In 2016, after the presidential election that put Donald Trump in the White House, musician Mark Meadows felt lost. He believed that his voice, and the voices of other artists “weren’t heard and weren’t making a difference.” He had just released his third LP To the People, a jazz/rock fusion album that he describes as an “anthem for social change in the world.”
Meadows’ latest EP release, “Be the Change,” and upcoming concert at AMP, continue the theme of social change. Meadows states that the album “speaks to the fact that we all have something that we can offer to this world. For me, it’s music. But no matter what, there is something that all of us possess so that we can be the change that we want to see.”
Becoming philosophical, he asks: “Does my music really matter?”
Meadows contemplates that although there is not a “tangible way to measure the impact of your art or your music, there are internal measures that we have to learn to be less critical and more accepting of.” That is, Meadows believes that artists have to develop internal measures that align with their vision for making an impact with their art. He also argues that little measures count.
“Every bit of energy we put out in the world has a cause and effect.” Meadows points to his music video for the EP’s title song, which shows him handing out a rose. The rose becomes symbolic of something that can change someone’s life.
For Meadows, the title song “Be the Change” came easily. “It just flowed out of me.” The EP also contains an arrangement of Stevie Wonders’s “Overjoyed.” “It depicts the joy I have from the all the new and beautiful experiences that I’ve had over the past years. It’s an honest sound. It starts very delicate with just my voice and a keyboard accompaniment, then about a third through the song the band kicks in and lays the mood underscoring and enhancing this melody that the greatest songwriter of all time, Stevie Wonder, laid down.”
Meadows’ music represents the journal of his life, and this is no better evidenced than by his decision to record Charlie Chaplin’s iconic tune “Smile.” According to Meadows, the death of Darius Smith, music director for a number of DC productions including Nina Simone: Four Women that opened at Arena Stage in 2017, inspired his recording of “Smile.” Meadows sees “Smile” as a sad song. “I lost Darius Smith, a monumental and influential music director. He passed suddenly. I was the Music Director of Signature Theatre’s Fats Waller show, Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the time of Smith’s passing.”
Meadows recalls that “every single night I wanted to scream and cry because I was really hurting from his loss. But I had to go out there and give a show and smile. This arrangement depicts the pain in having to smile through your fears and sorrows.” Meadows reveals that his arrangement of “Smile” is in a “melancholy drag, a slow groove” that he hopes will communicate the pain and acceptance of being sad and not having to smile through grief, but actually allow grieving.
To affect change requires action, and the track “Go” speaks to the need for people to get unstuck. “I often am stuck making a decision between being in New York or DC, and I had to make the decision just to start going up to New York. Sometimes we just need to ‘go’.”
Meadows hopes that listeners and release-party attendees will hear the work that he and his band The Movement – John Lee (guitar), Carroll “CV” Dashiell III (drums), Eliot Seppa (bass), and Deacon (Issac) Izzy (vocals) – put into this “amazing project that consists of originals and arrangements that everyone knows and loves.”
In this project, Meadows aspired to bring together people from different backgrounds and social upbringings. Meadows believes that being born in DC when it was “Chocolate City” to being raised in an “all-white neighborhood in Dallas, Texas” and his vast cultural diversity and his educational background in psychology and pre-med provide him with a “unique ability to connect different kinds of people.” Hopefully, this diversity is not only reflected in his music but in the audiences that gravitate to his music.
Meadows’ and The Movement’s performance at the AMP at Strathmore will include tunes from the EP as well as some tunes from “To the People” and “Something Good,” which will feature jazz vocalist Christie Dashiell, whom Meadows dubs “the best jazz vocalist in DC, if not in the world.”
Meadows is a mainstay in metro DC theater having performed as Jelly Roll Morton in Jelly’s Last Jam at the Signature Theater and having served as the musical director for Ain’t Misbehavin’, Motown: Hitsville U.S.A., and Unforgettable: A Tribute to Nat King Cole. He and his band are promising “a night that the audience will not forget.”
Check out Meadows’ website to keep up with his performances.
Mark G. Meadows and the Movement perform on July 11, 2019, at 8:00 p.m., at the AMP at Strathmore, 11810 Grand Park Avenue, 4th Floor, North Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 581-5100, or go online.