After decades of recording music and baring his soul into a microphone, North Carolina-born soul singer Lee Fields is finally starting to see the audiences he only dreamed of as a younger performer. This year marks the singer’s 50th year in the industry, and he will be going on tour to support his fantastic new album “It Rains Love” with his longtime backing band The Expressions.
After 50 years, there is no slowing down for Lee Fields
After releasing his first single in 1969, the majority of Fields’ career, like countless other R&B and soul acts of his era, fell into obscurity after a steady stream of releases and constant touring that never helped to bring in the audience of some of the more popular artists of that time. Sure, he had the opportunity to work with some of his heroes like B.B. King, Bobby Womack, and Dr. John. But his own music was never given the spotlight that it deserved. After giving things a good go, Fields decided to move to Newark, New Jersey, to get a job in real estate and put his musical dreams on hold in order to provide for his family.
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He flirted with getting back into the music game in the ’90s, but it wasn’t until he linked up with Daptone Records and Soul Fire Records to release some singles in the late ’90s and early 2000’s that his charismatic and soulful croon started to get some attention. Coming up through the ranks with other similarly passed-over soul artists like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, Fields started playing in front of much larger audiences who craved vintage American soul. Fields eventually found a fan in Truth and Soul Records co-founder Leon Michels, who became his go-to songwriting partner and producer. Since then, Fields has been on an unbelievable hot streak with his backing band The Expressions, crafting albums that have topped themselves upon every subsequent release.
“Working with people like Leon, to me, it adds to the process because he seems to know what I’m thinking and I feel like I know what he’s thinking,” says Fields about this fruitful artistic relationship. “It’s just fun.”
While Fields had always been nicknamed “Little JB” for his vocal, and physical, resemblance to James Brown, with large audiences coming to see him perform these days, he has built up a whole new dynamic persona all of his own. After all those years of chasing his dreams while shivering under someone else’s shadow, the time is now for Fields. And he doesn’t want to waste a single minute.
“For the time and effort that we’ve put in, we’ve just seen things grow and grow. It makes all of the efforts seem worthwhile. It’s like a dream come true,” says Fields. “Regardless of the size of the audience, I’m going to give it 100 percent anyway. But to see the audience grow, it’s heartwarming and it’s just like a person watching their dreams materialize. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Fields and his band will certainly be making the most of this landmark year, but as a tireless artist who feels he is only as good as his last effort, Fields knows that he needs to keep doing the work in order to stay where he is. After all, if anyone knows what it takes, it’s him.
“I am going to try to make the next record just as wonderful as I can. I just want to make the best songs that I can. I don’t want to write something that seems temporary. If I strive to make the best recording that I can, then the recordings will be real for me,” he explains. “I want to make recordings where the words are relevant in whatever time slot they may be in. Hopefully, the songs last as long as it’s possible for a song to last. I would do this for as long as I can.”
Head here for dates and tickets to see Lee Fields and the Expressions on tour.