Written and Produced by: Monica Solis
Threads: The Soul Behind Soul
This is Lee Fields and the Expressions.
Fields says every night feels like the first time.
“It’s a giving process, the people give…it’s about love,” Fields says. “Life is about love. So all of these songs touch these people and it’s so inspiring for me; it energizes me.”
Fields’ musical career was first established in the late ‘60s. When Fields first started, he was known as “Little J-B,” for his stylistic similarities in music and appearance with the late Godfather of Soul James Brown. Indeed, Fields has collaborated with well-known musicians like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and performed with, or opened for, Kool and the Gang, B-B King and James Brown himself.
But Fields held, and continues to hold, his own in the soul arena. Today on THREADS: the soul behind Soul – an intimate look into the performance style and inspirations of S-X-S-W artist Lee Fields.
I met Fields last November in Austin. It was preceding a late night performance for Austin’s Fun Fun Fun fest with his group Lee Fields and the Expressions. At this point, Lee Fields and The Expressions had released two L-Ps on Truth and Soul Records titled My World and Faithful Man.
Fields and his group have a soul style very reminiscent of funk fused with gospel. Fields says that soul music is very akin to gospel music.
“Gospel is singing about the good news – about what is to come after we go into the next world and how to do the right thing in this world to make that transition. Soul music is of God as well,” Fields says. “Soul means the spirit. But we soul singers, we sing about what is happening now in our lives and how we feel, how things relate to us, and about the here and now.”
Fields says he tries to live a good life and in good faith, but that it’s very hard, particularly in the music business.
I look at life as a confrontation on an every day basis to survive. – Lee Fields
Fields says it’s a very thin line. Despite that, Fields still pumps out superb performances. After 40 plus years in the business, Fields still manages to captivate audiences – it’s his effortless energy on stage coupled with his desire to connect. He writes some of his songs, while he acts as co-writer on others. But when he performs those songs, it’s as if he’s opening his heart to whomever is watching and listening right there on stage. The effect runs deep.
“Then you have ‘I Wish You Were Here.’ My father used to love that song – God bless his soul, he’s no longer here but since he died, the song takes on a whole new meaning,” says Fields. “Every night I sing that song, it’s almost like he’s alive, almost like he’s right there with me.…”
Fields performed I Wish You Were Here, a song off the Faithful Man album, later that night in Austin.
Fields says it’s this confidence that has kept him strong in the music industry and during his performances. But much like his balancing act on the thin line of living a good life and being successful in the industry, he warns of another thin line – the line between confidence and ego.
“The best advice that I received, and that I will pass on: Ego is a good thing for your confidence but don’t let ego become you,” Fields says.
Fields says it has helped him to have less ego off stage and in the recording process and more ego on stage, just for the performance.
It was during our conversation last year that the soul musician said Lee Fields and The Expressions planned on recording a new L-P to be released through Truth and Soul Records this semester.
As for now, Lee Fields and The Expressions have not released a new L-P, but Austin’s S-X-S-W festival has begun, and this soulful man and crew are on the set list. Perhaps they are waiting until now for that new album preview?
Well I wanna say – to anyone who might read or hear this interview – when I say ‘I love you,’ I really, really mean it. -Lee Fields
Feel the love.
Lee Fields and The Expressions play official S-X-S-W showcases on Wednesday, March Fourteenth and Thursday, March Fifteenth.
*Shortly before the Lee Fields and The Expressions showcase at Austin’s S-X-S-W music festival, the band announced the new L-P, titled Emma Jean, would be released on June 3rd.
-Monica Solis/KTSW-FM 89.9
Photos: Kelsey Baker