Platinum /Gold, Grammy & American Music Award nominated After 7 has found their way back to the studio and are working on a new album due for release in 2016. After 7 was a family affair and generated from brother Kenneth”Babyface” Edmonds & LA Reid. While the original group consisted of brothers Kevon Edmonds, Melvin Edmonds and friend Keith Mitchell, it now consists of Kevon, Keith and Jason, Melvin’s son. For many years Melvin left the entertainment industry, but now is involved with the recording of the new album. Their new single, “I Want You”, as well as the upcoming album is and will be written and produced by Babyface and Daryl Simmons. The single has received a tremendous amount of positive attention and with a father and son on board together it brings the group full circle. You can check them out live this month February 12th with Babyface in Newark, New Jersey and February 13th for the Valentine’s Love Jam with Bobby Brown, Mint Condition and 112 in Indiana.
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Keith — We just haven’t sat still during the hiatus, a lot of people don’t know that we have performed regularly over the past series of years, for quite a few years, but musically we didn’t want to record until we could get Melvin back to the table. But, the swiftness of how things are going– it’s going swift–swifter than out heads can really fathom sometimes because we didn’t plan this project, we didn’t plan for it to unroll, we didn’t plan anything. Of course, to the events that are taking place are all kind of attributed to Babyface and him coming to the conclusion to go back in and redo his own album, during that process he was writing and came across some ideas that I think spirited some thoughts of After 7, and then he and Kevon began having conversations about the potential of After 7 recording some new music, but of course the hurdle was getting Melvin back to the table. Kenny brought it back to Melvin and he agreed he wanted to do it and Kenny made the way and it opened the door of opportunity for him to get back with him and Daryl and we all tracked out to Los Angeles, the four of us, including Jason, who is Melvin’s son, who has been sitting in for Melvin for a series of years performing with us. It was only natural that we bring him into the fold of After 7 as well. So you are hearing the four of us as After 7, and the beautiful part is that you got a father and son connection there too.
After such a long break from recording new music, how did it feel getting back into the studio together? I mean, did everything fall back into place or did you have to work at it?
Keith — Well, I think the experience was relatively similar to times in the past. Daryl and Babyface make it very easy for us, their process and approach to our involvement, putting down the vocals, so it’s just always a good feeling when you approach it. Having them, they give us a comfort level that you know you’re going to get something before you’re finished.
Kevon– I want to also add, this process that we have with Daryl Simmons and my brother Kenny—it’s family. They know us so well. So it’s—we know that it requires work that we got to go in here and get busy when we get in there, but we also know not to take ourselves too seriously. We do a whole lot of laughing, I mean a whole lot of laughing and just keeping it easy so that nobody stresses through the process. We all know this about each other, not only can you laugh at somebody, you got to be able to laugh at yourself. And it’s a process, but it’s something that we’re all very familiar with and know. So we all lay it out there and at the end of the day I think because of that we walk away with something special.
How did it line up with Melvin returning? I mean I know it was important for you guys that he be there if you ever recorded again—how did that feel when you found out he would be singing for the recording of the new song?
Kevon — I felt like it finally made sense to do now. Cause as we said, we couldn’t see ourselves– I don’t know if we said we never would– but we just couldn’t see ourselves recording as the group After 7, and the sound of what people know as After 7 to be ,without him. You know, his voice is signature to the sound of this group so when he said yes, it was like now , for whatever strange reason, at this time from twenty years later, we’re looking at an opportunity that makes sense now. Where it goes, we don’t know. We initially started out looking to just simply do a singles deal. You know, test the water and see do people have an appreciation for what we do and apparently we got an overwhelming response—it was missed! And so in comes the whole idea behind looking to record an album, because record labels weren’t interested in doing single deals with a group that’s typically known for doing albums. But it was, I don’t know, for me it just made sense that it was finally the thing to do. And more importantly it was because it was a desire there, you know? Anything and everything that you do, if you lack passion, you may as well not do it. So, I think that finally we’re at a point right now, because my brother was finally excited now, about the possibility to come back and do this. It’s been a long time since he felt this way. It was a good thing.
