Project Mama Earth

It is important to be prepared. Everything is possible with the help of impulse. This was the spirit behind Project Mama Earth’s debut EP. Five world-renowned musicians met up in Devon England in June 2017 for a show that was unrivaled in modern music. They didn’t have any songs. They had no chord charts. No game plan. There is no safety net. There was nothing but a plan to play the music and find the sparks. The Mama Earth all-star lineup of Joss stone (vocals), Nitin sawhney (guitar), Jonathan Joseph, Etienne M’Bappe (bass/guitar), and Jonathan Shorten was able to grab the opportunity where a lesser band might have fallen. The drummer nods, “The potential for catastrophe was enormous.” It could have totally failed. The moment everyone got into the studio, I knew right away. Stone’d Records Project Mama Earth, which was released on November 10th by Mascot/Provogue, was recorded in ten days. But the roots of this project go back a bit deeper. Back in 2003, acclaimed drummer/percussionist Jonathan Joseph saw him drafted as musical director for a hot-tip British soul singer about to sell five million copies of her acclaimed debut album, The Soul Sessions. Fast forward to 2013, and Joseph was still playing the drums for Jeff Beck. Stone, however, decided that he would sing the lead vocals on Mama Earth’s album, which is influenced by the African rhythms. Assembling the Mama Earth band, the drummer remembered his long-standing compadre Etienne M’Bappe: the dazzling Cameroon-born multi-instrumentalist whose resume spans from John McLaughlin to Robben Ford. Joseph says, “He’s one the top bassists in the world.” He plays both electric and acoustic guitars and sings. He is a very talented man. I called Etienne, pitched the idea to him and he flew from Paris. Shorten was another common factor. He had produced much Stone’s studio catalog and wrote some of the most popular hits for Gabrielle, among other things. Nitin Sawhney was the last of the three: the one-man musical tidal force and genre-switching wildcard. His collaborations include Sting, Paul McCartney, and the London Symphony Orchestra. The drummer smiles, “Nitin’s Nitin.” He’s a genius and a strong force in his own right. These people are just part of my job, and I am grateful for that. If you haven’t done anything before, it’s impossible to be in that room. This musical crack-squad met at Stone’s rural Devon home studio. It didn’t take long for them to get along. Sawhney recalls that it was spontaneous. The sessions were about creating something quickly, listening to one another, coming up with new ideas and being creative. It doesn’t matter how long you have been playing, there’s always something to learn when you work with great musicians. These guys are truly heroes on their instruments. It was also about trying to get into those rhythms, and making sure all music reflected this rather than just drums. M’Bappe says, “Nothing was prepared.” The real challenge was to simply show up at the studio, and work from the little idea Jonathan Joseph had on the drums. It was amazing to see how everything was created in that moment. It’s almost like cooking. It’s like when you open your fridge and see what you have. Then you create a delicious dish. All of us wanted to capture those moments. We all followed the same path once we had an idea. The EP was a real labor of love in terms creativity. Stone kept her creative process and that of the other musicians apart. Stone explains that she left the musicians to create the music in the studio while she was busy cooking dinner. Because I didn’t want any influence on the music, I deliberately did not have any input.

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