On his new album, ‘Love Came Down,’ Brian Owens says he has found his voice

  • “Love Came Down” by Brian Owens Sweet Soul Records

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Published: 6/12/2020 9:01:25 AM
Modified: 6/12/2020 9:01:12 AM

There was a point during the recording of singer Brian Owens’ new album, Love Came Down, when he says he finally found his voice.

This comes after a string of well-received albums including Soul of Cash (2017), Soul of Ferguson (2017), Preach! The Soundtrack (2014) and Moods & Messages (2012).

Love Came Down not only allowed the Ferguson, Mo.-based singer to record at Royal Studios in Memphis, Tenn., where Al Green recorded many of his classics, but Owens was also able to record using Green’s microphone, which he says was truly “a vibe.”

“I sound totally different on this record,” Owens says. “Before, I couldn’t always focus on finding my voice because I was wearing too many hats.”

But there was a breakthrough on his reinterpretation of Jim Croce’s “I Have to Say I Love You in a Song.”

“The song was just smoking,” he says. “I was grooving out. I started off singing really soft on the mic, and my voice was super present. That’s the first time that really happened to me on the mic. I could just sing on the mic, not scream. The only time I felt that was when I stood in for Dianne Reeves (at Powell Hall in 2017 with In Unison Chorus).”

Love Came Down focuses on themes of faith, family and purpose, and Owens considers it his most personal and introspective effort yet.

“I want people to see God through this album,” he says. “I don’t know how the album will translate to people, but I think it’s going to be powerful. There’s something powerful about the simplicity of the record. People are looking for anything that can point them toward beauty, but not beauty with the absence of truth. I pray it’s one of those pieces like (Marvin Gaye’s) ‘What’s Going On.’ ”

In addition to a handful of originals, Love Came Down includes Owens’ covers of Gregory Porter’s “Our Love,” Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away” and “Happier Than the Morning Sun,” along with the Croce song.

Owens’ father, Thomas Owens, guests with his son on “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away.” The two went viral in 2017 with a duet of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” garnering 40 million views on YouTube.

The new album was produced by Brian Bacchus, who has worked with Porter, John Scofield, Lizz Wright, the Manhattan Transfer, Joe Lovano and Norah Jones. It was the association with Jones and Porter that especially excited Owens. He was going for sounds associated with those artists.

“It’s all soul,” Owens says. “My last three albums have been soul, but with subgenres. This is more soul-jazz. The reason for him producing was from a genre standpoint, it would allow me to exist in both worlds. It gives me a jazz sensibility, but it’s still soulful.

“The album reminds me of mid-’70s soul and R&B, where they had these really lush harmonies. Hall & Oates has stuff like that, as well as Michael McDonald, George Benson, Al Jarreau.”

(Owens organized and performed a tribute in September to Ferguson native McDonald at the Touhill Performing Arts Center that included McDonald.)

Owens recorded with the Royal Five, a new outfit he assembled for the recording, consisting of Peter Martin (piano, Rhodes piano), Jon Cowherd (Rhodes piano, organ), Sherrod Barnes (guitar), Stephan Crump (bass) and Steve Potts (drums), with Jay Newland and Sam Maul engineering and Alan Silverman mastering. Ferguson’s Keyon Harrold guests on trumpet. There’s also a 12-piece horn section.

“I feel like (creating the Royal Five) allowed me to go deeper. Not to speak to anybody’s playing, but they laid out a different bed for me to exist in,” Owens says.

This isn’t his first time detouring from his usual band, the Deacons of Soul, to get a different feel. He used a different band on Soul of Cash, though Deacons of Soul players performed on some of the songs.

Owens recorded Love Came Down from November 2018 to January 2019. The project had been titled “Love and Justice.” But as he was moving through the recording process, he noticed different levels of love emerging, including an outpouring of God’s love.

He had attempted to release the album a couple of times earlier but was delayed in dealings with labels. It’s out now via his Life Creative Group, which also released “Cold Love” by Paco.

“This is God’s time,” Owens says. “I don’t know what it’s gonna do and where it’s gonna go, but I knew it was supposed to be released last week.”

He held a virtual listening session on June 4, which would have been his mother’s 69th birthday. Roberta Owens died of cancer in March.

“This is the album my mother would have loved the most, and it’s the only album I’ve ever done where she was at the recording session,” he says.

“As she was transitioning, I played ‘Carry You,’ and it was really the moment where I was like, this is what this album is about – love coming down on my mother as she passed the way she did with family around her and worship.”

Owens’ family, including his wife, children and parents, had traveled to Memphis for the recording session.

Now that Love Came Down is in the fans’ hands, he’s wrestling with how to present the music during the pandemic. He figures it’s best to wait and do a proper concert.

“I would love to hopefully do it when things open back up,” he says. “I have a 12-piece orchestra on the album. I don’t want to do a show where it’s just me and a piano. I want strings, a band, background singers. It’s a beautiful record, and I want people to experience that love.”




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