Dwele Greater Than One

INTERVIEW: Dwele / Jazz Cafe 17.04.2013

Detroit, Michigan was brought to Camden’s infamous Jazz Cafe in the form Andwele Gardner – better known as Dwele. The last 13 years have seen the singer soar within the realm of R&B to become one of its most acclaimed contributors. Landing his biggest hit alongside Kanye West on the cut 'Flashing Lights', the vocalist touched down in London ahead of his three night residency supported by Marcus Harmony.

We caught Dwele on his opening night where he performed favourites such as ‘I’m Cheatin’ from his 2008 album Sketches of a Man, ‘I Understand’ from W.ants W.orld W.omen and new joints from his latest album Greater Than One. Dressed in a sharp brown suit, backed by a multicultural band and assisted by backing vocalist J.Tait – who also features on ‘Must Be’ from Dwele’s latest album - the singer engaged with the audience so much as to have an impromptu duet with a fan and select a couple to sing to.

Smooth, calm and full of soul, just like his music, MOBO had the pleasure of speaking to Dwele.

For those who don't know, how did you get your start in the industry?

Everything really started in '98, I got my start when I put out a demo tape and it sold 100 copies in and around Detroit. It was great because through that tape I met the producer J.Dilla and he introduced me to his new management and we shopped the album and that got me my deal.

As far as your voice and sound goes, who would you say your biggest influences were?

I’m heavily influenced by Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, a lot of those cats. Musically, it’s the same people. It’s Stevie Wonder, Minnie Ripperton. When I got to high school I really got into hip hop, so it was people like A Tribe Called Quest that really inspired me.

Over the years you've amassed a strong R&B following, how would you say your sound has changed since the release of 'The Rize'?

I’ve kept the same elements, the same harmonies, the same instrumentation. I try to include elements that are current at the same time, so my sound changes with the times for the most part but I always try and stay with more core.

You're currently signed to E1 records. How does E1 differ to Virgin when it comes to handling your work?

E1 gives me more freedom. There’s more freedom with what I want to do. With them, I have the freedom to shoot my own videos but when I was with Virgin I couldn’t really express things in the way what I wanted to. E1 are the perfect situation for me.

What can we expect musically from Dwele in the coming months?

Right now, we’re promoting the Greater Than One album. It has the same elements from the previous albums in it but It has more of an 80s feel to it, you know. I feel like each song has its own identity, there’s definitely something there for everybody.

Dwele - 'What Profit'

Where do you think R&B has gone right and wrong in the last ten years?

I see a lot of mainstream artists moving towards live bands which is a good thing and I also see it wearing a lot of different hats. If I could say anything's wrong with it I’d say there isn’t a balance with what’s being played on the radio, so a lot of people don’t get exposed and that affects how well they're music does. Right now, my favourite acts are Miguel, Frank and Bilal but my favourite album has to be Stevie Wonder's 'Songs From The Key Of Life'.

I like Frank because he creates a vibe creating a vibe through his music and I actually love Usher because he creates a vibe through his voice and dance ability.

In the grand scheme of things, how would Dwele like to be remembered?

I wanna be remembered as the guy who provided the soundtrack for people’s lives and I wanted to take them back to a good time.


David Asante (Edited by Natalie Ferrol)