From early beginnings in a local church choir to steadily becoming one of the UK’s most exciting names in soul music, Tony Momrelle’s success can only be attributed to his immense love of music and humble approach to business. The past decade has seen the singer-songwriter work with some of the biggest names in music (Sade, Whitney Houston, Sir Elton John and Celine Dion – just to name a few) and front funk band Incognito before taking time out to nurture an inspiring solo project.
With his second album Keep Pushing generating non-stop praise since its release in late 2015, and a brand new single on the horizon, Tony explains to us his song writing process and what inspires him to keep moving forward.
Debbie Carr: Hi Tony, where in the world do we find you today?
Tony Momrelle: Hmmm sometimes I lose track myself [laughs]. I’ve just got back to London from doing a solo show in Amsterdam.
DC: This is an exciting time for you, having released Keep Pushing in late 2015 and now on the verge of releasing This Could Be Us! How are you feeling about everything?
TM: I am very excited! Things have been moving so fast and I’m loving every moment of it. Right now I’m going promo for the new single and in a couple of days I will be shooting the music video for it.
DC: What makes This Could Be Us a standout on the album?
TM: Good question. For me this song is quite broken down on the verses but has a big sound that touches the sounds of the late 1970’s, but has a modern feel with a sing-a-long chorus. It’s quite different in feel and style from the other songs on the album but fits so well.
DC: What was it like writing this song? Did you start writing the music or lyrical content first?
TM: This was actually one of the first songs written for Keep Pushing. My writing partner started playing a guitar riff and as soon as I heard it I said “don’t stop”. He kept playing and in my mind I could hear a stomp for a beat, like a march, then I started to sing “this time we’re gonna start a revolution”. From there the song was taking shape and after a couple of hours, the song was born.
DC: Your music career features a string of successful stints with the likes of Sade, Gloria Estefan and Incognito, just to name a few. What was it like taking time out to work on your solo material?
TM: While I was away with Sade on her world tour I had plenty of time to write in my hotel room and develop ideas of what I wanted the album to sound like. Over a period of time I had a lot of melodies and lyrics, some half written and others just hook lines. As time went on, some of the songs didn’t work anymoreas the writing process started to take another shape in terms of direction and subject ideas, which is a normal process. You have to build and strip stuff away but it wasn’t wasted as a few songs were used on an EP we released called FLY, to fill the gap while getting my album in shape.
DC: Who has helped guide you the most through the process of making your latest album Keep Pushing?
TM: My label partner Oli Lazarus has been an integral part of what I’ve been doing. I’m kind of a nutty professor and I like to stay in the lab until I’m happy for people to hear what I’ve created so there were times when Oli didn’t know what I was creating. It was useful to me because he could then get a full feel for where I was going with the record which in turn gave him many ideas on how to help mould and finish the album to what it is now.
DC: The title Keep Pushing holds a beautiful message of persevering through hardships. Was there a particular stuggle you experienced or witnessed that inspired you to create this album?
TM: I feel in life we all have our portion of hardships and struggle. There was no particular thing going on with me when writing it, if anything my struggle was that for me there wasn’t any songs out there that spoke about moving forward and getting up if you’re knocked down. So I wanted to make a statement with that song. I wanted to go back to my forfathers – Donny, Steve, Martin – and speak some things; so through song and an incredible feature from New York Hip Hop legend Talib Kwale came the message. Looking at what was going on in the world, I wanted a song that would uplift and out of that song came the others. If you listen carefully to each song, there will be a thread that connects each song using words that talk about moving forward, standing, pushing and reaching out.
DC: What inspires you to keep moving forward, in terms of both your music career and general life?
TM: I personally believe we all have the abilities to be what we want, but that all comes with a price. When my grandparents came to the UK from the Caribbean they had had their fair share of hardships but still overcame. In my heart I know no matter what comes my way to distract or set me back from reaching my goals, I have to keep looking ahead. That does not mean I won’t make mistakes or fall down from time to time but I can still get up and still keep pushing.
DC: Keep Pushing features 11 uplifting and incredibly soulful tracks. What is your favourite track on the release? What one speaks to you the most?
TM: It’s really hard to say because each song connects to the others like chapters of a book or a scene from a movie. I love them all if I’m honest, as they’re all part of the journey, but if I had to choose I would say Keep Pushing and Remember because they both start anf finish the album with a strong message. I actually performed Remember for the first time in Amsterdam a couple of days ago and there wasn’t a dry eye in the concert. So those are the two I’m reliving.
DC: It seems you’ve had a long love affair with music since first joining your church choir at eight. How does this past experience with gospel music influence the way you compose songs now?
TM: Gospel music is ever present in my sound and approach so I wouldn’t say it’s a past experience but more a huge part of my musical DNA – again when you listen to the record you will hear that in my voice and delivery. I still listen to Gospel music and have also been a part of a few gospel projects.
DC: What was the most memorable aspect of your music career last year?
TM: Wow, last year so many things happened but what was a great moment for me was being asked by BBC Radio 2 if I would like to perform at their festival Proms In The Park, which was incredible! Hyde Park completely filled with people enjoying amazing music. That was a special moment.
DC: What do you hope to achieve in 2016?
TM: I hope to continue in the same way really. I’m looking long term so I want to be consistent with my works and hopefully tour and perform as much as possible.
Tony Momrelle’s upcoming single This Could Be Us will be released on February 26. His album Keep Pushing is already out now and available on iTunes.