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LE Newsletter - December 4, 2003

  A Personal Glimpse Ė Interview with Glenn Lewis Part II

After last weekís piece on Glenn Lewis promoting his latest single and video "Back For More", I wanted to follow up with another, more personal look into Glennís views on the business and life in general.  This element covers where Glennís journey has taken him since he signed his deal and how he handled the transition.  I think that Glennís views and advice are particularly helpful for other Canadians in the business.  You will also get to witness my rookie interview skills!  Hereís how it went:

Glenn:    After getting in the door, I always thought I can just pull everybody in but I didnít realize how much self-discovery comes along with this whole ride, this whole journey.  It was difficult for me to even accept what was happening.  It was a dream come true but when it happened, it wasnít anything like what I thought it was going to be.  In fact, it ended up being so much more.  I refused to accept the fact when people told me that this is 90% business.  I refused to accept it.  I was so caught up in the creative world until I actually had an opportunity to step out there and realize the importance of making relationships with program directors Ė making relationships with DJs and just in general - how important it is to create that kind of family atmosphere at the label.  It takes you shedding yourself Ė ego and all that stuff and stepping out there and being like ĎLook, weíre going to be working together for a long time.í

DL:          Do you feel like you comprised yourself by doing that or was it easier that you thought?

Glenn:    Nah, it was NOT easy.  It was hard as hell because ego steps into play.  Immediately you just think as an artist, 'My talent is going to shine through; my talent is what is going to do all the talking,' so to speak.  But in fact, you have to realize that people want to know YOU.  Theyíre going to get to know you through song but itís a whole new game out there.  You become a brand name when you get signed now.  You know like A Day in the Life of Brittany Spears Ė youíve got reality shows based on this woman.  Youíve got video games, etc.  You have Jay-Z who has a shoe line.  That can happen to anybody.  There are all these breakthroughs being made in the advertising world. 

                    Iím telling you though, having the opportunity to break myself down and allow people in, allow the criticism in and stop thinking that I had the vision Ė that I knew.  I was able to break it down completely Ė still being aware of whatís going on and keeping a hand on things.  Ultimately, youíre not going to do something that youíre uncomfortable with.  But to be able to humble yourself enough to take peopleís criticism in and to be able to put it into action Ė ĎGive it a try.í 

                    If someone is suggesting a certain body of work to do, or a type of song, give it a try.  Yeah, it might not necessarily be what you naturally gravitate to, but try it.  Because at the end of the day, if youíre not feeling comfortable with it, youíre gonna can it.  Because of that whole humbling experience Ė I wanted to pull people in but Iím still realizing that Iím green.  Iím green to this industry so Iím still trying to get to where Iím going.  Iím still trying to learn.  Itís a total learning process from the business standpoint.

                    You start shifting things in your personal life because you start seeing changes in people and you start wondering how much of it is them and how much is about what youíre doing or where you are or if youíre changing.  So, all thatís going on in my head and Iím trying to sort through it and sift through it.  Now I see why some artists will just disappear because all of a sudden, itís such a reality check.  A person gets a break and they can either lose their mind and think that they are ďitĒ and just destroy every relationship around them, or they can realize that ĎYou know what?  Iím one in a million that got an opportunity.  Let me make the most of it.  Let me learn everything I can about this game and then when Iím ready and in a position where Iím mentally strong enough, spiritually strong enough to do it, then I can start pulling people in.'  Because when you start taking people in, youíre responsible for their lives.  Your reputation is involved and these people are turning to you thinking that you can do something for them.  So, you better have your life thorough and you better know what youíre doing. 

DL:          Even if you do give someone the opportunity, they may not be in the place where they can make the most of that opportunity. 

Glenn:    Yeah, but weíre also responsible to each other.  Itís a matter of recognizing your abilities, recognizing what you have to offer.  Being able to say this person has done this or done that.  They can contribute to my situation and I can also contribute to theirs.  Itís business. 

DL:          I think that you have to remember that you might not be sh*t in the big picture.  Weíre not talking about talent; weíre talking about accomplishments.  There are lots of people out there that canít sing that have accomplishments. 

