R&B singer/songwriter Case has been making music professionally since he was just 19 years old, as a signee to Def Jam Records during the golden era, when being signed to the label actually meant something. To call him a veteran would be accurate, but it also feels like the word short changes his contributions to the genre and to his ability to remain relevant twenty years in the business. After an official five year hiatus from the business that felt more like over a decade to fans who missed his 2010 release, Case reemerged at the top of this year with his single, “Shook Up.” His debut album on eOne Entertainment, Heaven’s Door was released on March 31st to solid reviews and lots of excitement from fans new and old. Case admits he was almost overwhelmed by the response after all these years in our interview, one of many things we discussed while Case was in NYC for his album release party. He also let us in on the reason for his hiatus, the creative process behind this album and much more. Read the full interview here…
Parlé Magazine: It’s been a while since people have seen you. What were the steps that led to this return to music?
Case: I went through a phase where I didn’t want to make new music, so I was basically just home chilling, doing concerts. I was good.
Parlé: Why was that though?
Case: I was really just tired of dealing with the business part of the music business. The politics, all of that stuff. It was just too much. It made me not love making the music, which is why I got into it in the first place. So I just felt like it wasn’t worth it anymore.
Parlé: Got it. Then what?
Case: Then two things happened. My Grandmother passed. She used to be real instrumental in having us listen to music. From when we were real young we used to have concerts for company when I was like 3. She passed and then like a month later Michael Jackson passed, who was like one of my biggest influences. When that happened I started listening back to the stuff that my Grandmother listened to. She only listened to like James Brown and Ray Charles, and I went back to listening to old Jackson 5 and it sparked it up again. Cause I was like I don’t want to be making music just to be making it. I gotta feel it. Once that sparked back up, I was good to go.
Parlé: I know you released a project back in 2009, but honestly a lot of people missed that one, myself included. When you drop a project like that and it doesn’t get the full exposure does it help in pushing your love away for the business?
Case: Probably for a little bit at first, but if it’s what you love to do you’ll get over it. At first it’s like, ‘damn, I just did all that for nothing.’ That passes, for me any way, that passes quick. But it just so happens that before that album even came out I had decided I was done. So it didn’t really bother me.
Parlé: Fast forward to this new Heaven’s Door album, which is a great body of work. What are you hoping listeners get from this project.
Case: There are two things I wanted to do with this project. 1) I wanted to put love back into the music and substance, talking about something. And 2) I wanted to get back to melody. I think melody is king no matter what you do in music. I wanted to do something real melodic and just like straight R&B. I didn’t want to talk about being in the club all day and the strip club, popping bottles. Most of people’s lives happen outside the club so I wanted to talk about life. That was my main objective going into it.
Parlé: And you definitely accomplish that. You have songs about heartbreak, romance, family, etc., was there a difficult part of creating this album?
Case: It was probably one of the easiest ones I ever done. What happened, and it turned out to be a really good thing, once I got the love back it was like pushing the reset button. And I got the same hunger and same drive that I used to have in the very beginning. I think a lot of people don’t get that, 20 years later you get that shot of energy to go into it like you first started. It was great, wasn’t hard at all. It was fun.
Parlé: That’s an interesting analysis because your project dropped the same day as Jodeci. I feel like there was a distinct difference in the way they approached the project as compared to you and not to say anything bad about them, but you had a better result.
Case: For me, I’m not really going to try to do anything outside of myself. I may at some points push the boundaries of where I’m going but it’s always going to be in my lane, it’s always going to be what I do, it’s going to be who I am. So I guess that’s probably why it seems smoother. I’m always going to do my sound, do my music but make it sound up to date without making it seem like I’m trying to fit in. I never want to try to fit in because I always think there’s a place for good music. And that was my thing going into it.
Parlé: How did eOne get involved?
Case: I signed with them back in October. Actually they did the best thing they could’ve possibly did. They said, ‘ok, turn the album in on this day’ and then they left me alone. That was perfect for me. They didn’t start calling ’til it was maybe a week before we were supposed to turn the album in and it wasn’t done yet. Other than that they left me alone, which is fine.
Parlé: “Shook Up” is the lead single, what made you want to go with that one for this roll out?