Can we count on Melvin being a part of all the recordings and Jason doing the live shows, will there be a chance to see you all together in any stage performances or videos?
Kevon — Wow, it’s kind of panned out that way. I think we are going to take this step by step. I think the fact that he is making himself available to do the studio work- cause without him it’s not the sound of After 7 as people know it- so we’re taking it step by step, a day by day kind of thing. I believe that at some point and time he will come and join us out here on the road and stuff if he chooses, but for the time being we’re grateful and feel fortunate that he has figured out that this is still something he wants to do and that he wanted to come in and do the recording process of it. I do know that he’s excited about the whole process again, all over again. Because for awhile he became disenchanted with it all. If there’s one thing about the music industry –if there is anybody who has been in the industry long enough, you know that there are many peaks and valleys—and cliffs! So you know-to say that is to just put it into perspective –because today he’ s back and he’s charged up about it all too as well.
Jason, what was it like working with you father? Was it cool or did he ever slip off into “dad mode” –how were you guys recording side by side?
Jason — No (laughs), it was a pleasure working with him. He’s silly just like we are. We crack jokes and we laugh. But when he goes in the booth, he’s serious. For me it’s a learning experience all the way around. You know, working with these guys has just been a wealth of experience that I’ve gained. And that’s including my father, and watching him on stage as a kid to somehow fulfilling his role, in a way—in my own way, on stage. Seeing him in the studio and back at it, it was really a humbling and warm experience for me. It was really good to see him back there and where he really likes to be. That’s probably his most happy place to be is in the studio.
You guys all appear to have kept yourself fit and in good health, after all the years you can still hang doing shows and traveling—any tips or advice on your personal workout routines or what you do to stay healthy?
Keith — I think we all probably have our individual approaches to staying healthy, but for me personally, I’ve played tennis pretty constantly over the years and work out with a weight routine to kind of support the tennis, and you know it just kept me viable. But, this past year, physically, I’ve had to work so much I haven’t been able to get back to tennis the way I wanted to. So actually yesterday, guys, I joined the health club and it has indoor tennis, so I’ll be back at it.
Kevon — You know, it’s a combination of things, but I’ll make it simple, it’s really about trying to eat right, number one, which I don’t always do, but you know, you let it get away from you and then you get back at it. Try to get on a sensible diet and regimen. But I have a four year old, which keeps me running and burns a different kind of calorie and energy at the same time. So they say it keeps you young, but it also keeps you tired. So getting rest is a key element to staying fit. A lot of people overlook that critical piece of it, but it is important to get your body the rest it needs.
Social media has shaken up the way artists present, represent and promote themselves—you guys are kind of coming back into the picture with everything different, so what has that been like to walk back into the industry with such change? Is it hard to keep up with and if so how are you adapting?
Kevon – It has changed tremendously! True. Fans and artists alike are engaged with each other in a way that they’ve never been before. Used to be you send your fan mail to somebody and they are gonna read it and send you a t-shirt or this that or the other, and it has changed tremendously. So, it’s very interactive. For me it’s a process, because generally speaking I am a very private person and have been most of my life. But to really step into this new picture, if you will, this new picture fame of how music is sold, how music is promoted on all these various platforms, it is an adjustment. And it takes—well, there is a learning curve. I’m a little better than I was last week (laughs), so it’s a step by step process for me. Now Jason, he is whizzing right on through it and understands it probably a good deal more than I do. But we do understand the value of it more importantly, and from a business standpoint that’s the reason you go ahead and get on board. You get on board or you get left behind. And the only way we are going to effectively reach our fans in the most efficient way today is we have to reach them where they are. Not where you like them, but where they are and that’s exactly what these instruments or these vehicles, if you will, allow you to do. So with that understanding, it’s like stepping up to the plate and taking a swing. That’s where we are with it.
