It’s not easy to be a successful soul musician. In a day of auto-tuning and manufactured pop hits, Soul remains a rare musical genre that just can’t be fabricated. It takes a rare blend of emotion and charisma to make it in the Soul music biz, a combination that garners devotion from the genre's enthusiasts. And a bona fide Soul superstar capable of busting out the meaty melodies? They're a rare breed these days.
For filmmakers Jessamyn Ansary and Joyce Mishaan, it all started when Jessamyn caught an earful of Lee Fields' hit song Faithful Man at a friend’s house. “I was just totally blown away,” she remembers. “I started listening to his music and researching his story, and I got really interested in him. I thought this would make a great documentary.”
So by this time next year, they’re planning to release a full-length documentary on the soul singer, all with the help of his biggest fans. This Thursday, June 19, Jess and Joyce will host an event with the man himself, where they’ll connect with his audiophiles and catch some new footage for the film. “We want to recreate the vibe of being backstage, so it’s sort of up close and personal,” Jessamyn says. “He’s a great guy and really fun, so I think fans will have a really good time hanging out.”
For the folks who’ve seen Lee perform live, they’ve dubbed it “the after party you’ve always wanted to crash,” complete with dancing, open bar boozin’, take-home Polaroid snapshots and a video booth where fans can share their stories about seeing Lee on stage (some of which, yes, will be included in the final cut of the documentary.) “We’re interested in hearing his fans talk about why they love him and describe the first time they saw him perform live and sort of what they experience when they see him play,” Joyce says.
Lee started his career back in 1969 and crooned his way through the 70s. “[He] thought his career was over when music changed in the 80s and he’s having a revival now that’s very exciting,” Jessamyn says. “Any time I find myself in conversation with someone who is already a Lee Fields fan and it comes up, they are thrilled, they are so excited to talk about him. I’m always blown away by that passion people have for him, and I think the authenticity of the music is part of it. If you see the show, you get it.”
Throughout the production process, Jessamyn and Joyce still haven’t gotten tired of hearing Lee belt out a melody or two. “I think one of my favorite moments or experiences so far is that we get to see him sing in an off-stage context,” Jessamyn says. “When he sings on stage, he just brings the house down. He’s an amazing performer, and that’s a one-of-a-kind experience. But to get to see him sing off-stage — I mean, we’ve seen him sing as he was recording the album, and at his home, in his car, and in really personal environments. He brings the exact same passion and commitment to the song that he brings onstage in front of hundreds or thousands of people and he brings it to one person.”
Over 43 years of work, Lee has built a prolific catalog, with releases on 12 different record labels and tours with the likes of Kool and the Gang, Sammy Gordon and the Hip-Huggers, O.V Wright, Darrell Banks and Little Royal. These days, you can find him recording his newest tasty jams over at Brooklyn’s Truth & Soul Records, where he put together “The Expressions, My World” in 2009, as well as the brand spankin’ new album “Emma Jean” that dropped on June 3rd. “[Lee’s relationship with Truth & Soul] has sort of sent him on this second wave in his career,” Joyce says. “It’s exciting because he’s still got places to go, he’s still growing and people are still discovering him.”
Want to be a part of the movement? Here’s the skinny on this week’s event:
When: Thursday, June 19th, 8pm-10pm (doors 7:30 p.m., open bar 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
Where: Reclamation Bar, 817 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg Brooklyn (Just off the L train at Graham Ave)
Price: $20 bucks at the door gets you 1-hour of all-you-can-drink Modelo, Genesee, Bud and Bud Light. (Or pay just $12 to opt-out of the open bar.) 21 and + to enter.
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure entry.