Singer, Songwriter MAJOR. has been into music his entire life but it wasn't until his hit single, Why I Love You started to garner major attention by not only going viral on Youtube (currently at over 30 million views), the song reached top 5 on the billboard charts, Stevie Wonder dubbed it the "wedding song of the year" and Patti LaBelle sang it on her national tour did MAJOR. really get that push into stardom. I got the opportunity to talk to him on a 1-on-1 phone interview during his Press Day before he hit Cleveland on November 2nd for The Rebel, The Soul & The Saint Tour co-headlined by Kirk Franklin and Ledisi.
FromtheOH: I read an interview that you did in 2005 for Berklee and you were 21 at the time. You said that you were going to be an International Christian Superstar, you were going to be a motivational speaker for the Boys and Girls club all around the world, you were going to be on TV, radio and you were going to be an advocate for the world. Well, can I say that now in 2017 you are doing just that. I've seen the looks in people’s eyes when you sing and when you do.. you project hope, inspiration and love and those same people are going through so many things; whether it be with their complexion, weight, relationship, career or what have you but you give them the motivation they need at that very moment.
MAJOR: Wow, thank you so much for that! You've just won my heart with that. I think most people deal with me from my "right now" and they don't really dig that deep. That's just amazing, you literally just reminded me. I totally forgot about that interview. Wow.
FromtheOH: My aunt hipped me to you last year. She told me she was driving with her husband and stumbled across your song. They ended up playing Why I Love You over and over again the entire trip. When she came back from her trip, she told me I just had to listen to that song.
MAJOR.: *laughs* That's pretty crazy. That's love.
FromtheOH: I saw your video clip of you singing Honest at the Taste of Soul in L.A. and you were serenading a girl. Tell us some background behind that.
MAJOR.: Well, believe it or not that little girl was no more than 12-13 years old. I was at the Taste of Soul on the KJLH stage and I performed my first public performance of my new single, Honest. The song already is basically just “man” the individual confronting his truth by embracing what it is and just putting it all out there. If you’re going to love me, love me for who I am, this is all I can be. This is what you’re gonna get, this is the best of me. I get it wrong sometimes, I don’t always know the right thing to say or to do but this is my honest truth so when I sing that song it really connects with a lot of people and challenges people to start embracing the beauty of their truth and so I’m always compelled to go out into the audience. Much like I learned in church, when you go out and start to testify and you connect with the people. I went out into the audience and of course I went to all of the beautiful women and sang to them and I spoke to some of them saying I seen your struggle, I see that you’ve overcome but your beauty has risen above and endured it all and they were touched. Then I saw 2 young girls in the audience and something told me to speak life into them and I go over to one of them (the one on the video that went viral) and I just saw bullying, I saw low self-esteem, I saw conflict, I saw uneasiness in her spirit but her presentation was “I’m good.” And I just began to speak to that and crack through the shell that she’s probably put up just to accommodate everybody elses expectation of it. I let her know how beautiful she was. I said, “I don’t care what they say at school, I don’t care what anyone else has told you, you’re beautiful and you can be the next President if you wanted to, anything that you want to be. When you watch the video you can see her mom saying “See, I told you.” It really gripped my heart because I was just being obedient to what my conviction told me to do and I’m pretty sure that will be the best cry that girl ever had because now she knows the facts and that’s that she’s beautiful. The honest truth is that she’s beautiful. Later that night, I had the opportunity to sing the song for Jessie Jackson’s birthday and he honored Maxine Waters and I sang that and then transitioned into my song Why I Love You and I was able to affirm Ms. Maxine as well. It’s just amazing that these platforms are given me an opportunity to pour into people that aren’t used to being poured into because they’re so used to giving. That’s what Why I Love You is about, it’s really about reciprocity. Understanding that love is an exchange. If I’m the only one giving and I receive nothing in return that’s not love. If I’m the only one receiving and give nothing in return, that’s not love but if we’re both giving nobodies left empty.. that’s love.
FromtheOH: You have this vocal range that's just ridiculous. I know you've been involved in music all of your life but did you come from a musical family?
