Aesthetically Speaking

Maurice White: Earth, Wind Fire legend

At the mere mention of Earth, Wind & Fire, eyebrows everywhere within earshot suddenly are raised. Memories of such classic sides as “Let’s Groove”, “After The Love Has Gone”, “Reasons” and more come flooding to mind. Their new album The Promise… At the mere mention of Earth, Wind & Fire, eyebrows everywhere within earshot suddenly are raised. Memories of such classic sides as “Let’s Groove”, “After The Love Has Gone”, “Reasons” and more come flooding to mind. Their new album The Promise adds to the legend. Not taking anything away from the band at large, a cultural institution, one does well to acknowledge the seminal genus and guiding light that decades ago founded and still sustains one of America’s greatest wellsprings of musical creativity. Producer, songsmith and vocalist Maurice White, the lasting heart and soul of Earth, Wind & Fire, spoke with Insight News about his process, artistic roots and plans for the continued success of an enduring phenomenon.

INSIGHT NEWS: What do you want the legacy of Earth, Wind & Fire to be best remembered for?

MAURICE WHITE: I’d like it be remember for communicating to people’s hearts, trying to reach the public through a higher consciousness with something they can use.

IN: As a songwriter, where do you look for lyrical inspiration? And is it the same process as in the day of “Sing A Song” and “That’s The Way of the World?”

MW: I look for it to come from inside. I don’t really try to work at the lyrics. I listen to what my heart has to say. It was the same process then as it is now. You know when it’s right, cause it feels right.

IN: Are you a formally trained musician or self-taught.

MW: Both. I trained in classical jazz at the Chicago Music Conservatory. I started singing as a little boy in the Church. I didn’t take it serious until I got involved with Earth, Wind & Fire.

IN: One of the trademarks of your vocals is that exclamation, “Yow”. How’d that come about?

MW: I got that from Deacon Jefferson when I was little boy. He’d say that from the pulpit all the time.

IN: The Emotions make a guest appearance on “The Promise”. Will you be working with them again soon?

MW: Yeah. They’re gonna be putting out another album, pretty soon. Probably in the next three or four months. And I’ll be working with them on that, producing and contributing material.

IN: How did Earth, Wind & Fire come about?

MW: I started Earth, Wind & Fine as a skeleton in Chicago and brought them to L.A. in April of 1970. The first band left after about 18 months. I formed a new band with Ralph and the rest of the guys and we’ve been together since 1972.

IN: The first group just couldn’t get with where you were taking the band or what?

MW: They decided that we had been together for a year and a half and they hadn’t made it yet. I told them, I been tryin’ to make it since I was seven-years-old.

IN: They wanted to add water and have instant stardom.

MW: There you go.

IN: A lot of times artists have even more popularity abroad. Has that happened with Earth, Wind & Fire?

MW: Yep. Actually, you have a more stable audience in Europe, Japan, South America and places like that. Those fans hold steady in their appreciation. In the states there are so many things that take attention away. It’s like flavor of the month. It’s like this month we’re eating grapes. Next month we eat oranges that kind of thing. It’s kind of phenomenal to stick around as long as we have.

IN: You’ve been quoted as saying that when you judge the final playback, rather than listen to it on mammoth, state of the art studio speakers, you listen to it instead on fairly small speakers that would be the same as if it was coming out of somebody’s transistor radio.

MW: That’s true. I mix on an LS-10 which has very small speakers made by Yamaha. It’s like a home speaker or a car speaker, so I can hear what the public hears. I’m trying to get to the listener who’s sitting at home or in the car.

IN: What advice would you give an aspiring producer who hasn’t yet figured how to create his or her own t

June 16, 2003
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