Brandon Markell Holmes • The Museum of R&B
In early 2018, there were murmurs around the music industry that r&b is dead. Not that the genre literally ceased to exist, but that it had simply fallen out of mainstream favor. Yet, that idea proved to be just plain wrong with the emergences of r&b stars Ella Mai, H.E.R, Jorja Smith, Daniel Caesaer, along with the never ending debate of who is the King of r&b to show that that the genre is alive and thriving. Brandon Markell Holmes’ Museum of R&B celebrates the classic genre by offering traditional sounds as well as serving fresh, experimental styles in the project’s 32-minute run-time. It’s an incredibly smooth listen that caps off a series of milestones for Holmes, who had written songs for the show Empire and received a Grammy Nomination prior to the project’s release.
Learn more about Brandon Markell Holmes and explore The Museum of R&B below.
For new listeners who are unfamiliar with you and your work, who is Brandon Markell Holmes?
Brandon Markell Holmes is all of the above. There is really no box to put me in, I really wish there were. My anxiety would appreciate it greatly but unfortunately I have not been blessed with that level of ease.
I’m an extremely complicated person, and everyday I peel back more layers. Some are painful and others are beautiful. Lets just say, I’m enjoying the discovery of who I am becoming.
You’ve been nominated for a Grammy and your work has been included in the show Empire. What were both of those experiences like for you as an artist?
I was nominated with Gorillaz, Humanz. It was a beautiful experience to see something that I accidentally slipped into pay off so tremendously. It was nothing less than a dream. It was so incredible to have been apart of such an historic album. Empire was a trip. Again, another opportunity that was happenstance that turned out to be tremendous. Writing for that show made me a songwriter. I’ve always written music for myself and sometimes for my friends, but this was a whole different level. Working for tv is all about getting things done quickly. Stop. Drop. Deadline. There were some days, I’d be out on the town and I would get a call from my partners in NYC prompting me to write a song. With in minutes, I would have a scenario , a music production draft & a due date. Wherever I was at the time, I would have to start working on the material. And because we were the underdogs, we would sometimes turn in two songs at once. So a lot of times I would write multiple songs in one day just for one episode. The coolest part was knowing that my work was being considered and regarded amongst great competition. No joke, I almost passed out when I found out me and my production partners, Bobby Wooten & Andre Danek were submitting songs up against DJ mustard & Rodney Jerkins. And not only that, our songs were making big impressions in the writers room. The only way to keep getting asked to write more is to keep doing great work. Granted, only one of my songs made the show, but I wrote many songs for that show. It was such a gift to be able to sharpen my skills on such high caliber.
This project has an almost futuristic sound to it. What was the inspiration behind that style?
I listened to a lot of RadioHead, Bjork & Sigur Ros in college. I remember being obsessed with the scientific nature of their production. And that was something I really loved about their music. It feels primitively visceral in a lot of ways. Take a song like hunter by Bjork. She’s singing over 16th notes and 808’s. if that’s not bad ass, I don’t know what is. She’s talking about being strangely in love with another human in a primitive setting. Almost like she’s in the jungle with a rifle hunting for prey. I’m not fan of killing, but I am a fan of the emotion to kill. I think anger, sadness, rage and obsession are such powerful elements of the human condition. So is happiness, but happiness in a lot of ways is shallow if you’ve never been sad. Happiness is beautiful after you’ve experienced depression, draught or suffering. To hear a melody that is so beautiful, it evokes both happiness and mourning is what I aim to do with my sound. I had a lot of inspiration during the creation of this album. I really didn’t want it to be an R&B album. My goal was to create a sonically unique experience. The biggest struggle is my voice. My voice is full of soul and R&B. So whatever production I paired with it, it’s going to be fucking soulful. I can’t help it. Which is why I feel the sound is so unique.
Your musical style in general seems to be more experimentative and diverse. How important is it for you as an artist to work with new sounds?
Very important. If it’s not fresh I really can’t dig it. I’m a huge fan of traditional sounds as well, like old school Motown and doo-wop groups. They were really experimental in a lot of ways. The way they approached melody , harmony & background vocals. I’m a huge fan of male chorus’. I think being able to create a vibe using voices is so dope. My song “Right Beside You” produced by Bobby Wooten was heavily influenced by Motown and Afro-Caribbean Electronica. Some of the sounds of nature are from the ocean sides of Brazil, where we recorded while he was on tour with David Byrne.
A lot of people have been saying that R&B has been dying off in recent years, but has recently been getting a brand new life thanks to artists like Ella Mai, Daniel Caesar. Jorja Smith, and much more. What are your thoughts on this (in terms of R&B being “dead” and making a comeback)? Where do you see yourself in the R&B resurgence?
First off Ella Mai is fine as hell and her song Boo’d up and Trippin stayed on repeat all summer. I really like her vibes and her melodies. It seems simple on the surface but there are some cool tricks she does and you’re like , damn that was dope. Like the melody for boo’d up is so catchy, but simple, not really. She switches it up on a dime so it’s not predictable. I really appreciate an artist that can keep me engaged. I really like that Daniel Caesar kid. Actually I’ve been listening to him for about three years now. His cover of “Street Lights” by Kanye West from his first EP is to die for. I really like the simplicity, tone & richness of his voice. He is familiar in a lot of ways but fresh. His song is with HER is so pretty. How do I see myself in the resurgence? I was watching an interview of Marvin Gaye from 1983 last night and I couldn’t help but to notice the similarities in our personalities. He was extremely honest, sensual and intelligent. He spoke both about personal things and political things with no hesitation. He was in tune with his spirituality, sexuality and personal perception. He was comfortable in his skin. I hope to bring that back to music. There was a sophistication and complexity to many of those artist back then. It was like, they did their ratchet shit behind closed doors. But when you sat them down in an interview it was profound. And it was an honor to talk to them. You felt that you were in the presence of royalty.
What can listeners expect to hear from you going forward? Any new videos, singles, or projects in the works?
Lots of videos and consistent content. I think I spent so much time working on this album and building I forgot to put out work. I have a lot of content, but the challenge is putting it out consistently. I’m currently working on a new album as we speak. I don’t know how long it will take, but my goal is to put out more content this year.