Jeoffrey Arrington And Chicago Singer Johari Noelle Tap Vulnerability On “Time”
Written by Vocalo Radio on August 24, 2020
In times of great strife, equally great art will often arise.
Chicago entrepreneur and event organizer Jeoffrey Arrington joined forces with local singer Johari Noelle to craft a single that meets the moment.
Midday host Bekoe talked with the pair to explain Time, which drops Aug. 27.
Bekoe: Thanks for speaking with us. I know these are difficult times and the world is all upside down, but how are you two holding up?
Jeoffrey Arrington: I’m maintaining, you know, doing some music. Just trying to be creative, exercise, eat right.
Johari Noelle: For me I just create a workflow for myself at home like, I get up, take care, my dogs work out, work on music, then I take time to just meditate. I don’t check my phone or anything like that. And every day I just create that routine for myself. So it’s been decent. I go outside a lot, get some sun.
B: Yeah, good! You know, some people are not getting those no vitamin D. We need that right now. I had the privilege of checking out the project Time, and I have to say it blew me away. It just touched me. Jeoffrey, I gotta ask you with being the creator of it. How was that for you? What led you to put in this piece together?
JA: It’s a wild story really how this all came together, how beautifully it came together. I had spent a month out in LA during the winter and I came back towards the end of March, and immediately it was lockdown. We were in quarantine, and for the first time we were getting the news that this might be our reality for the foreseeable future. This melody came into my head—I actually sent it into my phone the second it came into my head—it was still bleak outside and we were all cooped up in the house. A couple of days later, I revisited it, started writing chords around it on my guitar and then I recorded it into my phone. I sent it off to Johari and I was like, “Hey, I wrote this song. Let me know what you think!”
JN: Yeah, so he sent me the guitar loop he had written, and I was immediately drawn to it. It was crazy because at the start of quarantine I was not feeling super creative. I was just in a bit of a funk creatively, and the guitar loop he sent me inspired me right away. I immediately came up with something, I sang and wrote the song, then recorded it. I sent it back to him and it was a complete baby-like rough draft type. I sent it to him, I think a couple hours later, and he was like, “Wow, I really like it!” And I was happy because it was the first time for I had written something that had a lot of space. It said a lot without saying a lot. And it was the first time I was intentional about that and experimented in that writing style. So, it was cool to try something in that vein and for it to be received the way it’s been received so far.
JA: Yeah, and when she sent back those lyrics, I thought the lyrics were beautiful. Like she said, she didn’t use a lot of words, but she said so much. And then that of spawned the idea to have more Chicago musicians to be part of this. And so I got a violin player, I got a keys player, a drummer, and I had all of them record their performance wearing a mask. Because Johari’s words were about time, I wanted to capture the moment. And then the murder of George Floyd sparked nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism happened while we were working on the project. And we were like, we have to speak to this. If we’re talking about time and what society is going through right now. This is even bigger than all that.
B: Jeoffrey, what led you to have Johari be the lead vocalist on this project?
JA: I mean, first of all, Johari, she’s amazing. It goes without saying she’s an incredible vocalist. She has a reputation as an incredible vocalist, but I’m blessed to say that before collaborator Johari is a dear friend. I produce events in the city by Mob Rep. People have maybe been to our music shows or warehouse parties or film festivals that we’ve thrown, but I’ve gotten to work with Johari and we’ve developed a friendship. This was originally just something I wanted to make with my friends.
B: What were the additional musicians you had on the record?
JA: They were all people that I’ve worked with through events. Matt Jones, the keys player, is an amazing composer and orchestra conductor. One of the violin players, I met her when she was playing with her orchestra for our event. The bass player from Gravity Studios, we did an event there. So yeah, everyone was just people in the network friends.
B: Johari, I must ask. How was it for you knowing you were the lead vocalist to such a timeless piece?
