Arlo Maverick talks ‘Marlonese’ and new album Soul Merchant
With an Edmonton Music Award for Rap/Hip Hop Recording of the Year, a recent tour in South Korea, and a new album relatively complete, Marlon Wilson, better known as Arlo Maverick has had a hell of a year. And he’s already looking ahead.
“In 2017 we have accomplished a lot and it’s a good feeling,” Maverick says. “With the new album, we’re applying for festivals and showcases and we want this new album to really resonate with people. It’s going to be a loosely-based concept album, but it won’t be as conceptualized as Maybe Tomorrow.”
The 2016 concept album followed the story of Soup, a boy who attempts to finds balance in his life all the way up to adulthood. Throughout the album, Soup wrestles with his music career, poverty, love, losing his grandmother, addiction, and success. It’s an album loosely based on Maverick’s own life.
“Soup is based off of me. Marlon in his Lee’s, he wears ‘em to his knees. All of that stuff was the true beginning tease,” Maverick says, referring to the songs “Change of Heart,” and “More.”
“Part of Maybe Tomorrow was me taking what I’ve done as an artist and a person and trying to tell a story without revealing too much.”
The upcoming album Soul Merchant is looking at a release sometime in March and will deal with the broader topic of our interaction with technology.
“It’s inspired by the show Black Mirror,” Maverick says. “The songs will be individual content that creates somewhat of an anthology with an emphasis on technology. There’s a new song called “Phone Check,” which looks at people’s relationships with their phone when it becomes more important than your significant other.”
Maverick has come a long way from scribbling down rhymes at age eight to being a member of Politic Live, a hip-hop collective that has opened for top acts like Snoop Dogg, Nas, and Busta Rhymes.
He takes joy in remembering the moment he wrote his first set of lyrics.
“The first rhyme that I ever wrote was inspired by my friend who went to the same church as me,” he says. “She was writing a rhyme in the back of the church when the pastor was preaching. It was the first time I had ever seen lyrics being written.”
It was a huge revelation for Maverick that lead to his current position as one of Edmonton’s most prospering hip-hop acts.
“She would think, scratch things out, and write a few lines. That played a really big part of me understanding the process,” he says. “That same day I went home and wrote a rhyme that was jacking her cadence and subject matter. I didn’t know how to express what was inside of me so I tried to imitate what I saw.”
The instrumentation found on an Arlo Maverick track is inventive and entertaining. A song can begin with an icy synth that builds into a bass-driven chorus and end in an all-out jazz-soul ballad. It all comes from Maverick’s approach to describing the sounds he wants.
“I’ll describe things in the sense of creating a movie scene,” he says. “My mixing engineer calls it ‘Marlonese,’ which he says is a language that you have to know me to understand. But the musicians I work with have mastered this language and can articulate and use it to produce it in music theory terms. I’ll say ‘I want this part to represent the change from spring to fall’ and eventually it begins to make sense.”
Performing the songs live is another feat Maverick has mastered along with his band HFO (High Fives Only). The chemistry with him and his group is engaging and hard to look away from.
“We think about what could happen and what should happen during the performance,” Maverick says.
He compares the live show to a Dave Chappelle’s comedy routine.
“He has all his jokes ready to go, but he will play off of the energy in the room so every single show that he does is unique. We try to do the same thing,” he says.
Currently, Maverick is tweaking some of the finer details of Soul Merchant and working on creating an interactive live show for its anticipated release. The upcoming Capital City Records showcase will be his last performance of the year.
“We’ve been playing as a band for a year and we’ve learned a lot from our performances so this will be a great show to close out the year,” he says. “We want the Soul Merchant release to be a big, big night. These are songs I want people to be singing 20 years from now.”
Sat., Dec. 9 (6 pm)
Capital City Records Showcase w/ Arlo
Maverick, Martin Kerr, Kimberley MacGregor, Celeigh Cardinal and more