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Interview: Marques Houston – Singer, Songwriter and Producer

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Over the past two decades, America has watched Marques Houston grow-up in the public spotlight. And as he transitioned from childhood to adulthood, his passion for music never faded and his hunger for success only grew stronger. With ten albums to his credit, as a solo and group artist, there should be no doubt that Marques Houston is an industry veteran, even if he is only 28 years old.

While preparing for a string of shows in Frankfurt, Germany, Marques Houston managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry—reflecting on Michael Jackson, “Express Lane,” and his new company, MusicWorks Entertainment.

It’s hard to believe that you've been in the music industry for almost two decades. Considering how old you are, that's a significant chunk of your life. When you reflect over your career, what do you think has allowed you to have such longevity, when many of your contemporaries have fallen by the wayside?

You know what I think it is? I think it's because I really try to stay true to myself and true to my art, true to my craft, and most importantly, true to my fans. I feel like they're the reason why I'm here in the first place, and they've always been the reason why I do anything. I started out so young – like you said, it's been twenty years. Since I was little, I've always loved attention. I would perform at the family functions when I was three years old. Ever since I could walk, I was dancing, so my aunties and uncles and my mom would be like, "Go ahead. Take the floor." So I would go out there and dance. It's always been in me to entertain. And I've always loved attention, so I think the attention — and not in a negative way — and the response that I get from my audience and my crowd and my fans is what keeps me motivated and keeps me wanting to do more. It's like if a basketball team goes to the floor and they're getting cheered in their home court. It makes them feel better as opposed to if they're in the opposing court – everybody's booing them and stuff like that, so they're not going to give their best. I always look at it as I'm on the home court. I always have home court advantage because I have followers that just support me and they've supported me from day one, and I really appreciate them. And they're who really keep me going and help me stay motivated.

Over the course of your whole career, one man has always been by your side: Chris Stokes. What's the best professional advice he's ever given you?

The best professional advice Chris has ever given me is to work hard. “If you feel like you've given 110%, then try to give 120%.” That's his thing. He never stops working. He's a workaholic, so he's always on me about working harder. “If you want something, you've got to go out there and get it. You can't be lazy. You can't be lazy-minded. You always have to be a businessman – be about your business, be about your craft, be about your career. Really, really push to the limit to where you can't push any more, because those are the artists that become iconic.”

Although you’ve been in the spotlight for many years, very little is known about the formative years that shaped your career. At what point did you realize that music was an interest that you wanted to pursue?

It's funny you say that because no one's ever asked me that before. I would say… I've always been a Michael Jackson fan. I've always wanted to dance and be just like Michael Jackson. But I think the turning point for me was when I saw Another Bad Creation, a group you may remember from a long time ago. They were so young, and they were performing with their bucket hats and puff jackets on. And I was like, “You know what? They're young like me. I could do this”. So I started doing talent shows in my school. And that’s how I met my manager.

At this point in your career, I think it is fitting that the new album’s title is Mr. Houston. What kind of statement do you want to make?

Well, the statement that I tried to make with this one is maturity, growth and being there as an adult. I've grown up in front of people's eyes. I've been in this industry since I was eight years old. People have watched me grow from a young boy to a young man to a man. And now I feel like I've made the statement that I am a man now. No more games. It's about life, it's about business, it's about music. All of that is what you get in this album, and that's the statement that I was trying to make with the title. Hopefully people understand it and they get all of that – that I'm trying to bring to the table with this album. If they don't, then I didn't do my job [laughing].

In the two year gap between your last album [Veteran] and this current album [Mr. Houston], was there a particular life event that shaped the direction of Mr. Houston?

Not necessarily. Whenever I put out an album, I automatically start recording another one. Music is always evolving and I also evolve as an artist, so if there's a certain song that I may have wanted to be put on that old album, I always encounter new forms of music that I'll get excited about it and want to do something like it, or I want to bring that kind of energy to a different kind of a song. So two years ago, when I released the Veteran album, I was right back in the studio, writing and producing. And I knew that with this album, I wanted to take full control and let the album give a real understanding of me personally, me as an artist, me as a man, and me as a business manager. So all of the stuff that I’ve been through—relationships, heartbreak, all of that stuff—is on this album. I had some help from my boy, [Noel] “Detail” [Fisher]. He executive-produced the record with me, along with Joaquin Bynum, Alex Cantrall, and a few others producers that helped as well. I felt like it was time for me to really evolve as an artist and write and produce the entire thing. So people could get an idea of where I was coming from musically.