JN: I think because I just wrote it in a really vulnerable space, I was very humbled by that and very grateful for that, because he could have added [other] people. It could have become something totally different. I was really like gracious that we not only kept my lyrics, but we kept my voice and we kept the idea at the forefront. I’m honored to be able to be a part of something with so many talented people. I’m just grateful overall, I think it’s a beautiful song.
I’m just very surprised because, like I said, when I wrote this, I did not foresee it to become what it became. And I think it’s just really, really beautiful.
B: What would you want people to take away from this piece?
JA: I think the way Johari wrote the piece, during the verse she’s talking about waiting forever and it’s a little anxious, but then in the chorus as she gets to “we’ve got time,” and she has a sense of hope, and a sense of resolve and a sense of resilience. And I think that the pieces acknowledge how difficult and turbulent times are, but at the same time it’s supposed to give the listener a sense of hope about the outcome. Even though we’re uncertain about it, it’s all going to be okay. That’s what I want people to take away.
JN: I would love for people to take away that this is a very uncertain moment in our lives. And it’s so important we first realize that nothing changes overnight. But also, anything can change overnight. You have to realize both, in a way. Just keeping your faith high and keeping your faith strong is really something I want to encourage people to do during this time because it’s just uncertain whether it be with the violence or with the virus or with just the level of unemployment, there are so many unknowns in the world right now. I just want to keep people hopeful and keep them heavy and strong in their faith that we’ll all get through it.
B: Down the road, do you all see the thing getting better. Do you all see justice and equality taking place? I mean what do you feel needs to happen in order for that to take place?
JN: I think it’s an ongoing fight. I don’t think it’s something that’s going to change tomorrow, because we have a world of people to make understand how valuable we are, which is sad, but it’s true. The work doesn’t stop; proving that we’re valuable and we’re worthy of being respected as human beings. And so I think that we have a long time ahead of us and we have a long fight, but it’s just about staying focused on that and not losing sight of it and keeping that at the forefront. As life passes on and as other things change, and as we experience new normals, we can’t forget the core of it in what we’re fighting for.
B: I want to jump back into Time. What was the recording process like? Putting together multiple producers and instrumentalists and vocalists under one hood, how was that for you?
JA: I’m not I’m not a musician by trade: I play a couple of instruments on the side. When I wrote this song, it was really just a passion project. I wasn’t used to recording with people, collaborating with people in different places. I think many musicians maybe have done that before, but for me that was new. But then also, the song just had to be composed in a way that that “built.” I wasn’t going to make a song where everyone comes in hot at the same time because of the way we passed around the track.
Then passing around the track; I probably had FaceTime calls for hours with every single person on that track. I would give them the working version that the previous person had added to and I would FaceTime them and I’d be like, “Alright, listen here. This is what I’m thinking. What are you thinking?” We’d talk it all out and then they would record their part, send it back, and then we bounce it off to the next person. We went person by person by person. It started out just the guitar, and then the drummer got it next, and then the bass got it, and then another guitar, and then the vocals, and the keys and the violin.
B: Now, I think the music video for Time is what’s really is going to take this piece to where you all want it to be. How was the process of putting the video together?
JA: I feel like because of what was going on at the time with the lockdown, it almost gave us a pass to create something that was low budget. I knew that we needed to document the fact that we were all recording at home. I knew that was important. I thought, we should probably put on the mask because then when people see it, they’ll know why we’re at home recording.
And then honestly, the rest of it, the visuals, the illustrations were by Rob Draws, he’s an incredible illustrator and videographer that made that video. I sent him cellphone videos and everyone playing their performance at home and then he took it, and then he used images of people protesting, police in riot gear, COVID masks, and he did his illustrations based on those and that happened halfway through the project. Then we had the pivot when you know, the world was turned upside down.
B: Well, this is a beautiful project. I can’t wait for it to come out. Thank you both!
Time will be available on all streaming platforms Aug. 27.
Interview edited for length and clarity by Luis Mejía Ahrens
More from Vocalo: