R&B crooner Jesse Powell, who scored an R&B/pop hit in 1999 with "You," began molding his singing style at the tender age of 7. "I had my first band then," recalls the 27-year-old singer.C

R&B crooner Jesse Powell, who scored an R&B/pop hit in 1999 with "You," began molding his singing style at the tender age of 7. "I had my first band then," recalls the 27-year-old singer. He, along with his mother, brother, and
sisters-singers/songwriters Trina and
Tamara-performed in and around their native
Gary, Ind.

Singer/songwriter Powell calls his music a
throwback to the '70s soul songs he heard and performed in those early days,
noting, "That old soul vibe kind of captures [my sound] today."

That vibe is the inspiration behind his upcoming third MCA/Silas album, "JP."
The March 6 U.S./Canada release (late February in Japan; early summer in
Europe) -- the follow-up to 1998's " 'Bout It" -- is a ballad-heavy lineup of songs
written and produced by Powell with the help of sister Tamara and producers
Tim and Bob, Shep Crawford, and Damon Thomas.

First single "If I," co-written with Tamara, is a ballad that ponders the future of a
relationship. "It's about when you get to that point where you're not sure if the
relationship's going forward," explains Powell. "You're hoping it's not over, but
you've done some things that maybe you shouldn't have."

"If I" is already showing signs of success at Los Angeles radio station KJLH.
"Powell showcases more of his vocal talent on this one," says program/music
director Cliff Winston. "He's able to stretch a bit and show what a talented
vocalist he is. It's still early, but so far all systems seem to be go." To promote
the set several live performances and a video are planned.

MCA hopes the early buzz on "If I" will translate into another hit in the "You"
vein -- especially given that in both cases, the common denominator is Powell's
vocal talent. "In the midst of all the R&B vocalists, Jesse is definitely one who
stands out," says Marilyn Batchelor, the label's VP of strategic marketing.

"I'm really trying to stay true to the songs, to always be Jesse," he says. "Lots
of artists and record companies get with the big producers just for name's sake.
A lot of times when I listen to the radio, I can't tell who's singing what because
people are trying to sing like other artists. However, there are some original
artists out there. And if I have to be compared to anyone, I'd like to be compared
to other artists who are being themselves."

Batchelor agrees, saying, "Everybody wants to make the [male vocalist] some
macho, hard-nose who looks like he's about to beat somebody up. But if that's
not what every artist is, you can't fake it. Every now and then the nice guy can
finish first."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print