Leon Ware

Leon Ware
To the casual soul music fan, Leon Ware may be best known as the producer and co-writer of Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1976 erotic funk opus I Want You. He was also the co-writer of Michael Jackson’s "I Want To Be Where You Are” and "If I Ever Lose This Heaven” made popular by the Average White Band. His collaborations with the likes of the late Minnie Riperton, Maxwell, John Legend and most recently Dwele as well as his own solo work, including Musical Massage, have made Ware a cult icon among lovers of sophisticated baby making music. He has just dropped his latest release, Moon Ride. It’s a delicious banquet of sensual soul, dripping with such atmospheric joints as "L’Oceans” and "Hold Tonight” that is guaranteed to take the chill out of upcoming autumn nights. Exclaim! recently caught up with Ware for a conversation on matters both carnal and musical.

You have been quoted as saying that your mind and ears always go to the bedroom. Why is that?
My immediate answer to that is that I’m innately driven [laughs]. It started when I was seven years old and my sister caught me looking under her girlfriend’s dress. She turned to me and said, "That’s nasty,” and I smiled because I said to myself ,"I kind of like that” [laughs]. From that moment on honestly, I have been a very sensually minded person. It’s something that comes so natural, it’s like having cereal for breakfast.

"L’Oceans” is a very haunting song. It reminds me very much of Marvin Gaye. Was he on your mind when you wrote it?
Marvin’s not always on my mind, but he definitely is always in my mind. Before we met, I was told that he and I had quite a few similarities. Pretty much every time I sang — even before we met — the first person I was compared to was Marvin. I was a fan of Marvin’s as much as he admired me as a songwriter.

"L’Oceans” was pretty much the nucleus of the Moon Ride project. I’ve had so many wonderful comments from people even before it was released that I’m looking forward to that song being either the next single or one of the singles off the album. If word of mouth has anything to do with it I’ll be seeing you at the Grammys.

What are the differences between recording Moon Ride today and something like Musical Massage back in 1976?
Back in the 1970s when I did Musical Massage we did everything. We didn’t have the sequencers, the different programs and the virtual this and virtual that. I had the first Apple computer and I love technology because it offers the opportunity to grow. I’ve embraced the duality of it with this album because 80 percent of the vocals were done at my home. A lot of the basics of the recordings were done at my home also. I then went into the studio with six other musicians and had real sessions, but we played to these tracks. The combination of that is really brilliant because I get the combination of live and I get the clarity of digital.

How does an artist who makes romance and lovemaking their key lyrical content create a sound that is simultaneously as soothing and intense as those feelings and acts themselves?
My natural, innate spirit embodies pretty much the basis of where I start. I love the opportunity to say, both in melody and lyric, words that create an atmosphere or project an allure. I’m always looking for a new approach to express myself. The search is never over and it’s never tiring. You may have noticed on the new album that I've toned down my innuendos a bit, but I'll always be me. I'm a soldier of love and I will continue to write songs that hopefully entertain, excite, entice and allure.

I think Moon Ride is a very cohesive album. What do you think its place is in the ringtone and digital singles dominated music world?
My continuous love for concept will dominate my future works. There are and will continue to be singles off the album. Singles are really only hints but with an album you can take a listener on a trip as opposed to a hint or an idea. I am hoping that this generation will get into this album through word of mouth, which is magic. I’m not only going back to an era where conceptual projects were in style, but I’m combining it with a new attitude. It's the old thing with the new thing. Matt Bauer