We’re having breakfast with Teddyson John at one of his favourite spots in St.Lucia, the Bread Basket. It’s overlooking the Rodney Bay Marina and it is a great sunny morning. I knew this was one musical artist I wanted to find out more about as I see him as one of the musical ambassadors for St.Lucia. His song ‘Allez’ was significant in letting more of the soca world know ‘Hey St. Lucians can do good soca too!
Teddy comes into Bread Basket all casual and asks for his usual. We had taken the last bakes and saltfish going so he had to settle for a sandwich…
Did you always want to be an artist? Yes I started singing from small in church. From then it was something that was always there. I was never really taught professionally to sing. I just knew that I liked singing.
Do you consider yourself an artist or a soca artist? An artist. Before soca music, other genres influenced me and what I do; jazz, gospel music, R’N’B. More on the jazz side. The most positive song I have made ‘Allez’, the world responded to the most and made people get to know about me. I am proud of it. I also thought there is a niche. People really like that, with everything that is happening in the world, people need some uplifting songs. I’ll mix it up a bit but I didn’t want the regular wine, jamming, bumpas, drinking. I figured that there is a lot more soca can do and there is a lot that people go through that a wine and bumpa song can’t cover. For example, Voice’s ‘Far from Finished’. When you listen to his words, it’s the truth. You want something that addresses that. To each his own but you want some soca songs that addresses life sometimes. I can’t do a drinking song cause I don’t drink alcohol. A Lucian that doesn’t drink alcohol? [laughter] Teddyson: I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke. They call me the ‘Chaser waster’.. Big up Lyrical.. When they are having the alcohol, I am having the ginger ale, the apple juice. They say ‘doe come around me’.
Do you write your own songs or do you collaborate with other people? I collab with other people in terms of production and writing. I produce as well. I come from a background of music. I play instruments. I play drums. If I wasn’t a singer, I would be a drummer. Bass is second, keyboard is my third. So I wanted to become involved in the background music production.
What is your favourite? The singing? The instruments? I love singing but sometimes I wish that I could be a drummer for a big time artist because you get to be part of the music, the beats, help control the vibe.
Thinking about your career at the moment, do you think there was a turning point? A lot of people might have heard my music. But the honest thing is that you have to go through the mecca of soca which is Trinidad for you to be recognised. I was always there doing stuff but it was when Trinidad opened up and stamped it that it became what it is. So to most people, I might be the new kid on the block but when I go on stage my experience showed.
You said that Trinidad is the Mecca of Soca. The soca from the other west Indian islands have a somewhat different sound. If you use Trinidad soca as the measure for top soca, does that mean soca from the other islands is somewhat lacking? Not necessarily but that is how it has always been. I can name a bunch of amazing artists such as Tian Winter who if they just had that opportunity and platform to be heard, it would be amazing. There are people I have met in various islands but it feels like you need the stamp from Trinidad before you are good to go. For example reggae is Jamaica, Soca is Trinidad. If you can make it there, then it feels like it means ‘ok you good to go’.
So what does it take to get that stamp? I think you just have to keep going. The timing, the right song. That also helps I think. Teddyson eyes the saltfish and bakes on my plate… He says ‘That thing y’all have there real nice and y’all take the last bakes…’ [laughter]
What is the toughest crowd? Cause I know Lucians can be critical and you have to bring your A game. Lucians like to sit back and listen for a while before they jump up. But I don’t think there is something as a tough crowd. So for example I used to work on the cruise ships before as a singer. And you would perform and they wouldn’t clap. But that doesn’t mean that they are not appreciating the music. But I have a way of working the crowd.
