Jarvis Church 'Off' On His Own

Excerpted from the magazine for

Most people in the industry may know the name Jarvis Church because of his pivotal role in discovering, writing for, and producing Grammy Award-winning DreamWorks artist Nelly Furtado ("Whoa Nelly!"). What they probably don't know is that Church has spent more than a decade in the music business, releasing three Sony Music albums pre-Furtado.

Now Church hopes to focus the spotlight squarely on himself with the Aug. 6 release of his solo debut, "Shake It Off," on RCA Records. First single "Shake It Off" is supported by a Chris Robinson-directed video.

"I feel I've been working toward this album for the last 10 years of my career," says Church, who initially logged a lengthy tenure as the lead vocalist with eclectic soul combo the Philosopher Kings ("an R&B kind of Dave Matthews Band" that also featured guitarist/future production partner Brian West).

The band signed with Sony Canada in 1993, releasing the group's eponymous debut. Two subsequent albums followed -- 1997's "Famous Rich and Beautiful" and the 1999 live album "One Night Stand," both of which were not picked up for release by Sony's U.S. counterpart.

Until the age of 7, Church was raised in Jamaica, where his father headed the civil service. In 1980 Church moved with his family to Toronto, where he would form the Philosopher Kings and later produce (with West, aka the production team Track & Field) Furtado's multi-platinum debut album.

"We met Nelly singing in a club," Church recalls. "We asked her if she wanted to do some music together. The three of us teamed up and pledged to make music we liked. My album now is probably closer to Nelly's album than the Philosopher Kings' album -- using loops and samples, which is very freeing and makes for a very eclectic sound.

"All the songs are all very personal, coming from an emotional space," the artist continues. "'If We Only Knew' was one I wrote after Sept. 11. I felt almost guilty about putting out an album of love songs after that. I've never been a political writer, and that song is political. But it could also apply to a relationship."

Vocally, Church possesses an accomplished and strong falsetto that is best showcased when paired with a strong, organic soulful backdrop, as found on the title track, the Prince-like ballad "That Old Love Song," and "If We Only Knew." Elsewhere on the album, pop and reggae elements creep in along with more programmed electronic beats and sounds that certainly make for an eclectic set.

"I hope musically it's not too spread out for people to get," confides Church. "I wanted to create a certain cohesiveness that would hold it together. That was my biggest challenge."

Excerpted from the Aug. 3, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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