Derrick Procell has been grooving the Chicago Music scene for over 30 years. We are very fortunate to have him leading the Stitely dance band “Chicago Groove Collective”. Check out our new Musician’s Spotlight showcasing his talents and what he’s up to outside of Stitely Entertainment.
Where did your passion and drive for music come from? More specifically, blues?
According to my mother, I was literally whistling in the crib! I’ve always had music goin’ round my head as far back as I can remember. I used to sneak my transistor radio into bed and listen under the covers. I would sing along with my favorite songs and seemed to understand the relationship between the melodies and the harmonic structure of the songs.
I took piano lessons as a kid, so that helped to develop my ears. As I began playing in cover bands, I had to try to cover all sorts of styles, but I seemed to lean toward the singers that had a certain amount of soul in their voices. A lot of the British acts of the time…Rolling Stones, Animals, Yardbirds…were heavily influenced by American Blues artists. As I came into my own as a singer, I found that producers would hire me specifically because they wanted that soulful sound. In fact, early in my career as a studio singer, I showed up at a jingle session for one of Chicago’s top producers that I had never worked for before. Everyone ignored me as I sat on the couch watching the session happening. Finally, he came over and asked who I was. He, in a very flustered manner, told me that he had been expecting a black singer, based on my demo tape! I told him it was OK… more than a few folks had made that assumption.
Name a few of your musical influences.
Procol Harum, Eric Burden, Little Feat, Steely Dan, Warren Zevon, The Beatles, Jackson Browne, James Brown, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, Gregg Allman, Floyd Cramer, Johnny Cash, Elvis and pretty much anybody I listen to on any regular basis. They all play a role in the music that comes out of me.
Talk about your newest release and how did the idea for it get started?
I began writing songs with my lyricist partner, Grammy winner Terry Abrahamson, around 2011. We had met years earlier when I was a busy studio singer on the Chicago advertising scene. Terry had worked with a lot with Blues artists like Muddy Waters, George Thorogood, John Lee Hooker, etc. The song demos we were recording were getting a lot of acclaim for the production and for my vocals, so I decided to release a bunch of them, along with a few self-penned songs, in 2016 as a CD, WHY I CHOOSE TO SING THE BLUES. I hired a publicist…best decision I’ve ever made, next to marrying my wife…and the record was incredibly well reviewed and played internationally.
Tell us about the writing process for your songs and where your inspiration comes from-is any of it autobiographical or personal in nature?
Music has always come easier for me than lyrics. When I started working with Terry, I knew right away I had found an amazing storyteller. We like to believe that we’ve hit upon the kind of chemistry that only the best songwriting teams have. I do still occasionally write one from my own lyrics, but I already have a backlog of the prolific Terry’s tunes! And we are finally starting to see some success with our songs being picked up by other artists and organizations. In addition to our Blues tunes, we are both inspired to write what we call our Artist Activist Series songs… tunes that focus on social and political subjects such as gay rights, PTSD, Immigracism…(our term), and freedom of speech.
Tell us a little bit about the musicians that are on the record.
The record is mostly me on vocals, keys and harmonica with a number of tracks utilizing drum and bass plug-ins. I did enlist a lot of guitar help from Bob Baglione, Alex Smith, Dave Steffen, and Zoey Witz. Real drums on some of the tracks provided by Jack Skalon. I also had the good fortune to have a few blues legends help out. Howlin’ Wolf’s sax player and band leader, Eddie Shaw, sang a duet with me on THE WOLF WILL HOWL AGAIN. Muddy Waters’ longtime guitarist, Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, played some mean slide on EYES OF MISSISSIPPI. And Chicago harmonica legend, Billy Branch, wailed on BACK IN THE GAME.
Anything else you want to add regarding your new release or other things you are up to?
Hoping to get a little more of a presence and love in our hometown with my hot new original music band, Derrick Procell & the Redeemers. We do most of the music from the record as well and a bunch of soulful original tunes.
I’m also working on a new concept for a tribute show. It’s a little too early to crow about it, but it’s very exciting and will be a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
And, of course, I’m looking forward to bringing the party to life as the leader of Chicago Groove Collective this coming wedding season.
