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Hart Ramsey - In Conversation

Get ready to listen to a great set of music compositions by Hart Ramsey which are rich with melodies that are simply awesome. Not only that, the motivational notes inside the CD jacket will inspire all who read them.

 JazzReview: Tell us about your early musical experience

Hart Ramsey: I started my musical training at 8 years old as a classical piano student. Somewhere in my second year I became impatient and wanted to play the popular songs that were big on the radio. So I turned my attention from formal training to learning music theory. That allowed me to play the songs that made music so appealing in the 70s.

JazzReview: Why music? What got you into it, why are you passionate about it?

Hart Ramsey: Being raised in the Virgin Islands, I was exposed to many different styles of music. We were fortunate to have R&B, Rock, Reggae, Calypso and Instrumental music all play on the same radio station at different times of the day. So each hour took me on a musical journey to different places and cultures. I love the "transportational power" of music. Nothing can create moods and speak to the soul like music can.

Jazz Review: Were there any particular keyboard players that you were into or who influenced you?

Hart Ramsey: In the Virgin Islands I didn't hear much jazz early on, but I was exposed to great reggae and R&B bands. The multi-keyboardists for power groups like Larry Dunn of Earth, Wind, & Fire and others were my main influences before I was turned on to cats like Bob James, Herbie Hancock, and Jeff Lorber. But it was the playing and production style of George Duke that really influenced my current musical direction.

JazzReview: What works are you most proud of and, on the flip side, is there any session you wish you could do over?

Hart Ramsey: I'm most proud of the first single from my debut CD, 'What About Love'. The fact that I wrote it in all of 15 minutes and received international attention still brings a smile to my face. The song was co-written with saxophonist Kelley O'Neal and my co-producer and bass-player, Sean Michael Ray. Our goal was to write a song that was as much improvisational as it was structured. I'm very proud of the outcome.

There are several sessions I wish I could have another shot at. Fortunately, when a song doesn't pass the test, it ends up on the cutting room floor! But if I had one song that could do again it would be a cover of the Deniece Williams hit 'Free' that I co-produced years ago on the sophomore CD from Eric Essix titled 'Second Thoughts'. At the last minute, the band that was supposed to track the song had some issues. So I had to build the entire tune from scratch in an hour and a half. While it turned out well, I wish I could have another go at it.

Jazz Review: If you had a choice of people for your dream band, living or deceased, but no one that you've played publicly with, who would that be?

Hart Ramsey: Wow! That's tough because I appreciate musicians from every genre of music. Let's see, I'll have to say Louis Johnson, of Brother's Johnson fame, on bass and Paul Jackson Jr., who is an accomplished and respected artist, on guitar. My second pick for guitar would be Niles Rodgers. Then there would be Dave Weckl on drums who anchored the Chick Corea Band and Junior Walker on saxophone whose sound I try to emulate on every record. That said, one day I want to play with Kirk Whalum. Finally, Oscar Peterson on piano; I could ask him to slow down some of his licks so I can steal them.

JazzReview: I love all the tracks on 'My Next Heartbeat'. In particular 'Written in Red', 'Look You In The Face', the title track and definitely 'The Commitment'. What single piece most says "this is who I am"?

Hart Ramsey: Look You In The Face' says who I am as a player because it underscores my love for simplicity and groove in music. 'My Next Heartbeat' shows who I am as a producer because it displays my love for the use of color and melody regardless of a song's tempo. 'Written In Red' is a peek into my abstract, 'play the piano like a percussion instrument' self."

JazzReview: The 'My Next Heartbeat' motivational notes were perfect. Each song title had a specific inspiration. What inspires you and how do you connect with the source of your creativity?

Hart Ramsey: In addition to being a musician, as you know, I'm a Pastor. So I find myself in a constant state of observation and education. The musician in me interprets life first emotionally, then spiritually. But as a Pastor I interpret life almost completely from a spiritual perspective gained from the Bible. Creativity to me is a matter of faith. It's a matter of having myself properly connected to God. When I stand to speak to my congregation I seek to speak from a place of understanding and address life's challenges in a relevant way. In my music I seek to be more introspective and communicate the things that words may not always say very well.

JazzReview: How do you balance your life as the founder and pastor of Northview Christian Church and your musical career?

Hart Ramsey: Well, I am surrounded by an amazing team of committed people who are themselves multitalented. Because they understand what it means to multitask they cover the bases and make my Pastoral duties very manageable. Also, until recently, I limited my annual travel so that I could be in my pulpit when needed. However, in support of 'My Next Heartbeat' I've prepared both my staff and my Church members for my tour schedule.

JazzReview: For new musicians entering the music industry, how can a band become successful in this environment?

Hart Ramsey: I would advise anyone interested in the music business to be well versed on the new developments in the industry. A lot has changed; but there're still many great opportunities for the serious musician. I would also advise new musicians to "say something new and worth hearing." Don't try to be anyone else. No one can do you as well as you can.

JazzReview: What can we expect from you in the future?

Hart Ramsey: In the future I'm planning some collaborative efforts to produce more artists and to spend more time playing live. Ultimately, I plan to do a live recording with my band. I also have set my sites on developing my church choir; it's called The NCC Family Choir, to make an impact on the gospel music scene. Their debut CD 'Next Now' was produced by my friend, Grammy Award winning producer Aaron Lindsey, and is set to make some noise in 2012.

Thank you Hart Ramsey for an excellent interview.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Hart Ramsey
  • Interview Date: December 2011
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