- You mentioned not really getting as much lead as you would have liked and that's something a lot of our visitors noticed. There's the one line that you do in "Baby I'm For Real" where you sound incredible. Your voice is really smooth and we kinda wished we heard more of you. Did you ever discuss the option of getting more lead work?
Well yea, I mean we had those conversations but I think somewhere in the underlying fabric of After 7 when they decided to put it together, the group was going to be about the two brothers and possibly that they didn't want to have a third member rise out of the group situation as a result of their opportunity. So I think there probably were some efforts to suppress that aspect of my ability.
But like I said, I took it with a grain of salt, did my part, and became a team player. If the coach asks you, you been a shooter in high school, and he asks you to be a point guard at the college level, you do what the coach asks. So in this case, I was willing to subside my personal aspirations and development for the sake of the group.
- So I guess the problem was that the group was almost marketed like K-Ci & JoJo style where it's the two brothers, but then, it's still on the level of Jodeci-esque where you got the other guys in the group, you got you there as well.
Correct. And you know, I think my part, even though I wasn't heard, you felt my presence on stage if you had had the opportunity to see us on stage. I like to think of myself as being the glue and held the visual side of After 7 together. Because I enjoyed entertaining and entertaining was a natural. That's the way I approached being a member of the group. I was going to make sure that I knew the steps, the group knew the steps and we were going to represent the visual part of what After 7 represented in a real professional way.
- You talked about the chance to see you guys on stage. I noticed a few years ago on Ticketmaster, tours of After 7 started showing up again and doing shows down south. Was this a full group reunion thing or has the group toured again since then?
Well, the group right now does do shows, but it's Kevon and two other members that are not original members of the group. So they'll show up and do the songs but Melvin isn't touring, as well as myself.
- Rolling back the clock again towards the albums you guys put out, a lot of your early work was a nice combo of the new jack jams "Don't Cha Think," "Sayonara," and then a lot of the sweet talking ballads. Which style of these tracks did you prefer?
Well, I'm really fond of the ballads but it always takes a great new jack kind of a song to push you towards having the ability to have a great show. I mean we were great balladeers but we also needed to have songs that get your crowd motivated and get people up out of their seats and dancing. If you compared us with like Brian McKnight who is nothing but a balladeer, when you go to a Brian McKnight show, you might not be quite as excited in what he delivers musically. The girls are woed by the sex appeal I guess of his presentation and him sitting behind the piano but he can't get you out of the seats because he never really recorded an up-tempo song.
So I have to say that After 7's diversity in our first two albums provided us with hit records that made coming to an After 7 concert a complete joy of entertainment. And that's why we were able to tour with Whitney Houston, MC Hammer, the Whispers, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Frankie Beverly. To be able to go from a total kid market show which is what MC Hammer represented, to turn around and get on the Whitney Houston show which is totally different audience, a pop audience that played places like Maine, New Hampshire, to across Canada. Well, traditional R&B music isn't always accepted in a pop arena. So for us to be able to expand from an MC Hammer tour to a Whitney Houston tour and then go back to the Whispers tour or Gladys Knight tour, those are all different markets.
But we were touring all those different live shows, with the same music. So we came around at a really unique time in music. Having hip-hop and then having the ballads. We were young men and people perceived us probably younger than we were, but we were a little older at the time when we first came out so we were mature but yet we looked very young. So we fit into both audiences which is really unique to be able to play in front of those different audiences.
- One thing you mentioned was that with the group's first two albums, they were both really diverse, but I've noticed that the third album, Reflections, moved away from the up-tempo jams and was almost all ballads. What brought this change about?
Well, Face and LA did all the first album. The second album, they really didn't do anything. Dallas Austin spearheaded the beginning of that project, and Dallas was from the hip-hop era, one of the pioneers of it from the R&B/hip-hop standpoint. So his take on music was a lot different from Face, but they all felt like they had a kind of temperament for what After 7 should be and where we should go.
I think in the third album, you saw more of Kevon and Melvin personal touches, than you did having Face leadership or having Dallas Austin's leadership because at that point, Face was very little involved in the A&R in the project. So what you really found was Kevon and Melvin both being a little bit more involved with selecting songs, and they gravitated towards their love, which is singing love songs moreso than the up-tempo songs.
- Another thing you mentioned earlier, was going on all these tours, you're with all these big name acts. What was it like being on tour with Whitney Houston, MC Hammer?
It was a lot of fun. Hammer totally was a different experience than Whitney, but they both were at the height of their careers musically, stage-wise they had great classy shows. What Hammer did, I love the fact that he brought dance and showmanship and entertainment to the rap industry. It's just sad to see that nobody followed that mode in the industry.
You know, it just went to the point to where they would just show up, stand up there and rap. It's not really entertaining but I guess the sophistication of ticket buyers changed over the years and so they don't really care about being entertained. They just wanna hear the record and see the star. But what Whitney would bring and what Hammer would bring and what the old school representation of entertainment was, we were branded by that flavor of entertainment and we strived to provide the visual to go along with the melodicness of the music.
- Looking back at the albums, Reflections when it came out, it did pretty well on the charts. But after that, the group wasn't really heard from again and you guys broke up. Can you go into the details about what happened there or what led to the group's splitting?
Well, when we left Virgin Records, we left feeling like Virgin Records had never really put themselves in the position as a record label to win on the R&B side from their staffing internally to the artists that they had signed to the label that ended up supporting each other when records are released and promotional serve ups.
So it got frustrating pouring your heart and soul into a project and your record label drops the ball on records. So we lost confidence in the label and asked to be released. We didn't lose our record deal for all the public they should know that because it's a pretty unique situation and not many artists choose to walk away from labels but at the time, we did.
Not knowing what the future would hold, we just knew we didn't want to be there and we walked away from it. And I think that led to the open space in our togetherness and it gave Kevon an opportunity to work on his solo project which he did with RCA and I had entrepreneurial endeavors. I had a barbeque restaurant in Atlanta and wanted to pursue putting time and effort into that endeavor. We all had some individual aspirations and we embarked upon those things. That's basically what led us to doing different things.
We got back together maybe six years later and did some live shows together but no real pursuit of a record real at that point because the industry had changed so much and so much space and time we just did a lot of live shows for a couple of years.
Be sure to check back for part 2 of our interview with Keith Mitchell to learn more about his work as a manager and gospel singer. Visit Keith at Keith's MySpace.