Composer/keyboardist/saxophonist/singer/producer Jason Peterson ("JP") DeLaire comes from a very musical family whose roots are firmly planted in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His family is to Minneapolis-soul what the Rockefeller’s are to the financial world, the Barrymore’s to the acting world, and the Kennedy’s to the world of politics. His uncle, Paul Peterson, was a member of the dance-funk group, The Time and played in Prince’s 1985 movie, Purple Rain. DeLaire shares about his family’s lineage, "My family, the Peterson Family, is deeply rooted in Jazz. My Grandpa Willie was very well known bandleader in Minneapolis in the 40’s and 50’s. He was also the first organist for the Minnesota Twins baseball team. He and my Grandma Jeanne were also staff musicians on WCCO radio in Minneapolis in the 50’s. My Grandma is still swinging at age 87! All of their children are professional musicians as well, so there was always music around. My Uncles and Auntie were very much into R&B, so I was exposed to music from Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind and Fire growing up as well. That has also been a huge influence on me. I think it is a good perspective to have been trained in Jazz and R&B, and it is thanks to my family."
DeLaire recalls how his family familiarized him with jazz and R&B/soul artists. He remembers, "I was exposed to Stevie Wonder early on. He was one of my earliest musical heroes. I used to sit and ‘cop’ every vocal run I could from him. Quincy Jones was also a huge influence. I love the arrangements on the Dude record. Prince was and still is a great inspiration, and I love Babyface as well. I can’t forget Michael MacDonald, James Ingram, and David Sanborn. The best way to learn music is to emulate the masters, and there is so much that I have learned from everyone I have mentioned."
DeLaire was not only influenced by jazz musicians and R&B/soul artists, but he was provided with opportunities to meet some of his idols and even perform with them. His credits include being a sideman for Oleta Adams, Cherrelle, Richard Marx, Prince, and Michael Bolton whom he is presently on tour with as Bolton’s saxophone player. Touring with Bolton has given DeLaire the opportunity to hook up with a number of talented musicians like bassist Schuyler Deale and singer-songwriter Tre Balfour whom DeLaire recruited to contribute on his debut solo album, In My Life, released by his own label, Tender Girl Music.
DeLaire explains, "I met Schuyler Deale while working with Michael Bolton. He was Michael’s bass player for many years. We cut ‘Last Call’ at Schuyler’s house in New York. What can I say, Schuyler is a seriously talented dude and it was a blast to work on the track with him!"
DeLaire divulges that "The title track was written by myself, and fellow Bolton band mate Tre Balfour. It is a story about observing the good and bad that this life has to offer. It talks both about the struggles of every day life, as well as the hope for a better tomorrow. I made a video for the song and dedicated it to the Obama campaign for the Presidency. Apparently, he liked it because it was featured on his website. The audiences will hear a vast array of stories both fictional and autobiographical. I didn’t make this CD to fit a specific format, so there are some funky elements, as well as some love ballads and a touch of Jazz as well."
Tre Balfour also records under the pseudo-name 3Bal4 on DeLaire’s track "Gotta Keep The Funk Alive" where he furnishes hip-hop vocals. DeLaire tells, "3Bal4 is Tre Balfour. He is another seriously funky dude. He is my writing partner out on the road and we have a blast. The inspiration for ‘Gotta Keep the Funk Alive’ is all of the Funk pioneers who have come before us. We are paying them homage to them on the track!"
The songs which DeLaire chose for In My Life have been evolving for a while in his workshop. He notes, "I think that most of the tunes have some reference to my life. Some of the songs are about the joys and sorrows of being in/out of love. Some tunes are just about having a good time. Another tune called ‘The Prodigal Son’ is semi autobiographical. It is about being a ‘knucklehead’ and then coming to your senses!"
He provides, "I have always been interested in songwriting. I wrote most of this CD while on the road with Michael Bolton. I have a small studio that I take with me on the road. I really had no intention of putting my own CD out, but when I would play the tracks for my friends and family, they said that I should put out my own CD. I have been making my living as a sideman for many years, and I will continue to work with great artists in that capacity, but I thought now was good time to step out as an artist and see what the response was."
He recollects, " I first started writing when I was working out in Palm Springs about 20 years ago. I bought some equipment and that is when I started writing. I think I was most inspired to write by my mom, Linda who is a great writer, and my uncle, Paul who had a solo deal with MCA records at the time."
Growing up in a musical family helped DeLaire to stimulate his creative juices, but it also helped that he was weaned on the Minneapolis sound which audiences can detect on his debut recording. He examines, "The ‘Minneapolis Sound’ is funky and sexy at the same time! Prince is the Godfather of our sound, and I had the great pleasure of working with him. At the time when the ‘Minneapolis Sound’ was very popular, it was a great time in Minneapolis. People of all cultures were unified by the sound!"
DeLaire wrote a majority of the material on In My Life, and he describes the recording process as, "It is great, but it is also a lot of work! When I start a groove, it will inspire a melody or lyric. Sometimes I like to write when I am sitting at the piano as well. Having the portable studio with me on the road allows me to be creative anytime."
He tells that the songs on In My Life came from a very genuine place much like the music that comprised the dance-funk movement from Minneapolis in the ‘80s. "Honestly, I was just writing some tunes," he pledges. "I was not really looking too far into the future while I was recording. I was more concerned about writing some good tunes and making a record that sounded good. It has turned out to be a blast when I get a chance to perform them live however."
Though a great deal of DeLaire’s experience has been working as a studio musician, he isn’t shy about performing live and even playing his own material in front of audiences. He tells about rehearsals with his live band, "I try to keep it loose and make sure everyone is having a good time. Band mates include my Uncle Paul on Bass, Donny Lamarka on Keys, Mario Dawson on drums, and Tre Balfour on percussion. Rehearsals are pretty loose and cool."
In My Life also gave DeLaire the chance to display his singing accoutrements, which coalesce power pop with a R&B voicing. He admits about singing on the album, "I think that it is a combination of finding your ‘inner world’ and then sharing and communicating that with the audience. It is a true exchange of energy!"
As for choosing which songs to perform as an encore at his live shows, DeLaire confides, "It would have to be ‘Gotta Keep the Funk Alive’ or ‘True Love.’ I want them to keep Love and Funk in their hearts. Music is such a gift and it is a joy to share. I want people to have the impression that they listened to some cool edgy music with some integrity!"
DeLaire is in a unique position where he is both a veteran musician and a recording artist making his debut. He observes about his present situation, "I think that it is both. It is a new direction in that I am stepping out as a solo artist, and it is the next phase of my continued musical journey. I am at a great place in my life now. I am old enough to know better, and still young enough to rock and roll, and Jazz!"
In My Life is a homecoming for Minneapolis-soul which has seemed to be on a furlough since the ‘80s. DeLaire is not only upholding his family’s reputation in music, but also the good vibes that the Minneapolis sound injects into R&B/soul brews. In My Life is a statement about the musical influences which have penetrated JP DeLaire’s life, in addition to being a depiction of the growth spurt that the Minneapolis sound is currently experiencing. The album is home-grown and is as much a part of DeLaire as it is a part of the culture that surrounded him in his youth. In some way, DeLaire is the prodigal son who is taking his music back home to Minneapolis, and showing those folks how he integrated his hometown’s sound with factions of world-class jazz.