In 2007 he shot his way towards planet Soca with the song ‘Coming Down de Road.’ The song and a scintillating performance on the night of the first ever Groovy Soca Monarch competition in Saint Lucia, saw Teddyson John being crowned Groovy Soca royalty. Since then, he has proven, that although coming from a background of R&B, Gospel and Jazz that he is neither a Soca one-hit-wonder nor a competition fluke. He is now a full-fledged citizen on the planet where he landed so comfortably in 2007.
Over the last six years the performer has had a strong presence, not only during Saint Lucia Carnival, but overseas as well, on the Labour Day and Miami carnival circuits in particular. He returned last year to regain the coveted Groovy Monarch title with ‘Land of whine,’ still a party favourite more than a year later. This week TJ sat down with this reporter to talk about what he describes as “a 360-degree turn” for himself, his music and the “Love, Passion, Music” moment which he is presently embarking on.
“The time was just right to do something different to change my focus, and send my music and sound off into a new direction,” TJ says.
Coming out of last year’s carnival season, his team and the entire TJ Project took a long, hard look at his music, what he’d come in for and the status of St Lucian music in general.
“When it comes to the status of the music, I think we have a tendency to think we have to go a certain kind of way, a vulgar way with our lyrics to get recognized,” TJ explained. “But I think we are better than that. I think we’ve been there and done that, so let’s try something different. We cannot be singing about the same topics. We cannot be singing just smutty stuff, about rum or mash up this, mash up that. Let’s challenge ourselves in trying new things.”
He admits however, that he too was guilty as charged, when it came to going down the not so straight and narrow road once upon a time.
“When I came in I was singing about partying, coming down de road, with a bottle of water, just niceness. Then I went down the road singing about bumper and stuff, but I never quite felt like that was me,” he said with a tone of regret.
The point hit home like a ton of bricks for TJ when a seven-year-old student approached him one day and said: “Can you do a song without mentioning bumper?” the little girl asked, clearly a fan who wanted more from her role model.
“That hit my heart and mess up my whole inside and had me thinking,” TJ revealed. That, along with the thoughts of his management team, a post mortem last year by the TJ Project and his own soul searching started a whole metamorphosis.
“We all found ourselves questioning our whole purpose, our mission and we asked why are we here?” The answer he said was simple; because of music and for the love of it, and because of their passion. And so “Love, Passion, Music,” was born. The mission was to not just make music for a season, but to become one of the faces of Saint Lucia’s music and to bring the music to the world.
“It was time to say hey, it is okay to have your own agenda but in having your own agenda just remember people look up to you, what you say, what you do. So here we are at this juncture with something different,” the singer who has just been signed by LIME says.
The direction of his music and the lyrical content TJ says have all been given a makeover.
“What I want to do now is sing material that is more marketable. I wanted to turn around from the whole bumper lyrics and just do something different. We needed to also answer the questions as to whether we wanted to make music that would remain in Saint Lucia, and why our music was not reaching out there,” TJ expresses. Additionally he thinks there is an added responsibility as an entertainer to think about the people who look up to you, and those who also want to get into the business.
“So now I’m focusing on just doing more universally acceptable music that everyone can listen to; kids, teens, young and old,” he states with a smile.
Clearly comfortable with this new direction TJ says for 2013 the Love, Passion, Music concept will encompass his first musical album and a concert. The idea at first was to package a collection of songs following, which the artiste and his band would go on tour. However, that soon transcended into the very first TJ concert, which will be held on July 4.
“My focus this year is to put out my very first ever album “Love, Passion, Music.” It will not be a compilation of old songs, maybe one or two, but we are focusing on my new material which I will perform on the night of this concert,” TJ explains. The album will be officially released on the night.
Described as the first ever groovy concert, the event will offer the best groovy performers and songs for 2013 including Mysterio, Arthur, Toya and Alpha as well as Tian Winters the Groovy Monarch of Antigua and Edwin Yearwood of Barbados. TJ describes Tian as a very good friend and Edwin as a mentor in the business.
“In putting this event together, we asked ourselves why should people wait for a groovy Soca competition to enjoy a night of sweet groovy Soca music?” TJ reflects. “The four major fetes for carnival here Cooler Fete, Wet Fete, Sexy in Black and Colour Me Red are all high energy and that’s good, but I wanted to do something different and so I am right in the middle of the four with a night of sweetness, melodies and dancing. I am going to do what I do best which is groovy!”
This year TJ has worked with various producers and writers including Francis Leebo Delima on ‘Take over,’ the first release for 2013.The track also features input from Sherriff and Precision out of Trinidad. ‘Spread love,’ another single, was composed by Shayne Ross of Saint Lucia and was written by Kurt Allen of Trinidad.
“This was a different track for me and at first I was a bit nervous about doing it. But I have a really good team behind me and they just challenged me and helped me put things into perspective,” the singer says.
Then there is the song ‘Sweet Soca Music,’ which many have marked as a winning song for the Groovy Soca Monarch title. But in 2013 will TJ be competing and defending the title he won last year? Taking a deep breath he responds; “it is really not in the foresight for me. Where we want to go and what we want to do, I just don’t think that the competition is a factor. At the end of the day I think your material is what matters. I think the material should speak for itself. Right now I just want to focus on the Love, Passion, Music and at the end of the day, instead of getting one song for competition my fans will be getting an entire concert.”
As he prepares for July 4 TJ says he is totally relaxed but working hard minus the pressures of competition. “On the night patrons can expect a full production, a concert, a party, a lime all rolled into one fantastic package,” he says.
Following the concert TJ told the STAR that it’s “Sexy in Black,” before he heads to Antigua for an event. He will also be performing at a CARICOM heads of Government concert in Trinidad & Tobago this summer. From there it’s o to spreading more love, passion and music throughout the Caribbean and North America, including Caribbean Woodstock at the Brooklyn Museum.
“When all is said and done my music will speak for itself and I am just a vehicle bringing that message,” TJ said concluding our interview. “We just do not know the true potential of what we have and when we stop thinking only 238 square miles and think export, and do what we have to do, then I think we will be alright.”