Interested in having Derrick Procell and Chicago Groove Collective perform at your wedding or event? Let us know! And keep up with Derrick Procell at his website to get his record or know when to catch him perform live in Chicago.
At Stitely Entertainment, music is our business and our lifeblood. Not only do we love using music to ramp up the energy at a wedding or other event, but we also love it in our lives. We had a chance to have a conversation with Jeff Stitely to talk about his knowledge of music and go in-depth about how he and the other Stitely musicians use musical nuances to create different feels for different moments. The key, to start, is a solid rhythm section. The following posts stems from our conversation about how different styles of music elicit different responses:
In a live band, the rhythm section is the backbone. Whether you notice it or not, every band has a core rhythm section, often consisting of bass, keys, drums and guitar. Different styles of music also have different focuses and feels. In jazz, the quarter note is king. The main focus is the bass, playing a walking quarter note bass line. The drummer adds the ride cymbal, also focusing on that quarter note base. The bass and drums have to match up for the groove to come alive. Really, a jazz rhythm section is like a great conversation. You pick a theme, someone makes a statement, and everyone will respond accordingly, adding their own flair to the conversation. When there’s an openness to what’s being discussed and the conversation is flowing, there’s almost a pleasant hum that occurs. In the same way, a jazz rhythm section will flow and hum in a comfortable yet ever-evolving way. The nuances and variations on this key conversation are what make each tune special.
For dance music, that conversation looks totally different. While the rhythm section is still present and important, they definitely have a more scripted part. This is especially true when they are recreating music that’s been played before. For example, the bands that make up Stitely Entertainment are largely playing dance music that is recognizable to the general public. Because of this, they want to make sure they include every lick and detail that the audience is expecting when they hear that song. When playing older jazz tunes, getting a carbon copy isn’t as important—it’s the style and the essence that you want to extract and recreate. You can play variations on the original while still upholding the integrity of the genre and the song itself. But with dance music, you want to follow the song like it’s a map written out before you.
To successfully follow that map, each musician has an important role. They are each responsible for studying their specific part and recreating it to the best of their ability. The meticulous process of writing out an exact drumbeat or strumming pattern that the original artist used can be tedious, but necessary to recreate what the original artist produced. By writing everything out specifically, the musicians are respecting the artist’s original sound and work.
This process can be challenging with contemporary music because much of it is produced in the studio with layers and layers of synthesizers, keyboards, and strings. This can be very hard to replicate in a live setting, and the keyboard player often has the biggest responsibility: to try to recreate the sounds that all the synthesizers in the studio make, prioritizing the layers that are most important to the structure of the song, as well as what will meet the listeners expectations of the what the song is “supposed to sound like.”
Just as both traditional and contemporary styles are structured slightly differently, they also make you want to move differently as a listener. Motown, Classic Rock, Top 40 Pop, and Jazz are all distinctly different in terms of feel and general response from the audience. Knowing the difference in how and when to play all the styles is important, especially at events like weddings when each portion of the night demands a different feel. The differences really come down to the way that the rhythm section structures itself and how successfully them blend into that “conversation” we mentioned earlier.
In summation, music is an emotion, and that musical emotion is expressed differently for each person in the way they move on the dance floor. So whether or not you realize it when you’re cutting a rug on the dance floor, the rhythm section is playing a huge part in manipulating that raw emotion in a way that grooves with the rest of the atmosphere and creates a memorable and energy-filled space that you won’t want to leave.
Stitely Orchestra's talented keyboardist, Chris White is headed to the Birch Creek Music Performance Center to teach lucky students at the Jazz Vocal Camp from August 10th-15th. Birch Creek Music Performance Center on Wisconsin's beautiful Door County peninsula is a young musician's dream. Founded in 1976, Birch Creek is a unique summer music school that provides talented students (typically age 14-19) advanced training as well as the opportunity to perform publicly alongside some of the top music professionals around. The camp offers four 2-week resident summer sessions in Symphony, Percussion & Steelpan, and Jazz. The student-faculty ratio is 2-to-1, ensuring that students receive attentive hands-on mentoring from top music educators and performers.
