From starring in a number of films to doing 'Reggae Soul' Image

by Biko Kennedy

Reggae music, with its enchanting sounds and captivating essence, has the tendency to make you fall in love with it easily after a few listens. Such was the case with Cool Runnings star Leon Robinson.

In part one of our three-part interview we spoke on his early career decisions and being offered the role of Derice Bannock in the movie Cool Runnings with him noting that "the key thing in entertainment in general to longevity is to (a) have a foundation and (b) I think you just need to stay current."

In this, part two of the three-part interview, we introduce to you: Leon…the singer.

Jamaicansmusic: When and why did you decide to form your band "Leon and the Peoples band?"

Leon Robinson: One of the great things about being a successful actor is that you get to be around other very talented people and I was always a Reggae head, I love Reggae music. So as I got to be better known as an actor a lot of big festivals would invite me down to be the MC and I'm like of course (laughs) if you want me to bring up people like Steel Pulse, Third World and Black Uhuru why not? And just being backstage with some of the big names we'd be singing a cappella and they'd encourage me [to talk singing seriously] and it's not a situation where I had to do it, I did it because I love it. So I got the chance to create my own band which we called 'The Peoples' but we got a lot better shows and bookings when we called ourselves 'Leon and the Peoples', so I kind of pulled a David Ruffin on them (laughs). And this was probable around 2003/2004.

JAmusic: What is it about Reggae music that gears your music in the form of Reggae Soul?

LR: Reggae is the music that makes me want to sing and so I think it's only natural for my first endeavors being a singer to be in Reggae music. When I started writing my own music all the influences I had as a kid from people like Sam Cooke and Smokey Robinson and such all those elements of music was in me but I didn't want to be confined to only one genre but I knew anything I was playing would have a lot of Reggae in it and I love music that carries a lot of soul and underlining meaning so pairing the two together was just natural.

JAmusic: I know Terron Brooks who played Eddie Kendricks in the film The Temptation does sing as well…have you guys ever spoke about a possible collaboration? LR: You'd be very surprised that a lot of actors out there are very good singers but a collab certainly is possible (chuckles).

JAmusic: Do you find that people react to 'Leon the actor' differently than they would 'Leon and the Peoples' band?

LR: Definitely, I think people hold acting in a certain esteem and awe almost to the point where it's detrimental to you in terms of they know you as an actor and you're not supposed to do anything else. I remember when I first started singing and performing a lot of persons would just stare at me with a million blank eyes (chuckles) like, okay, so because I'm a well-known actor you'd much rather or be excited to hear someone you've never seen before as oppose to someone who've played numerous singing roles?…if you'd expect anyone to sing professionally who is an actor as well it'd be me as I've acted so many roles as a singer (laughs). But I have won over a lot of persons with my songs/singing and it has been great so far. And Beres Hammond gave me that stamp of approval in terms of producing song of my songs and I think that helped people to see that I'm really serious about my music.

JAmusic: And Beres is one of your more favored vocalists, yes? LR: Most definitely, without a doubt! There is no one out there to me today that is on the same level as him as far as professionalism and being current; still drawing huge crowds both locally and internationally.

JAmusic: Apart from them being timeless, what drew you to all the different types of artistes that influence your sound today? LR: I don't know what exactly but I'm a song writer and more inclined to be drawn to great song writers; like Beres once again, there's another artiste that I like a lot lyrically Tanya Stephens and a bunch of other people . I really like people who are really saying something with their songs. And I've always been attracted to this.

JAmusic: Your style tends to be pretty calm; would you describe yourself as a relaxed person? LR: For the most part…I think for everyday life it's really better to be relaxed and stay healthy. But I think as an artiste and you strive to be really good there will be times where you'll get really agitated but for the most part I'm a very calm, cool and collective person (chuckles).

JAmusic: What would you describe as your overall aim in the performing arts?

LR: Well I'm a story teller and for me movies reflect the greatest stories and I like to play roles that tell a great story. I like to take persons minds and let them escape to somewhere. That's what really drives me and it's the same with my songs…I really want people to think when they listen to it. And I never lose track that I am an entertainer first and foremost and my job is to make people happy and then you get to a point where I'm at now and it becomes making people happy and keeping the brand alive (smiles). So making people happy and keeping the brand alive would be my overall aim.

JAmusic: What one Motown story you'd like to see created?

LR: Wow…well a story that came to me many years ago and the family approached me that never got made was the Marvin Gaye story. I think it's a really great story that still could be done, be it myself playing the role or another actor/singer. Another that would be great even though it's not a Motown story is a book called Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History. You gotta check that book out.

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