It is fate that brought these two talented artists together as NuGroove Records President, David Chackler suggested to Harasim to have Connors sing on some of Harasim’s songs for his first release with NuGroove after sensing that the male vocals of . were not the right register for Harasim’s heady grooves and sensual chord make-up. The union has proven to be a perfect balance of male and female parts, which would be nurtured into De’Nate’s debut release with NuGroove, Reminisce.
The part of De’Nate that had the duo working hard for their luck is the many years they spent honing their individual talents before Chackler would even consider them. Nate Harasim had to break through many barriers before making his way to Chackler who signed him to Nu Groove Records and released Harasim’s second solo CD, Love‘s Taken Over. Harasim explains, "My break came when I drove a publicist crazy for David Chackler’s cell number. I'm the kind of guy that will just call someone, introduce myself, and let them know what I'm trying to do, and that's what I did. I straight up called him out of the blue. He asked for a demo, I sent it out, and that's all she wrote."
Previous to the record deal with NuGroove, Harasim had written, arranged, produced, engineered, and self-released his debut solo album, Next In Line. He was a member of the Naval School of Music which he joined after enlisting in the US Navy out of high school. Prior to that, he attended the Flint Institute of Music and formed the jazz band, MoJazz at the ripe age of 16. Deborah Connors also worked heavily in the trenches before being noticed by Chackler. She is one of the top vocal coaches in her native Chicago, and had been producing and writing jingles, commercials, and songs for film and TV shows. She worked at the legendary Chicago Trax Recording Studio, and had recorded two solo albums previous to the making of De’Nate’s Reminisce. After writing and co-producing her own music with writer/producer Michael Powell in Chicago, Chackler took notice.
She tells, "As for myself, I have been in the music business my whole life as a musician and writer, as well as an executive. De'Nate's big break came when David Chackler heard what Nate and I were creating together. The first thing he heard was 'Feel the Love,’ the first single off of Nate's CD, Love's Taken Over. When David heard Nate's initial version, he loved it, but thought it should have a seductive female vocal on it. Originally, there was a male singing. That's when David asked Nate to have me sing on it to see if it fit better. So really, that was our beginning. After that turned out so well, Nate sent me a track and told me to write something for it, and ‘I Can Take You There’ came to be. After that, we were excited to get to work and David was all over us to get an album done!"
This would become the start of De’Nate’s CD, Reminisce. Harasim expresses, "Since De'Nate' really happened by accident, it was a little bit of a challenge at first. The music production part is my responsibility. Reminisce, as a whole, had to flow and have a ‘De'Nate' sound, vibe,’ which at first I wasn't sure what that ‘sound, vibe’ was. Deb and I landed on it pretty quickly. The only criteria we had was we needed a hot groove and sexy vocals, 10 times over," he chortles.
Connors recalls those initial steps, "We really just wrote and recorded as we went along. We worked on the album for about six months and the funny thing is that Nate and I actually never met in person until about 70% of the album was written and recorded. We both have our own studios and much of the album was done virtually. Technology these days is incredible!!!! I live in Chicago and Nate lives in Detroit. Of course, we spoke on the phone constantly throughout the process so when we finally did meet in person, it was like we had known each other for years! As far as criteria for the songs, we really just wanted our music to be soulful and passionate with strong grooves and very melodic. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that the whole experience of writing and recording this album together was incredible. We just ‘get’ each other musically and work together with such ease. It's beautiful!"
One song from Reminisce that audiences may fall in love with immediately is De’Nate’s remake of The Eurythmics single "Sweet Dreams," which both Harasim and Connors were totally excited about recording. Harasim comments about the song selection, "From a keyboardist's and production standpoint, the original version was a breaking point and maybe a starting point in the way that keyboards were used in the recording of music. Dave Stewart, keyboardist and producer of the original, should be recognized as the pioneer of current Pop/R&B production techniques. The original was so HOT, that it was a challenge at first to reproduce this track with the De'Nate' sound, yet pay respect to the original. Since I like a good challenge, I went for it. Another factor in choosing the song was Deb's voice. Need I say more?" he says as he hands the question over to Connors.
Connors extols about the tune, "Sweet Dreams is a classic!!!! When Nate first approached me with the song, I honestly have to say that I wasn't too sure about it. Then, I heard the track he was working on and ideas just started flowing. I had a blast recording my vocals on that track! I really feel strongly that when you cover someone else's songs, it's really important to make it your own, or you just shouldn't do it. This was another instance in which Nate's production gave me an entirely different vision and take on a song. It's all about ‘vibe’ with us. We really feed off of each other's talents."
