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Music Blog

Music Interview: John Forte

by Austen Diamond
- Posted // 2012-01-20 - The legendary John Forte, who will be playing the Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe this weekend, took some time to answer some of our questions via e-mail.

The former Fugee, who is notorious for his genre-bending collaborations, will be joined by an array of guests -- including Natasha Bedingfield, Ben Taylor and Sergey -- for his sets at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The ASCAP Cafe is located at Rich Haines Gallery (751 Main, Park City) and is open to festival-credential holders. For more information on music events at Sundance, read this article.

City Weekly: John, first, thanks for taking a sec to answer my questions! I'll try to make it brief, because I know you're busy getting to Park City.

John Forte: Busier than you can believe ... and away we go!

CW: You will be playing with a huge and impressive cast of characters at the ASCAP Cafe. Throughout your career, it has been impressive how diverse your collaborations have been. How did you come to work with the folks who you will be taking the stage with this weekend?

JF: My all-star cast of characters are coming from near and far to grace the stage at the Sundance ASCAP Music Café. Ben Taylor, David Saw, Lippie, Tarrah Reynolds and Natasha Bedingfield -- what can I say? Undoubtedly, I feel blessed for being in the presence of such immeasurable talent, but even more so because I can call them friends!

We meet one another at different points -- some more recent than others. However, the formula for those encounters were very similar insofar as the way we met was natural and organic. In short, every encounter just felt right!

I strive to surround myself with people that I respect. It is a matter of principle. My friends make me better because of that.

CW: What can we expect from your two sets?

John Forte: Greatness! Just kidding -- sort of. The two sets are not about perfection as much as they are about giving the audience an authentic and heartfelt performance. Everyone on that stage this weekend has paid his/her fair share of dues. We don't have much to prove in that aspect. We simply want to put our hearts into the moment and have the audience share in that experience. That way, we can all walk away with something.

CW: 2011 was a busy year for you! You departed on the "From Brooklyn to Russia with Love!" tour, which traveled along the Trans-Siberian Railway with, again, lots of friends and talented musicians. What were some of the significant things you took from that venture?

John Forte: Our tour of Russia changed my life. I was born in Brooklyn in the '70s. I remembered the Cold War. Suffice it to say, I didn't harbor fantasies of visiting Russia  -- then part of the Soviet Union -- when I was growing up. My friend from high school, Christophe Charlier, invited me over to Russia for what was originally a weekend gig. We put our heads together in order to maximize the experience. Before we knew it, we were positioned to embark upon a 9-week, 5-city tour throughout Russia.

I took away a love of the language and a deep appreciation for the people and what they've endured. I was impressed by their attachment to history, irrespective of age and class.

There were two undeniable faces: the public face (austere and unintrusive) and the private face (compassionate and selfless). I learned to appreciate the meanings behind both.

CW: You founded a production company called Le CASTLE to manage a smattering of projects, including a documentary about the tour to be released this year. Any chance we might wait and we'll see it at Sundance 2013? Describe the doc and what you hope to achieve with it.

John Forte: Christophe and I decided to start Le CASTLE in the middle of our tour throughout Russia. Simply put, we were having the time of our lives. We decided to join forces [with my creativity and his entrepreneurship] in order to replicate the joys we found in building bridges with other interested parties. Le CASTLE is not just about music. We are a big roof for the creative arts. As a business, we obviously aim to monetize our efforts, but the impetus does not begin with the desire to get rich. It begins with the desire to make something beautiful.

The film we walked away with, The Russian Winter (IMDB), is in the can; and it is GORGEOUS. We can't wait to share it with the world. Who knows where our first stop will be? STAY TUNED; I'm not much of a spoiler!

CW: Oh, and I can't forget: You just dropped your first full-length album in 10 years, Water Light Sound. What new directions are you taking with this highly anticipated release?

John Forte: I want to continue in the spirit of i, John, my sophomore album; it's the blue-sky model -- no limits. I want to follow my heart and transcend the boxes of comfort. At the end of the day, there are two types of music -- good and bad. My passion rests with the former.

CW: And some more general questions: Are you a big movie buff? Faves?

John Forte: I love films! I don't have much time on my hands to watch them, but I treasure the opportunities when they arise. I love films that leave me with a sense of "right." It was right what I saw and what I heard. Even if it left me unsettled. The marriage between the visual and the sonic was exactly right.

I have been spending time behind the camera lately, so I have a deep appreciation for beautifully shot films. Terrence Malick is my hero when it comes to his commitment to using natural light.

CW: Anything else you're excited to see at the film festival?

John Forte: The mountain. Let's snowboard, baby!

CW: And is there anything else you'd like to mention that I"m not asking about?

John Forte: I hope we have two days of packed houses. We are all supremely excited to participate in this year's festival and we cannot wait to share it with the people.

THANK YOU!

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