Viewing entries tagged
Soul Music

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Outside of the Comfort Zone

Earlier this week I spoke on being prepared when opportunity presents itself in the most random times and really asking yourself Are You Ready if it does? Opportunity is interesting to me...It seems to always show up when you least expect it. I believe self doubt and not being prepared are big culprits of missing out on life changing opportunities.

Picking up where I left off.....I returned from Detroit on high after learning I would be Slum Village's keyboardist/vocalist on there upcoming European tour. I spoke with their manager and was scheduled to go to Detroit for a rehearsal in April. April came and that rehearsal was rescheduled for May....and then for June...long story short we never had a rehearsal.

I recall coming home from work in late June 2006 and receiving a call from T3 that went something like this:

T3: Ab...What up man!!

Me: Wassup T3

T3: nothin chillin....We got a show in DC tonight at this club called Mirrors. Can you come out and perform with us?

Me: yeah (I had a million things to do), what time?

T3: 11pm but be there around 9pm.

Me: Ok cool.

T3: We need you to sing on Tainted & Selfish bro!

Me: Bet! see you then.

This show was so random! You would think I would know if they were coming to town as a fan but I didn't. I showed up at Club Mirrors and everybody I could think of on the DC music scene was there. It was interesting to perform in front of all my DC music peers. It's amazing how people look at you differently after someone co-signs you. It was like they viewed me in a different light after T3 said "I want to bring my man Ab up here to do these next two joints. He's going to be joining us on our European tour so give it up for him." It's not that they didn't respect me before but the respect was different after that. To this day people on the scene ask me how I got the Slum Village gig?? I performed Tainted & Selfish with Slum Village and the evening was really dope.

Fast forward to July and I'm on a plane from DC to London Heathrow Airport. I arrived, went through customs, walked up to the man holding the Aaron Abernathy sign, and hopped in the car with him headed to the Holiday Inn in Camden Town. I had no clue how our first show at the historic London Jazz Cafe' was going to go that night. We never had ONE rehearsal. Hex, the road manager called me when he got to the hotel and told me to be downstairs at 5pm for soundcheck.

We went to soundcheck and literally figured out the entire 60 - 75 minute set there. I discovered that there wasn't a band. The DJ (DJ Dez) doubled as a drummer and we were the duo creating the music. As we were creating the show T3 kept asking me what I knew how to play? What hip hop classics? What soul classics? Do you know how to play this? Do you know how to play that? I found myself adding parts of my "Ab & The Souljourners" show to their show. I couldn't believe he was asking me what I thought about playing this and that as a transition to the next section. We created the show and went through it one time....then time was up.

I believe in rehearsal before shows and lots of it but I was out of my comfort zone on this evening. Out of my element in a historic venue in London performing with a classic hip hop group. Oh...and the show was sold out! Talk about pressure. My expertise was sought out in soundcheck and I was challenged to see how fast I learn...I felt like they were putting me on spot to see how much of a professional musician I was.

I remember the food being really good that night before hitting the stage...Some type of baked chicken, potatoes, and sauteed green beans that was ridiculously delicious....I hit the stage and I was nervous...something that usually doesn't happen. I had to remind myself that this was no different from what I do with my group and being faithful to the little things had already prepared me for this moment.

We hit the stage to a sold out crowd and I played the show we created in sound check. The audience was pleased with the show and wanted an encore. Of course I was excited. I really didn’t know I was a professional musician until that moment. I should’ve known before hand but I was downplaying myself. I honestly believe that T3 chose me for the job because he knew I was a professional musician….I wonder why I didn’t know that….I’m sure it’s because I was looking for approval in all of the wrong places starting with my peers on the DC music scene. In all honesty, I never saw myself playing in a band with Slum Village…my plan was to stay focused on making Ab & The Souljourners the next big thing but God had other plans and this new door he had just opened for me was a door that would keep giving back….

I’ll explain more about this door next week.

Signed,

Ab

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Balance Creates Inspiration

Early this week I spoke about my challenge to find balance within my world. I'm aware that I'm a workaholic and at times I'm in desperate need of escapism from that realm. So I made my way to the E Street Cinema in downtown Washington DC to see a film. After arriving to earlier to the cinema I took a trip to Barnes & Noble and read a magazine article that really made me think about my life. The thought of "Who's in My Circle?" ran through my brain as I made my way back to E Street Cinema for the 5:40pm start time of a film called "In A World."

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There's something about E Street cinema that's special.....

1.) It houses mostly independent films big theater companies rarely pick up (Regal, AMC, Cinemark).

