INTERVIEW: The Grammy nominated R&B band, Mint Condition

 Photo courtesy of Facebook

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Mint Condition is an American R&B band hailing from Saint Paul, Minnesota.  The band is well known for their musical versatility in which they can play all genres ranging from jazz to rock to calypso/soca.  They are most known for their singles, "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes), "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?", "U Send Me Swingin", "You Don't Have to Hurt No More" and "Nothing Left to Say".  They are currently nominated for a 59th Annual Grammy Award for Best R&B Album with "Healing Season".

From the O-H: How did you all come together to form Mint Condition? 

Rick: Everyone went to the same high school, St. Paul Central High School. They had an art program, studio and everything. It's so much talent that comes out of Central.

Waddell: In high school, there was a steel band group that a few of the guys played in.  There were also local singers in town that needed players to play for them.  We found out that each of us were playing together in groups that supported the singers.  We did that for awhile but then we started to notice that it was always us in the same settings. While in school, we learned that Stokley used to only play drums but he was experimenting with singing and once he took the plunge we knew we had our group together.  

O'Dell: Stokley and I played steel drums and we played in a couple of bands we had put together and then we met Larry (Waddell) and Rick.  

Waddell: There is one thing to note, that Ohio native Roger Troutman's son (we call him Lil' Roger aka Lynch) he was in Mint Condition for awhile. So we have the history and the connection of Ohio (that midwest thing).

From the O-H: So we have the name "Mint Condition" but I know you guys had to have had another name that you may have thought about calling yourself. What was it?

Waddell: *laughs* there was Rampart.  

Stokley: Oh man! I have a notepad somewhere, it's an old one.  I'd like to go back and look at that.

 Stokley of Mint Condition Photo courtesy of FromtheOH

Stokley of Mint Condition
Photo courtesy of FromtheOH

From the O-H: You guys have been in the industry for a long time. How do you still remain relevant in the music industry?

Stokley: Honesty, we just go out there and touch people and I think that's the simplest way. Things are going to change but the natural connection with people is everlasting. It's the best way to do it, people come out and they know what their going to get out of us.  We're one of those groups who grew up loving not only musicianship but performers that made you go like "Oooh .. wow, I want to do that!"  On record it's one thing but when you go and see them it was times ten.  We come from that school of thought.

Rick: Another thing, the sound is still relevant.  We still keep our ears to the street, we don't just sit up here and laugh at artists.  We love what the kids are doing today.

From the O-H: Who are some of your musical inspirations?  

Waddell: It goes from probably Funkadelic to Miles Davis and everyone in between.

From the O-H: What was it like to work/tour with Prince? 

 Photo courtesy of Facebook

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Stokley: Amazing!  One of those guys who you'll never see again.  Just like a Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston.  He was just (for a musician) probably the pinnacle.  We talk to a lot of people who were in his band and it's kind of like, where do you go from here?  For a musician to reach that level, who else is there to play for? There are people who are popular but one who understands? Musicians understand everything about the industry in a very unique way. There was nobody like him because he wasn't going to do what you thought was popular. He was going to go the road less traveled. It was amazing to watch him grow. When we got in here, Michael (Jackson) was already here but seeing Prince in the hood, doing his thing and growing up into what he has become and then becoming a mentor of ours, taking us out on the road and having that respect is.. as we say probably better than winning a Grammy.  He was it and still is and nobody can touch that.. EVER!

Waddell: Among all the things we admired about him, we also saw the struggle that he went through. Besides Rick, Minnesota is ours.  We saw that it wasn't just all gravy, he had struggles and we could relate because he opened for people also.  He understood our struggle and we understood his.

Rick: Moving to Minnesota because him (Prince) and The Time were there and then getting to perform on stage with him was just one of the dopest things to happen. 

From the O-H: What's the craziest thing that has happened on tour?  I know you probably have to think about it a little.

Waddell: Not really.... *everyone laughs*

Rick: Stokley went out to the audience and this one girl tried to put her arms around him and ended up scratching his neck.  That was pretty crazy.

O'Dell: At one show, a girl threw something up on stage and it landed on the guitar.  I didn't want to touch it because I didn't know where it came from so I just kinda dipped the guitar back and flung it off.

Stokley: Big panties!!

Their Webmaster: No, it was a big bra that you put on your head.

Stokley: Oohh yeah! *laughing*

Waddell: This was way back in the beginning and folks have grown up since then but this young lady was outside licking the van window while we were inside the van.

[A collective "OHHHH!"]

From the O-H: If you could go back in time, who are some artists you would collab and/or tour with?

Waddell and O'Dell: James Brown (that would be amazing!)  You'd have to come out strong because he's coming out on 10.

From the O-H: What's your songwriting process?

O'Dell: We do all of the above.  Sometime it comes out in rehearsal.  Sometimes somebody has an idea of their own that they bring to the group or you may have an idea and do what you can with it and then pass it on to someone else in the group to finish it up.

From the O-H: How do you select your set list for performances?

O'Dell:  *mumbles* Painstakingly.

Waddell: We've been arguing about that for years.  Somethings get changed and even when the change happens we'll still debate that.  While we're on stage we're thinking about "Oh man, we can probably change this also."  We're able to make those changes because it's a live group (which is the magic of it).  Sometimes Rick might say, "Man, I'm feeling radical today I'm tired of this smooth set list, let's bust into something straight-up rock" or O'Dell will say, "Man, somebody mention Ohio?" and we'll go into some Ohio Players.  It's simple and hard but we probably start from the hits then work backwards from there.  It gets harder when we have limited time.

O'Dell: One day we'll put out that rock set list because a lot of people ask for it.  Maybe we will go into B.B. Kings Blues Club or somewhere and just hit them with that and some funk.

 Photo courtesy of Facebook

Photo courtesy of Facebook

From the O-H:  What's your most favorite place that you've performed?

Stokley, Waddell, O'Dell, Rick: It's actually a lot of them, we have a lot of great friends across the country and across the world.  We've had some great moments.  One would be with Prince, Janet Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest and Toni Braxton.

From the O-H: Is there anywhere that you'd like to perform that you haven't yet? 

Stokley, Waddell, O'Dell, Rick: Trinidad, Africa, Dubai, Hawaii and Saturday Night Live!

From the O-H: What does the future hold for Mint Condition?

O'Dell: A lot of production songs, a lot of producing on other artists records. Some more Mint Condition albums and individual projects.

Webmaster: Make sure to let people know to check out their new website called mintconditionmusic.com where they will be able to purchase merch, music and stay up to date on all things MINT!