Jamaican Music Music Interviews

Conversation With Jamaican Reggae Soul Singer, Mario Evon

This week we interview ‘Mario Evon’ who has created his own genre of music called reggae-soul and is carving out his own niche in the entertainment industry. Born Mario Guthrie in Kingston, Jamaica, he fell in love with music at an early age. He  fondly says  ”Music chose me, I didn’t choose music”. Despite being trained as a medical doctor, Mario found the tug of music on his heart too great to ignore.  He is currently in the process of writing and recording songs for his very first album. He is excited about the possibilities ahead and is committed to sharing his gift with the world.

Tell us about your background in singing and how did you get started?
I have been singing for as long as I can remember, but I officially started at age 7 in the Mona Prep Choir and then later with Campion College Choir. At Campion I learned a lot about classical/choral music, and emerging from that choir was the group ‘Choir Boyz’, of which I was a member. We really explored other musical forms and sang for fun and sometimes for hire at functions in the corporate area. When I went to the University of the West Indies (UWI) I joined the University Singers, directed by Noel Dexter, and sang with them for about 8 years.  During my UWI days I also sang background vocals for local artistes such as Benjy Myaz, Stevie Face, Alaine and Cezar, and also did some solo singing of my own. Recognizing music as my passion, after leaving UWI, I studied Music Business and Songwriting at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2008, while at Berklee, Mario Evon (pronounced Eh-Von), the solo artist, came into being and it was at this time that I truly embraced myself as an artist, and further developed my artistry. 

What were some of you fondest memories of performing in a group?
I would say the laughter and sharing a common passion in music would be among my fondest memories. Outside of the joy of singing, the camaraderie and brotherhood was truly the best thing.  We probably laughed more than we rehearsed sometimes, because we would always get a lot of jokes while rehearsing.  Those guys are some of my best friends, and we have all remained friends. 

What is the major difference you found once you went solo?
Well as the term ‘going solo’ implies, you really are responsible for yourself.  You do a lot of the administrative music business things independently, and you are also solely responsible for your performance and the quality of it, so that puts a lot of pressure on you. It means that you have to be on your A-game all the time, versus sharing it with your group members.  

You do some great renditions of some Bob Marley songs.  Which Bob Marley songs is your favorite?
One of my favourite Bob Marley songs would have to be ‘Bad Card’. Interestingly, I’ve never covered it before.

You have a few singles out there. When can we expect your album to be released?  You sing what many describe as a fusion of Reggae and R&B called Reggae soul. Of this fusion which one do you prefer? R&B or Reggae?
I am hoping to have a full length album released in 2012, but I will continue to work on singles towards that goal until then.  I can’t say I prefer one or the other really.  I love both of them a lot. I would say I lean a bit more to R&B than to reggae in my vocal styling, as R&B probably was more intriguing to me than reggae while growing up in Jamaica, where you always hear reggae 24/7.  

What can we expect to hear on your album and equal amount on both?
I would tell you to expect a nice balance of straight ahead Reggae, Reggae-Soul, straight ahead R&B, and whatever crazy musical vibes invade my head as I’m inspired to create new music. 

Where do you see the genre Reggae Soul in the next 5 years?
I think Reggae-Soul has always existed in some shape or form in the history of reggae, but different artists have given it different names, and each artist brings a new flavour to it.   In five years I definitely expect the genre to still be in existence, and going strong, and hopefully I will be one of the pioneers of my own reggae soul sound. 

Can you tell us a few of the songs by Jamaican artists that you have penned?
I am yet to write for any local artists, but I do have some opportunities now that will allow me to do so.  So you can expect to hear some stuff soon.

You are also a medial doctor. Do you still practice?
I am, and I do practice in the summers when I am in Jamaica.

How do you juggle a career in entertainment and being a doctor?
God alone knows, but I would say really careful planning and time management, but it can be really tricky at times.  At this moment it is not too bad as I only work part-time in the summers, so most of my other time is devoted to music.

In your bio you mentioned you were a wedding singer. I know for some in the entertainment industry they would never add that to their bio as it is looked down on. You embraced this experience, which is very refreshing. Why?
I deny no experiences, as they all contribute to growth.  There is nothing embarrassing about singing at weddings.  As a matter a fact, wedding singing has broadened my repertoire, given me more performance and business experience, and has also been a source of income.  So those entertainment industry people should reconsider that thought, especially when so many musicians have to do non-performance jobs to supplement their entertainment careers.

What projects are you working on right now?
I am currently preparing to go into the studio to record some singles and get them ready, so that I can officially create a more prominent musical mark on the world.  I am also writing a few songs for some local artists, and writing with other songwriters in the USA for other projects.  I am also working with a few local and overseas producers on singles.  Otherwise, I am constantly networking with other musicians and creative people regarding collaborations and other music-related projects. 

I know it is early in your career but what is your proudest moment so far?
Performing on the main stage at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival 2010 is probably my proudest moment to date.  It was amazing to be on a stage I had dreamed of being on for years and then to share it with Marion Hall (aka Lady Saw), Jon Secada, Hall & Oates and Gladys Knight.  It was a huge and monumental moment in my career. 

If you were stuck on a desert island and given the choice of 2 albums to put on your iPod which artist would it be? 

  1. A Jamaican Rockers Compilation/Mix with artists such as Sanchez, Beres Hammond and Wayne Wonder to name a few.
  2. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 

Seven day, six night, all expense paid, my vacation destination is…

My Mother always told me…
”if you can’t afford it then don’t go!”

Do you any closing thoughts?
In closing I want to encourage anyone who has a passion to pursue it, and bring their passion to life, embracing it confidently and developing a willingness to share it with the world once they have figured out how.  In this short life everyone deserves to be happy while living it.  Dream big and work hard to make those dreams come true! 

Thanks for your time.
Thanks a lot for the opportunity and the exposure.

For more information on Mario please visit the following sites: http://www.marioevon.com http://www.myspace.com/marioevon http://www.youtube.com/marioevon http://www.twitter.com/marioevon

About the author

Xavier Murphy