Chris obtained a B.A. in English from the University of Toronto and then decided to focus his studies entirely on music. In 1997 he attended Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music and pursued his Masters degree in Jazz Studies, graduating with a Phi Kappa Lamda award (National Music Honors Society). Gaining valuable experience in Indianapolis, he performed with The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, David Baker, Jamey Aebersold and Oliver Nelson, Jr. He has studied piano with Luke Gillespie, Lynne Arriale, Joanne Brackeen, Barry Harris and Andy LaVerne. In August 2000 Chris was invited to perform in the Steans Institute for Young Artists at Ravinia hosted by James Moody, Rufus Reid and David Baker. Currently he is an instructor of jazz piano and theory at Lake Forest College, North Park University and North Central College. He is also a combo and theory instructor at Midwest Young Artists in Highwood, IL. Chris has performed at The Jazz Showcase, Andy’s, The House of Blues, Navy Pier, The Peninsula Hotel, the Coq D’or at the Drake Hotel and many more. In 2010 he completed his Doctoral of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Marcus Terell is a vocalist with the Chicago Groove Collective, one of our fantastic bands here at Stitely Entertainment. This Kansas City, Missouri boy’s got soul, and he recently sat down to tell us about his story and endeavors in music. Keep reading to learn more about the talented guy from America’s Got Talent!
Stitely Entertainment: What are the five songs you’re listening to the most right now?
Marcus Terell: Right now I’m rehearsing for my upcoming show at Chicago’s City Winery. So I’m listening to everything from Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” to Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)”. Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” and Beyonce’s “Flaws & All” have been stuck in my head for the past month as well. Good music.
SE: Who or what inspired you to be a professional musician?
MT: Ironically enough the two artists that made me say, “I wanna do that” when I was younger were Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. I remember seeing the music video for “Greatest Love Of All” and thinking who is this woman?! Bobby Brown’s music video for “Every Little Step” EPIC!! I WILL own a bright yellow suit one these days!!
SE: What’s your craziest event story?
MT: When I competed on NBC’S America’s Got Talent there was a point in the competition where I was completely eliminated. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. The Serenades and I were preparing for a night on the town in Vegas when we got a call an hour later to head back to the studios. Before the night was over, I was in the Top 40. That was pretty crazy!
SE: Do you have any regular gigs?
MT: Yes. I am a vocalist with Chicago Groove Collective under Stitely Entertainment. I am also a lead vocalist with The Alley Cats, an acapella Doo-Wop group.
SE: Do you play in any other groups? Tell us about them.
MT: I also have my own band, Marcus Terell & The Serenades. Collectively we have competed on NBC’S America’s Got Talent, FOX’S American Idol, MTV’S Making The Band 4, The Glee Project, TLC’S RU The Girl, The Missy Elliott Project and TruTV’S Killer Karaoke. We have our own Motown revue entitled, “BACK TO REALITY: A personal and musical journey through the ups and downs of reality TV.” Set to the music of Motown, Classic Rock N’ Roll, and Soul we share our experience of competing on some of the nation’s top televised talent competitions.
SE: How did you become involved with music?
MT: I was raised in the church where gospel music was just a way of life. From there I got more involved with various choirs and ensembles in school. My first professional gig was at Worlds Of Fun, a theme park in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.
SE: What was your first concert?
MT: I can’t recall my first concert, however, my all time favorite has to be the most recent. I got to see Prince live in concert for the very first time at City Winery Chicago. It was an unbelievable show. I still can’t believe that I will be performing on the same stage in less than a week! Unreal!!
SE: If you could share the stage with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
MT: Whitney Houston hands down. Although I’m not sure that I would remain conscious for the entire endeavor.
SE: You are stuck on a desert island forever. Which three albums do you want with you?
MT: Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits album. It’s a 2-disc set so I’m kind of cheating there. India Arie’s Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationships. That album can get me through any bad day. Beyonce’s B’Day cause sometimes you just gotta get hype and let the inner diva out!
SE: Beatles or Stones?
Be sure to check out Marcus Terell & The Serenades LIVE at Chicago’s own City Winery Wednesday August 14th @8PM! Tickets are on sale now at www.citywinery.com or 312-733-WINE. You can also read about Marcus featured in the Chicago Sun Times along with Tony Lucca (NBC’S The Voice) and Casey Abrams (FOX’S American Idol).