2.) The theaters are located in a basement so it's hard to get cell reception....Thank God! No distractions from that one person whose phone is going to ring or has to text  during the film (Ma'am/Sir....That white light from your phone screen is lighting up the theater during a dark scene....ruining my experience).

3.) It caters to the adult audience so you don't have to worry about loud teenagers (HALlELUJAH!).

4.) They have food and alcoholic beverage options that other theaters don't offer (even though I rarely drink it's something great about the option being there).

I frequently visit E Street cinema because I know the environment is calm and I can enjoy the experience of watching a film without distraction.

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I arrived inside the theater to see a few previews of what's coming to the cinema and most of them looked pretty good. As an indie soul music artist, I have a connection with indie film makers. We aren't limited in our creation and we're free to tell our stories from the way we see life. There's something freeing about the experience of creating your vision! I love theaters that show indie films because they have created a forum for these artist to share their work.

I was inspired by the film "In A World." While it was hilarious, the story line was really good. I don't want to ruin it for you so I won't go into detail but the story centered around a woman following her dream of being a voice over artist in the film industry. It's a refreshing story as I've never thought about that career (I love indie films.....Who writes a movie about this topic!). The voice over industry is dominated by men and she has to prove she belongs in this world after someone she really loves and wants approval from says it will be impossible for her to be successful in the field. It's a great film and I recommend you go see it if it's playing in your city.

I left the cinema inspired by the film as it reminded me that everyone won't see my vision or believe in it. No matter how much your friends and family love you, there will be times when you'll have to prove them wrong when they tell you it's impossible for you to do it. Most of the time they say it out of love because they want the best for you....just remember they don't see your vision and your vision might just be what's best for you....so go for it! The film and the bookstore were the balance I needed. I returned to work inspired and refueled to drive forward with my vision and keep my circle in mind while doing so.

Signed,

Ab

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The World Is Yours.....Only If You Take It.....

I've been there before....staggering....lost.....trying to find my way through this world where nothing is promised. A place where disappointments can leave you with a broken heart and a crippled brain. A place where dreams are uttered but seldom followed and life is nothing but a cycle of mediocrity. I know this place well and occasionally find myself back at square one....lost trying to find my way through a world where nothing is promised....

I remember my final days at Howard University. My dean Dr. Dawkins called me into his office after my exit exams and said: "You had a great run here in our music department, the world is yours and anything that you want to be, you can be!" He followed that statement with: "Aaron, you should go to business school or even law school. You have the grades and the potential. I think that would be great for you after Howard." I told him I'd take it into consideration knowing that I was done with school. I had just formed a band and my plan was to work this summer camp job at Langdon Park Recreation Center in North East DC and get a job at W.W. Grainger in the fall and that's exactly what I did. My parents wanted me to move back to Cleveland but I knew if I did that, I wouldn't make it in music and that was my one and only goal.....To make a living creating, singing, and playing music.

Fall came and W.W. Grainger became my first place of employment as a post graduate. I hated the job but I loved my co-workers. We all had dreams and supported each other. They're an incredible group of people that were placed in my life at the right time. We went through rough times at Grainger and the only thing that kept me from going insane besides Jesus Christ himself was my choice of keeping my intention for working there in perspective. I would tell myself every day before walking in there, "Aaron, you are here to earn money to fund your dreams of becoming a full time musician. You are here to make Grainger work for you!" And that's exactly what I did. I worked as hard as I could for me and not for my boss that cared less about his employees and treated us like trash. I used my paychecks to pay my bills and purchase the music equipment I needed to build a better studio. To this day, I have ALL of the music equipment I purchased when I was working there and it's still turning a profit for me. I worked at Grainger from 7:30am to 4pm, Mon - Fri and worked for Aaron Abernathy from 5pm - 12pm either rehearsing, playing gigs with my band, or recording. Grainger was nothing but a means to earn capitol to build the frame work around my dreams.

This weekend I met up with two of my co-workers from Grainger that I hadn't seen since I left the job in Dec. 2006. It was great to see how far we have come from that place. We reminisced on how we used to sit in that call center and talk about how this wasn't the final stop for us and how we had bigger and better things to do with our lives and now we're doing just that. It's my co-worker Tiffany that I am most proud of. As we sat at the dinner table in the Nation Harbor celebrating our other co-worker Diane's 40th Birthday, she told me she finally left Grainger this past April. That was the best news I had heard all week!!!

