There are voices, and then there are voices. When it comes to separating the merely talented to the outright blessed, Glenn Lewis is obviously one of the chosen ones. It is evident as soon as he lifts his voice to sing. More than just the strong, textured vibrancy of his vibrato and even more than the flawless songwriting and the nuances of his delivery-Glenn Lewis is soul music. As evidenced by the response to his buzz worthy single, "Don't You Forget It," Glenn's time is now. The word is out that he is staking his claim in the R&B landscape and the genre will undoubtedly embrace him with open arms. The music of his R&B forefathers-Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Charlie Wilson have not only brought Glenn to this point, but have informed his music in a way that makes him a sure bet for the future of soul music.
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Born and raised in Toronto, Glenn Lewis, an only child, spent his formative years in recording studios with his parents, who were both singers. "Up until the age of nine, I would listen to my dad's demo tapes around the house, along with a lot of Stevie Wonder. And they have such similar styles that sometimes, I would hear Stevie's songs and think I was listening to my Dad," explains Glenn. "So for a long time, I really thought that Stevie's voice was my Dad's." Father Lewis passed his gift on to his son: the powerful pipes that are a dead ringer for Stevie's classic sound. But it was not until the age of fourteen that Glenn would finally give in to his calling. "I wrote a song at 14 and the freedom was so addictive. It was an amazing way to express myself and I knew it was what I wanted to do."
A shy, quiet student at Toronto's East Commerce high school, Glenn floated in all the different social groups, struggling to find his place. After a performance at a talent show, he realized his place was on stage. "I don't even know why I entered the show," says Glenn with a laugh. "That wasn't really my kind of thing. But I got up there and sang Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You" and the response I got was one of sheer disbelief. People actually thought I was lip-syncing to Stevie's voice! They wouldn't have believed it was really me if I hadn't flubbed the lyrics at the end."
After graduating from high school, Glenn leaped straight into Toronto's club scene. By day, he did everything from flipping burgers at McDonald's to selling women's shoes. By night, he was hovering on the front row of every live show in town, making connections, introducing himself, and attempting to get on stage. He finally did and very soon, he made a name for himself as a local with talent to spare. "Everyone has stories of trying to make it and I am no different," explains Glenn. "But thankfully, the things that I went through just forced me to work harder and bring my pain to my writing, which helped me as a songwriter."
The result is a dazzling debut album that intrigues, enlightens and soothes. Make no mistake; Glenn is indeed the heir apparent to Stevie Wonder's powerful tonalities. But Glenn's artistry does not stop there. "I know that our styles are similar. And believe me, when people mention it, I take it as a compliment. But I'm confident that people will soon accept my voice for what it is-my voice."
And yes, even Stevie Wonder himself has taken notice. After hearing the song, Wonder invited Glenn to his L.A. radio station. Glenn did an on-air interview and was preparing to leave when he was told that Stevie himself would be making an appearance to meet him. "My heart stopped when he walked in that door," says Glenn. "He just walked in and said, 'Where's Glenn?" I held his hand and he said it was a pleasure to meet me and that he loved "Don't You Forget It" and then he just started singing it right there! I was just blown away."
Glenn's own journey to greatness begins with "Never Too Late," a midtempo track that manages to blend New Jack Swing and traditional blues into a stunning take on a love gone wrong. Glenn's own soulful crooning takes center stage, as he urges his woman to think twice about ending it forever. The song is, like most of the songs on Glenn's album, lifted from real life. "I was in a relationship that was dying. And I tried to make it work; I wouldn't give up. I believe in trying to work things out until you just can't. And I wasn't ready to let go yet," explains Glenn. "I know men have a habit of keeping their feelings inside and not showing emotion. But I can say, we're not always like that. We do have feelings and we do hurt."
And Glenn is one man who is not ashamed to bring that emotion to his writing. The melancholy bassline on "Lonely" is a perfect match to Glenn's heart wrenching delivery and poignant lyricism. The strings and keys on "This Love" a wistful kiss-off to a long-term love pull tight. While Glenn croons about "wasting time with this love," it becomes clear that some of the best love songs don't have happy endings. And some of the most powerful love songs, like "Beautiful Eyes" are about family, not relationships. "Beautiful Eyes", an ode to Glenn's sons, is an outright poem, with the pure unadulterated innocence that only a father's love can bring. "When I look into my son's eyes, I see the past, present and future, and it's all beautiful. So when I say in that song, something in your eyes gets me hypnotized, it's really true. It's something any parent can understand."
When it comes to songwriting, Glenn always shoots straight from the heart but he makes a point to always take it deeper than the obvious. "I like to think about what I want to write about and then do my best to put a twist on it, somehow." That skill is evident on one of the album's highlights, "It's Not Fair." A simple, understated arrangement allows Glenn's vocals to take center stage. The lyrics, about a cheating girlfriend and a disloyal best friend, get an update as Glenn vacillates his verses from the girlfriend to the best friend and back again. This twist gives the song the power of a church sermon, especially coupled with its lilting bassline.
And don't think that Glenn's experience with heartache has left him only able to write about the seamy side of love. As evidenced on "Take You High," Glenn is very firmly still a believer in the power of love. "Take You High" is about the beauty of discovering that the person you thought was just a friend, is actually shaping up to be much more. Seductively and melodically, Glenn sings, "You can trust me/'Cause I can take you high."
"Yes, I've been through things," says Glenn. "We all have. But that doesn't mean you give up on love. You just work on it. That's what my music has always done for me. It's nurtured me. It's helped me works things out. And now, it's time for my music to do that for other people who can relate. That's what music should be, relatable and real. And hopefully, I have done that."
There's no hoping necessary. Glenn has done it-spectacularly. Every listener who takes in his music-will be proud. His is the voice, the blessed, sanctified voice, that soul music has been searching for.
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