Five Questions with … Lee Fields

March 16th, 2012

Lee Fields has been making music for quite some time. His first album came out in 1969. So it’s safe to say he’s been around. He started out in the funk business, earning favorable comparisons to James Brown throughout the ’70s. And while the ’80s were somewhat quiet for him, he returned strong in the ’90s, making bluesy soul music. But since teaming up with local label Truth & Soul and its house band, the Expressions, his music has been reinvigorated. To witness: the excellent, just released Faithful Man, which marries old-school R&B and soul with modern touches. Tomorrow, Lee Fields and the Expressions (above, doing “Love Comes and Goes”) play Music Hall of Williamsburg, and in advance of the show, he e-mailed The House List to answer Five Questions.

Over the course of your decades in the music business, what are some of the best changes in the industry?
The creation of e-mail, MP3, YouTube, Facebook and all other social media tools that allow artists to be seen and heard throughout the world at the same time.

Who are your inspirations outside of the music world?
My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Beatrice, who instructed me to learned this poem, and to this day I have never forgotten the words, and these words became my motto of life: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. ’Tis the lesson you should heed, try, try again. For then your courage should appear, for you will conquer, never fear. Always keep this rule in view try, try again.”

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
No, I try to be open-minded and as vigilant as possible regarding public trends, news and whatever affects people’s mindset, because songs are a reflection of the latter.

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
I don’t think a person has to be depressed to write a sad song, but I think a person has to know how it feels to be sad in order to write one. I think in some cases, songs are better when writing about real-life experiences. It mainly depends on one’s ability to write from emotions as distinguished from reason. But in both cases one needs a special talent or skill to chose compassionate words that others may find descriptive of their situations.

At your after-party and there’s an endless jukebox, and The House List gives you a buck. Which three songs are you playing?
Otis Redding, “Security,” Smokey Robinson, “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and James Brown, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” —R. Zizmor