MSR: As it’s been referenced in the press material, you feel a change is coming, a changing of the guard, a revolution of sorts — can you explain what that means in your opinion?
MM: I think people just talk about music by itself, but music never really exists by itself: Music is just a reflection of what’s going on in the world. That’s what we do as artists — we reflect the world through our own filter. So, in the same way, this economy has turned everyone’s life upside down, and made everyone reassess themselves, made everybody make changes in the way they live and the way they think.
It’s not just the economic crisis either; it’s a whole bunch of things, and I really feel that the page is turning. I feel that it’s not just in New York and L.A. or in the United States, but all over the world. People are revolting against the status quo. And you could look in the Middle East; we had all these revolutions happening at the same time. I see in different countries… I see people electing [a new] president who’s the exact opposite of the old president.
So, the music needs to reflect that. So, that’s why I decided to change my direction and make an album with a different sound.
MSR: I’d like to get back to your comment about the changing landscape of the music, and not just music but the society as a whole — but I want to focus on the music part for a moment.
You were quoted in your press material as saying, “I feel like a page is turning… The last of our heroes are checking out and we are truly entering a new era.” Explain what it means to you to mentor the new up-and-coming musicians and your approach to continuing the legacy of those who are passing.
MM: I didn’t realize it was happening until I was sitting around with my band, and I was telling a story about something that had happened a little while ago. I was just talking, and I looked at this guy I was talking to and realized that his eyes were as big as half dollars. Because I was talking about something that for me just happened a little while ago, but it happened before their lifetime.
I was talking about Dizzy Gillespie, or I was talking about Miles [Davis] or something like that and I realized at that very moment oh wow, I’m that guy now. I’m the connection for these young musicians to this era that they don’t really know anything else about, except [through] me. That’s really profound because I’ve always been by far the youngest guy in the band, by 10 years. I blink my eyes, and all of a sudden I’m a link to the past for these guys.
I kind of enjoy it. I don’t run my mouth to them too much. I try to lead by example. But every once in a while I can tell them a story that might illuminate a point for them, or tell them how to deal with a difficult situation.
Robin James welcomes reader responses to james firstname.lastname@example.org.