No other blog, magazine, publication, or whatever form of media is as excited as we are about The Thought of YouOtis Brown III’s debut album. Although we at Revive-Music generally nerd-out when new material is published, The Thought of You means just a tad bit more because it is the first release under the Revive/Blue Note imprint. Sentimentalities aside, it’s also quite difficult not to geek out over an album that features Robert Glasper, BilalGretchen Parlato, Nikki Ross, Keyon HarroldJohn Ellis Ben WilliamsNir Felder, Shedrick Mitchell, and Derrick Hodge as the co-producer.

Track By Track Analysis: 'The Thought Of You'

While The Thought of You is graced by big names, the album stands as a reflection of Otis Brown III. From start to finish, each song in the album is a look into Brown’s life as a drummer, husband, and friend. The Thought of You is more about OBIII’s ability to be honest about sharing his story with the audience more than anything else. We recently caught up with Otis Brown III who was kind enough to give us a backstory behind The Thought of You. Scroll down and read what OBIII has to say about each song.

The Way (Truth & Life)” – I hear my friends when I write music and I hear what they’re going to play or sound like when they’re on it. I definitely heard John and Keyon playing [this] when I wrote the song. “The Way (Truth & Life)” is from scripture of something that Jesus said.

The Thought of You Pt. 1” – The way [this] ended up being three parts was interesting because we just recorded the song and the take we did was great. I think I might release the unedited take at some point. The [take] was too long  for the record and I wanted to do another to keep it concise but Derrick was like, “You’re not going to match the energy and the vibe on that one; let’s just move on and we’ll figure out a way to use it,” and it ended up being great!

So many things on this record kind of ended up the way they were supposed to and that was one of them. “The Thought of You” was the main thought throughout the album. The way we ended up using it is that there is this main theme and you go off and think about something else and you go back to the main thought. It keeps this thread throughout the whole album.

Interlude I – Truth” & “Interlude II – Life” – This was pulled from “The Way (Truth & Life).” I had that first part of the song and I wanted something to differentiate the beat between the two to make the sections different so Robert came up with this little vamp and it fit in with the title. This first one says “You can have your truth and I can have my truth” and I’m playing more in a straight ahead style.

There’s a couple of things that I’m trying to say there but one of them is definitely saying that there’s other [genres] in this record but I can definitely play this. The second part has some heavier distorted type of drums and I love that [sound] too. Why can’t they be all in the same bag? There’s the scriptural message, but the other message is that all of this [music] is valid to me.

Stages of Thought” – Keyon playes with Maxwell and he just got off the Eminem/Rhianna tour. Derrick plays in the Experiment and with Maxwell also. But at the root of it all, we love this music. If you come to our house then we’re listening to McCoy Tyner. People haven’t heard a lot of these guys stretch out like that in a while. This is kind of like a burnout tune. Maybe whatever other work we do takes us away from this music, but jazz is what we studied and jazz is the music listen to.

I wrote this a long time ago and it’s taken many different forms. It starts with me playing a straight ahead beat over 11/8 until it gets into the vamp. It’s not so much of “Let’s show everyone we can play this!” as it was more about playing music that we like playing and that we have fun playing. This music is why we came to New York and it’s not like you forget how to play it regardless of what path you take.

The Two Become One (For Paula)” – Herbie Hancock did a workshop and I’ll never forget it – Ben was there to. Herbie said that “Music isn’t about music, it’s about life.” He was talking about space and how there is space in your life so there should be space in music also. I always felt that music was about life, but hearing him say it was amazing. Art imitates life so the stuff in your music should reflect what you live the story you tell. My goal was to tell my story and my family is a huge part of that. They’re a huge source of inspiration and they’re the reason why I do what I do.

One of my wife’s favorite sounds are mallets on drums, which I found out when were listening to Elvin Jones. So I wrote “Two Become One” at the drums with the mallet part and I wanted it to be in 3. Two become one and there’s three people with me, my wife, and God so that’s why it’s in 3. I came up with the drum part first, then the bass line and then the melody after that. It’s a dedication to her; she’s a huge inspiration and I wouldn’t have done this record without her.

