‘Respect’ Composer Kris Bowers Explains How Aretha Shaped Her Career


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The Emmy-winning musician spoke with theGrio about his first meeting with the Queen of Soul and working with Jennifer Hudson.

Kris bowers was intended to make film scores. Along with both parents in the television industry, the Los Angeles native developed incredible piano chops as a child and has always considered himself a songwriter.

The Juilliard graduate told his parents about his plans years before they became reality.

Kris Bowers poses at a press conference for Oscar nominated short “A Concerto is a Conversation” (Getty Images)

“I actually told my parents when I was 12 that I wanted to go to jazz piano school, tour with my favorite jazz artists, play with my own band, and then switch to film music.” , Bowers said. the Grio.

Twenty years later, his plans have come true.

While he made a name for himself as a very young lion in an already young jazz scene, which included progressive artists like Jose james, Robert glasper, and Christian scott, Bowers was biding his time before having the opportunity to score a movie.

Several film scores and an Emmy Award later, 2021 is proving to be a defining year for the career of 32-year-old Bowers. He scored The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Space Jam: a new legacy and the next one king richard, the Will smith led biopic on Richard Williams, Serena and Venus Williams’ father and trainer.

Another mission for Bowers this year, The respect, which happened in a fortuitous way, found Bowers inserting a poignant melodic character into some of the late Soul Queen’s most traumatic life events.

As Bowers returned to the stage this week at the SFJazz Center, he opened up about how Franklin put him on the path to the success he now enjoys.

Bowers’ seeds writing music for The respect were sown years ago when the then 22-year-old pianist met Franklin while competing in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, which he won in 2011.

“During the semi-finals she heard my set and asked me to ask to meet me, ” said Bowers. And she’s in the lobby with everyone around her and told me that she liked my game and that she really wanted my information.

From there, Franklin would introduce his publicist Tracy Jordan to Bowers, who became his first manager. Jordan helped Bowers get a job as a film composer, and he was gone.

Franklin and Bowers stayed in touch, often talking about piano and musicality.

Kris Bowers and Aretha Franklin (Kris Bowers)

Kris Bowers and Aretha Franklin (Kris Bowers)

“I was really impressed that she was still such a student,” Bowers said of Franklin. “Like most of the time, we were just talking about piano and what she was trying to do better and things that she was trying to work on and the fact that she was doing it at this point in her career. It has always been such an inspiration to me.

Although by the time he was hired to score The respect Bowers had previously scored for major projects such as Green book and the Netflix series’ Bridgerton and When they see us, doing the Franklin biopic was a little more intimidating.

“It’s really something that I honestly feel a little bit intimidated at first,” Bowers said. “Something I was feeling, I wasn’t sure what it would feel like to work on it and I wasn’t sure either, you know, I didn’t know how it would be and stuff until I saw it. “

Although there are only a few moments in The respect which required original music by Bowers, they were during pivotal scenes in Franklin’s life. One of those moments is when a young Aretha finds out that her mother has passed away. Seeing the film humanized Franklin for Bowers, and he saw his mentor in a whole new light.

“You think how amazing she was as a powerful performer and an entertainer,” said Bowers, “and how much she put all this prolific work into [out] and the fact that she was simultaneously facing these difficulties internally. I think it puts so much more into perspective how awesome an artist is [she was] and how grateful I am that she continued to do the job that she did.

Bowers was also impressed with the actress portraying Franklin in the Oscar, Tony and Grammy Award winning film. Jennifer hudson. He was not only blown away by his ability to embody Franklin’s speech and manners, but by his commitment to learning to play the piano for the role.

“The fact that Jennifer Hudson played so much of this stuff live,” Bowers said, “you can just feel the energy of the performance in a way that you wouldn’t feel if she had doubled him down and was, like. , lip sync with the music.

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‘Respect’ songwriter Kris Bowers on how Aretha shaped her career, first appeared on TheGrio.

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