|Photo by Ryan Bennett|
By ERIC SCHELKOPF
“Hello Mojo!,” the second solo album from Chicago-based soul/blues belter Derrick Procell, has been enjoying critical and commercial acclaim since its release last August.
With the album, Procell is making his debut on label Catfood Records. “Hello Mojo!” was the No. 1 soul blues album on Roots Music Report for seven weeks. Procell will likely perform several songs from the new album during his appearance Friday at The Venue, 21 S. Broadway Ave. (Route 25).
The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at themusicvenue.org.
I had the chance to talk to Procell about the album and the upcoming show.
Q – I am sure you are going to be playing many songs from your new album at the Hey Nonny show.
Well, the plan is to play everything from the new album, quite honestly.
As an overall piece, it’s pretty widely divergent. It’s in the category of soul/blues, but the truth is, it’s a pretty wide reaching album stylistically.
I like to say it’s blues adjacent.
Q – What were your goals for the album and do you think you achieved them?
My goals for the album were kind of modest. I hadn’t really been thinking about putting my stuff out and then I get this offer to release a record on an actual label with some label support. I got pretty excited about that.
The reviews for the album have been over the top. I just
tried to put out the best record that I could, which I think any artist
does, and hope for the best, hope that the critics like it, hope that
the fans like it and hope that the DJs dig it.
Q – It does seem like there is a meaning behind the name of the song “Hello Mojo!” and the album’s title.
My songwriting partner, Terry Abrahamson, came up with these lyrics and I immediately sat down at the piano and came up with this sort of jazzy bluesy piano riff and off we went.
It’s a song of hope and a song of healing. Everyone loses their mojo at some point in their life and it’s always a good day when you get it back.
Q – I am sure that a lot of people lost their mojo during the COVID-19 lockdown.
That’s a fact.
Q – And I’m sure that you were affected by venues being closed for a while.
Q – Oh yeah. Since I have different income streams from songwriting and song production stuff, I don’t depend solely on live performing. So I was thankful for that.
But I did feel a lot for my musical brothers and sisters out there that had to find new ways to put food on the table. I know that my live performing certainly got shut down for almost all of 2020 and things picked back up a little bit in 2021.
But the devastation that the pandemic did to some of the venues that could not afford to keep their doors open was pretty significant.
Q – Yeah, including a lot of blues clubs, actually.
A lot of them kind of barely operate on a shoestring, you know. And having to shut the doors and try to keep the employees somewhat happy or satisfied, a lot of them didn’t survive it.
It affected everybody, some in more ways than others, for sure. So yeah, it’s good to get our mojo back, all of us, collectively.
Q – And I know the album was produced by Zac Harmon, who also plays guitar on three tracks on the album. What do you think he brought to the table?
Working with Zac was such a gas. I’ve got to confess, I was not that familiar with Zac. I had heard his name, but I was not that familiar with his work.
When it was suggested that Zac produce my record, I did my
homework and looked him up and listened to a lot of his previous
releases. He had released a couple of very successful records on Catfood
Records, so he was a label mate.
We only actually met when we got in the studio. Of course, we had a number of conversations by phone before that and I loved all of his suggestions and ideas about some of the songs.
It was really helpful to me that he was as enthusiastic about the material as he was. And some of the suggestions that he made ended up on the record.
We worked really well together. It was great having him in the studio in that producer’s chair.
He let me be me and when he needed to kind of put a guiding hand in there about a vocal riff or the way something was going down instrumentally, it all served for the eventual good of the record.
Plus, he’s a fun guy to be around.
Q – And I understand you have a new band, right?
Yeah, I’ve thrown together a group, some of whom I’ve played with at various times in various situations. Some of them are from some tribute shows that I do. I do a Joe Cocker tribute show and I do a Van Morrison tribute show.
I’ve got a couple of Chicago blues all-stars, Brother John Kattke on keys, and Darren Jay Fallas on guitar and we’ve got a horn section and a couple of great players, Tom Trinka, who is a longtime Chicago name, on saxophone, and Mitch “The Lip” Goldman on trumpet.
Q – I know you are originally from Milwaukee. Since you’ve been living in the Chicago area, what do you think of the Chicago music scene?
The Chicago music scene is extremely wide and vast. It’s as wide and vast as the Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago is a great music city.
You just name a style of music that you want to hear and it’s happening somewhere.
Q – Now you did your first recording as a lead singer in Nashville when you were 16. What did that experience teach you?
Well, it’s the reason I’m still doing this. I just fell in love with the whole process, of being able to sing into a microphone and have people dig it, you know.
I knew that was it for me.