Glenn:    Yeah, thatís true.  Basically it emphasizes the importance of relationships.  Somebody has to recognize what they have to offer, whether they are a great talent or not, and be willing to have somebody step in that also has something to offer in the situation (something to contribute) and start creating that plan from short term to ultimately achieving the long term goal which is getting out there and making it big.  Itís a business.  Approaching it as a business.

DL:         As an artist, you have to be confident because artists donít always feel good about themselves and theyíre always challenged in their talent because they think that they may not be the best.

Glenn:    Itís pretty competitive.  At least itís sort of competitive in your mind.  Iíll admit it.  I would be around Chris Rouse, Wade (O. Brown), Carlos (Morgan), Andrew Craig, Divine (Earth Essence).  Basically, thereís no limit to gender.  Itís a matter of survival.  Youíre trying to prove how excellent you are and that Iíve got something Iíve gotta say.  Itís deep.  The funny thing is when you really look at it for all itís worth, we were actually helping each other.  Because we were constantly pushing each other like ďAh, look what I can doĒ and then somebody, in their mind, would say theyíve got to step their game up. 

                    You donít understand - I came up with Divine.  We were in a group together called ďDestined to BeĒ (laughs).  I was 16 and she was 15.  We were working with Lascelles Stevens and Billy Alexander Ė this is when they worked together.  But to see her growth Ö I remember the first time I started hearing her hitting the Minnie Ruperton/Mariah Carey type notes, I was like ĎWhereíd that come from?í.  It was like God reached in.  I mean, she probably says the same thing about me.   If thereís one thing I can take pride in up here is that the cats that came up with me, we studied the best of the best.  We paid attention to the Rachelle Ferrells, we paid attention to the Will Downings, the serious vocalists, the serious songwriters, the serious musicians.  Thatís the stuff we grew up on.  As much as we were listening to hip hop, weíd also listen to Kim Burrell

DL:          Your Canadian friends and fans are so proud that youíve broken out and made it on the scene.  Do you feel that you get more love from Canada since you made it?

Glenn:    Yeah.  (laughs) Sometimes Iíll still go for those strolls down Yonge Street and when I can, I get up in the neighbourhood, like Iíll go up to Jane and Finch or Iíll try and touch down in Rexdale at Kipling and Steeles area.  Thereís the occasional haters because maybe they might see what Iím doing and they might think ďWell, you think youíre betterĒ but I come back because Iím proud of the fact that this is where Iím from, this is the community that raised me, this is the community that made me the man that I am today.  So, just being able to come home, I always feel that love and that ďYo, you really made it Ė thatís great.Ē 

DL:          What do you think is the biggest difference (if any) or anything that youíve noticed about being a Canadian in the American music industry? 

Glenn:    I had a huge suspicion that if I said anything that I would jinx it.  Do you know how many people in Toronto do that?  Do you know how many artists do that?  ďNah, I canít talk about it Ė Iím gonna jinx it.Ē 

Glenn:    Yeah, I big it up whenever I can.  People are aware of K-OS, theyíre aware of myself and Kardi [Kardinal Offishall] and Deborah Cox and other artists that have been emerging.  I think if it [Canadian music industry] was a little more consistent, that if the movement was a little bit more unified Ö I think itís going to take more of us.  I think a lot of us right now are approaching it as survival.  I think thereís ways that we can help the situation.  It starts as relationships, as you said, getting that Can-Am thing happening but for the most part, thereís a lot we can do here.

                   We have to all be involved, each and every one of us, the artists, the industry, everything, we all have to be involved in trying to make the music more prominent so that youíll have more of a flood of artists breaking into the States, becoming international successes.  It starts with all of us.  We all have to be a part of it.  As much as it sounds like a big dream.  Unfortunately, Iíve been a little out of sync with whatís been going on up here but I want to hear more artists hitting and I donít see why not.  Thereís enough talent here and more important than even the talent, thereís more know-how here.  People have the opportunity to see how the game is played on a larger scale.  Weíve got so many tools that we can utilize to our advantage to get out there and be seen.  Weíve got to figure out how to really put it into effect and work for us.

DL:          Unity is definitely important.  Artists up here seem to want to be on their own.

Glenn:    I think thatís just anybody, I donít think itís just artists.  I think thatís the business cats too, even the management companies. We want to be the top dogs so weíre not going to associate with another company that might have ideas or other talents.  We might be able to pool our resources together and put on a show. 

