by Deanna Burrell
Last year, Mint Condition celebrated their 20th anniversary by releasing their 7th album appropriately entitled …7, receiving two Grammy nominations, appearing on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and touring with Prince in his “Welcome to America tour”. Even though they’ve come a long way from their debut album, MEANT TO BE MINT, which was released in 1991 and included classic R&B ballads “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)” and “Forever In Your Eyes”, they remain true to their music roots and influences and continue to be the definition of a band.
I recently caught up with Keyboardists Lawrence El, keyboardist/saxophonist Jeffrey Allen, and bass player Ricky Kinchen to discuss their new album Music @ The Speed Of Life which dropped this week.
Music @ The Speed Of Life is a great title for your album. What does it mean?
Music @ The Speed Of Life illustrates that we wrote the music in real time. As we were having experiences, we were in the studio working so we put those life experiences on tape. This album is really a snapshot into our lives with each song being drawn from real life events and inspirations. It has all the twists, turns, and detours of life. Every time you listen to it, depending on what you’re going through at the time, you’ll get something different from the music and the stories in the songs.
What are some of the moments captured in the songs on this album?
The song “649_Change” is the story of one band member revisiting his childhood home seven years after it was torn down by the city. That house held a lot of history and memories. Driving down the street where the house used to be bought up a lot of emotions. The song is about how people react to change and how we can suppress our stories. The song “Girl of My Life” describes one band member’s experience as the odd man out in the search for love. All of his friends around him are getting married and having kids and he’s curious if he will ever find the love of his life.
How has growing up in Minneapolis influenced Mint Condition and specifically influenced this album?
There is only one urban radio station which is a small R&B station. All the other station play a mix of music so we grew up listening to everything like Led Zeppelin, Parliament, Cameo, Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, reggae, calypso, gospel, and pretty much every music genre you can think of. Also adding to the culture of Mint Condition is that there have always been a lot of bands in Minneapolis. You can see live salsa, Brazilian, flamenco, hip-hop, rock and alternative several times a week. It’s all here so we grew up with this hodgepodge of elements to draw from. This album is a testament to the eclectic nature of our music influences. The music is drawn from many sources some of which you can’t quite tag. It’s not just R&B. It’s music that’s expressive of life in all its varieties.
How was it touring with Prince last year? What’s he like?
It was great to collaborate with Prince and share the stage with him. We got our start in 1989 when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, formerly of The Time, signed us to their label. Prince started The Time and was a major force in the Minneapolis music scene so we also owe our start to him. Prince has such a wide fan base so the tour was an opportunity to expose our music to people who have never heard of Mint Condition. Touring all over including cities in Europe and playing for 60,000 people at some of those date, we felt like a Rock ‘n Roll band. And Prince is a great guy. One of the highlights was during the tour he came up and said, “I want to solo on one of your songs.” Then he came up later and asked, “When I do solo?” We said, “Whenever you want”. It’s amazing to see how much influence he has over people and how much confidence he has. When is walks into a room, he owns it. His magic is that he doesn’t need anyone’s approval. He is just himself. He doesn’t care what other people think.
How do you make your group dynamic work?
We stay true to ourselves. We love the music and our fans. Whenever we come together, we create great work and it’s amazing to still be together after twenty years working consistently and producing hits. Of course, we all have our moments, but we keep each other in check. We encourage and inspire each other. We are perfect anecdote to each other so it works out.
Music @ The Speed Of Life is available everywhere music is sold. The album includes guest spots from DJ Jazzy Jeff and Brother Ali, among others.
*Deanna Burrell is the author of the explosive novel, Single Girl Summer. She can be contacted at SingleGirlSummer@gmail.com