Though Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and producer B. Howard makes music to lighten the mood, this international sensation is fully aware of our world’s tension. His current smash is a call to all to leave their stress behind as they hit the “Dance Floor”, a global phenomenon featuring additional musical contributions from James Poyser, Benjamin Wright, and Questlove.
Howard has produced for such big names as Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Missy Elliott, and Lupe Fiasco, yet contributes charitably to those who don’t see their names in lights, giving from his heart to produce better living for those in need. In this SoulTrain.com exclusive interview, B. Howard showcases the beats of his heart.
Soul Train: The world has seen so much hardship lately; storms destroying towns across the world, mass unemployment, the stock market crashing. With the all the bad things happening do you think people are being careless for wanting to dance their cares away?
B. Howard: Not at all. With all those things going on people are going to have their minds on it, but dancing is way of release and getting joy. When people go to church and they shout, that’s another way of dancing. Praise is dancing.
Soul Train: You’re getting a lot of praise for “Dance Floor” right now, and you make music that’s upbeat, up-tempo and fun. When you’re creating it is that your way of getting release from the stress in your life?
B. Howard: Of course! Music is definitely a way for me to relieve my stress. And I put energy into it. It’s also a way of talking without talking. I’m not really a vocal person as far as talking too much about things in my life. I stick to my music.
Soul Train: When you’re alone in the studio is it ever hard to find balance or chemistry between who you are while you’re working on music and who you are as a critic of well-made music?
B. Howard: It is kind of hard because I think it’s enough, but after I listen to it a whole bunch of times there’ll be so many [other] things to it. Then I’ll sit back, step outside of myself, then start chipping away at it. I’ll start taking things away. Most of the time it comes out right.
Soul Train: Have you heard something in “Dance Floor” that you regret doing or that you might have changed?”
B. Howard: Well…I think that I’d do a different vocal now than I did then. Any artist is going to hear something in their stuff they could have done different or better. But I incorporate those thoughts into my newest songs. I hope people can hear the growth.
Soul Train: What area of your production requires the most detail? Is it when you’re creating the track and the rhythm, or when adding the vocals and setting the tone of your voice?
B. Howard: When I’m adding the vocals most of the time. The vocal is the last instrument to put on top to bring everything together. Sometimes it could be finding the proper element to compliment everything, the feeling or the emotion of it.
Soul Train: Where in the process do you experience the most emotion?
B. Howard: When I’m singing. When I’m making the music I still put emotion into it, but singing is where I put my spirit into it where people can feel it. That’s where you can really push emotion. You could be in the booth crying. It’s an expression of feeling.
Soul Train: Would you ever do a stripped-down version of your music, maybe just you and a piano with more focus on just your voice?
B. Howard: Yeah, as a matter of fact I did an acoustic version to a song called “Just Not Giving Up”. It’s simplified.
Soul Train: Well, the problems of the world have done anything but simplified. So what do you care about most? And when you hear about certain bad situations does it immediately make you want to make music to clear your head?
B. Howard: I care about the people and how they’re growing from their situations. I think about ways of protecting people and them protecting themselves. I think about not one individual, but how all of us together can make a difference. It takes more than one person. But to do something great it starts with each individual person, they just all need to get together.
Soul Train: What are some things you’re involved in besides music that will give people an idea of what you care about?
B. Howard: I’m involved with UNICEF. I’m involved with the Keep a Child Alive Foundation in South Africa, which is Alicia Keys’ foundation. And I’m also involved with Make-A-Wish. I’ve been involved with them all for quite a little while – quietly.
Soul Train: How do you feel about entertainers who get involved with charitable foundations just for publicity?
B. Howard: That to me is not a good way to go. People recognize what you’ve done, and that’s great. But if you’re doing it just for publicity… Most people would never know what exactly I’ve actually done for a lot of the people, but when people ask me I tell them. I don’t really talk about that type of thing. It’s from my heart, but it’s my private generosity.
Soul Train: What’s something someone did for you out of the goodness of their heart, and they did it without wanting any praise for it?
B. Howard: The greatest thing someone did for me was take me in and help build me as a person and build my career. And…I’m thankful for this person for doing that. Things were kind of bad with my mother. A lot of things were going on, and this person made sure I was okay. They protected me, gave me a good, solid foundation. I’m very thankful.
Soul Train: So with all the feeling and emotion you put into music, do you do it expecting to get something back?
B. Howard: No. What I do expect back…is maybe an ear, a listener. [Laughs] I’d like somebody to listen but that’s all I pretty much expect. You never know what you’re going to get when you create though. You never know.
Check out the slick new video for B. Howard’s single “Dance Floor”. Find him online at www.bhowardmusic.com and follow him on Twitter @BhowardGENESIS.
-Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker is an acclaimed journalist published over 2,000 times in more than 30 different regional, national, international and online entertainment and news publications. He’s likely writing something as you’re reading this. While also Editor In Chief/Creative Director of The Ultimate Interactive Magazine (TheUIM.com), he contributes to Hear/Say Now, Muskegon Tribune, Kalamazoo Gazette, and SoulTrain.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker.