TORONTO, CA — It was ALL THAT! Hip Hop & Poetry open mic night at Nuyorican when I first heard flautist Jef Kearns play. Poets spoke over jazzy tunes and rappers spit their soul to the crowd. I remember feeling a bit anxious, waiting for my name to be called to the stage. Then came Jef Kearns with his smooth and soulful melodies which put my nerves at ease. Jef jammed with the cafe’s live band creating one of the most beautiful improvised songs I’ve ever heard. It’s no surprise that he’s a bestseller in Soul-Jazz and Contemporary R&B genres. Jef’s sophmore album Soulfisticated ranked high among bestseller Janelle Monáe‘s The Electric Lady and Whitney Houston‘s Love, Whitney on Amazon Japan’s R&B charts. Get to know the heart and soul of this Toronto-based musician in the Casual Intro below.
ME: Who is Jef Kearns?
JEF KEARNS: The person carving out a place for flute in R&B music.
What or who is your current muse? I’m usually inspired by collaborations as far as my own music goes. Whether it be a producer who I am working on an instrumental with or if we’re working on a flute/vocal duet.
What inspired you to play the flute? My parents said I could pick an instrument to study when I was around 10 years old. I picked the flute — out of thin air as far as I can remember. I attribute it to fate. As far as R&B and Hip Hop flute goes I had a Lionel Richie tape “Dancing on the Ceiling.” I listened to it a lot and said to myself “one day this guy is going to feature me,” fully knowing that flute isn’t a commonly featured instrument in the genre. It hasn’t happened yet (Hi Lionel!) but I’ve been carving out a place for flute in those genres ever since.
Playlist song on repeat right now? “You Give Good Love” from Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances.
Weirdest thing that happened today? I made up a slow cooker recipe that didn’t quite work out … wait, that’s usual.
Your own favorite original song? My favorite original song is the title track to my sophomore album, Soulfisticated. I grew up listening to a radio show on KISS FM Detroit called Kisses After Dark which featured a mix of instrumental quiet storm pieces like Summer Madness as well as music in the genre by vocalists. “Soulfisticated” is the song for me that speaks well of that influence on my playing. It’s one of those songs I feel like I was born to create. One of my producers, John Campbell, wrote it with me and he grew up on the same music. We were both always looking for the extended cuts of those songs. There may be one coming for “Soulfisticated.”
Read any good books lately? I haven’t sat down with any book I’d say was particularly good lately. David Sedaris is a favorite author of mine though. As far as stories go though, I’ve been listening a lot of monologues by Spalding Gray when I’m on the go. He was brought to fame in NYC. He was quite engaging, and I feel like I can relate to him emotionally on some level.
Name your dream musical collaboration(s). In terms of vocalists: Lionel Richie is definitely one. I’d love to do something with Mariah Carey (who I learned a lot about phrasing from). Doing an instrumental collaboration with violinist Regina Carter would be a dream come true. I have seen her perform a few times and she is prolific. I think we could create something amazing.
Define “soulful.” Playing music from your heart.
One thing that grinds my gears is… For some reason the first thing that comes to mind is when people create their own YouTube channel and put Vevo in the name to try to give them more clout. For example if I was to do it: JefKearnsVevo. It’s like … how am I going to like an artist when the first thing they have done is lie to me? (Editor’s Note: Haha! I agree!)
Your favorite moment of 2014? Hitting #1 Best Seller Soul Jazz and #2 Contemporary R&B on Amazon.com. Those genres, especially R&B, are dominated by vocalists; so it was good to see that people are taking note of a flautist. I was able to do my first U.S. showcase in Harlem at Harlem on Fifth [and did] four nights of performing throughout NYC.
What my work means to me is… Leaving a legacy behind for me and the flute.
What’s happening? I’m working on recording new music. I just released my new single “Back Again (QPon Remix),” which is kind of me dueting with an amazing vocalist Karen Jewels (look her up!) The next single will be an instrumental called “Jazz Addiction.” The set release date is January 6th. I’m also working with Vostok Productions on videos for “Through the Rain” and “Soulfisticated.” They do the majority of my professional video work.
Order Jef Kearns’ Soulfisticated here.