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Interview: Grammy winner Daniel Weatherspoon starts new chapter with ‘The Langley Park Project’

Daniel Weatherspoon released The Langley Park Project, a gospel jazz album,  on Friday, October 21. The award-winning producer, composer and musical director, known for working with gospel artists that include Bebe Winans, Donald Lawrence, VaShawn Mitchell and more launches out with a 10-track project that is close to his heart. PositivelyGospel.com talked with the Grammy, Stellar and Dove Award-winner about the new album, his choice of collaborators, the synergy between gospel and jazz, and much more.

Why did you decide to release The Langley Park Project  at this time?
“I’ve been a record producer for the last 15-20 years. In the midst of producing records, I’ve always had this inner voice, because I’m really a pianist at heart, so I’ve always wanted to take the time out to release a body of work that speaks to my personality, outside of the records that I do for other people. I’ve never had that one record, the one thing out, that just really represents my identity and I feel like this is the right time. I’ve been able to accomplish a few things over the years so I feel that it’s helped build a good momentum for putting it out now. I’m a little more seasoned right now, so I feel I’m at a better place mentally to handle what it takes to promote my own music and go forth in this new chapter.”

Daniel Weatherspoon-the Langley Park Project album

You said this record is very emotional for you. Why is that?
“It’s very emotional to me because even with the song title, they all represent different phases of my life, currently and over the last two to three years. “Boston Avenue” is the opening song and Boston Avenue is the street where my wife and I bought our first home. “Takoma Station” is a very familiar jazz club in the area, maybe about six blocks from where I live. “Thursday” is a song that is the day of the week that I proposed to my wife. I named each song based on certain very important moments in my personal history, so I poured a lot into it. I didn’t want to overthink all of the music. There are a couple of songs on the record that are just trio songs, where it’s based on the piano solo, so the heart of the melody, the heart of the intent of the songs really rings true. “Boston Avenue” represents the theatre side of me. I’ve always kind of desired to score films, so there’s the big orchestration arrangement in the opening song. The whole song just kind of really speaks of the different types of things that are important to me. I love Latin music; that jazz Caribbean, so there is song called “East-West Hwy,”which is  the easy listening, Sunday drive music. It’s a very connected album to me and I want people to see my whole point of view. It’s just not another fluke record that a record producer or somebody in the industry is putting out just to save face. It’s a driving part of who I am right now.”

Weatherspoon pulled together some elite musicians to join him on this project. How did he choose his collaborators?
“A couple of them happened just in the flow of production. I did a song called, “Brother” with Tommy Sims who is probably my biggest influences as an artist and a producer. When I wrote the Song, myself and a couple of other guys wrote it. It was no question that his voice, his personality, would be the one to make that song sell the way it needed to sell and deliver it. Javier Solis is a well-known percussionist in the Latin and the gospel community so the “East-West Hwy” is kind of built around the sounds, the rhythm sounds. There’s another collaboration on the album by Leon Lacey who’s the music director for Wyclef Jean. He has a degree in orchestration so he was the perfect choice to help me paint the picture for the string arrangements.”

Although he grabbed some of music’s elite there were a couple of collaborations Weatherspoon wish he’d landed.
“I did a cover of ‘Meantime’ which is a BeBe and CeCe  song and I wanted to feature Gerald Albright on it, but I didn’t get to him. One of the other songs, ‘Old Town’ I wanted to collaborate with Russell Ferante who is my favorite pianist with the Yellow Jackets, but we just didn’t have the right timing with the delivery of the record. It’s a few collabs on the record that are really precise based on  the color of the song that we needed to address.”

Daniel Weatherspoon offers an album that is a fusion of jazz, gospel, instrumentation and all parts in between. He believes there is a definite synergy between gospel and jazz.
“I think we hear it in both. I think we hear a little bit of every genre in everything, even in some R&B, even the gospel and jazz. Gospel is my base, it’s where I reside. But jazz music is a very huge influence to me so you hear it all the time in strong arrangements if it’s just myself and other producers or artists. You can hear undertones across the genre board of influences. You can hear a little gospel, a little church in the way some R&B singers deliver their vocals. You can hear a little jazz in the way musicians treat ballads in gospel. It’s very thin line as to which side you are on because they are very close and very relatable. As a Christian, I didn’t want to exclude any of that or denounce any of that on my record because that’s not my intent at all. I do want to explore the jazz world a bit more from the festivals to the cruises to the shows. I’m inspired by a lot of people that are in the genre of jazz and a lot of them are Christians. I feel like there’s absolutely nothing wrong with tapping into it because music is music to me. When it feels good and it doesn’t disrespect your beliefs or the path that you are going down, I don’t see absolutely anything wrong with it.”

The award-winning producer is still busy on the producing front and shared what’s on the horizon.
“We are currently in the middle of working on Byron Cage’s new gospel album. I’m also scoring the cast album for BeBe Winans, “Born for This.”  I arranged half of the songs in the play. We are in the middle of working on the CD based off of the musical. It will probably drop in January or February 2017. The producer in me will always continue and I’m never walking away from that. However, for my own path and my own identity, I feel like this record it’s the right time to really go forward full steam ahead.”

A native of Chicago, Weatherspoon is based in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) and serves on staff at megachurch First Baptist Church of Glenarden (FBCG) where John K. Jenkins is Senior Pastor. Weatherspoon spoke of his service there and the flexibility he is given.
“I’m the music director at FBCG and Pastor Jenkins is awesome and we have a huge staff over there. Anthony Brown, Stephen Hurd are there, we have a seven-piece band, a lot of services every week. It’s a big machine, but I am there every week. Pastor understands the team and he offers a lot of flexibility. The fact that we’re a big team, we all rotate. If I’m out for a week somebody else can take the seat. There’s always someone well-able to fit the seat as we all travel doing things. Throughout the year Pastor Jenkins gives us the freedom to express ourselves make the body look good, make the church look good while forming our own identity.”

 The Langley Park Project is available on all digital outlets.

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