MAJOR.: Well, my mom made sure all of us had music in our upbringing it just for me it took off pretty soon. My siblings are pretty talented musically but they don’t really do it anymore but for me that’s what has taken me further that and acting, voice-over and that’s my world.
FromtheOH: What is your songwriting process?
MAJOR.: I try to pause and take in what creation is saying. I listen to the cry of the Earth and as deep as that may sound, the Earth cries daily if you just take a moment to listen for it and from that I try to sing the answers. I sing resolution, I sing a way to remedy it and words just start coming and it just flows. It’s really crazy how that happens and sometimes music will inspire me or sometimes I have to be inspired just by writing. I’ll just be writing first and then music comes. It’s always a melody line that will come to me with the words.
I’ll tell you something funny, Why I Love You actually started out just a silly song I did, improv while I was on the set of a web series and they asked me what it was that I wanted to eat for lunch. I said, “Chicken salad sandwich, I want a chicken salad sandwich because I’m hungry” *singing to the beat of Why I Love You* We taped, posted it and it went viral. At that time it was me and my buddy Joel Quinn but my producer said, “No, take that down. That’s a hit.” We started working together on building out the song and literally the verse started to flow and it was just an amazing experience. That was where Why I Love You started and when I wrote it I was like “God, I want to have a conversation with the people about love” and He was like.. “Ok, well if you sing about me the rest of the world will sing along” and I’m like I’m not a gospel artist and He said if you sing about me, the world will sing along. So I tried to understand that as best as I could. Little did I know, at that time that it would be so potent that people would feel God when I sang about love in this song because that’s the best example of the love exchange. You dig?
FromtheOH: It seems like the common thing with songwriters are they can be perfectionists. How do you know when your song is done -- it's time to drop the pen and stop revising?
MAJOR.: Um, that’s really tough because I’m forever thinking, “Oh I can do that better.” *laughs* I’m not a perfectionist I’m an excellentist, that’s my thing. I’m totally big on making sure that the best that I can do is what the people get. So my producer Harmony is the same however we gotta tell each other sometimes, "yo just leave it like that."
FromtheOH: What's the worst advice you ever received regarding your music?
MAJOR.: There was an industry exec. that told me: "you’re too articulate" “Black people don’t like that type of music” "You’re too articulate for Urban music". A music executive told me this. It was a gay, white, Jewish man that told ME that I was too articulate for urban music. So, there you have it and I certainly didn’t take his advice on changing. I’m not going to pretend to be anything that I’m not and I said the “gay, white, Jewish man” not to clown him but to say he of all people should know what it’s like to be different. So why would you encourage someone else to be more of the same? So what was good advice you received? His name is Stevie Wonder! Stevie Wonder said to me, "Major as long as you sing about love, God will always be there." And that’s when I said I did it, because I remember God telling me if you sing about me the rest of the world will sing along. Then it connected and I said, you know what? That’s what it is, because I have an understanding of what love is from the Kingdom perspective. When people receive from me my music and my conversation, they receive it from that perspective and so I’m giving God in every encounter that I’m in. That’s pretty lit huh?
FromtheOH: We always get noticed because of our successes however we learn best from experiences where we’ve failed. What failures of yours have you learned from? How did they change you and your process?
MAJOR.: I've learned to be okay with rejection. I’ve learned to be okay with "no". At first it hurts to be told 'no' especially when you know you delivered. From American Idol, to The Voice twice, I was invited to these auditions. On American Idol I made it all the way to the "right before Hollywood" and they said no. They said I was too polished for the show. Then on The Voice, I was invited to private auditions twice and I didn’t even finish the song when she said “No thank you”. So to hear that when you’re trying to make it, that’s tough. I just try to commit myself to the voice of what I felt God had in my ear and that was "I made you for this, you were built for this and it’s not over until I say it’s over'. So I rocked with that and now we’re here. I’m living dreams.
From the OH: You know what the reminds me of? When you went to an interview for a job that you really liked and you really wanted. You get past the first interview, second interview and you know in your heart that this is YOUR job. When you get to the third interview they tell you "no, you’re over qualified."
