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[Interview] Singer George Tandy Jr. Talks Timeless Music, Stable Foundations & Musical Influences

I had a chance to sit down with Universal Republic R&B artist George Tandy Jr. during his time in Atlanta for Steve Harvey's Neighborhood Awards. The Virginia native was very friendly as we met and was eager to talk to me about everything he has going on musically. Our interview took place at Moods Music, the perfect setting to talk music. George has created a strong buzz surrounding his single "March" which has received heavy air play this year on R&B stations around the country. His album The Foundation brings a breath of fresh air to the music scene, channeling a variety of sounds and emotions to make a solid body of work.

Coming from a musical family, it was destined for Tandy to one day become a star of his own. He was influenced by his father George Tandy, showing him true musicianship at a young age. In our conversation, we talked about his debut album, feeling pressure from his father, and the current state of music. It was honestly a great pleasure chatting George Tandy Jr. His intellectual conversation and enthusiasm about music could have kept us there all day! Tandy makes sure that the each individual that hears his music, will be able to match a face with a complete understanding who he is. Trust me when I tell you he's an artist that has no plans of going away anytime soon. Read the full interview below.

Tell me a little about yourself and how you first got into music
I started getting into music because I wanted to be like my dad. That’s the main thing I knew about him growing up. I would listen to his tape (at the time), sit at the carpet and pretend like I was playing the keyboard just like him. From then on, my family saw that music brought something out of me. My dad brought me my first keyboard when I was eight. He put me in the band when I was in sixth grade, I played the clarinet and a couple of other instruments. From then on I couldn’t leave music alone, even when I was playing sports, music was always a part of my life.

Were you the singer on the team?
Actually no, I was very introverted. I was more task-driven than I was outwardly about my passions and my opinions early on. I was a closet singer. I didn’t let anybody know really that I liked to sing. I was the one beating on the table or if there was an instrument around I was the one figuring it out, kind of low-key off to the side. People would discover me; I wouldn’t really be big about it. As time progressed, it started to make sense that I was able to channel my emotions into some of that introverted stuff would come out through the music, and I was able to develop my confidence through arts.

Did you ever feel like growing up wanting to be like your dad, you felt the pressure of becoming a good musician?
No, I never felt any pressure. The only way I would’ve felt that pressure is if he would’ve put that sort of pressure on me and he never did. My whole family is very good about saying “it doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure you’re passionate about it and that you’re good to people. Do your work and don’t expect anything to be handed to you. If you want to do it, learn your craft and stick to it, follow through.”

I’m very fortunate to have that support because its honest and it holds me accountable for whatever I’m trying to do.   

In saying it’s important to perfect your craft, do you think a lot of artist these days aren’t really perfectionist at their craft or do they just make music that’s trendy, sometimes lacking true musicianship and instrumentation?
I feel like I have a long way to go in terms of my skill set. I could learn a lot more musically as far as theory is concerned, I just happen to have an ear it. I play keys by ear. I think we’re all in a different spaces so it’s not really my place to say where everyone else is. I think everyone has different interest. Someone was asking me how they could get their music out the other day, he was like “I don’t play an instrument. I don’t do this, I don’t do that” and I was like focus on what you do.

Show people that.  If all you do is sing and write lyrics, sing, write lyrics and do it to the best of your ability! If you have trendy music, capitalize on it. At the end of the day you want to be happy with what you’re doing and people have to eat. If you’re able to do that, that’s fantastic.

I do appreciate however, the artist that write their own songs, play an instrument and really sing without using any type of technology as a crutch. I appreciate that because that’s what I grew up with you know what I mean? It’s easier for people to feel that organic thing because people like to feel something. To each is their own.