DL:          My next question would be what are some of your stand out moments in your career?

Glenn:    Singing the Canadian national anthem at the NBA All-Star game in 2002.  That was one. 

DL:          Didnít you get props from some of the players too that day? 

Glenn:    Yeah!  Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Michael Jordan Ė I wanted to say him again.  (laughs)  It was crazy to me. 

                    Another stand out moment was meeting Stevie Wonder.  I had the opportunity to meet him once before.  Itís crazy how you put words into the universe and they manifest.  Itís crazy how God can make certain things happen for you.  Like Steve to me is practically like my musical dad on that level Ė relating to him musically and just appreciating him for everything that he is.  Iím one of those cats that thought ďonly I hear Stevie the way that I hear himĒ but having the opportunity to meet him once when I was younger, I shed a tear.  I let him know, ďYou are why Iím here.  You are why I didnít take a different path.  Why I didnít become bitter at the world and f*ck it, Iím gonna do whatever I want.Ē  Not to say that Iím this hardcore cat like I robbed somebody but there were moments in my life where it got that desperate and Iím not afraid to show those sides of me.  Thatís my story and thatís whatís real. 

DL:          And thereís somebody out there thinking the same thing and youíll help them to know that.  You can turn that into the good stuff.

Glenn:    If you can say it and you can humble yourself enough to allow the blessings to come your way, it will happen and itís not some kind of magical gibberish.  Itís really real.  Knowing that itís all good Ė that it all contributes to your growth and builds your character Ė itís those [bad] experiences that you can look back on and I can remember when that happened because it forced me to view life from this perspective.

                    Yeah, meeting Stevie was deep.  The first time (age 19) I was in a group Ė actually it was around the time that Deborah [Cox] got her deal.  I was kind of associated to that situation.  I was going to be in her group but it never panned out.  She was the blow-out act in that situation and had her success.  Yeah, that was dope.  You see this smile on my face?  When I saw her first album, it made me know that I could do it.  I remember that feeling.  I remember looking at her and saying ďDebbie did it.  I can do it.  It can happen.  Itís tangible.  Itís real.Ē  How about that? 

                    Anyway I was out there in LA doing the group thing and there was a performance and Stevie was performing with Take 6 and he was doing (sings) ďAnd I know your love is why I feel this way.Ē  He was killing it!  And Take 6 was murdering it!  He was doing his thing and he comes off stage and heís upstairs.  My management at the time said, ďYou wanna meet Stevie?Ē  So, we go upstairs into the backstage area and there he is.  Iím looking at him and I feel like I know him and it was like not seeing my dad for the longest time and then seeing him.  I know that sounds really tripped out.

DL:          Yeah, whatís tripped out is that people will be saying that about you someday Ö

Glenn:    See?  (laughs) Stuff like that Ė I canít really accept it.  Iíll just block it out. 

                    So, anyway, Iím meeting him and Iím thinking itís like meeting a family member that I havenít seen in a long time.  And it all just came out.  I said, ďStevie, man I love you for all you represent, all youíve meant to me and to countless others over the years and through your songs, both instrumentally and vocally and lyrically, you forced my life to go into a different direction.  I fed off the positivity of your messages.  Itís really helped me to become a man or at least got me in the right direction to becoming a man.Ē  Unfortunately, Iím the product of a broken home.  And without a father figure there, I turned to the Michael Jordans and the Stevie Wonders for guidance.  I looked to them.  It was beyond what they did, it was also how they lived their life.  That was big moment. 

                    Being on stage at Prince at Massey Hall was another Ė it was incomprehensible to me.  Is this really happening? (laughs)  I didnít get a chance to talk to him but he let me use his mike!  I was TRIPPINí!  He pointed to his mike Ö I got up on stage and I had this look on my face like ďWhich mike should I take Ė I know heís particular about his mike and he pointed to his mike Ė I was bugged OUT!Ē  It was one of those things that you block out Ė all of a sudden you realize the greatness thatís before you and you realize the incredible gift that God has given him but you also realize that youíre the same beings.  Heís done so much more but heís had the time to do so much more.  Iím trying to grow, Iím learning, Iím looking at him

DL:         Itís true though Ė at some point, you feel like you know them because you listen to their tracks over and over and over.  You know every inflection in their voice Ė even those of us that canít sing think that youíre in the same headspace as them everyday, which, of course, youíre not.  But then, youíve got to try to be cool too.