MAJOR: Who told you this? Was this a hypothetical situation? Because you’re going to stop right now! What you’re going to do is, you’re going to stop because that is exactly what happened to me and that’s crazy. I remember it was a rental car company and I had been let go from the independent label I was with that spent all of that money on me and didn’t do anything. I tried to apply for so many jobs and a bunch of jobs told me I was overqualified. I remember this rental car company, it was a Manager-in-Training position and I applied and made it through the third round. The lady sits there and she looks at me and says, “Major, you’re qualified, but you’re not going to like it here.” I’m thinking in my mind, this is a test and I’m supposed to respond with 'this is the job I’m supposed to do, I want to make this a career.' I’m thinking the words I’m supposed to say going against what I really feel because I certainly never dreamed of working for a rental car company. No knock to it but that’s not my journey. So I give her all of the words and the phrases. I say, “I’m here to make a career out of this” and she starts laughing like, "I know. I know. You’re not going to like it here and I can’t do this to you. I’ve done the research on you and you’re gonna be just fine." I literally sat there and just laughed and I said thank you so much, you’re right. I took my resume and walked out of there. I get to my car and I remember saying to God I don’t ever wanna lie to get a job and when I say lie, I’m talking about pretend that I want to be somewhere that I don’t want to be. It’s a lie to say I see myself there in 5 years when I don’t, I don’t want to do that so that’s crazy that you even brought that up as a scenario because I’m sitting here like, "Did I say that in an interview??" *laughs*
FromtheOH: What artists have been most inspiring or influential to you and why?
MAJOR.: It’s a number of artists; from Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, James Brown to Cab Calloway to Donnie Hathaway, Stevie (of course), the Winans (Bebe, Cece, Marvin) Kirk Franklin who I’m going on tour with, that’s crazy. I’m just inspired by so many and then the artists of today that I dig so much are Bruno Mars, Beyonce, Adele, Chance the Rapper.. I just think that they are so amazing. Kanye although he’s complicated to take in for some people I get him.
FromtheOH: You have a new project that's dropping next year, what can we expect from MAJOR. on your sophomore project?
MAJOR.: On my sophomore project, expect anthem music. Anthem, life music. Endemic life music. It’s going to sound trap, the next wave of what we need in the land. Mark my words.
The Rebel, The Soul & The Saint Tour Dates
Co-headlining: Kirk Franklin and Ledisi
Opening up the tour will be PJ Morton [**MAJOR. in selected cities]
10/25/2017 Oakland CA Paramount Theatre
10/27/2017 Sacramento CA Sacramento Community Theatre
10/28/2017 Los Angeles CA Microsoft Theatre
10/29/2017 Phoenix AZ Comerica Theatre
11/1/2017 St Louis MO Peabody Opera House**
11/2/2017 Northfield OH Hard Rock Casino**
11/4/2017 Minneapolis MN State Theatre**
11/7/2017 Pittsburgh PA Byham Theatre
11/8/2017 Chicago IL Chicago Theatre
11/9/2017 Milwaukee WI Pabst Theater
11/10/2017 Detroit MI Fox Theatre
11/11/2017 Indianapolis IN Murat Theatre**
11/12/2017 Nashville TN Schermerhorn Symphony Center
11/15/2017 Houston TX Revention Music Center
11/16/2017 Jackson MS Thalia Mara Hall
11/17/2017 Birmingham AL Historic Boutwell Auditorium
11/18/2017 Louisville KY Palace Theatre**
11/19/2017 Atlanta GA Cobb Energy Center**
11/21/2017 Charlotte NC Ovens Auditorium**
11/22/2017 Baltimore MD The Modell Lyric
11/24/2017 Upper Darby PA Tower Theatre
11/25/2017 Washington DC DAR Constitution Hall
11/26/2017 Newark NJ NJPAC
11/28/2017 Brooklyn NY Kings Theatre
11/29/2017 Westbury NY Theatre at Westbury
12/1/2017 Norfolk VA Constant Convocation Center
12/2/2017 Richmond VA Altria Theatre