Another remake on Reminisce is the Quincy Jones track "Secret Garden," which Harasim describes, "’Secret Garden’ is about the place on a woman's body that is very well respected! Quincy Jones originally did this tune with male vocals, but Deb heard it as a duet, which was an excellent idea. In essence, the female knows what she's got and the male want's to get there."
Connors recounts about the recording of this track, "Talk about a challenge, at least for me anyway. Nate wanted to cover the song and again, the track that he produced was incredible!!!!! As I listened to the original version written by Quincy Jones, El DeBarge, R. Temperton and G. Seidah, I thought to myself, 'OK... this is an awesome tune, classically done and by all male vocalists - Barry White, James Ingram and more. The lyrics are geared towards a man wanting to experience a woman's ‘Secret Garden.’ A very passionate and personal expression of the lyrical content so, of course, my first thought was how in the world can I pull this off? As I listened, it came to me quite abruptly! Do the song as a duet, share the experience of ‘The Secret Garden.’ Instead of it being a one-way conversation, turn it into a conversation between two people who want to experience this passion together. We brought in Maurice Mahon and his voice and expressive abilities worked perfectly."
Although a handful of songs on Reminisce are remakes, Harasim and Connors wrote several original tunes including the title track. Connors remarks about their songwriting practices, "We have both been writing as long as we can remember. For myself, I have always been inspired by life in general, whether it comes from my own experience, or someone else's. I can be inspired to write from a single word or feeling. With Reminisce most of my inspiration came from the way a track made me feel when I listened to it. Whatever came to mind, I just let it flow. Honestly, most of the lyrics and melodies I wrote were completely uncontrived. Very few of the songs we're discussed beforehand. Nate sent me his musical vibe and I fed off of it."
Harasim believes that his songwriting ideas come from a sudden moment of inspiration. "I get a ‘feeling,’ I can't explain the ‘feeling,’ but it happens way too often. When the ‘feeling’ strikes I go to my studio and in a matter of 6-7 hours, I have a full production with a pretty decent mix. I guess I've been blessed with that really cool ability."
De’Nate called upon several guest musicians to add their treatments to the duo’s debut record, including NuGroove’s recording artist, saxophonist/producer Darren Rahn. Connors praises, "Darren Rahn, in his own right, is a phenomenal musician and artist, as well as an incredible producer. He was invaluable to us in the production of this album. Working with him was an absolute pleasure. Not only is he incredibly talented, but Darren is one of the nicest and most soulful people you could ever meet. His input on so many of our tracks really made a difference. He went above and beyond, and we are both forever grateful to him."
Harasim teases when talking about Rahn as he ponders the question, "hmmmmmmmmm. " and then quickly tacks on, "Just kidding," with a smile. "Darren is one of my best friends. There are few people in the industry that I have as much respect for. Working with Darren is like working with myself. We understand each other’s thought processes and also have an ear for soul and funk, which makes things simple and fun. Darren's playing is unlike any sax player on the face of the earth, he plays from the soul and a higher power speaks through the sax."
Other guest musicians on the record include Gordon James, Mel Brown, Bob Madsen, Maurice Mahon, Connors songwriting partner Michael Powell, and guitarist Frank Selman, whom Darren Rahn relies on to make his tracks extra smooth. Connors cites, "Frank Selman and Darren Rahn work together, so when we were looking for just the right sound, Darren suggested Frank. The rest is history. His sound fit in beautifully. He is another incredibly talented player that we're blessed to have on this album. We also had the pleasure of working with bass player Mel Brown, who played bass on most of the tracks on the CD, and guitarist Michael Powell who is featured on 'Miss'n You.'"
Harasim iterates, "Like Deb said, Frank is Darren’s right hand man when it comes to playing guitar. Over the years, I have enlisted numerous types of players to record on records. The problem was, they weren't Frank Selman. Send him the track, he records on it, he sends it back, I put it in the computer and it's perfect. No corrections!" He enthuses, "That's what I call, ‘getting what you pay for.’ Darren also hooked us up with Grammy Award Winning bassist, Mel Brown, and it was the same type of situation. Perfect!"
Though Reminisce was a cinch to record for De‘Nate, there were a few tracks that did not make the cut, but some of them may appear in a following album from De‘Nate. Connors notes, "We had been working on three additional tunes, but unfortunately, we ran out of time and they had to be cut in order for us to make our street date."
Harasim recollects, "One especially comes to mind. I was putting together a really cool version of ‘Money, Money, Money,’ I mean it was real sick. The deeper we got into the album, the more it stood out. We really didn't want songs standing out. Like I said, the album had to flow. As for the other two tracks, I wasn't diggin' the groove and we ran out of time."
