Interview with Earth, Wind & Fire's Philip Bailey

When a band has been around long enough to have advanced from reel-to-reel to the digital-driven social media era, influencing countless musicians and racking up dozens of awards and accolades along the way, they usually feel tempted to reinvent themselves with each new project. However, every band is not the lauded and legendary Earth, Wind & Fire, So when the members returned to the studio for their 20th CD, Now, Then & Forever, the 'back-to-basics' sound was exactly what they were looking for, according to co-founder, songwriter and lead vocalist, Philip Bailey. 

When a band has been around long enough to have advanced from reel-to-reel to the digital-driven social media era, influencing countless musicians and racking up dozens of awards and accolades along the way, they usually feel tempted to reinvent themselves with each new project. However, every band is not the lauded and legendary Earth, Wind & Fire, So when the members returned to the studio for their 20th CD, Now, Then & Forever, the 'back-to-basics' sound was exactly what they were looking for, according to co-founder, songwriter and lead vocalist, Philip Bailey. 

 
"It's pretty ingrained within the mission statement of who we are and how we try to live." Mr. Bailey related from his home base of California about ....Forever's familiar feel and lesser number of outside writers and producers (in comparison to 2005's Illumination). "Deviating from our classic sound would give our fans something to raise their eyebrows about and it wouldn't be true to who we are." 
 
To cement the foundation of uplifting messages, plush arrangements and spiritually-infused soul grooves, Mr. Bailey---along with original players like percussionist Ralph Johnson and Verdine White---enlisted the guidance of another primary member, keyboardist Larry Dunn, to contribute lyrics and sounds to a majority of the tracks. Ironically, Mr. Bailey's namesake son, Philip Duron, also helped to shape the direction of the CD, contributing its spellbinding instrumental "Splashes" and writing several songs alongside his famous father. 
 
"My son has actually been the guiding light to point the way to the significance of the classic sound. It's also been cool to hang with him because I spent so many years away on the road and now we spend that extra time together, he's passionate about the music and we're doing something that we both love."
 
Not that outside influence has been totally left out: "My Promise," the lead single, was co-penned by industry vet Siedah Garrett, and the increasingly-prolific Lee Hutson Jr. helped to craft the super-smooth mid-tempo, "Love Is Law." Even trumpeter Terence Blanchard puts in an appearance, creating results that pleased their retired visionary and leader, Maurice White. "He's living his life and has his up days and down days with the Parkinson's Disease struggle, but he really loves what we did with the new record, so that was a big shot in the arm in for us. EW&F is more than just music; our purpose is for a higher reason, and that's always been Maurice's take on it."
 
So Now, Then & Forever is more than their first new recording in eight years: it represents Earth, Wind & Fire's mission statement to fans of every generation that still download their CDs and flock to the live shows to bask in their elemental ambiance. "We are very blessed and very honored to have been able to be instruments of God's music," Mr. Bailey says reflectively of the loyalty and support showered on the band by the public and their peers. "It's very gratifying, rewarding and solidifies the fact that Maurice's mission---to bring people together with the music and render a service to humanity--- has been achieved. It's even more important for us to honor the legacy of the music that Maurice has produced over the years, and to be able to see that reality is very humbling and gratifying." 
 
By Melody Charles
 
 
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