I recently had the chance to catch up with one of my favorite musicians, and quite frankly, one of my favorite people in general, Marcus Johnson.
Marcus is a complicated guy and as Doug always says, “he’s equal parts onion and renaissance man…he’s simply got so many layers to his personality.”
At Genuine Joy, we love that diversity and the juxtaposition of divergent skills, interests and accomplishments. So in the few minutes that I had with Marcus, here’s how our ‘lightning round’ conversation went:
HILARY PHELPS: Marcus, I hear you’re starting a four-night engagement at Blues Alley in Georgetown. I remember seeing you play there last December and the line was out the door and down the alley with people shivering and waiting to come in for your show!
MARCUS JOHNSON: Ha Ha! Yes! That’s right. I think that was the first time you heard me play, right? That was a jam-packed set of shows and it’s always nice to play back in front of my hometown crowd in DC.
HP: What is it about the DC crowd or about Blues Alley that really appeals to you? This might sound corny, but do you feel and harness different energy from different crowds across the globe?
MJ: That’s not corny at all. As a matter of fact, as a non-musician, I’m surprised that you knew about that. It’s absolutely correct…there is an energy that each crowd–and to a lesser degree, each venue–puts off and when you’re up there on stage, you can certainly feel it. For me, there’s nothing quite like playing at home in front of my hometown crowd. As a venue, Blues Alley is one of the most historic clubs on the entire East Coast (and I include New York in that statement) and from an energy standpoint, the DC fans have seen me perform since I was just a young guy beating around on the keys. So yes, amazing energy, great venue, packed house, super music!
HP: I’ve heard Doug call you “an onion” because he says you have such depth of character and are comprised of so many different layers. Would you agree with that descriptive?
MJ: [Laughing] Only Doug would call me that! I’ve heard him say that, and to be honest, given who I am, it was intended and it is received as the highest of compliments. The reason he says that is because I’m not just X. By that I mean, I’m not just a musician. I’m not just a businessman. I’m not just an entrepreneur. I’m not just a JD/MBA. I’m not just X. I do have many layers and it’s how all of those layers blend and balance that make me who I am. In many ways, it sounds like that is in line with the underlying premise of this website and your ‘Genuine Joy’ concept.
HP: It totally is, Marcus. I believe that we’re not just defined by the one name or title on our business card, but that we encompass a lot of interests, and strengths, and talents, and potential. As we get older, we tend to relegate ourselves to one descriptive, because we think that’s the responsible thing to do. But when we do that, we slam the door on so many things that we have within us…
MJ: Hilary, I couldn’t agree more. As a musician, I take the energy from the crowd and from the venue, and from the music itself, and I harness it. That same creative drive and melody composition that goes into my performances, gets translated into my business life as well. Whether the start of Three Keys Music, a music publishing company, or the more recent development of FLO Brands, a lifestyle branding company, which houses my now nationwide wine (FLO Wine), it’s the cross-over of all these different things in me, that make up who I am as a complete and total person.
HP: You’re an amazing and inspiring person to talk to, Marcus. You did undergrad at Howard. You got your JD/MBA from Georgetown. You have recorded over 15 studio albums, and performed for millions of fans around the globe. You’re an NAACP Image Award Nominee. You’re a Billboard-ranked jazz musician. You’re the former winner of the Small Business Administration’s “SBA Entrepreneur of the Year Award.” You teach undergraduate, law, and business courses. You run a summer music camp for underprivileged youth. And now, on top of all of that, you’ve launched own your wine label. My friend, you ARE the living embodiment of the ‘Genuine Joy’ concept.
MJ: That’s nice of you to say. At the end of the day, I am who I am. We all choose to see and subsequently define ourself, in different terms and in different colors. I guess in some ways, it’s not that I wanted to “color outside the lines” so much as I simply wanted to “use multiple colors to draw the picture of myself.” I am proud of my music. I am proud of my education. I am proud of my past, present, and future entrepreneurial accomplishments. I am proud of my family, and I am proud of my friends.
HP: You’re authentic. That’s perhaps what I like most about you. You are genuine. So tell me more about the show itself and how people can get tickets. Are there even any left?
MJ: Yes! You can go to the Blues Alley website and purchase tickets. [http://bluesalley.com/events.cfm] I will be performing this week on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 12-15th with a show at 8pm and 10pm each night. I’ll see you there right?
HP: I wouldn’t miss it Marcus and knowing my readers, they will absolutely love your music if they haven’t heard it already. Where can they go to hear and buy some of your former CDs prior to the show this weekend?
MJ: Readers can visitwww.FLObrands.com andwww.threekeys.com to learn more. As you said though, there’s nothing like live music, so I hope to see some familiar faces and make some new friends this weekend at Blues Alley!
For music lovers, a Marcus Johnson show is a real treat. I will absolutely be there this weekend to catch at least one of his shows. If you’re in the DC area, I highly encourage you to come and watch this renaissance man ( or “onion”) do his thing in person. He is as talented as he is authentic and THAT is Genuine Joy!