Out of all the tracks, my personal favorite is “Express Lane.” What was the inspiration behind that particular track?

Well, "Express Lane," is a play on words. If you think of an express lane, you think of like a freeway. You think of movement, and being able to just go on the freeway. And I wanted that song to portray that women have issues and they have a lot of problems, and sometimes, they just want to express themselves. It's about meeting the girl at the bar. She's expressing herself about her problems with her kids, and her baby's daddy, and this and that. I'm telling her, "You're in the express lane. Feel comfortable. Have a drink. Let's just sit and talk. Tell me all about it." It doesn't always have to be about romance and everything. Sometimes you can just sit and have a conversation. So that was the idea behind "Express Lane."

When you look back on the recording process for the Mr. Houston album, is there a particular experience that immediately comes to mind?

I actually had to physically write out all the credits. When I tell you that I was hands-on, I was like super, super hands-on. When I think about this album, I think about all the work that went into it—from the recording and the mixing, to handling all the phones calls and the business, making sure all the photos were put together, and me actually physically putting the album packaging together and writing out all the credits. There's so, so much that people don't understand. So you know, I just think about the long process. It’s more than just singing. So to be able to see this album on the shelves is quite an accomplishment. And my team sacrificed and put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It's really, really overwhelming. But we all come together.

In addition to being an artist, you are also the CEO of MusicWorks Entertainment. What led you to form this company? And what do you envision to be the company’s ultimate mission?

I feel like the industry has gotten away from the music and it’s all about a gimmick and people using the music industry to get famous. That's not what it's all about, our generation. We really were about the music and about the performance and, when you look at the old Immature records, we all tried to dance and be entertaining, so I feel like this company is more about providing quality entertainment. It's about the music, not about the gimmick and what can be bought and sold, but about real passionate artists that are about making genuine music. I really want to give people their money's worth.

In the upcoming week, I see that you have a string of performance dates in Frankfurt, Germany. At what point did you realize that you had an international following?

I didn't realize that until after the Veteran album. When I went on hiatus and started to travel, people started asking me to come overseas and perform. And I was really surprised because I didn't even know that I had a following that was so strong. I had just got back from four sold-out shows in Japan, and that was amazing. My album just came out last week in Japan, Germany and all these other countries that actually know my music. I’ve visited Africa twice and when we were booking those shows, some people around me were unsure if they knew my music that well. But when I actually went, they knew the lyrics to every song. So it just blows me away to know that people overseas are into my music like that. It was definitely a humbling experience for me, and ever since then, I knew that I was recognized as a worldwide artist and not just a nationwide artist.

For more information on Marques Houston, visit his official website.

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About Clayton Perry

  • Tom Traubert

    With no disrespect to the artist, I have no idea who Marques Houston is. What’s disheartening is that the interviewer does nothing to introduce the artist to those unfamiliar with him. The brief preface to this interview reads like a poorly worded press release for industry insiders, not a proper explanation of who is being interviewed along with the necessary backstory for average readers to understand the context of the conversation.

    Further, the interviewer doesn’t indicate why this artist is “reflecting on Michael Jackson, “Express Lane,” and his new company, MusicWorks Entertainment.” What’s it all got to do with him, or me, or anything? I don’t know what “Express Lane” is (a movie? a song about rush-hour traffic?). I don’t know why I should care about some company by a guy I don’t know. And I can reflect on Michael Jackson too. What makes reading this person’s reflections on him any more worthwhile than listening to mine?

    To be clear, none of my criticism here has to do with Marques Houston. Rather, it is the responsibility of the interviewer, Clayton Perry (I don’t know who he is either), to introduce the artist and bring readers up to speed about why reading what he has to say is worth their time. In this case, the interviewer did not fulfill his responsibility to readers.