Who is Jeremy Mage?
I don't know, but if you find him, tell him he owes me money.
You've been doing this music thing for a second, right?
Yeah…It was always threatening to take over my life. I resisted half heartedly. And then it swallowed me. I've been touring worldwide with various groups for a decade and a half, mostly playing soul, dub, and contemporary variants of Afro Beat (Check out my new record with nigerian supershero Wunmi in 2015!)
How come it took you so long to finally release your solo record?
Fuck off! Just kidding. Coming into my own as a singer songwriter was a long, organic process. It involved meeting the right mentors at the right time. There were other projects that I could have put out as "my first solo record" over the years, but it never felt ripe. I wanted to release something that felt like a planet, complete with it's own atmosphere and gravity. This record feels to me like a planet.
I'm curious if how you work on your tunes is any different from how you work on other people's projects?
I am much faster when I work on other people's stuff! I make quick, ruthless decisions, and hone in quickly. My stuff I am constantly experimenting, going down long avenues and then abandoning them…Starting over 'till it feels right.
Over the years you've had the privilege to study under some truly legendary artists: Yusef Lateef, Alan Ginsberg, Pupi Pederoso, Baba Olatunji – who left the strongest mark on you?
I'm gonna answer that by name dropping some of the other mentors that had a huge impact on me, but who are perhaps not as known. The first teacher that lit me on fire was woodstock pianist John Esposito. I was powerfully encouraged and inspired by the visionary genius James Hurt; he confirmed for me that there was still plenty of ground to explore in music. Jason Charles Walker helped me find the right approach as a singer. My dad rooted me in the blues. Ben Krames taught me the clave. Mano, a reggae bass player from Jamaica's extraordinary Dawes family, taught me to appreciate the simplest rhythmic part in the world, the "bang". The offbeat piano skank.
Would you be up for sharing a story about one of these musical encounters?
Yeah the first time I played in a reggae band was when I was living in the Bay Area. Mano was on the bass. I was excited about all the embellishments I could do on keyboards, the fun little variations to the basic "bang" offbeat. Sometimes, I would be playing bubble and bang, sometimes just bang. Mano was growing increasingly frustrated because I had not yet learned how much weight the part had to carry. One time when learning a new song, I asked Mano, "So, on this song, I play just the bang?"
Mano looked at me for a second before answering, "Not, 'Just the Bang', man. The ALMIGHTY Bang!! The Bang is a MOUNTAIN that does not move!"
The message finally got through, and I humbled myself to just play the damn part in it's simplest form, and get my groove oiled and tight.
Is there still somebody out there who you'd love to sit in with or get a tip from?