She expressed how hard it was for her to watch all of us leave Grainger and she knew that she had to get out of there. Our boss was stressing her out and still treating employees like slaves and I love how real she was about noticing that the stress on the job was effecting her relationships outside of work and that really convinced her that it was time to go. She said she began to make Grainger work for her and went back to school on their dime to finish up her degree in accounting. Then she contacted our co-worker Jay who had left Grainger in 2007 after getting a much better job at NASA, to see if there were any openings there. Thank God they were hiring in her field! After three years of total focus, non-stop prayer, and working in that hell-hole while finishing up her degree, she was hired by NASA making way more money then she did at Grainger and she loves her job. I love hearing that!! I love that she made Grainger work for her until she didn't need them anymore. She gave our old boss her resignation and he was shocked! He told her "I never saw this coming!" Of course he didn't! It's interesting how some people will never see you as better than the position you're in. It's your job to shock them and I'm ecstatic that Tiffany did and chose to make life better for herself.

I love Tiffany's story because it's much like mines.....

I left Grainger in Dec. of 2006 for a substitute teaching job in Prince George's County, Maryland to give myself more time to work on music. Then I moved to Los Angeles in Sep. of 2008 to pursuit music on the West Coast and while in pursuit I was the operations manager of a funeral home in Watts. Then I returned to DC in Dec. of 2009 and recorded music, performed live, toured the world as a music director, and got a record deal in 2010 just to be told Soul music wasn't in. I lost the deal in 2011....the same year I got a vocal polyp and couldn't sing again until Dec. of 2012.

There have been plenty of times between leaving Grainger in Dec. of 2006 that I have hit rock bottom and had to ask for help and take a 9 to 5 to survive. I remember tucking my pride in and calling Tiffany in 2011 to ask if Grainger was hiring.......and her telling me that our boss said they had no positions open for me. I had to fight through those times of regret when I second guessed my decisions cause my dream seemed so far out of sight that I felt......lost.....as I staggered trying to find my way through this world where nothing is promised. A place where disappointments can leave you with a broken heart and a crippled brain. A place where dreams are uttered but seldom followed and life is nothing but a cycle of mediocrity. In my final days at Howard University, Dr. Dawkins told me the world is mine and anything that I want to be, I can be.....but I'm telling you if you want that world you have to take it! You have to make it work for you cause no one else will and few people, if any, will care about you. I'm just like Tiffany.....

In 2013, after years of struggling....we both discovered that the world is ours only if we decide to take it!

Are you doing what it takes to make the world yours....

Something to think about.....

Signed,

Ab

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Love from Porto, Portugal.....

I was given the opportunity to create a podcast for The Why Radio (thewhyradio.com) based out of Porto, Portugal, where I was asked to pick some songs that inspire me. The records I selected give me life and help keep me steady on the path of the gospeldelic funkbox legends who sang and played with all of their soul. Their music continues to inspired me as I start almost everyday with headphones on listening to all types of music. The music I create is influenced by so many different artist and genres but there's something about funk music that my father instilled inside of me from his record player that I'll never be able to shake.

I'm proud to present to you....

TREATS FOR THE GOSPELDELIC FUNK CHILDREN

1.) Treats In The Streets - Wagon Christ 2.) If I'm In Luck I Just Might Get Picked Up - Betty Davis 3.) It's A Man's World - James Brown 4.) Every Time He Comes Around - Minnie Ripperton 5.) Mother/Son Theme - Donald Byrd feat. The Blackbyrds 6.) Baby You're Gonna Miss Me Pt. 2 - The Montclairs 7.) Tell Me What Do You See - Unknown 8.) Harlem River Drive - Bobbi Humphries 9.) Close To Me - Bill Withers 10.) If You Want Me, Say It - Love Unlimited 11.) Cookie Jar - Parlet 12.) Frisky - Sly & The Family Stone 13.) Luv N' Haight - Sly & The Family Stone 14.) Let Me Have It All (Alt. Version) - Sly & The Family Stone 15.) Family Affair - Sly & The Family Stone 16.) If It Were Left Up To Me - Sly & The Family Stone 17.) Jane Is Groupie - Sly & The Family Stone 18.) Babies Makin' Babies - Sly & The Family Stone 19.) Thankful N' Thoughtful - Sly & The Family Stone 20.) Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken - Unknown 21.) Thank You Master (For My Soul) - Donny Hathaway 22.) Spirit In The Dark - Aretha Franklin feat. Ray charles 23.) Thighs High - Tom Browne 24.) Tight Rope - Junie 25.) Sideways - Rufus & Chaka Khan

FREE DOWNLOAD AVAILABLE HERE: bit.ly/17AVbnc

Photo taken by Shannon Evans

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