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R&B Artist Gordon Chambers

ED GORDON, host:

Gordon Chambers has made a name for himself writing hit songs for artists like Whitney Houston and Patti Labelle. He also won a Grammy award for co-writing Anita Baker's hit, "I Apologize."

(Soundbite from "I Apologize")

Ms. ANITA BAKER: (Singing) I apologize...

Unidentified Group: (Singing) ...honestly...

Ms. BAKER: ...honest and true, because I know...

BAKER and Unidentified Group (In Unison): ...I was wrong...

Ms. BAKER: And so I sing you a song.

Unidentified Group: ...sing you a song.

Ms. BAKER: And I'm trying to get through...

GORDON: Now he's ready to capture more of the spotlight for himself with the release of his debut CD, "Introducing Gordon Chambers."

Mr. GORDON CHAMBERS (Songwriter/Musician): I think of myself as having had a great education from masters. You know what I mean? Being up and close and personal with them I've had the best artist development training you could ever have, you know. I've just been taking notes of all of what they do and trying to wait for my turn to put all that practice into reality. So there are many artists who have been--you know, like Kem--the artist Kem, K-E-M, from Detroit. He was an independent artist before he, you know, got distribution from Motown. Norah Jones even had an album that she did independently before hooking up with Blue Note.

So many artists that have gone t--rise up onto the top of the charts have done exactly what I'm doing. So I really do believe in my music. This music is red wine music, and red wine doesn't go bad.

GORDON: You also do your own rendition of a favorite of mine, "I Apologize"...

Mr. CHAMBERS: Thank you, yeah.

GORDON: ...from Ms. Baker.

(Soundbite from "I Apologize" by Chambers)

Mr. CHAMBERS: A one, a two, a three and...

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CHAMBERS: Whew! Yeah. (Singing) Aba, duba, baba, duba, da da, buda, ba, ba, ba. Operator, get my baby on the line. Just the other night...

Mr. CHAMBERS: You know, what gave me the inspiration to make the album was I started doing live shows in New York. And, of course, to give the audience something familiar than just a whole, you know, thing of new songs, I started doing renditions of "If You Love Me" and "I Apologize" just so the audience would hear something that was familiar. But we came up with that live kind of jazzy arrangement. And when I went to record I said let's just record it exactly like how we did it live, because they liked it live. So that's why I left me counting off the band. That was just to give people a sense of my live style as a performer on wax.

(Soundbite of "I Apologize" by Chambers)

Mr. CHAMBERS: (Singing) ...I apologize...

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Believe me I do.

Mr. CHAMBERS: ...yeah, believe me I do. I apologize.

Unidentified Group: Honest and true.

GORDON: One of the interesting things that you've done--with a big hit for Angie Stone--is with "No More Rain"--be able to integrate familiar tunes...


GORDON: ...with current-day lyric. You do that with one of the songs on your album, "Touch You There," where so many of us who are big Marvin Gaye fans...


GORDON: ...immediately hear "I Want You" in that. Talk to me about...

Mr. CHAMBERS: Right. A big hit of Marvin's.

GORDON: ...why you've done that. Yeah. And then the idea of being able to, I would suspect, salute some of your influences as well.

Mr. CHAMBERS: It's just continuation of a legacy. I'm a child of the '70s, so I grew up, you know, hearing Motown music. Everything that I do, especially, my style of live performance, is based on the Motown brand. And there was a time, you know, growing up artists were elegantly dressed, and their performance was just unparalleled. I can't help but be influenced by that, and I really want to continue that. That legacy is still too current to die.

(Soundbite from "I'll Miss You Most")

GORDON: Finally, let me ask you about another tune on this CD and that's "I'll Miss You Most." I was reading--and this is what I appreciated. This was one of those songs--you said save Luther Vandross. You weren't giving this one away.

Mr. CHAMBERS: That song is about loneliness.

(Soundbite of "I'll Miss You Most")

Mr. CHAMBERS: (Singing) So it's time for me to do my show and you were always there, there in the very first row...

It's interesting because that song is the--hands down--song that seems to move people the most of the album.

(Soundbite of "I'll Miss You Most")

Mr. CHAMBERS: (Singing) ...and so the story goes, and I don't know where you are. And my spirit's all so low. But I'm a pro. I know that...

I think that song is an honest song. It's about loneliness. It's about missing somebody that's just not there right now. You know, I wrote the song from the perspective of a performer, but it hits people in many, many ways.

I met a woman--I performed in Houston--who told me, `I'm a single woman. I'm a career woman. I'm in my 50s. My whole life, I've traveled all over the world as a management consultant, and I sometimes will be in three or four cities during the week. But the only person who ever knew every city where I was going was my mother.' And she said, `My mother passed about six months ago and so there's nobody that I have to report to to say, oh, well, Mom, I'll be in London on Monday and Brussels on Thursday.' So she said, `So--but I carry your CD with me and when I'm missing my mom in my hotel room, I just play "I'll Miss You Most" over and over again. It's become my memory of my mother.'

So I just think that as a songwriter when--you write your best songs when you're really telling the truth--you know, your emotional truth. And if you're honest about your emotional truth, it will connect with somebody else's emotional truth.

GORDON: The CD is called "Introducing Gordon Chambers." We wish you well and, hopefully, this will be the start of many great CDs to come. Thanks, man.

Mr. CHAMBERS: Thank you so much. God bless.

(Soundbite from "Let Me Touch You There")

Mr. CHAMBERS and Unidentified Group: (Singing) I'll, I'll, I'll, I'll, oh, touch you there.

Mr. CHAMBERS: So hard to say exactly what I feel. So much fear these days, so many broken hearts, and empty tears we cry, clinging on to pride. But why...

Unidentified Group: Why, oh, why...

Mr. CHAMBERS: When all we need is loving, baby. You...

GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program today. To listen to this show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of "Let Me Touch You There")

Mr. CHAMBERS: (Singing) ...so let me sing this song to you. Because here's where you belong, so get down...

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Can I touch you there?

Mr. CHAMBERS: Open up your heart...

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS & NOTES. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.