It was 20 years ago that the much-loved US House label MoreHouse Records burst on to the scene with their acclaimed debut from Groove Junkies ft Solomon Henderson, ‘Inside My Soul’. Since then, the MoHo label and their artists have cemented their legacy in the history of house music over the past 2 decades. With 2022 seeing the release of their 100th single, they have creatively crafted an impressive catalogue of heartfelt memorable songs and dance floor shakers that beautifully flow between Soulful, Deep, Jazzy, Funky, Afro and Latin House genres. As they drop their 2 part 20th Anniversary milestone compilation, featuring a whopping 50 tracks of their finest musical moments, along with some hot new material, DMCWorld checks in with label boss, Evan Landes (Aka Groove Junkies) to chat all things MoreHouse Records..
So let’s start by going back to the beginning… How did you first get into music?
I was fortunate to be exposed to a wide variety of music (ie; rock, soul, funk, Latin, jazz and even standards) when I grew up in NYC in the 60’s and 70’s. Everything from The Beatles, The Who, Led Zep, The Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Santana and The Allman Bros. to James Brown, Motown, The O’ Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Sly And The Family Stone and Quincy Jones, to Tito Puente and The Fania All-Stars to Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. It was an amazing era for music and I was ‘all in!’
What inspired you to set up the MoreHouse Records label and what was your first release?
I had a few records out on various labels in the mid to late Nineties, but got tired and frustrated with shopping my stuff around. In 2002 my former partner and I sent a package to Brian Tappert (co-owner of the iconic Soulfuric Records and future CEO of Traxsource). He expressed interest and we met at WMC in Miami in 2002. At first he wanted to sign us to a single deal, but thankfully he saw the bigger picture and offered us a P&D deal. MoreHouse Records was born and we were the first label who Soulfuric distributed. Our 1st release was a tune called ‘Inside My Soul’, which I wrote and featured Solomon Henderson on vocals. It turned out to be a very successful first offering and we were off and runnin’!!
What’s the ethos behind the brand and which artists can we expect to hear on the label?
Our strategy of releasing an eclectic array of intoxicating dance grooves, which are not bound by any gimmicky trends, and memorable songs which stand the test of time has paid off since we first opened our doors in 2002. A brilliant collective of singers, musicians, writers and producers, who are featured throughout MoreHouses’ impressive catalogue have helped define the “MoHo Sound”. Each unique release can run the House gamut stylistically – ranging from organic soul, funk, afro, Latin, jazz and gospel drenched songs, to peak time, deep, tribal, and electronic influenced tracks. Producers on the label include Reelsoul, Brian Tappert, DJ Spen, Opolopo, Richard Earnshaw, DJ Meme, Michele Chiavarini, David Harness, Deep Soul Syndicate and yours truly Groove Junkies, among others. Then there are the stellar vocal talents of singer / songwriter and label co-owner Solara, Lisa Shaw, Joi Cardwell, Indeya, Diane Carter, TC Moses, Nichelle Monroe, MissFly, Carolyn Harding, Mijan and Tertulien Thomas, to name just a few, who have all contributed to the label’s quality output.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
There are too many to mention, but if I had to narrow it down – Gamble & Huff, Quincy Jones, Nile Rogers & Bernard Edwards, Lennon & McCartney, Louie Vega, David Morales, and of course, my big brother Frankie Knuckles.
How did you and Solara meet?
We met in 1997 at WMC in South Beach at the Maxi Records party where one of the Deep Dish boys was DJ’ing. She came down with an entourage from NYC (incl. our good friends Louie & Anane Vega) and I came out from Los Angeles. We both had the New York thing and our love for House music in common and we hit it off instantly. We kept bumpin’ into each other at all the cool soulful house parties (this was the year Louie and Kenny Dope dropped their insta-classic ‘Nuyorican Soul’ LP). As they say in Hollywood – the rest is history. We’ll be married for 23 years this May.
And who does what at the label, have you each got different roles or do you both muck in on everything? And what are the benefits and drawbacks being a Husband and Wife team?
We both wear many hats! My primary focus is on production and A&R, although I have lots of administrative duties as well (ie; handling contracts, royalty prep for our artists, uploading new releases to Traxsource and our other distributor The Orchard, etc.). Aside from being co-owner of MoreHouse, Solara is also a gifted recording artist, who has either performed or played a role on many of our biggest releases. She is also our graphic artist, web designer and handles some admin too. The benefits are we do a lot of things ‘in-house,’ which helps to keep expenses down. We also get to share the many joys of the collaborative process. The drawbacks are it can get heated at times because we’re both opinionated New Yorkers, lol. We’ve gotten better over the years at learning when to pick our battles!
