Clinton Fearon: Blake, How are you doing man?
Rags Music: I’m good, how are you, Clinton?
CF: Not too bad.
RM: So, Heart & Soul, why the title?
CF: Because re-doing those songs remind me so much of when they were written and how it was then and how much they were really coming from the heart and the soul, know what I mean? So the place they come from, based on the political situation, terrible back then, there was two ways, either you jump in or jump out, you know?
RM: Why did you choose now to go back and retouch those songs, acoustically?
CF: I can’t say exactly. I love acoustic but the market is not for that. So after I did Me an Mi Guitar I had it in the back of my head to go do another acoustic album. A few friends said “Those Gladiators songs, you should do them over.” At the time when I been getting those encouragement, I was thinking more band style, you know? But after I did…. With the band and ting like that, I thought “I’m not ready with the band yet, but I’m due with something to come out.” I thought “You know what? It’s not a bad idea, to do those acoustic.”
RM: It’s a beautiful sounding record. I love it.
CF: Thank you very much, man. Thank you very much.
RM: You play a lot of different instruments, do you have a favourite to play?
CF: I love the guitar still because you can sing and play with it. The bass is hard. Some cats do it and I admire everyone who plays bass and sing. Especially lead vocal. But I love bass. I love just playing it by itself. It’s a total different feel from playing the guitar. I love putting the different instruments together and see how they work together and so forth and so on. The different things they do, yet you can combine together so everything sound like one.
RM: Where did the name “Boogie Brown” come from?
CF: <laughs> Boogie Brown is a brainchild. He grow up deliquant. He’s just like 13 but he’s 30 years old at the age of 13. He grow up really tough and so he become old quick, even though he’s young. He chose music instead of badness. He could have easily gone into badness but he chose music instead.
RM: Beautiful. You’ve always been a champion of roots reggae, as opposed to adapting and changing to more contemporary trends, what’s important to you about keeping the roots alive?
CF: The more you keep it roots the more you keep things real. I think that also we really don’t lose the art. I think as you start to mechanalize it and it’s got away from somebody playing an instrument, rather have a computer do it, I think when you start to do that you start to lose it. I really, truly think so. I find when I’m sitting down with my acoustic guitar writing a song, those are the sweetest moments. After you start departing with things it lose it thing if you’re not very careful. It can lose its thing to different effects and instrumentation and things like that, rather than the gist of what the song is saying. When you’re sitting there with your guitar or piano or whatever just alone, that’s the core of it there. I don’t want to lose that core. I also think that music and them singers sing, even if you’re not that sweet as when you mechanalize it and pretty it up and thing like that, it’s real. It’s come from the gut and you’re more in touch with it, rather than a machine doing it.
RM: That’s the way it’s gotta be. Are there any changes in the music, in direction, that get you really excited about the future of reggae or make you disappointed in the state of the music?
CF: In some way, in a way, disappointment. In another way I’m happy. I’m happy that there are lots more opportunity from when I was growing up. When I just started there maybe just five studios when I start in Jamaica. Then after a while you have 10 or 12 studio. Now a studio is everywhere, everybody who have a computer have a studio. In that sense things are way more turbulent, more easier to do a recording. Now the quality’s a whole ‘nother cup of tea. But everybody have access. You can put your art out there. You don’t even have to make a record, per se. You get your work out there, just send it out there on the internet and even get money from it too, if you know how to sell your thing there as well. It doesn’t mean that the quality is good, you know. A few manage to maintain quality by doing so, some manage to maintain quality. But I would say 75% the quality is bad. Even if the song itself is a good song but the production is bad, it turns out in poor quality. There’s good an’ bad in the thing. All I really wish for is musicians and thing, especially the young ones coming, don’t let go, don’t let it go. You get where you need to be, beside your piano or whatever, just don’t let it go with some little machine. Use it to help you but don’t let it be the instrument.
RM: Reggae music started in such a small, specific place, what’s it like to be at the forefront of spreading this music around the world?
CF: Aw man, like I said to my wife, I feel blessed to be a part of it. Like I say again, it’s a little place, Jamaica’s a little place and this music is the background all the way. Maybe one or two artists might break through with something but for the most part it’s still street music. In a way it’s main course, but under the rug.<laughs> I’m really happy and glad and proud to be a part of it.
RM: What was your introduction to reggae music? How did you get into it?
