Brian Owens And The Deacons Of Soul Release “The Soul Of Ferguson”
If you’re looking for a brand-new record that hearkens back to Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and other musical pioneers, St. Louis native Brian Owens and the Deacons of Soul will be releasing “The Soul of Ferguson” on Feb. 24. Owens’ music seeks to develop conversation and community around topical issues of our time in a resonant way, furthering his commitment to the city’s powerful message that has been heard around the world since August 2014.
The record includes numbers such as “So High,” a lush and powerful tune that speaks to the space within each of us where a positive spiritual power resides. “Benediction” is another favorite, and the upbeat “So Fine” will be sure to infuse audiences with a renewed appreciation for soulful, jazzy numbers. On March 3, Owens will host a benefit concert in Ferguson called Then Sings My Soul. Performers and musicians include IN UNISON Chorus, The Ambassadors of Harmony, The Fairfield Four, and more.
Read our Q&A with Owens below to hear his thoughts on the intersection of music, life and spirituality. Be sure to check out Owens’ new album on Feb. 24, available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, Google Play and Rhapsody.
When you were young, what were some albums you heard that made you want to pursue music?
That’s a really good question. I grew up in the ’80s, around music and singing. There was a lot of R&B around me, and a lot of the music I heard came from television shows, like Alvin and the Chipmunks. When I was thirteen I started to get into Nat King Cole. That was the first time I listened to music and thought, “I’d like to do this.” But it’s a myriad of things. I can’t put my finger on one particular place or time or genre or album. It was one thing that built on the next, and the next.
Soul of Ferguson is coming out on Feb. 24. Could you tell us what it’s going to be like? Is there a sonic texture or through line running in it?
Sonically it follows the pattern of “For You,” pulling in ’60s and ’70s soul. It’s set up as a vinyl L.P. Side A, the side which has “For You,” consists of love songs. Side B is something I call “life songs.” It’s kind of the lived-out expression of Side A. This is one of those albums where you’ll get a better sound if you listen to it on vinyl. After you flip the record, it sounds like the same conversation, but you’ve moved on to a different thought. To me, The Soul of Ferguson will be an ongoing project.
“For You” is going to be on “The Soul of Ferguson.” Who is this song addressed to?
There’s an ambiguity to it. Really it’s a song about the essence of God, which is love. Your love for God, truth, all those things. When I initially wrote the song, it was weird because I intended to write a love song for my wife, but I never put any pronouns in it. And looking back, it occurred to me that this song was expressing something transcendent. When you write something and go back and look at it, you have a better perspective on what the song is about.
Why did you name it “Soul of Ferguson”? What does it mean to you?
It’s where I live, work and worship. It’s my town. And when I say “The Soul of Ferguson,” I think it’s the soundtrack to the heart of my city. But what is the soul and heart of the city? People from Ferguson have to wrestle with trials everyday. This album is what I think the soundscape is, and I look out and see it’s a difficult story. Healing and growing is something we have to do. And that’s what this project represented for me, a soundscape for the city. We can move against stagnation.
Speaking of healing, I know you work with people in music therapy. Could you elaborate?
Music is one of the greatest forms of therapy. It’s a universal language that speaks to a part of us that medicine and words alone can’t always get to. To me, there is a clinical side to music therapy. And I think there’s what I call the “lay side,” the common man’s response to music. People who listen to music as a way to deal with life.
We had a student in trouble the first year I did this. He lost his father at an early age, and with this program he was able to begin healing. He wrote an amazing song and can now be a messenger for his generation. The compassion we receive from musical experiences, we have to share. We all know how powerful music is. Not from the standpoint of making money, but in its ability to reach us. Every kid that comes into our program is going through something, but they become ambassadors of healing through music.