Case: With “Shook Up” what I really wanted to do was make a straight up, old school R & B love song, because there aren’t too many that’s out now. That’s really what I wanted to do, old school R & B love song. The lyrics to “Shook Up” is something the Temptations could sing or Marvin Gaye.
Parlé: Being in the industry for two decades you’ve seen so much. What are your thoughts on the state of R & B right now?
Case: I think that R & B kind’ve lost it’s identity when Hip-Hop and R & B got together. It started out really good and then somewhere along the way Hip-Hop sort of swallowed it. I think there are people that are still making straight up R & B but it’s not a lot. If everybody who is doing it does their part we can get it back on track. It’s just a question of losing your identity, I think anyway.
Parlé: What do you want Case’s legacy to be in music? You got a lot of great songs and projects, but what do you want people to say about Case?
Case: The same thing I said from day one. What I want to accomplish is to make music that in twenty and thirty years you still listen to it like it just came out, like its still relevant. It’s not a fad. My pops, and even me now, I still listen to old Motown, and now that stuff is what, fifty years old. That’s what I want my legacy to be. A long time from now for people to listen to it and enjoy it the same way.
Parlé: Let’s talk about a couple tracks on the project. First, do you have plans for the second single?
Case: Probably “Timeless.”
Parlé: That’s a perfect start, track one. Tell me about “Timeless” and the creative process behind it.
Case: It was cool. I really didn’t like it at first, but I guess once I figured out what it was and what I wanted to do with it, than I was good. I liked it because there’s not a lot of background singing and adlibbing, it’s the lead singing the chorus, I like songs like that. So I felt like it was a song I could sing without over singing or showing this is what I can do. Just sing the song. That’s what I like about the song. And I also like that it’s simplistic, but there’s also complexities to the song, like with some of the arrangements that we did.
Parlé: I feel like “Difficult” is a song that’s catchy and listeners will grab onto. Tell me about the creative process behind that one.
Case: “Difficult” was fun. It was just a straight guitar and it had the melody and what I wanted to do was do some abstract background stuff, like maybe Marvin Gaye would do. And that was fun because I just started coming up with these ideas. That was one of those times where I have an idea and then I have the next idea and I’m like c’mon let’s go. And when it’s done I’m like, ‘yeah, that’s what I was hearing in my head.’
Parlé: You have a nice combination of producers and writers on this album, but no features. Was that a conscious decision for you?
Case: It’s never a conscious decision for me to have features or not to have features. I create the song and then when I’m done I say, this sounds like so and so should be here. This album I didn’t really have that.
Parlé: This is the first time you’ve recorded exclusively in Atlanta. What was it like recording out there and did that atmosphere dictate the music in any way?
Case: It had no bearing actually. The reason why we did it is because my engineer is there and he just got a studio. It definitely didn’t dictate the music because from the time I started making music I didn’t listen to anything but Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, with a little bit of David Ruffin. I couldn’t tell you what was on the radio, I couldn’t tell you what was in the clubs because that’s all I listened to. Whether on the plane, in the car, that’s all I was listening to.
Parlé: As an artist who began his career on Def Jam, how does it feel to see where they are are a record label today?
Case: It feels weird because Def Jam is so culturally relevant and to see what it is now—I don’t even know what it is now—it’s just another building. It don’t have the weight behind it that it used to. I was telling somebody that the other day. There was a time you hear Def Jam and you think LL, Public Enemy, you just think about all kinds of people and now, it’s just a name.
Parlé: What’s the future hold for Case?
Case: At this point, at the stage I’m at it definitely holds more music and soon. I’m at a point where I got to start over twenty years later and get that boost of energy where I just want to create and make more music. That’s first and foremost. I been doing some acting, but for me everything begins and ends with the music. Everything else is just extra. It all starts and ends with the music so that’s definitely where I’m at now.
Parlé: Any final words you want to put out there.
Case: I definitely want to thank all the fans for all the love over the years. It’s greatly appreciated, I feel the love. I was overwhelmed by the reception to Heaven’s Door when it first came out. I’m glad everybody enjoys it, and like I said it won’t be five years before the next one.