How does it feel to have shows coming up back to back—I know you have some shows coming up for Valentine’s weekend , how does that play out with your ladies? Are they supportive of you hitting the road again or is there a little apprehension about not being around as much, and if so how are you handling that?
Kevon — Are you talking about the ladies in the audience or the ladies? ( Laughter) I was confused; I thought you meant the ladies, ladies, ladies. Okay, I have two answers. One is the little one here in the household would say , “ Daddy, are you going to be gone eight days or are you going to be gone ten days or are you going to be gone 90 days? I don’t want you to go.” That’s what I get from the little one. You see, the older one says, “Go do what you got to do.” Hey, she knew what I was doing before we met , she signed on, she’s my ride or die , and so –“go get that paper, go get that paper, baby…”, that’s what the older one says. Yes.
Keith — “Keith” don’t have nobody to answer to except for my rottweiler , got to bring her treats and bones, but she says , “Go get the dough, Daddy.”
Jason – We actually travel pretty often now, but I know things will probably get more busy in the future, with the grace of God. I think the adjustment, it will be okay. They miss us when we leave. I do have a girlfriend I been with for awhile now and like Kevon and Ruth, she signed on knowing what we do , knowing if we don’t travel, that means we ain’t working.
It seemed RnB was dying out for a bit, but it’s come back strong, as musicians who have been around to experience all of this what would you say it is about RnB music that makes it a sound that established and new singers and songwriters have gravitated back to?
Keith — Well, I think you have to have studied a little bit of music history to understand how we got to RnB and what it represents. Music… we go from our gospel era moving over to Mississippi Delta moving over into creating the rock n’roll era and then ushered into RnB, but the storytelling came from things that were going on in our lives and our community and being voiced through music, and RnB music is a replica of or replication of all those things– those struggles that blacks went through is still being expressed in gospel and RnB music, through the way it’s sung, the feelings, the emotions you are feeling. The singer performing brought back series of events that were special and meaningful events in your life. I think that what people miss is that melody last a lot longer than a beat, and hip hop music flourished off of the concept of having a clever beat. So when you add a variety of culture and all that has changed over the years, what seems to hit our hearts the most, that keeps us into all types of music –is the melody, and RnB music is strong with melody. A lot of pop music has melody, country music IS melody and those are things that tie your experiences to a past in music –so that’s kind of what it is. The older people who listen to radio miss it because I think lyrically the kids have taken, you know, freedom of speech to the limit. Some of the things they say about women—we don’t believe in what a lot of kids say. What youngsters put out there in the music world—we’re not from that. We don’t really respect using that language. I respect the music, I respect rap music, but the denigration of women is not what RnB music was about. And that’s what we grew up on. That’s all.
Kevon – There are two generations of people who appreciate it. We’re trying to satisfy them.
As far as the sound of the whole upcoming album, what about the sound—how much of it is what you would call classic After 7 and how much of a new twist, if any new twist?
Kevon — It’s a process and as we go we will discover more about where we’re headed with this, but off the top of my head I would probably say, and they can concur , that there could possibly be something that has a fresh twist to it or something like that, but we’re really about staying in our lane. RnB is what we know and what we do. There’s a message in our music that allows people to relate to it. It’s non-offensive and it allows us to denote and pour out and tell a story that people can identify with. And it seems like you say, like RnB is making its way back around and if that is true, then that’s the lane we’re riding in. I can’t foresee changing it up to try to be something that we’re not at this point cause we haven’t been for twenty-five years—so– you gotta do you. And do what works, I believe. I don’t know—Jason, you may have a slightly different viewpoint or something or Keith, do you care to add anything to it?
Keith – No, that was good!
Jason — No, definitely, we are keeping it consistent with what people know After 7 to be. I think that’s important.