In terms of people you have worked with, who have you really liked working with? Vibes with the most? Kerwin, I’d say Kerwin (Kerwin Du Bois). Because Kerwin is a genius in his own right in terms of production and writing. Kerwin and I worked closer after the song ‘Magnetic’ cause I produced ‘Magnetic’ and co-produced ‘Arrogant’. Being in studio and seeing and being part of that magic. He will say ‘Teddy you know, that sound sick’. And he will bring out some tones. There is a kind of chemistry. There are artists you know you have to present everything to. Then there are artists who get into the music. When we worked on ‘New Day’, we chilled out and writing and we were talking about so many different experiences… He said ‘Teddy this real serious. The person coming out of a depression, someone coming out of a messed up relationship, that guy that is going something with his job, trying so hard to provide for his family but everything is keeping him down’. He said ‘that hook, we have a vibe to do…’ To be in room with someone and we are vibing like that and how serious the music is.. Nothing can beat that. For me I would work with Kerwin again any day.
Is there anyone in the future you would like to work with? Kes and I will be working with something in the future. I don’t mind working with Machel… I just like being in the studio working with people, producing.
Would you ever consider doing something outside of soca? Reggae, love reggae. I love reggae music. I did reggae before.. I sang ‘African Woman’. I was doing Jazz and opening up for people like Patti La Belle, John Legend, Trey Songz. But when I started signing soca, that’s when people got to know me.
Are there any challenges you found being an artist in the Caribbean in this industry? Sometimes it feels as if people think that there is not enough space for everyone. For an industry growing I feel that we need to be more together. At the Uber Cruise, it was amazing as the artists from all over the Caribbean were there together, real vibes; Lyrical, Skinny, Ram, Voice, Drue, Preedy, Destra. Nobody stayed in their room; playing football or basketball and that’s what we need. There was a togetherness and that is what we need and that is how we are going to impact the rest of world.
St.Lucia is in the spotlight at the moment; the music and the carnival. Do you thing there is anything Lucian artists can do to capitalise on that? I think that Lucian artists perhaps needs to take it a bit more seriously. I left a 9-5 to do this seriously. I think we have to come out of ‘the only st.lucia carnival time’. There are so many carnivals around the year. If we learn how to put in the work, if we learn how to change our work ethic, it would make a difference. There are a lot of people that open doors; Invader, Ricky-T with ‘Pressure’ in 2008. After pressure there wasn’t anything until ‘Allez’ then the spotlight was back on us. If we have more people at the front then St.Lucia will get more recognition.
Do you think Lucian soca has a unique sound? I think we have a special sound. It’s a mixture. We have a copper there, a percussion there. It’s French, a kuduro kind of vibe, that iron. It’s a mixture. I think that what we have we need to package it so that it is more attractive to the outside world.
What do you think of Lucian Carnival? It’s a beautiful, amazing thing. We’re not that grand. To me we are just right. Sometimes I want a lot of people to know about it but I do not want it to spoil. A lot more people are getting to know about it and that’s a good thing. After Trinidad, people talk about Crop Over and Grenada. We want people to talk about St.Lucian Carnival as well. If more people come, then more of our music will go out. The St.Lucian Tourist Board or government needs to jump on it more and us as artists as well need to do what we have to do. It takes two hands to clap.
What has been your proudest time in music? I’m a very simple person. A lot of those different TV shows I used to see for years during carnival season and actually being on these and singing and doing what I do is a proud moment for me. Just going places and singing my songs.
What’s next for you? An album, soca with a difference. There’s a song that will be released call ‘Sparks Fly’. I leave for St. Croix then go to Trinidad. I got blessed with the opportunity to be with Roy Cape, one of the front line singers. There’s a lot more coming…
Teddy hangs out for a bit, and we talk about other stuff, do some promo clips. He then pays for our breakfast (very nice of him) and heads out to get ready for New Year’s Eve performances later in the evening down south of the island at Coconut Bay.
Teddy is in his zone and is more that ready to fly the flag for St. Lucia, to show that he ain’t no newbie to the game, just needed that opportunity. This ‘chaser waster’ is all about motivational positive vibes and as well as many others I have encountered call for unity in the soca and Caribbean community to bring our culture and the music we love so much forward. Really looking forward to his new album and wish him much more continued success in the future. Allez Allez Teddy!
Teddyson John will be next at Trinidad for the carnival season. For more information on Teddyson John, please visit @Teddyson John on Instagram and Twitter; Teddyson John on Facebook, You Tube, Soundcloud and Itunes. Many thanks to Jessy Joseph for the images in this article.