Audiences got a chance to dig Reminisce’s groove when De’Nate opened for Darren Rahn on July 23, 2008 for the KJZS show held in the Restaurante Orozko at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort located in Reno, Nevada. Connors says about the show, "Although we have both played live all over the place separately, because we are relatively a new act, we are just getting started! We've done a couple of shows with Darren Rahn in Reno and the audience’s response was spectacular! In a format where vocals are not prominent, you have to be kick-ass! So that's what we always go for. It comes easy when you are working with such talented musicians that are focused and driven."
"Thanks Deb," Harasim makes a shout out before commenting about the event, "Reno was a great time. Most musicians go out and play a ‘show.’ When we go out, no matter the venue, no matter the pay, we put on ‘THE SHOW.’ The crowd needs to not only see the energy, but feel it as well. My goal is to set the bar, a new standard."
De’Nate view the concert as one peak, which they would like to see lead too many more like it as Connors beams, "We want to be everywhere, including the UK and the rest of the world. Of course, our home towns mean a lot to us as well."
Harasim chimes in, "What she said, being everywhere would be great!! I might have to clone myself in order for it to work." It is obvious to see how Harasim and Rahn were able to form a strong friendship as both exhibit the same lighthearted humor.
Connors asserts about being in De’Nate, "Nate and I were both hungry to do something like this. I've always wanted to write and record an album where I could truly be free as a vocalist, writer and arranger. We've both worked on various projects, recorded albums and written songs, but nothing like this. It may sound corny but, when we first started, it was magic. We connected musically, so easily, and it just flowed. We fed off of each other’s excitement and respect for each other, which really allowed is to create our own unique sound."
Harasim reveals about his partner, Deborah Connors, "Considering how difficult artists can be, and had been in the past, working with Deb was pretty close, if not as equally enjoyable as working with Darren and his boys. This type of project for me was a first. I'm not quite sure that anything in the past can prepare you for the opportunity we stumbled upon. Fate."
Being in De’Nate has certainly changed their lives as Connors emphasizes, "It has been a wonderful experience! Being creative, expressing and fulfilling dreams is what music is all about. For me, this album has really allowed me to do just that. Expressing yourself is therapy for the soul. Sharing yourself with the world is unlike anything else. When you write an album like this, that comes from deep within and people love it, it make your years of struggles all worth it. I don't think I've ever been happier in my life and I'm driven and focused on making this happen. We're already working on material for the next album!"
Harasim is a bit more conservative in his response, "I'll answer this question in about siz month’s time. Let's see if the hard work pays off."
One means of marketing their music to the public, which both Connors and Harasim have turned to, is the Internet. Both artists even have their own Myspace sites. Connors points out about the epidemic that the Internet has started, "The music industry is an entirely different world than it used to be. Retail chains are closing everyday and digital releases are growing by the minute. You still need to have product in stores, but you also have the beauty of reaching the entire world via the Internet for awareness and marketing."
On the other hand, Harasim muses, "Honestly, I wish we could go back in time. Recently there was a VW commercial that aired quite often. The guy in the commercial happened to be the guy that started the whole ‘free music download’ websites. VW actually put this guy in the spotlight like he was a hero. Because of him, the Internet and the Internet alone, has hurt not only the artists, but the industry as well. I'm not sure why I shared that piece of info, but I guess it's a sign of the times, and I can assure you that I wasn't the only person in the industry disappointed by VW's antics. As far as networking and radio goes, I think the Internet is a great tool and has helped me move forward in many ways."
Both Connors and Harasim answer with an affirmative yes about continuing with De’Nate in the coming years as Connors professes, "There's much more in store for us!" And Harasim initiates, "We're already started on it."
They both see the road up ahead as long and arduous when it comes to developing a fan base. Making a record is just one foothill to surmount, and Connors and Harasim are realistic about the many foothills they will need to walk, and the mileage they will need to put in for De’Nate to be as prominent as they aspire. Connors admits, "There is such great music out there and we’re influenced by such a variety of artists. I do feel that we are all in the same boat together because getting airplay is soooo tough. You hope and pray that radio will embrace you. When Nate and I set our minds to create the De'Nate 'sound,’ we really let go of everything else out there. We didn't want to sound like anyone else. We wanted to be ourselves and unique, and give people something that allowed them to feel, in a sense, to feel our souls as well as their own. One thing that was not contrived about our album is that we wanted a deeply passionate sound, very sensual and warm."
Reminisce establishes the "De‘Nate sound" as assuredly as Alicia Keys has a signature sound, and the late Barry White had his. It was luck that brought Nate Harasim and Deborah Connors together, but it will be strength and perseverance that keeps De’Nate together. Harasim’s approach to see what happens in the next six months is a realistic strategy, maybe because Harasim has seen excellent albums and recording artists fall to the wayside in the past. If fate is smart, De’Nate won’t be one of jazz music’s casualties, but one of its artists that triumphs.