CF: I’ve been listening to the music for a long time. Saw the Skatalites, the first time I saw the Skatalites I was about nine years old. I went to Kingston on a school trip and they were playing in this stadium. Stadium full of kids from all parts of Jamaica and they were playing and I said to myself “That’s what I want to do. That look like too much fun. I want to do that.” I remember every now and then hearing music and realizing they were the same ones who play some of those music. That what I wanna do.
RM: Is there anywhere you’ve played in the world where you’ve been really surprised at the reaction you’ve got?
CF: Several places, man. Brazil, Peru, Europe, different parts. And the depth too…there’s a deep connection in feeling, which is a wonderful thing. I can’t even explain that one, man. Again, I’m totally grateful. It humbles me.
RM: I gotta say, Seattle does exactly seem like a hotbed of roots reggae, what is about Seattle that keeps you staying there?
CF: Aw, you know, I have some good musicians that have worked for me for years, that have grown into good reggae players. They didn’t even know to really play reggae, they had some idea but not really getting the gist of it. Also, when we put together the Defenders, we built up a really good following here. When the Defenders broke up and I had to start over. I had to develop a fan-base again, all over, with hard work. I think wherever you are, if you’re true to what you do and things like that, it will happen. That’s what I think. Around here, it’s not small you can’t just expect to stay in, you have to venture out. And it’s not so easy either, it’s not like back East or down the West Coast in California, where there’s lots of places to play. It’s minimal. You have to venture out, go out to play in those places. And as you go out and aim far…even though I live here, I aim for the world.
RM: Do you remember much about your first recording session?
CF: With myself or the Gladiators? My first time was with the Gladiators. That was not me playing an instrument, it was just me singing when I first joined the Gladiators. The first songs we did was “Rock a Man Soul” and “Freedom Train”, down at Dynamic Studio. That was quite an experience for me.
RM: What was the big difference when you kind of took over the reigns in the studio to do your own stuff? Was there a different feeling in the studio? Did you approach it differently?
CF: I can’t say I approached it differently. Yes I would say it’s a little different but I used that knowledge too. All that matters is that I got it coming up the line, try to exercise it and realize there is so much I didn’t know. And I’m still learning. Anytime you go into the studio you learn some more. You come out and realize, “This could have been better…next time.” You’re always learning as you go along. So each time going in and actually playing the instrument is a whole ‘nother trip too. It’s a learning curve, man.
RM: What other jobs have you had, if any, other than playing music?
CF: In Jamaica I worked at a little place called “Food of Jamaica”. I worked that for about six months. <laughs> When I just got to town my brother and I, he was a painter, paint houses and things like that, I went out for him a few times. There was this contractor that used to use us then I got a job there, just cleaning up stuff and digging up stuff. Then I elevated to putting up curved walls and things like that. The man that was in charge of that, the Boss, I talked to him one time about record companies from far and here requested my song, so I need to get into the studio to record so them can get a good listen and I asked him for money to help. He asked me what do I know about music. And said what I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, for him. After that, I didn’t go back. He didn’t give me the money. So I said “I’m making a bunch of money in your pocket!” That guy was being presumptuous by saying I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. So it’s not a whole lot. In the country I worked a whole lot with my dad, planting yam fields and cassava potatoes and things like that. But after I moved to Kingston, that was my youth days, after I moved to Kingston it was music from the time I was 19.
RM: That’s a blessed life for sure.
CF: Yeah, but I’ll tell you what. It was a blessed life but I wish no one to go through what I went through to get here. It was not an easy road. There was times when I thought “I need to do something else. Just give up this and do something else.” Every time someone would come out of the blue with something or something happen that I change my mind. I just couldn’t go away from the music. At one point I just decided “Okay, alright. This is it.”
RM: I think there are many people around the world that are glad you didn’t give up the music. Do you have any life advice for our readers?
CF: Right there, you just said it, about not giving up. Do not give up the thing you love. My motto is always to love the things you do, do the things you love. Do not give up. What that thing they say…Rome did not build in one day. Everything won’t happen at one time. It takes time to do it and if you continue and continue and continue, each time you get a little better and a little better at it. That’s my own life experience. That’s all I can impart. Whatever you’re doing do it with love.
RM: I’m supposed to pass on a message for one of the bands that’s opening for you here in Victoria. The guys from Tuff Jelly wanted me to pass on that they feel blessed be able to share the stage with you and they’re very, very excited.
CF: Awww man. Tell them the same here, man. It’s much blessings and I’m very happy they’re continuing the music.