Hill is the founder of Water Seed, a currently buzz-heavy, R&B/funk band culled from New Orleans, that is easily enjoying one of the highest profiles of any band currently inhabiting that scene. It’s learned during our lengthy phone call, that Hill knows our award-winning, local music icons, The Fuzz Band, via multiple appearances that his band has made at Fuzzy Wednesdays. And of course I already knew that he was connected to Jon Bibbs, the locally based soul singer from Richmond, who is featured on Water Seed’s two-album, Wonder Love project, released last year.
The thing is… the scene is technically international, with venues in London, Paris and other international cities, that caters to the diverse audience that supports this new era of quality soul music. Yet it nonetheless feels small, at least in comparison to the major label and Walmart supported scene, which obviously commands so much of the music consuming public’s already limited attention. I recall watching a YouTube video where popular indie soul singer, Sy Smith, is discussing how connected most of the artists who fall under that “umbrella” are, in terms of frequent collaborating and simply supporting one another as much as possible.
Just as an aside, I crush on Sy regularly. She has one of the prettiest soprano voices in contemporary music period, plus she’s fine as hell. She often works with the Foreign Exchange, another indie soul outfit, which interestingly enough, like Water Seed, is also making tour stops this week in VA. The Grammy-nominated duo just played Richmond’s the Canal Club last night.
Lou and I are talking because Water Seed has a big show at The Speakeasy in Richmond on Saturday, as part of singer Jarrard Anthony’s monthly Saturday Soul Social, which I’ve written about multiple times for RVA’s Style Weekly, now a sister publication of sorts, to AltDaily. The four person band is also performing tonight, here in the 757, at Deja Blu in Virginia Beach. I ask Hill to give me a glimpse into a Water Seed live show.
“It’s a very high energy show,” he responds. “We’ve cut our teeth in New Orleans, where there’s a band everywhere you turn, so we’re very entertaining…we’re not a sit down and snap your fingers kind of band.”
They sure ain’t. Water Seed has built their industry buzz organically, by putting on high energy, soulful spectacles that have earned them critical raves and a loyal base of concert attending fans. Consisting of Hill, who plays drums, writes and produces, musical partner and keyboardist J. Sharp, flautist Cinese, and singer Shaleyah, the band has landed coveted recent gigs, including dates at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, along with upcoming shows at the Apollo Theatre and even the Essence Music Festival. As much as they can, along with their extended family of supporting musicians, they stay on the road.
“When we’re on the road touring, that’s when all of our social media lights up,” Hill explains. “Since we’re a [real] band, we have to bring our show to people so that they can get a real understanding of who we are.”
Lou admits, though, that part of the heavy touring is certainly out of necessity for them as an indie band. “Radio is not behind this type of music,” he slightly laments. “If there was another outlet to get our music to people, we would be using that and touring less…”
Water Seed is a fully, self-contained musical brand, which dates back to 2000. They self-release all of their music, though they have secured some broad distribution for their recent albums, Wonder Love 1 and Wonder Love 2. They of course finance their own music videos, as well as pay for the creation of related Water Seed products. I ask Lou if major label involvement has ever been of interest. “To be 100% honest, we have never been approached directly by any major label,” he says, simply. “We do it ourselves.”
And in my somewhat biased opinion, they do it well. Part of the larger problem for a band like Water Seed is that their music reflects the quality and aesthetics of the last golden era in popular, black-rooted music. I of course mean the neo-soul movement of the nineties. It’s not that their sound is dated, but the lyrical sentiments of love in all forms, love-making as opposed to f##king, their blend of jazz, funk, and traditional soul, keeps them off of most commercial radio playlists.
It’s a shame, really, because as Lou and I discuss in detailed length, artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder and Prince, could hop from genre to genre, and yet it would all find acceptance. “We’ve sectioned music off so tightly, that creativity isn’t allowed,” he says at one point.
In spite of such obstacles, though, Water Seed continues to progress, artistically and career-wise. They have fans around the world, including the aforementioned Jon Bibbs, who will actually join the band for a couple of songs, at their Soul Social gig in Richmond. “I’m really struck by the stuff that he (Lou) writes about…the imagery is nice,” he says. “I like the groove, the live instrumentation element.” Jon, who recently performed a tribute show to Marvin Gaye at a spot in Ghent, is currently working on a live album.
And speaking of new albums, Retro Electro, the new album by Water Seed, will likely drop early summer. Hopefully some of that new music will find its way into their shows tonight Deja Blu and tomorrow at The Speakeasy, which is a part of the historic Hippodrome entertainment complex. I finally ask Lou what made this market and venue so ideal for the current tour.
“Richmond, number one, is a great place, and I’m a big fan of Jarrard, to be perfectly honest.” Well then he’s in good company.
Water Seed plays Deja Blu in Virginia Beach, tonight at 8:00 pm. For information, call 757-226-7477. And they play the Saturday Soul Social at the Speakeasy Lounge in Richmond, tomorrow. The event starts at 7. Tickets are $10.00. For information, call 804-266-2021.