You go through some crazy stuff if you’ve been in a relationship as long as we have. You can either work with it and be dedicated or you can give up and throw in the towel. Each thing you go through makes you stronger for the next thing or you can give up. Luckily, we’re still here.

You’re Still The One” – We went out on a date night and the song came on in the car. I hand’t heard this song since ’90s Shania Twain and the lyrics didn’t really mean much to me then. But when my wife and I heard it we were like “Wow! These lyrics are really deep!” When you go through some stuff in a relationship then you have a different perspective. After that, we went to a diner in Jersey and the song came on in the jukebox also!

I had just done a tour with Gretchen and she said she wanted to be on the record but I didn’t have anything for her to sing and Paula – my wife – knew that so she was like, “What If Gretchen sang ‘You’re Still The One’ on the album?”

Robert has this amazing way of arranging songs for Gretchen so I called him to do it and he was like “Yeah sure!” That was like three months before the record date and of course a week before recording Robert was like “How do you want to…” because he hand’t done it yet! Then I came over to his house and he was like “What do you think about this?” and it was amazing.

The Thought of You Pt. II” – John and I used to play in the little drum practice rooms at The New School. I’ve always loved John’s playing. He’s a perfect mix of technique and being able to play whatever he wants rhythmically and harmonically. He’s also [really] soulful. I think it’s because of New Orleans being in him. He can go play with Charlie Hunter then do something with Double Wide. He’s amazing and he’s one of my favorites.

I Love You Lord/ We Exalt Thee/ In The Beginning” – These are songs that we always sing in our church and a lot of churches everywhere. I always said that if I were going to do a record then these songs would be on the record – I’ve always had that in my mind.

The Thought of You Pt. III” –  Robert’s a huge part of this record even if he doesn’t take a lot of solos on the record. “The Thought of You Pt. III” might be the only true solo he takes. But he doesn’t have to take a whole bunch of solos because his sound makes a huge difference and this cushion is there and Robert’s sound is throughout the whole album.

Robert and I met the day we got to school and we’ve been boys – he’s like my brother. He was advanced even from the first time we got to New School; cats like him and all those dudes from that PVA school in Houston like Mike Moreno were already in a certain level that was pretty high.

Rob’s the perfect balance and I think we have the same background coming from the black church. I hear that [aspect] and how he relates it to jazz and I hear all the other influences we have like growing up in the ‘90s and listening to hip-hop from Dilla, Common, and Tribe. He’s got this thing where you hear it right away and it’s like, “Oh that’s Glasper.” It’s crazy to have a sound as identifiable as his and for me to be able to see that develop. There are friends that you know that things will happen and it only takes a matter of time. To see that with Robert is really amazing.

I Am Your Song” – That was a more recent song that I heard my mother playing and I had always wanted to do it but I didn’t have any time to write an arrangement. I told Derrick about how I wanted to do this song with Nikki but I didn’t have time to write it out so I told him that it would be in the next record and he said “Nah man! Let’s try to do it!” So he puts headphones on and listens to it for five minutes and says “Okay, someone hand me a piece of paper” and he literally wrote out the parts. Then he was like “Let’s make copies of it.”

It was so funny because Robert was messing with him saying “I’m Mr. Derrick Hodge. I don’t even need a keyboard to write out arrangements. I’ll write for an orchestra with just two pencils.” So we tried it and I was like “You just figured this out by listening to headphones?” I literally told him that we couldn’t do it then he asked for a pen and wrote a chord, chord, rhythm, rhythm and he took it off and said, “Let’s make copies of this.” That’s just so foreign to me as a drummer and I’m definitely not on that level. That’s like some Quincy Jones type stuff you know?

‘The Thought of You’ comes out on September 23rd via Revive/Blue Note. Pre-order your copy ahead of its release date via iTunes. Stay tuned for more news about Otis Brown III and ‘The Thought of You.’ 

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