In an industry where plastic is usually fantastic – from the lips, to the outfits, to the synthetic sounds – All-4-One is proof that longevity lies in lyrical substance and real musicianship. VERONICA MONRO speaks to the RnB group ahead of their Sydney show this Friday.
As a vocal coach here in Sydney, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with several artists. Work is work, but when the chance came to meet Grammy-award winning group All-4-One, I must admit, I was a little star-struck.
This handsome group of vocalists, comprising of Tony Borowiak, Jamie Jones, Delious Kennedy and Alfred Nevarez, have stayed together since their first hit ‘I Swear’, back in 1994. Veteran musicians in an unforgiving and disposable industry, they have collectively sold over 15 million albums since their debut release and have toured extensively.
Yet despite working in an industry where plastic is usually fantastic – from the lips, to the outfits, to the synthetic sounds – All-4-One is proof that longevity lies simply in feel good music, lyrical substance and real musicianship.
Listening to their music before casually chatting about their new release and the music industry (that I love and hate) was like food for my soul.
They were personable, humble and nurturing, and their new album ‘No Regrets’ is a breath of fresh air among the musical clutter existing today.
No hype, no over-the-top décor … just good old RnB the way I used to daydream to.
All-4-One released a new album titled 'No Regret'.
Tell us a little bit about your current album. What can your fans expect?
We have a new record called ‘No Regrets. I would say the direction is along the lines of what all our records have been, being classic RnB, pop songs that feel good and have something specific to say, whether it’s about love, or, there’s a song called ‘My Child’ for instance, which is about a father wanting to be a part of his child’s life.
We wanted to bring some of that back. We felt that’s what’s missing in the music industry today.
It’s been 7 years since your last release. What was this time like?
The last record we did was just for Asia, called ‘Split Personality’ and since then it was just finding the right time for us to make a record for the States (USA release). The music scene at the time was so different and it wasn’t really what we wanted to compromise at the time. As things started changing, we felt it was the right time to make an RnB record of substance that said different things.
Let’s talk about songwriting and specifically, writing your impressive vocal parts. You are especially known for the gymnastics/trills and strong harmonies.
I say all the time, a song writes itself. Sometimes I start with the melody first, sometimes the words. I treat most songs the same and go with the first idea that comes into my head and begin putting the parts down and seeing what sounds best, what sounds pleasing to the ear.
The cool part about it is once the voices blend together. Every one of us has distinctive tone however together it works. There’s something about this that gives it that magic.
The production on this album is well-rooted in what popular RnB is known for, but with hints of that ‘synth’ sound that has been popularised over the last few years (and probably overkilled by a few artists). Can you tell us a little about the music behind the vocals on this album, and the creative direction you’ve tried to take.
Music is constantly changing, so you have to incorporate some of the music of time. This usually comes in the drums, the bass parts, and as you say, some of that ‘synth’ sound.
But what we try to do is to use some of the elements that are here now, and mix it with classic All-4-One, and classic All-4-One is real music, real musicianship and bringing the best of both worlds together.
So I take it you used many live musicians for this record?
We actually did!
The thing about it is, technology is so (advanced) that now you don’t really need live musicians. You can accomplish a lot of the sound on your own.
The thing that you can’t accomplish on your own however, is feeling.
There is nothing like a live musician, a live bass player for example, who can feel the music and play around that. You can do your best to program that, but it would take days to really get that ‘feel’ right, whereas a great musician just comes in and it feels great.
You have toured extensively all over the world, and have recorded several albums. How you do prepare your voices for touring and recording, and how do you maintain it?
A lot of it is discipline.
You don’t want to be out drinking too much alcohol, or getting no sleep, it doesn’t help you at all!
We make sure we warm-up properly, and just the little things like tea and a lot of water, really help especially during a show.
We’re diligent about what works for our voices, because for us, this is our bread and butter. We also work with vocal coaches in LA.
Finally, how have your voices evolved throughout the years and how do you feel about this week’s show?
Well, through all the touring, our voices are stronger, our range is higher, but most of all, our harmonies are better now than ever. We’re definitely looking forward to a great show for Sydney.
All-4-One are performing at the Metro Theatre in Sydney on Friday 16th July.
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