Los Angeles - Up Close & Personal with Childish Gambino
Walk through the halls of the Village Recorder in Santa Monica and you feel the weight and history of the hallowed building, where gold and platinum records from the likes of Steely Dan, the Rolling Stones, Sly & The Family Stone, Lady Gaga, Smashing Pumpkins, Fleetwood Mac and many more line the walls.
So anytime there is an event there, it takes on the slightly added significance of feeling like a part of music history. That was certainly the case last week when the Recording Academy brought Glassnote artist Childish Gambino (Donald Glover), his producer/collaborator Ludwig Goransson and moderator Zane Lowe of Beats 1 into the Village for a Q&A and music.
There was a definite event feel as an overflow crowd stood outside the Moroccan Room listening in as Gambino, Goransson and Lowe discussed Gambino's superb "Awaken, My Love!" album, released in December of last year. The critically acclaimed soul collection kicks off with the track “Me And Your Mama,” which Gambino and Goransson explained was actually a song Gambino had been working on for some time. “For me, what I think was a breakthrough was that first album. But there was one little ID on there, which later turned out to be ‘Me And Your Mama,’” Goransson explained. "That song, man, that is such an incredible one. And I love the album, but when I first heard ‘Me And Your Mama,’ I was scared the rest of the record wasn’t gonna live up to it because it is such an amazing record and arrangement feel wise it feels like the jam,” Lowe responded enthusiastically.
For Gambino, it was obvious that was the album’s introduction to the world. “That could only be the first track,” he said. “We did it at Conway studios. We didn’t have anything, we were just in there for days playing around.”
The more than 20-minute Q&A found Gambino making people laugh out loud often, no surprise given only four days later he took home multiple comedic Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role on the hit FX series Atlanta. He also won Outstanding Directing In A Comedy Series for his work behind the scenes on the Atlanta episode “B.A.N.”
Gambino had the crowd cracking up as he spoke about his transformation from rapper to soul singer. Not that Gambino has faced much backlash thanks to his stunning vocal prowess. As Lowe accurately said to Gambino in hailing “Redbone” as one of his songs of the summer, “You came heavy with the vocals!”
Gambino, who delivered one of the most memorable TV performances of this past year with his powerful rendition of “Redbone” on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon proved it was no fluke when he delivered the song in the middle of a three-song set following a Q&A.
Accompanied by Lynette Williams and Thomas Drayton (fellow band members and “Awaken, My Love!" Contributors) including some funky bass, a seated Gambino opened with “Baby Boy,” then “Redbone” before earning a standing ovation from the clearly impressed crowd with a closing medley of “Stand Tall/Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” an impassioned Stevie Wonder cover. And I swear if you closed your eyes and just listened there were moments in “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” where you might have thought Wonder himself was in the room.
Already a GRAMMY nominee, Gambino is clearly continuing to develop into a special artist, which is why it caught many by surprise when he recently announced he’d be retiring Childish Gambino.
As he explained though when Lowe asked him why he would do that while riding such a musical hot streak, it is because he has so much he wants to do musically. And Childish Gambino is just one part of that. “How I think is piecemeal and it is a patchwork quilt and now I’m better at making those quilts. I just know how, I don’t have to explain it,” he said.