|Next Project:||The Audiobiography|
|Twitter:||Novel on Twitter|
Next time you purchase an album, hard copy or digital, take a moment to glance over the production credits. Chances are you’ll notice a glaring difference between the artists of today and the artists of yesteryear - very few actually write or produce their own music. Big budget acts such as Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige and even Justin Timberlake often fail to contribute more than their vocals to the mixed and mastered final product.
While he doesn’t share in the fame of the aforementioned A-list stars, writer/producer/singer/rapper Novel is looking to change how music is made. Scripting out his Rowdy/Capitol debut album, “The Audiobiography,” with creative concepts and thematic lyrical content, this Atlanta native isn’t just versatile; he defines the very word.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth‘s DJ “Z,” Novel steps inside the booth to talk about following his family’s footsteps into the music industry, why it’s easy to pick up women in a recording studio, and what minimum-wage paying job he’d accept as long as he could continue to record music and support his children.
Listen to the Interview
Novel Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a multi-talented artist who is going to share with the world his Audiobiography later this year. Please welcome my man, Novel – how you doin’?
Novel: How’s it goin’, man?
DJ Booth: It’s goin’ well, thanks. You got a lot goin’ on right now!
Novel: I’m tryin’, just workin’ hard.
DJ Booth: The fact that your stage name is “Novel” means one thing to me: you got something to say. With so many artists singing and rapping about the same topics, what will your music offer, so that all of our listeners are going to want to turn your pages?
Novel: Well, I honestly think it’s a lacking in lyrics. And I don’t know if people aren’t being as creative as they used to, back in the day, with the seventies era and all that. I think if you listen to the album now, it’s actually the story of my life, and what I’ve been through. But the concept’s a little more creative, takin’ it back to concepts and themes of an album – I think we’re missing that in today’s music.
DJ Booth: I couldn’t agree more. You were born in L.A., you grew up in Philly, you eventually bounced around to several different cities across the U.S. Let’s say you had led a grounded life – we’re talkin’ one home in one city your entire life – until you became an adult. Do you think then you’d still have as much to say as you do right now?
Novel: I probably wouldn’t. I’d probably figure out some way, ‘cause it’s in my blood. My mother did music, my father did music, my grandfather did music, so I’d figure out something to talk about. Or maybe my name wouldn’t be novel, it’d be something else.
DJ Booth: Being that everybody in your family did music, was there ever even the inkling that you’d go into any industry but music?
Novel: No, not really. It’s always been music. I did want to be an artist and a basketball player, but, I couldn’t shoot – I could drive in all the time, but that’s about it.
DJ Booth: Well, lucky for you, your jump shot didn’t fail – you’re gonna be a success in the music business. That works out well, right?
Novel: Yeah, hopefully. Thank you.
DJ Booth: You’re welcome. Music that tells a story, unfortunately as you and I both know, seems like it has a hard time finding its way to the radio these days. Can you change that trend, and, if so, how are you gonna do it?
Novel: I don’t know how to change the trend. [I’ll] do my best to write good music. And once people hear it, word of mouth is the strongest thing. Especially with the Internet too right now. I wouldn’t know how to get it out there; I just do my best to write a good song, and if it gets out there and people hear it, more people gravitate to it, then that’s how it spreads.
DJ Booth: Sure. You are signed to a joint deal with Capitol Records and Dallas Austin’s Rowdy Records. To this point, Novel, do you think that you have found out how to market yourself, along with your companies, in a fashion that’s going to best capitalize on your unique talents? ‘Cause you’re diverse – not many artists can do what you can do.
Novel: Thank you, I appreciate that. Yeah, I think this time I’m at a home, I feel good, bein’ here with Rowdy, bein’ here with Dallas. Capitol‘s good to me, Dave Gates, my management, they’re good to me, he’s good to me, so I feel comfortable now, [more] comfortable than I was before from bein’, [with] all the other labels – Rawkus, MCA, Interscope – switchin’ back and forth. I think right now I’m real comfortable.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about the debut album, The Audiobiography, set to be released later this year, hopefully October. According to your bio, the album is going to, quote, “let the world know who you are.” Are we talkin’ one-hundred-percent full disclosure, or a reserved/abbreviated version of this novel?
Novel: Just two chapters, just two chapters! Every other album, the chapters are gonna continue, so it’s just a few chapters of my life.
DJ Booth: Okay, divulge for everybody, because obviously they don’t have a copy of the CD with them, what they’re going to be able to hear.
