Frank McComb: Keep Lovin’ What You Do

Frank McComb (born July 15, 1970, is a soul singer and keyboardist. Often compared to Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, McComb has collaborated with many renowned recording artists including Prince, Chaka Khan, Teddy Pendergrass, Gerald Levert, and Teena Marie.

After failed contracts with MoTown and Columbia, and following reports that his early material at MoJazz was being sold for exorbitant amounts on the black market, McComb went independent to deliver ‘Straight from the Vault’ in 2005. The 12-track collection of vocal and instrumental compositions was entirely self-written and self-produced and earnt McComb the SoulTracks Readers Choice Awards for Best Album (2005).

His first entirely solo venture into instrumental music came with ‘A Tribute to the Masters,’ with each song a tribute to such jazz greats as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Ramsey Lewis, Russell Ferrante, and Joe Sample.

In 2007, Frank McComb released the concert recording ‘Live in Atlanta,’ available only through his official website.

Georgia Today met Frank at the Kvareli Eden Wine and Jazz festival organized by Bravo Records in Kvareli on September 19th.

Q: It’s your second time in Georgia. You’re in demand around the globe. What’s the secret of your success?

A: It’s no secret to be honest. Just determination. When people told me I couldn’t make it, I was out to prove them wrong. I already knew at the age of three I wanted to sing. But I didn’t see piano coming til I was 12. After I became an artist it took a record company to tell me I could never sell my own music before I went independent. You tell me no, I’m gonna tell me yes!

Q: What inspires you?

A: We Cancers are pretty moody depends on the moment - I could be happy, or be looking at my kids and I become inspired; something negative might happen to me or business related. I book own concerts, manage myself, record own records, mix, master, and release ‘em to the public directly. So, literally I’m doing everything myself. I’m here because of the strength of Frank McComb.

Q: Tell us about some of the biggest moments in your career to date.

A: Meeting Stevie Wonder on my birthday of July 15th 1993. I was signed to MoTown Records and I’d go down to the record company in Los Angeles and head up to the President’s - Steve McKeever’s -office where he had a piano facing out the window. You could see the Hollywood sign and the beautiful mountains. I was singing this tune- a Donny Hathaway cut called ‘Love, Love, Love’ and in the chorus the harmony part comes in. When I got to that part, sitting with my back to door, I hear another voice come in. I took my hands from the keys, turn around, and see Stevie sitting on floor with his legs crossed. I said: “Woah! You’re Stevie Wonder!” He lifted his head and said “I know.” We both started laughing. Tell me about a man with a sense of humour! He’s the coolest guy. He got up, walks to piano, sits, and says: “Frank, I got this song I want you to do, a beautiful song.” He starts singing and I’m standing there next to him on the verge of tears and screaming like a little girl, thinking: ‘Stevie Wonder is singing a song to me!’

We didn’t meet for another 20 years. That’s our joke- the song we never cut. I’m trying to get him on my new album now- called ‘Soul Mate, Another Love Story.’ There’s an arrangement called ‘Superstition’ I’m working on, a tribute to Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder. I want Stevie to sing and play harmonica. He’s a hard guy to get hold of, though!

Another big moment was playing on live TV with Prince at the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) 36th Annual. They were honouring Prince with a Vanguard Award. He featured me on the 12 minute performance. That was something special.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I’d like to partner my label with the right big label. They can get me into places I can’t get by myself and take my career to another level. Most artists don’t know how to discuss their own business or don’t know their own value, and some not capable of negotiating and need that middle man. For the past 11 years I’ve been doing it all myself. Some people find that intimidating, others try to take me for granted and presume I don’t know how to run my own business. At the moment I don’t have to deal with anyone telling me I’m not doing the job right- I just roll up my sleeves and do it myself. But I’m about ready to hand over part of that to someone I can trust. I want more time for my music.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Well, I was sat up til 8am this morning mixing at the computer- I have a keyboard, speakers, and computer in my room- a whole sound studio. Helena Zetova, the recent winner of the Greek version of American Idol, asked me to produce her album so I’m working on a mix for her next single which will be out next month.

Q: What advice would you give budding young jazz musicians?

Don’t be lazy. We’re livin’ in an independent world. Don’t take this business too seriously; it’s a game and you need to learn how to play the game and play it well. Learn as many parts of the game as possible. There are no rules to protect you and the more you play, the better you get. Learn how to count your own money and don’t depend on too many people. If you have a smaller more knowledgeable team, the better you’ll be able to control your career. Lastly, enjoy your work- you never wanna lose the joy of what you love to do.

Katie Ruth Davies

01 October 2015 20:23