His debut album has just landed, but this soulful house producer is no new kid on the block
Released last Friday (2 February), SoulHouse Vol 1 is both the debut studio album from Brian Power, and the first full-length release from SoulHouse Music, the label he's been running since 2016. For the uninitiated, Brian himself is a DJ whose reputation on the soulful house scene has been growing steadily over the past few years, thanks not least to his regular show on respected London DAB radio station Mi-Soul.
It's no doubt thanks at least in part to the Mi-Soul connection, too, that he's managed to attract a stellar array of collaborators into the studio - Ronnie Herel, Lifford, Marc Evans and Mike Delgado, to name but four - while a second, mixed CD features remixed versions from the even more heavy-hitting likes of Richard Earnshaw, DJ Spen and Eric Kupper. The end result of their collective labours is an album that's replete with soulful vocals, lilting musical grooves and slinky beats, and one that's likely to have the Southport/Sunc´Beat massive in raptures.
But neither the music itself (fine as it is) nor the impressive list of credits on the back sleeve were what struck us most about SoulHouse Vol 1. Rather, it was discovering that not only did Brian just very recently make the leap from the booth to the studio - he didn't even start DJing until the age of 50, a time of life when most people are more likely to be hanging up their headphones than donning them for the first time!
That's got to be pretty inspirational for anyone who's fretting that their DJ career isn't progressing as quickly as they'd like - and especially for those of us who are a little more, ahem, 'time-served'. So naturally we wanted to find out more...
Let's start with the album… it's an interesting format, with unmixed originals and then a DJ mix of the remixes. Am I right in thinking the intent here would be to make CD1 more of a 'home listening' experience, and CD2 the one to whack on for a party?
"Yes, that was absolutely our intention. CD1 presents our philosophy on all things house music and our exploration into different styles of all things soulful, with a cross-section of laidback tracks and others aimed at more of a club environment. CD2 is for in the car or at the party, with some tasty remixes from DJ Spen, Gary Hudgins, Richard Earnshaw, Eric Kupper and many more dishing up the grooves. There are also digital versions of the album available."
The album features several big name collaborations, such as Lifford, Mike Delgado and Ronnie Herel. How did those come about: were they friends already or did you reach out specially?
"The collaborations are a result of having a huge desire to work with artists who we admire. Some were friends and colleagues already, either through my connections at Mi-Soul Radio where I do a show, or just through welcome twists of fate. I’ve also been working with Mike Patto and Toni Economides on the project, and they have a amazing contact list of quality artists on tap."
There's also a pretty heavy-hitting remix line-up… so, same question!
"Simply put, I gave the remix projects to producers with a good track record in producing class music."
Sticking with the remixes a second - any particular faves? Or any that surprised you in terms of taking the track in a different direction?
"The standout remix for me is DJ Spen & Gary Hudgins' take on I Wanted Your Love, from Ronnie Herel and myself featuring Ali Tennant. The twist of using the Instrumental from The Glow Of Love is pure genius, and full of surprise and delight when the vocal kicks in."
The hype sheet for the album says: "The launch of SoulHouse Music evolved over a full English in a greasy spoon cafe in 2016." Tell us more?
"As I sat eating my breakfast, the radio in the cafe played I Really Don’t Need No Light by Jeffrey Osborne. it was one of my all-time favourite classic soul tracks, and it was then I decided I wanted to do a new take on it. Everything else developed from there."
That brings us nicely to your own career, because I've read you didn't start DJing until you were 50? What was your involvement in music before that - and what made you take the plunge when you did?
"I used to be a promoter back in the early 90s, working at the Limelight in Shaftsbury Avenue, but I gave it all up to pursue a career in construction. Then when I arrived at 50, I was in a position to spend more time pursuing my love for music. I hadn’t been DJing very long before I was asked to play a warm-up set at a small intimate gig in London, which was really well received, and that inspired me to pursue it even more. I knew where I wanted to be!"
Since then you've landed a show on Mi-Soul. How important is radio these days, do you think – both as a promotional tool for artists, and as an outlet for DJs to ply their craft?
"I feel radio is still very important for exposure and letting people get to know your style as both a DJ and producer. It also builds hype and familiarity through playlists and regular listeners.
"Live radio is a bit more personal I think. People my age grew up with radio, so I’m a bit old school in that sense as I will always have love for it. But we’re also embracing the new streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple, etc. I think you just have to get your music heard by any means these days."
What set-up do you use for DJing - are you a two-decks-and-a-mixer traditionalist, a digital devotee or somewhere in-between?
"CDs were before my time! I travel very light: nine USBs, a lollipop headphone and I’m ready to go."
There's been much talk of late of an imminent 'soulful house revival'... but then there is most years! Thoughts?
"Optimistic! I’m aware that a lot of quality soulful house and big diva vocals are being played at the moment, but the genre is still very small when compared to others. At SoulHouse Music, we're just trying to create real, quality soulful house that will hopefully generate a crossover appeal and increase its popularity."
Finally, what else is going on in Brian Power's world right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"Oooh, lots! We're currently working on some exciting new tracks with the wonderful Marc Evans, Kathy Kosins, Soulful Emma Louise, Mike Delgado, Ronnie Herel and Michelle John (The Voice), and have pencilled in Shiv and Lifford for some other new projects. Gig-wise I’m already booked for both of the Liverpool Disco Festivals, Southport Weekender (Finsbury Park), SuncéBeat (Croatia) and finally Mibiza at the Ibiza Rocks Hotel. I can’t wait to get stuck in!"
Words: Russell Deeks
SoulHouse Vol 1 is out now on SoulHouse Music
Tags: Brian Power, Soulhouse Music, Mi-Soul, Ronnie Herel, Lifford, Marc Evans, Mike Delgado, Toni Economides, Mike Patto, DJ Spen, Gary Hudgins, Richard Earnshaw, Eric Kupper, Southport Weekender, SuncéBeat, Liverpool Disco Festival, Ibiza Rocks Hotel