Glenn:    Iím in no way embarrassed to show how much I love somebody.  If I think someoneís an incredible talent, I give it up.  Because to me, Iím to the point, Iím all hugs.  I just gotta let you know that I appreciate you being here, I appreciate everything youíre about, I appreciate what youíve done for me and for any and everybody. 

                    You know whatís really funny Ė I just realized it.  I had a preview to meeting Stevie and then I crossed the line and met him again.  I had a preview of meeting Prince at the Phoenix Nightclub.  That was a long time ago Ė he had a party at the Phoenix Nightclub Ė this is before he moved here.  He had a concert at Maple Leaf Gardens.  He had an after party.  Anyway, so it just crossed my mind Ė the fact that I had preview and then met him again.  What are the odds of that happening? 

DL:          Well, meeting him again on stage, is kind of crazy!

Glenn:    Thatís even deeper.  You know what the funny thing is.  I donít know if anybody knows about that night.  The Massey Hall night.  He apparently was talking about me before I got there.  I touched down that night and I came in from Philly.  I happened to drive by Massey Hall and I remembered somebody telling me that Prince was going to be performing.  I remember also seeing Ė you know heís gotta have the purple light out in front.  Immediately, of course, I said, let me see if I can get in.  I get to the door and theyíre like Ė hey man, yeah, címon in.  I thought, ďHey, this is kinda cool Ė I like this.Ē  I get in the joint and Iím standing off to the side and of course the theatre is pitch black.  Heís got some really thorough people around him.  Either that or heís got some kind of psychic thing happening because all I know is that the house lights came on after he performed I think, Diamonds and Pearls.  He asked for the house lights to be turned on and heís like ďGlenn Lewis, can you make your way to the stage please?Ē  And Iím like ďWhaaaa?Ē  (laughs)  I was barely in the spot for a song.  And he called me up.  He didnít have to bring me up, number 1, thatís a given.  But between that and the fact that he was talking about me earlier, thatís a little odd.  Thatís one of those things that you know thereís something else at work.  Thereís a whole other force at work. 

DL:          What did you perform?

Glenn:    Actually I just free-styled because the song he was doing - it wasnít so much that I didnít know it.  I think that in the shock of it all, I just blanked and that was it.  It didnít turn out too bad, I ended up getting everybody involved, trying to get them to clap their hands.  And then I handed the mike back to him and he did his nod, you know, like royalty.  And then I just stepped off.  It was pretty crazy.  There was one thing that went through my mind though Ė this should be Chris Rouse (pictured with Glenn - right), this shouldnít be me.  I was happy for the opportunity but I remember thinking that. 

DL:        Yeah, it MIGHT be Chris Rouse!

Glenn:    It WILL be.  It was just crazy to me.  All I kept thinking was if Prince ever heard Chris, heíd be like ďWhaaaa?Ē. 

DL:          A stand out moment for me was well, I freaked out when I saw you on Soul Train.  I called up everyone to tell them that you were on Soul Train.  I hope I get to witness more artists from the Canadian crew on there.

Glenn:    You know what freaked me out?  Doing 106th & Park.  Seeing myself doing 106 & Park.  Because I remember sitting in my living room and seeing it.  Soul Train is major from a historical thing but 106 & Park and Jay Leno was freaky to me because I watch the show at home.  Thereís nothing weirder and it feels so surreal because youíre watching it and itís just this other place Ė TV land. 

DL:          When you were actually there, did you feel that?

Glenn:    I was more than aware of what was happening.  All I could do was laugh at myself because Iím like Iím really sitting here having an interview with Free and AJ.  (laughs)  I used to watch people having interviews and Iím sitting here doing an interview with them.  I think thatís hilarious. 

Glenn exhibits the wisdom and knowledge that comes with dealing with the music industry on a level of success.  But what continues to impress me the most is his level-headedness.  Glenn has maintained a balance of ďGlenn from back in the dayĒ as well as Glenn, the polished professional of an industry veteran.  Glenn, you can be sure that we will be ďBack For MoreĒ and wish you continued success.

Once again my thanks go to Sherman Byers of Rockstar Entertainment and Josh Glover of Sony Music Canada for arranging this interview.