Ahead of their Tileyard London Instagram takeover on 14th May, we caught up with American hitmakers Louis York to find out more about the meaning and inspiration behind their music.
For those who don’t you know, can you introduce yourself?
Hey, this is Chuck Harmony & Claude Kelly. And WE are a two man band called “Louis York”.
What’s the story behind the name ‘Louis York’?
We struggled at first trying to come up with a name that described who we were becoming. Everything we tried sounded corny. We finally landed on Louis York – it represents our two creative worlds colliding.
Chuck is from East St. LOUIS, Illinois and Claude is from New YORK City, NY. Hence, Louis York!
How did you meet each other?
We met in Atlanta in 2006 when Def Jam Records blindly paired us together to write & produce for one of their premiere R&B artists at the time. We hit it off, created several hits for that album and have been working together ever since.
You have both written successful R&B and pop songs for artists such as Miley Cyrus, Mary J.Blige, Bruno Mars and Rihanna. How do you approach the two genres differently?
We don’t approach them differently at all. The music we create is always tailor-made for the artist we are creating for. We keep in mind their personality, voice, accent, style and build music that we think puts them in their best light. When it’s done right, it should be unforgettable.
Congratulations on releasing your debut album ‘American Griots’ last year. What was your inspiration for this album?
Thank you! “American Griots” is all about the lessons we’ve learned up to this point. We have a deep need to get out all this art that’s inside our heads. That fuelled us to think outside the box and let our own voices be heard. We’ve learned along the way that music isn’t just a job for us it’s a calling! Having been confined creatively for much of our early success pushed us to make a big statement with our debut. We want the world to know us and expect catchy, but thought-provoking art every time they see or hear us.
Sonically there’s a real throwback, 1980’s R&B vibe on ‘American Griots’ – tell us about the production influences on that album.
We spend more time discussing what issues need to be addressed that anything else. That drives the direction of our sound. We were missing chord changes, poetry, vulnerability, genuine fun, musical bridges, live horn arrangements, feel-good grooves. We missed big vocals, and arrangements that make you have to listen more than once! So we made it our mission to fill the gaps and make the music we wanted to hear. We study a lot of Quincy Jones, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Earth Wind & Fire, Joe Sample, Sade, Phil Collins, Coldplay, Billy Joel, Elton John, Kirk Franklin.
Your vocal performances and lyrical content stand out from the contemporary Pop/R&B landscape – it sounds like there is more attention to detail lyrically, with some weightier topics touched upon. Are there any specific themes that are important for you to address?
Amazing story-telling is everything! We believe it’s possible for the song to be catchy AND have deeper meaning so we try to cover both in every song. Vulnerability & honesty are rare nowadays, so as two black men presenting our art we’ve made it a priority to be emotionally real on record and on stage. The world needs more of that! Regret, forgiveness, romance, conquering fear, spirituality & self-love. These are always big topics for us.
You both come from religious backgrounds – does religion have an impact on how you createmusic?
Religion and spirituality are very different things. Our religious upbringings definitely introduced us to music as kids and taught us how powerful it can be. However, we consider ourselves deeply spiritual people now. Our music is 100% a reflection of the lessons we are learning daily about ourselves, nature, life, love, God. If we are doing it right, our music will connect us with people beyond any one religious group.
We love your press shot. How involved were you in the creative process behind this? What does it represent?
Yes! We are heavily involved artistically in everything you see! We started our company Weirdo Workshop and moved to Franklin, TN to have more creative control of our art. Our fashion and photos are purposeful. So much of what we see lately from creative people is dark, gloomy & depressing. We make light music and want to reflect that in every way. Our songs our bold and colorful and so we make sure that our imaging matches the message. The motto is to Have Fun with No Regrets. We live that everyday. Hopefully it inspired people to express themselves more, think outside the box, push for excellence.
Go-to playlist at the moment?
Believe it or not we are currently studying a lot of Rodgers & Hammerstein! Also this awesome Kundalini Meditation playlist on Spotify.
Highlight of your career so far?
We’ve written hits and worked with some of the biggest stars in music and we are grateful but nothing tops the journey we are on right now. Celebrating the album release of American Griots at the historic Fisk University surrounded by friends & family is a personal highlight we’ll never forget!
Any exciting plans for the remainder of 2020?
This year has definitely been full of unexpected surprises already. We’ve learned to be fluid with life now. We are definitely putting another body of work this year, launching our girl band, The Shindellas, performing wherever we can, and growing our tribe.
What can we expect from your live acoustic set on our Instagram on the 14th May?
Expect soulful music, fun, stories and a lot of inspiration. We pour our heart into it so that everyone tuning in FEELS something. We can’t wait!
Tune in to watch Louis York perform live on our Instagram on Thursday 14th May / BST 5:30PM / CST 11:30AM.
Follow Louis York on Instagram here
Check out Louis York on Spotify here
Weirdo Workshop Website