Besides Solara, You’ve worked with all kinds of vocalists including Lisa Shaw, Joi Cardwell, Indeya, Diane Carter, TC Moses, Nichelle Monroe, MissFly, Carolyn Harding and Tertulien Thomas, to name a few. Who else would you most like to work with?
Monique Bingham, Tony Momrelle and Mike City to name a few. My fantasy list would include Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, H.E.R. and Lisa Fisher.
You’ve also made some great cover versions over the years, tell us about those?
I’d say about 90% of our catalogue are originals and 10% are covers. I’ve always enjoyed putting my own lil’ twist on iconic tunes from others. Myself, along with collaborators such as Reelsoul, Tertulien Thomas, Indeya and Nichelle Monroe have covered songs like The Isley Bros. ‘Harvest For The World,’ Anita Baker’s ‘Good Love,’ David Joseph’s ‘You Can’t Hide’ and Keni Burke’s ‘Risin’ To The Top’. We recently signed a gorgeous House cover of Minnie Ripperton’s iconic ‘Lovin’ You’, beautifully performed by B. Valentine (formerly known as Baskerville Jones) which will be featured on ‘20 Years of MoreHouse Records Vol 2’. Reelsoul and I are currently working on a cover of Ashford & Simpson’s classic ‘It Seems To Hang On’ with fellow producer David Harness. It features Tertulien and powerhouse diva Mijan on vocals. Buckle up! It’s gonna be hotttt!
Which have been the highlight releases for MoreHouse over the past 20 years?
They all hold a special place in my heart, but if I had to pick a few our 1st release ‘Inside My Soul’ produced by moi feat. Solomon Henderson would be right up there. I’d also include a few collaborations I did with Solara (‘Sunshine,’ Perception’ and ‘I Am’) and two songs that always put a smile on my face – Groove Junkies feat. Diane Carter ‘Dr. Feelgood’ (the DJ Meme Remix) and Groove Junkies feat. Indeya ‘Oh Lord’ (GJs Classic Vox Mix).
How do you think the label has changed and grown since its inception and how do you see things moving forward?
Living in Los Angeles has provided us access to a deep talent pool of musicians, singers and songwriters. We’ve always taken the quality over quantity approach. MoreHouse has been a showcase for Groove Junkies material and as the projects continue to evolve, new alliances and collaborations are formed. The times we live in have certainly provided us with an abundance of inspiration for our content and it’s indicative of the songs we’ve put out. We do sign material from outside sources, but admittedly we are very fussy over which of those projects get signed. My mantra is that a great song will stand the test of time. Moving forward for us is about keeping the standards we’ve set high and releasing memorable material.
What artists and projects can we expect to hear & see on the label in 2023?
In honor of MoreHouse Records 20th Anniversary we will be releasing a two volume compilation titled 20 Years of MoreHouse Records’. The compilations will include remastered classics, fan favs, the hits and previously unreleased remixes and new material as well. It will be available in a DJ friendly, unmixed format and each volume will feature a continuous guest mix (Vol 1 mixed by Richard Earnshaw & Vol 2 mixed by Reelsoul). 2023 is shaping up nicely with new music coming from Groove Junkies, Solara, Lisa Shaw, Tertulien Thomas, Mijan, B. Valentine, Reelsoul, Deep Soul Syndicate and others.
What has been the secret to successfully running a record label for 20 years and have you any tips for those just starting out?
Treat people with a high degree of respect and integrity. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and try to surround yourself with people who can help take your vision to the next level. Seek critique from unbiased sources and always bringing your ‘AAA’ game. It’s an extremely busy playing field out there and nice releases simply don’t cut through the clutter.
What needs to change in the music industry for the better?
I’d love to see more people in the creative community get back to the lost art of crafting memorable songs. And streaming companies need to be more generous with their royalties!!
What’s the process in getting signed to MoreHouse and are you accepting demos at the moment?
Write and produce an incredible song with a great hook and a dope track and submit it to me at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
‘20 Years of MoreHouse Records’ Vol 1 will be available on Traxsource exclusive promo March 10th 2023.
‘20 Years of MoreHouse Records’ Vol 2 will be available on Traxsource exclusive promo March 24th 2023.
Full release: ‘20 Years of MoreHouse Records’ Volumes 1 & 2 will be available on all platforms April 10th 2023.