The Family is back!
That’s right, one of the groups that helped cultivate the Minneapolis sound in the 1980s has regrouped and is ready to drop that funk once again—this time, on their own terms.
The Family, headed by St. Paul Peterson and Susannah Melvoin, came out of the breakup of the Prince assembled R&B/dance band, The Time.
Headed by the charismatic Morris Day, The Time covered the dance and r&b charts with many hits still considered dance floor movers today, including: “The Bird,” “Cool”, "Ice Cream Castles" and “Jungle Love”.
In the mid-80s, Day went on to pursue a solo career and with the "ok" from most of the remaining members of The Time, Prince reorganized the group which would now be called--The Family, with St. Paul now assuming the role of lead vocalist.
With the addition of singer-songwriter/keyboardist, Susannah Melvoin--along with Jellybean Johnson (drums), Eric Leeds (sax) and Jerome Benton, The Family released one self-titled album that showcased 8 tracks of funk and jazz fusion in 1985.
The group disbanded shortly after this debut release when in an effort to express his own creativity, St. Paul went on to pursue a very successful solo career himself--working and touring with Kenny Loggins, Oleta Adams and others.
Over the years Melvoin, a very successful singer-songwriter in her own right, has worked with many artists including: Eric Clapton, Madonna, Roger Waters and her twin sister, Wendy Melvoin (former guitarist for The Revolution and member of the duo 'Wendy & Lista').
But what brought Paul & Susannah back together to create the beautiful sounds we all know and love after all these years?
Souls & Sounds (and guest interviewer Emma Haring), sat down with them to find out what influenced this reunion, recording a new album their own way and more!
This is one Family reunion you won't mind attending!
We are pleased to welcome Paul Peterson and Susannah Melvoin to SoulsandSounds.com!
S&S: How did you decide to get The Family back together after all these years?
P: We’ve always kept in touch. But I guess the first time we really took a peek at it was when we got back together to help Sheila E. out for her foundation in 2004. Then we were thinking about maybe doing a reunion tour then--not necessarily recording. But then Susannah found out that she was pregnant with her baby, El. So we got back together a few years later at a pre-Grammy party for The Roots and Questlove asked us to come and perform. We did and decided that we should really start thinking about doing this. So Susannah and I have been spearheading this whole thing and we’ve been traveling back and forth--she to Minneapolis and me Los Angeles. We’ve been working on this CD for the last couple of years in between other things.
S&S: Is the new CD just about finished?
S: Well we’ve got about 80 % of it done....we've got a few things that require a lot of money to finish. We’re doing this grassroots style and we're doing it on our own. We’re not about going bankrupt or putting our houses up for collateral--we’re trying to do it smart and the good news is that it’s ours to enjoy, have a really good time without having to answer to anybody respectively--except for each other....
P: (laughs) .....right! You have to answer to me pal! And don't you forget it buddy....(laughs)
S: ...yeah, I have to answer to him and he answers to me....(laughs)....but it is about 80% done. We have to mix and then master. We're trying to figure out if we'll get to use this orchestra on it right now which we'll probably be able to do--it's just taking a few minutes to get everything sorted.
P: People have waited 20+ years for this and we want to make sure that it's right. We're definitely having a blast doing it.
S&S guest interviewer Emma Haring: With the streams that you do and the Twittering, etc., you guys really surf the cutting edge of self promoting your music. What made you want to do it this way and keep current with it all?
S: Well it's the name of the game now. If you're doing this on your own; social media, the Net, that's the way you're gonna reach folks...there's no playing around. You have to throw yourself into the deep end. And Paul is a magical multi-tasker, so he can get on the computer and just make it happen. I just follow his lead and make sure we're doing it constantly so that we keep in touch with the people that are supporting us. There are alot of people out there who are up for the 'cause, so we just keep them involved at all times--that's the only way to do it.
S&S guest interviewer Emma Haring: Speaking of Net-working with your live streams, a few days ago there was a random fan who'd come on your UStream that was fascinated with your new music and what you were doing. It really isn't only reaching people who've been fans for over 20 years, but also newer fans like myself. And the new music is so cool! With "The Vigil", I literally sat there holding my breath listening to the tones.
S: Oh Cool!! YAY!
P: Great! We realize that it's been such a long time since we've done a record and a lot of people are gonna go "oh, you actually were a band before?"
We're expecting to have a bunch of new fans, so that's why we're basically tipping the hat to the old ,but definitely not trying to rely on that sound. We have lived a whole other life since then and we've had alot of great times and successes on our own. Susannah's a fantastic singer-songwriter and has cuts with Eric Clapton, Madonna, to name a couple.
S&S: Will all of the original members be included in this Family reunion?
S: We're hoping so! Right now we've got Eric, Paul, myself and Bean's gonna be putting some drum tracks down next week....
P: .....in fact, we'll be doing a UStream on that as well.
S: We're all doing it, but the main writers are Paul and myself. Hopefully, they're all gonna be up for it.
P: I've played with Jellybean for years. I haven't done a lot with Jerome, but he was up for it when we did the show with Questlove--those few dates that we did have. So we're hoping he will jump on board when the time comes.
S&S: Nice! I heard your new track "@8". Awesome! It still holds that old school "Minneapolis sound". Are you guys planning on adding any new artists or guests to the album?
S: We are. We've got Wendy & Lisa on this record, Doyle Bramhall II, we've got some really amazing, amazing players….
P: ...and don't be surprised if we add a couple special guests here and there, but we’ll keep that a surprise for ya.
S&S guest interviewer Emma Haring: In co-writing these songs, as far as your writing style--what comes first? The lyrics? The melody? How do you work that out together?
P: Well, I’m more of a melody and music guy. I’ll usually gravitate towards that. Then Susannah will come up with the lyric handle or melody (or both) that is so complimentary and not necessarily what I had in mind. But that’s what makes this a band. What she comes up with is so incredibly perfect for what we’re doing, it totally brands this thing as our own--and it is a true collaboration as far as I’m concerned.
S: From the beginning , Paul and I said that we really wanted to make a record that complimented the first record in a really dramatic way. We weren’t specifically going out to do a “Paul record” or a “Susannah record", we were trying to make a band record and the band represented something in our history so we paid homage to that. That’s what we had in mind in approaching the songwriting on this record. We’d come up with a groove and then start singing melodies together on it, then one line would come...then it just evolved into this beautiful experience that began to take musical shape and experiential shape. We have an absolutely beautiful sound on this record. It’s organic. I think it’s the best time I’ve had in the studio. Paul is my brother and the funniest man on the planet! How can you go wrong? You laugh, you work, you laugh, you work and then you get up and you laugh and you work!
S&S: That's the best way to do it! As far as touring, will there be shows in support of the new album soon?
P: We’re in discussions with Wendy & Lisa about possibly doing some things together. But we’re really concentrating on getting this record done.
That’s #1. But in due time! Believe me, we’ll be all over Twitter, Myspace, Facebook and our website (which is in the works right now).
To find out what The Family is up to, check out these links!