going out. But I said, “But you know what, if you like the sound I can create something along these lines?” And that’s when I did ‘All Back’ which won a Grammy on his ‘Fame’ album, just as the track on the Ne-Yo album won a Grammy too. With Smokey (Robinson), it was exactly the same thing; my former manager was Mickey Stevenson who was one of the first A&R people at Motown, but he put that thing together and Smokey did his thing.

Michael J Edwards: It must be like giving your babies away though, when you give away a track?

Timothy Bloom: Yeah! It’s like giving all my expression away, it’s like giving your poems away, your art – and then to have people really appreciating what you put on the canvas.

Michael J Edwards: I’m not one for categorising music, but I’m sure you will agree with Louis Armstrong’s observation that there’s only two kinds of music, good and bad; however as with Alternative Jazz, your music could well be described as Alternative Soul music, given that you mix your love of Gospel, Rock, Folk and R&B into a very palatable offering for your eponymously titled debut album? Would you agree that your love for the aforementioned musical genres make up Timothy Bloom’s sound?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Timothy Bloom: Definitely! Just being a musician I’ve grown up listening to a lot of different material, and sometimes you get infected, it’s like a disease – music is a disease! Just from my own experiences, not listening to radio or listening to music period… We apply whatever influenced us as we grew up and we amplify it. And that’s pretty much how this album has been, my own experience and the experience of others, which has led to a body of work. And there’s a plethora of hard drives that I have, with terabytes of music that I’ve done that I can’t wait to put out for people to experience. Even if not in my own right, but to allow people to put their own interpretations as to what they feel the music should sound like that I’ve created or written.

Michael J Edwards: Are you quite a prolific songwriter, do you keep dictaphone by your bedside?

Timothy Bloom: That for me is very important, because I feel like their precious jewels that you get from heaven. My thing is if God is sending me something through the filters, I want to make sure that I have my phone around. Even now I can hear a melody in my head, and I want to make sure that I get down before I lose it. Because you just never know when it could be that one record that can change your life and lead to the next wave, so it’s very important.

Michael J Edwards: The quirky yet, infectious lead-off single ‘Stand In The Way (of My Love)’ has garnered much attention, raising your profile as ‘a musicians musician’, not least because of a cameo appearance by Mr Herbie Hancock in the video. How did that liaison come to fruition, and are you mutual fans of each other’s work?

Timothy Bloom: What’s interesting about that record is that like you said, people know about the musicianship. I’m humbled by the talents I’ve been given; it’s like a God-given thing; and I’m really honoured. With Herbie they sent the music out to him and I’m not sure when it was that he said he wanted to be a part of it, but it was an immediate response. It could be months before he got the music, but when I heard that he liked the music, it was an immediate response… I was like “What! Say that again!” It is one of those things where he said, “Whatever I can do to help this go further because I believe in this, let’s go there.” And when the video was coming out we looked to Herbie as the philosopher of music. So I asked him, “Can you play my dad?” We were actually working on the screenplay while we were at his house shooting in Los Angeles. The first scene is in his house, but everything else is at another venue.

Michael J Edwards: The album itself definitely requires numerous listens to pick up on the subtle musical and lyrical nuances which permeate the fourteen tracks on offer – A respectful nod to Prince and subtle Jesse Johnson vibe are evident on tracks such as ‘WOOOOOO!!!’, ‘For You,’ and the sultry and suggestive ‘Rivers Run Deep’.

Timothy Bloom: With ‘Rivers Run Deep’, I was being mentored actually by this guy called Reggie Boy Junior, who was like a phenomenon. The great story about him is he was in his seventies and his kidneys failed, and he becomes paralysed. But every time this happened he’d get back up and teach himself how to play guitar. On four occasions he taught himself out of the guitar. So when I was being mentored by this man in his basement in Los Angeles…he would teach me these little progressions; and this is where ‘Rivers Run Deep’ comes in – It wasn’t even influenced by Prince! It was like some of the stuff that he (Reggie Boy Jr) would play. And ‘Rivers Run Deep’ would remind me of him and every time he played his progressions. So that’s where ‘Rivers Run Deep’ comes from. ‘Wooooooo!!!’ Is another progression that he would also implement when he was playing? His dad taught Curtis Mayfield how to play the guitar. He’s a big deal! Have you ever heard of ‘Fishbone? Well ‘Fish’, the drummer is the one who introduced me to that era of music. Those guys are deep, hardcore, heavyweight musicians. So that’s where it all stems from. I didn’t learn about Prince until 2005; it’s just one of those things.