Novel: I got a song [that] features Ben Folds, who’s a really incredible artist, I Am, with Talib Kweli [and] Spree Wilson. Most of the album was produced by me, [but] we have other producers like Green Lantern, Dallas Austin, No I.D. and Robin Thicke. It’s an interesting album; it’s gonna be different for everybody, all different spectrum’s.
DJ Booth: Well, different is good. The first time I heard your music, the first comparison I made was Lauryn Hill. She sang and she rapped, both equally good. I wanna hear from you, though: do you consider yourself more of a singer who can rap, a rapper who can sing, or just one well-rounded artist?
Novel: One well-rounded [artist], but I would say that hip hop is a lot closer to me. I just think it takes a little more creativity sometimes. But the album’s not gonna have too much hip hop on it; it’s a blend of everything. I appreciate that compliment – that’s one of my favorite artists.
DJ Booth: I read on your MySpace page that she is one of your favorite artists. I also read that you had the opportunity to work with Ms. Hill on a record. What was that like?
Novel: We didn’t actually sit in a room together. You know how it is now: you just send ProTools files back and forth. But it was a record I did on Joss Stone’s album, and Joss was sendin’ it too, I was Emailing her, and she liked it, and she jumped on it right away. So, that was just a privilege for me, that was an honor. It was funny ‘cause we sent a few bars for her to rhyme over, and she sent like thirty-two bars, twenty-four bars. [laughter] That’s Lauryn Hill. So that was an honor.
DJ Booth: Well, let’s say that you two did have a chance to work together, hypothetically, on an entire album in the studio together, not via ProTools and Email. What would that mean to you, not only as a fan, but also as an artist and a peer in the industry?
Novel: Man, that’d mean a lot to me! She’s very inspirational. Her, Prince, as well as a few others. But with her, I wouldn’t know, it’d be overwhelming. There’d be no words; I’d just be ready to work.
DJ Booth: Well, you’d have to come up with some conversation, or otherwise that’d be an awkward studio session.
Novel: [laughter] It probably would be. It’d just be me sittin’ at the piano not sayin’ nothing.
DJ Booth: You wouldn’t necessarily have to say anything, though, because music speaks for itself. But I’m sure that would probably move things along…
Novel: That’s probably why I can’t meet any females, besides in the studio. [laughter]
DJ Booth: [laughter] Well, you know what? The studio’s a good place, ‘cause it’s soundproofed, and you can just lock the door and take it from there.
Novel: I’m very bad socially, except when I’m in the studio, so it’s awkward sometimes.
DJ Booth: Well, I’ve had a pretty bad streak of dating the past few months. Maybe I’m just taking girls to the wrong places; I need to find a recording studio, maybe I’ll have some success.
Novel: You can always come up here to Rowdy.
DJ Booth: I would definitely make it down to Atlanta if the girl’s willing to pay for the flight. Otherwise, no guarantees, I don’t know about it.
Novel: [laughter] It’s all right.
DJ Booth: Novel, you have a song on the upcoming album, it’s titled I Am, and on it you rap, “I am whatever I wanna be/ as long as I’m heard.” If music, let’s say, had not worked out, or you’d given up on it sometime during the course of trying to find a permanent label home, could you see yourself doing anything but music and being happy?
Novel: No, not really, except spendin’ time with my kids. That’s about it: kids, my music, and my family. I’ve been that way before, but I didn’t give up on music, I gave up on the business at one point. I got really frustrated. But I never gave up on music itself; I’m gonna keep doing that. I could do that whether I make money or not, I’m gonna continue to do it. I could just be workin’ at McDonald’s or something, makin’ demos and takin’ care of my kids. [laughter]
DJ Booth: So it’s for the love of the music, not for the paper chase.
Novel: No, definitely not, definitely not.
DJ Booth: Well, you are a rare gem in this industry. Now many would probably agree with you, but that’s what I like about your music, and I wish you the best of luck. Give everybody a website, or a MySpace page, so they can find out more about you and, of course, your upcoming LP.
Novel: Okay. You can go to myspace.com/novelmyspace, and you can check it out on there, and listen to some music. Also, novelistheone.com, that’s another website. Go up there and check it out. And hit me up; I do personally read the MySpace myself, I do answer back as best I can – go in there and hit it up.
DJ Booth: Well, I thank you for taking the time to join me in the DJ Booth and, as I said before, the best of luck in this musical endeavor here in 2008.
Novel: Thank you. DJ Z in the house, baby!
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