Tony Momrelle: The soul and jazz star still believing the 'Best Is Yet To Come'

Tuesday 8th October 2019

Tony Cummings had an in-depth conversation with the British soul star TONY MOMRELLE

Tony Momrelle
Tony Momrelle

In The Guardian newspaper, Paul Morley called Britain's Tony Momrelle "the 21st Century Stevie Wonder", while his work with such stars as Whitney Houston, Elton John and Sade, plus his 12 year membership of acid jazz hitmakers Incognito, has brought Tony international acclaim. Born and raised in the church, he released his first solo album 'Freetime' in 1998, while in 2003 he formed the short-lived gospel trio, Seven, whose single "There It Is" produced a Cross Rhythms radio hit. But it was his 'Keep Pushing' album in 2015 which culminated in four BBC Radio Two playlisted singles while his Keep Pushing Tour saw him playing to sold out audiences at venues and festivals in Australia, Italy, Germany, Russia, France and many other places. Tony's 2019 album, 'Best Is Yet To Come', received rave reviews and the tracks "Rising Up", "Sunshine" and "I Wanna Be Loved" have all made the Cross Rhythms playlist. Clearly, the time had come for us to speak to the R&B and jazz star.

Tony C: Now as you might know, Cross Rhythms is currently playing "Rising Up". Tell me a bit about the song.

Tony M: "Basically, the sentiment of the song itself is about rising up from anything that's holding you back, rising up from defeat, rising up from problems and looking to the future, looking forward, leaving everything in the rear-view mirror of your past, dusting yourself off and pressing on with a determined mind."

Tony C: It sounds very close to being a gospel song. I know you're a Christian and you've got a spiritual background. Did you intend to write a song which Christians, as well as non-Christians, could relate to?

Tony M: "Absolutely. I wanted to have something that was tangible and also something that people could connect to on all platforms."

Tony C: It's a tricky thing to do.

Tony M: "I've always been someone that's wanted to be transparent in delivery - what I sing about, what I talk about and how I engage with people that I meet. Music has meant that there is a massive door opening for me. To be able to write about music that talks about life and love and relationships, and it's enabled me to meet various people. At the same time being able to talk about my faith, because a lot of the songs that I write, there's a lot of it, content-wise, that will lead anybody to ask me 'what was that about' or 'is there some background behind that', opening the opportunity for me to speak to them a little bit more. At the same time, I've been involved with simple gospel projects, I'm still involved in both markets in that sense, and I write for quite a few things as well. My heart's still very close to gospel, too, but the mainstream showbiz world is where I feel I'm led."

Tony C: When we finish playing "Rising Up", we'll be playing "Sunshine". Was that written by you?

Tony M: "Yeah, all the songs apart from the song at the end of the album, which is a song originally written by Ray Charles. Apart from that, everything else was written by me. 'Sunshine' was a song where you could connect quite a few things but for me it was about being grateful, and that feeling of, no matter what, there's that person or that being that radiates your life. They bring sunshine no matter what, even in sad times. And it's that gratefulness about finding that person."

Tony C: Was that particularly directed at your wife, then?

Tony M: [Laughs] "No. Actually, when I wrote that, I wrote the song with a friend of mine and he came up with the idea of it all. I wasn't actually thinking of Motown, I was thinking of Marvin Gaye, and The Miracles' style of writing it. So that's what led that to happen."

Tony C: Now you mentioned Marvin Gaye, and in many ways, Marvin Gaye was a tragic figure. Musically, he was a genius but spiritually he was a profound contradiction, sometimes endeavouring to live a Godly life, and another time going off to an orgy or doing stacks of drugs. I'm sure you've encountered one or two spiritual casualties in your years in showbiz. Being a Christian in the mainstream music world is a difficult path to follow, isn't it?

Tony M: "It is. But to be honest with you, if you look at it from the point of view even if you were at an office party of some sort, you will possibly encounter temptations in one form or another. It's magnified more in the entertainment world because drugs, too much alcohol, available sexual partners are the kind of things that come with that world. One of the things that works for me is that I surround myself with strong-minded people. I have a lot of people on my team around me that know what I'm about and for me it's become an easier choice to deal with. After a while, you go to one after-party after a show and you see another and another one, you realise they're all the same, and then you get bored. You just get bored! So for me, once I've done all the autograph stuff and meet and greets, I want to get some food and watch a bit of TV. Because I know I've got to get up the next morning and start it all over again."

Tony C: But what if you get a direct temptation? What if you get someone coming up and saying 'here, do a couple of lines with me now', or alternatively a pretty girl 'can you take me back to your hotel'?

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