Who were some of the artist that you grew up listening to?
My dad primarily. Outside of my family, I really enjoyed Michael Jackson, Boys II Men, Dru Hill, Jill Scott & India Arie when they came out. They showed how impactful it is to be transparent through your lyrics, because it last a long time. I like Jay-Z, Eminem, John Mayor, Kendrick Lamar, Mali Music. I could really be here all day! (Names several other artist)

Out of those people you named at the state of your career and your style of music, who could you see yourself working with?
All of them, except for Michael Jackson. Well these days you can still work with Michael Jackson if you talk to the right people! Honestly I could work with any one of them, but I would want the song to lead based off the idea and not hype. I don’t want it to be an image-driven song. I want the idea driving the song, like it actually works and makes sense. I would want to work with any of those people, because I think I could really come up with something nice.

During your time of working a 9-5 job, were you making any music? Do you think your time working a standard job helped get you to where you are now?
There were phases. I was a professional Hip-Hop dancer for 7 or 8 years, so I was touring, doing competitions and teaching. I got tired of dancing around the music both figuratively and literally. It wasn’t enough artistically, I wasn’t satisfied. Music was always a part of my life so I decided I really wanted to do music; I had to eat so I got a 9-5.

Dancing was paying well, but I then pulled back. I got the 9-5 at working at Starbucks but I was making demos, performing at spoken word spots, open mic spots, just trying to get people to associate me with the good music or the song I had made. I’ve been singing some of the same songs for like 8 or 9 years, some of the songs are on this album. I used to say everybody’s gonna come around to me at some point in time I know it, not just to me, to the music. It seems to have happened that way.

That means you make timeless music, if 9 years later you can still perform the same song, is that something that’s important for you?
What we have to do is create a balance. Trendy is relative to supply & demand. If artist are supplying, then the demand goes up. It’s up to the artist to sacrifice the immediate gratification, I’ll be honest the “big money” from that trendy music. It’s all up to the individual. I want to be able to live with this. I want to be able to meet as many people around the world with this music as possible. I don’t want anyone to associate me with just a couple of years, so I appreciate you recognizing that.

Your album is entitled The Foundation. What is a solid foundation to you?
A solid foundation album speaking is meaningful lyrics, nice cord changes, and live instrumentation. I feel like that’s a very solid foundation because everyone around the world loves that, everybody loves musicians. In life in general, having strong faith no matter what the religion is. Faith and religion are two different things; faith just believing in yourself, a confidence that can never be compromised by any external circumstances; keeping the family together, friendship, having fun and enjoying life. I think all of those things can set us up for success from one day to the next.

You’ve had tremendous success with your single “March.” It’s a very powerful song. What was the message you wanted people to get when you wrote the song?
My intention behind the song was really to remind myself that relationships can only be sustained if we are willing to face our obstacles from one moment to the next honestly. Accept ourselves and accept our failures, but not as a plateau saying this is what happened, this is how I’m going to get out; be solution oriented.

There’s a phrase that I say a lot “heart over mind over matter,” a lot of people say mind over matter. The mind is unreliable; the heart however is always reliable. That song represents that idea for me. If your heart is right everything else will come around and you will be able to sustain those relationships that you care about.

How did you come up with the concept for the album?
I always said if I do one thing in life, I just want to make one album. There’s a chance the whole world will hear it or at least it will be accessible to the world. I wanted to call it the foundation because it feels right, based off of everything we talked about and what The Foundation represents. As far as the songs, I was loyal to the ideas. Four or five of the songs have been in existence for about 10 years, and they have a relationship with each other, you can feel that they were written around the same time.

I wanted to keep them together and I filled them in with new experiences. There’s a song called “Gravity” which is the first song, you can feel my growth production wise. I threw a little bonfire music in there, with a chill vibe, me rap-singing.

I feel like the CD flows. You can just put it on and let it play; you don’t have to worry about anything. If you really zone into it, you might be moved in some sort of capacity. It’s emotionally demanding, it’s a little subdued, but my energy in person is totally different.

(Photos: FARRINHEIT 411/Calvin Thorburne)

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