20 Mar 2021

INTERVIEW: Award winning musician and composer Jon Batiste

From Music 101, 5:45 pm on 20 March 2021

Musician Jon Batiste has a long list of achievements.

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste Photo: supplied

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He's performed with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Prince, Willy Nelson, Ed Sheeran, and Lenny Kravitz. He also regularly tours with his band Stay Human, who appear nightly on The Late Show With Steven Colbert.

Batiste also serves as the creative director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Music Director of The Atlantic, and recently took home the Golden Globe for Best Original Score for his work as a composer on Pixar's latest animated adventure Soul.

Speaking to Charlotte Ryan on Music 101, Batiste said Soul was about "taking the time to cherish each other in the mundane" - something which the world has had more oppotunities to do, following a year of lockdowns and disruptions to daily life as we once knew it.

"So maybe that's a silver lining of the pandemic, there's obviously the loss and the tragedy of it, but the silver lining might be that it gives us a chance to think about what we cherish and to really channel that into the future," he said.

Soul follows the story of a middle school music teached named Joe Gardner, who is on a mission to reunite his soul with his body after they were accidentally separated right before his big break as a jazz musician.

While Batiste didn't realise it at first, he would have a lot of influence over the development of the character of Joe.

"I didn't know that going in, but eventually over two years of working on the film, it was such a collaborative process that things started to blend together and move in a way that I'd never experienced working on anything," he said.

"I had around 80 some gopros and cameras and contraptions hooked up to the piano around me, people filming me from different angles when we were recording. The animators are so so advanced they were able to take that information from the cameras and take my essence and put it into Joe, the main character, and I'm truly astounded."

Batiste said making the movie was a highlight of his creative life - but at the same time, he was also working on his new album We Are.

"I had all this stuff that was going that all sort of reached this point of completion, this creative kind of moment, that creative explosion of my life.

"I just feel like I planted these seeds and now they're really bearing so much fruit, I'm very humbled with the way that is happening."

The album incorporates many muscial elements, including jazz, hip hip and marching bands, with plenty of guest appearances from the likes of Quincy Jones, Mavis Staples, the author Zadie Smith and members of his family, including his father, grandfather and nephews.

"I'm doing all these things that are synthisised together into one sound, into one package. And I think that that sort of synthesis will be new for people who know one facet of my artistry or another facet of my artistry, but don't know the full range of what it is I have to offer."

He describes We Are as a "vibe cleanse" - something the world certainly needs right now.

"The world need a vibe cleanse! We in this place where our vibe is icky, the vibe is icky, things have gotten tricky, but we need to open the vibe up, we need the vibe to be open and clean, like clean air. We need to listen to this album, because I think it's gonna help with your vibe cleanse, it's gonna get you together, yeah yeah!"