Michael J Edwards: On your latest single release ‘Live Without Her ‘ can best be described as a soft rock ballad that a certain Mr Lenny Kravitz would’ve been proud to have penned and performed.

Timothy Bloom: What’s so funny about ‘Live without Her’, Warner, they asked me to write a record for Seal, and that was the record. To make a long story short, they were like, “Yeah we like it, but it’s not a Seal record!” I was like, “Whaaaaaaaaaat! That’s fine, because I know it’s a good one.” ‘Live without Her’ was written when I was going through that time – my woman, she left me. (Laughs)

Michael J Edwards: You cite Stevie Wonder your main musical influences, would that be because of his insightful writing as well as his tone, texture and timbre of his voice?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Timothy Bloom: From Stevie to Ray Charles, you’ve got these cats playing as amazing as they do, and they have no sight to see what they’re playing, but they feel the music – That’s phenomenal for me! Have you ever closed your eyes and tried to play something? It’s just amazing! And Stevie plays the drums, and he remembers… It’s genius, it’s just ridiculous! So my respect for them is on much higher level; you’re going beyond the rim of music. This is more of a spirituality thing; this is meditation for you when you sit down; which is amazing that our minds are so super powerful, if we just close our eyes sometimes and listen, and see what our minds are doing. And we don’t do that, we don’t do that at all, we just see and perceive people a certain way. But if we really close our eyes and take control of our thoughts and our minds, like really go to that spiritual rim, I think even our world and our society could be much more advanced than we are today. Even on the spiritual level we can just heal souls with just a touch from a hand – it’s very spiritual.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: Like Stevie you’re also a multi-instrumentalist; how many different instruments do you play at the moment?

Timothy Bloom: Drums, piano, bass, guitar; I’ve picked up the sitar, I play the clarinet, I’ve picked up flutes…But I sat down and I studied them to make sure that I was playing in the right way.

Michael J Edwards: Where do your piano, guitar and drum influences stem from?

Timothy Bloom: All my piano influences came from my Gospel roots; learning from my Mum number one, from the classical, and all Gospel music. On the guitar you’re talking like Jimmy Page and Geoff Buckley; they were major, major influences. Drums i just picked up, that was the first thing, because my Dad needed a drummer in the Church, and I was like, “Okay, I’ll learn!”

Michael J Edwards: Do you compose your songs on the piano or on the guitar or another way?

Timothy Bloom: Everything is by ear; it’s all by natural gift.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: You have a beautifully paced, mid-tempo duet entitled ‘A Long Time Ago’ on the album can tell us more about the lady you sing with?

Timothy Bloom: ‘A Long Time Ago’ – Dezi Paige is really really an amazing artist/vocalist. What’s amazing about her story is her dad used to play for Janis Joplin and her mum used to sing background for Janis as well too. And her vocal, when I met up with her it was like an automatic connection. I’ve never heard a voice like this before, and I wanted to expose it. So we got together and just did something. But she is an amazing artist.

Michael J Edwards: You also performed the enticing and passionate ballad with Dee Bozeman, ‘Till The End of Time’ from your 2010 ‘Budding Rose EP on Interscope Records, which brought you to a lot of people’s attention and not just for the lyrical content. Do you enjoy writing and singing duets and is there anyone in particular you would like to duet with in the future?

Timothy Bloom: What’s interesting about ‘Til The End of Time’ is that we all go through our little moments of abuse. My brother had a dream that I got it right train; it was the same day that I wrote the record. And then an ex-of mine called me and said, “Oh my God! I just had a dream that you have been killed today!” This was the same exact day in the morning. I was at a low point of my life, but I wasn’t suicidal; I was just reflecting on life as it is and as it had been. It’s crazy because your life could be done at any moment in time. So I picked up my guitar and I wrote that and called Dee (Bozeman) and said, “You should come over, I would really like to hear how you sound on this record.” Dee Bozeman had previously sung background for me, so she came over and we knocked that song out in one hour. What you hear on that record was done in one take. That’s what I was saying about spirituality, when it comes through you, you have to put it out right now.

Michael J Edwards: Which tracks resonate with you the most on this album and give you the most pleasure to perform live?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Timothy Bloom: I love ‘Underneath My Skin’, because it’s a true statement – I want you to see me as much as I see you. I’m breaking down all my walls, I’m vulnerable at this moment, and if I hurt you in any way let me fix it, because I know what it is to make this work. See me as much as I see you; I can see the kinks; I can see the little bugs that can be tightened up a little bit. Help me to help you!

Michael J Edwards: What is your musical philosophy?

Timothy Bloom: As far as my musical philosophy is concerned, if I have a philosophy, is that every time I go in to create or write or I get on stage and perform, it’s like my last moment in this lifetime, or my last moment on earth. I want to make an impact, I want my core to be shown – I mean the earth is rimmed by a core right? So I think the experience for all of us to expand and appreciate this life is to be our true selves and to actually become one with ourselves, so that when people see us their like, “Oh my God it’s the sun! And it’s such a bright light it?” Because when you do see the sun that its truest form – the light! And when the moon shines, there’s a light, so we had to walk in the same light. So that would be my philosophy – Be true to yourself and be true to your craft.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: You’re a strong believer in edifying the next generation of singers and musicians, and to that end we have made it her mission to visit schools to give youths and insight into how to negotiate the sometimes treacherous waters of the music industry. What advice would you give to young aspiring artists in today’s climate?

Timothy Bloom: like I said my advice would be, learn yourself as a human being; learn yourself before you learn the music. And allow music to become you or you become music. Be true to yourself and everything you do. You have to be present; don’t get on that stage if you don’t know how to play a drum, because everybody’s going to see it – up close and personal… Come with your passion, because passion drives and people can relate to it; no gimmicks.

Michael J Edwards: You’re also playing tonight alongside another talented and underrated singer- songwriter, Anthony David; are you familiar with him and his work prior to this gig?

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Timothy Bloom & Anthony David
Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Timothy Bloom: Yes, most definitely! We know each other from living in Atlanta, and what’s so funny it’s like a generation of music coming up. And it just warms my heart number one to be a part of this show, because I’ve seen him grow. As a musician is so amazing, and we all know each other. It’s like Jimi Hendrix sitting at the venue with Stephen Tyler; we raise each other up. We raise each other up. The important thing is that we raise a generation up of great musicians that come on stage. The fact that I didn’t know he (Anthony David) was here this evening is really cool.

Michael J Edwards: Do you have any children that may follow in your footsteps and what are their names?

Timothy Bloom: Brazil, Micah and Josephine. Brazil’s the eldest, then Micah; he’s a boy, and then Josephine.

Michael J Edwards: What future plans do you have regarding touring and promoting this album and will you continue penning songs for other artists?

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Timothy Bloom & Michael J Edwards
Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Timothy Bloom: My future plans right now are the present, like the next few hours, because I don’t know if tomorrow is even gonna to be here. So right now I would like to continue producing records for other artists…But right now I just want to get on the Jazz Café stage and really do something that’s cool.

Michael J Edwards: Timothy it’s been great getting the lowdown from you on your career thus far; uk vibe are definitely looking forward to seeing your writing and singing abilities being recognised even more so in the future.

Michael J Edwards

Essential Album: Timothy Bloom (The Deluxe Edition, CD 2014)
Essential Website: http://www.timothybloom.com/
*Big Mike & uk vibe thanks to Fiona Bloom, Thuy-An Julien and Farai Msika for co-ordinating the interview.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

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