Classic soul is like a perfectly balanced meal. It nourishes your spirit, feeds your mind, and is good for your heart. When you think of the pioneering masters who served it up—Al Green, Otis Redding, Rance Allen, and Curtis Mayfield—you realize they were working from some sacred ingredients, taking lessons from church to bring hope to the streets.
“My father was a preacher and, like most soul singers, I grew up singing in church. That is the route of traditional soul,” Brian Owens explains. “Growing up, I would watch him sing and see the effect it had on people. When he delivered a song, it was pure and genuine, and that’s what touches people and changes people’s lives.”
Growing up and watching him sing and the affect it had on people who heard him, early on was a really big influence on me, it made me proud. I didn’t know the kind of genius I was watching and listening to until I got older. And then what I came to realize is what makes him a musical genius isn’t his instrument and his facility with it, although he has a beautiful instrument, but it’s geniuniness. When he delivers
a song its pure and genuine and that’s what touches people. The lesson I’ve learned from my father is when you’re singing something, that is a part of you and you’re just being a witness to that truth you’ve experiencing. You’re a vessel to pass a on message that changes people’s lives, you have that effect.
The Belleville, St. Louis native was weaned on vinyl platters by the Temptations, Wilson Picket, classic R&B anthologies, and Nat “King” Cole. “I couldn’t go out on Friday nights. I would spend the night in front of this big old stereo that had a television built in it and listen to this Nat ‘King’ Cole compilation for two or three hours. That really informed my approach,” he says.
Brian Owens’ debut Moods And Messages is vibrantly vintage—aesthetically it follows the groove gospel of classic 1960s and 1970s soul but it has a very “in the now” emotionality. Brian’s vocals are a revelation—purposeful and passionate—he remains his own stylist while recalling the sensual urgency of Marvin Gaye, the comforting falsetto of Curtis Mayfield, and tender grit of Sam Cook.
Gary Moran of Soul Tracks recently said: "Brian Owens has been called the next great voice of American soul and, although he’s quick to point out he’s simply upholding the traditions of other great soul singers from years gone by, Owens clearly relishes the honors bestowed on him, assuming his mantle with utmost seriousness."
Moods And Messages’ 10 tracks were composed over 5 years; they’re a continuum of an inner dialogue, and the recording treatment of the compositions powerfully mirrors this introspective “thinking out loud” quality. The album was tracked live with the musicians conversing in real time, with real feelings.
It’s nuanced and richly dynamic, evocative of the plush sounds of prime soul, but it also has honeyed rawness. The aptly titled “Soul Anthem (Bring It Back)” juxtaposes gorgeous clouds of vocal harmonies and punchy horns against some street “Shaft”-style wah wah guitars.
The album has wonderful thematic symmetry: Songs postulate difficult questions that redemptive correlating songs answer. The sweet and gentle pining of “I Just Want To Feel Alright” is matched up with the spiritually nourishing “The Answer.” “Every song has a coinciding message, every mood has a message,” he says, referencing the album title and conceptual bend. “’I Just Want to Feel Alright’ is a
plea for help. It’s when you’re at the point where you will just settle for feeling alright. If you want to feel alright, Jesus is that figure, that person that makes it alright. The answer is ‘The Answer’ which my father sings,” he explains.
With Moods And Messages Brian is making music with intent, art that inspires positive change. “I just want to say the most uplifting things in an entertaining vehicle,” Brian says, summing up his artistry.
Last year he had the chance to brighten the day of troops stationed in Afghanistan. “That really put the idea of music having a sense of mission to it, that what you put out makes a difference, it’s healing. I just want to serve up the best food on the finest china. I don’t want to give you bologna on china,” he says