Glenn Lewis Is No 'Outsider'
"Don't You Forget It" the first single from Toronto-bred singer/songwriter Glenn Lewis' from his debut album, "World Outside My Window" -- due March 19 via Epic -- leaves no doubt as to who his musica"Don't You Forget It" the first single from Toronto-bred singer/songwriter Glenn Lewis' from his debut album, "World Outside My Window" -- due March 19 via Epic -- leaves no doubt as to who his musical influences are: Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and the Gap Band's Charlie Wilson. That's an interesting choice of inspirations when you consider that his homeland is hardly noted for being a soulful breeding ground.
"It's an entirely different atmosphere than in the States," Lewis says. "There are definitely cultural differences: Canada's black population is of West Indian descent; the U.S. black community had to redefine itself and create a culture. Sometimes I also feel like an outsider. I was born in Canada, but my father is Jamaican and my mother is from Trinidad, where I've [also] lived."
Lewis' musical lineage comes directly from his father, who was lead singer with R&B group Crack of Dawn, which was once signed to Columbia Records in Canada.
"Back then, I didn't see my dad as being a star," Lewis recalls. "It was just his line of work. It was kind of cool, but I didn't really make too much of it." Though contact with his father, who has since returned to Jamaica, has been minimal for many years, Lewis vividly recalls his vocal style and, in particular, his father's love of Wonder. "My dad played music by a lot of soul artists, including Stevie Wonder. I was obviously influenced by that."
By the age of 16, Lewis had begun cutting demos with friend and local musician Alex Greggs (now a programmer with producer Rodney Jerkins). The result was his first single, "The Thing to Do." The Beat Factory/BMG release earned him a Juno Award nomination in 1998 for best soul/R&B recording. The following year, he received another Juno nomination for second single "Bout Your Love." Mark Byers of Philadelphia-based production/management company Rock Star Entertainment caught wind of the noise north of the border and inked the deal with Epic.
"World Outside My Window" wallows in retro soul with the influence of the aforementioned Wonder worn like a badge of honor over contemporary beats. Recorded in Toronto and Philadelphia with producers Andre Harris and Vidal Davis, the album possesses a continuity only attained through working closely with one production team.
Lewis is receiving a massive visibility boost opening for R&B golden girl Alicia Keys' U.S. tour, which kicked off Jan. 22 and wraps March 10, something the label believes will gain the artist many fans.
"Glenn is a triple threat: a brilliant songwriter, a powerful vocalist, and an electrifying live performer, says Epic president Polly Anthony. "I have every confidence that people across the country -- and around the world -- will embrace Glenn and his incredible talent."
Excerpted from the March 9, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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