What are your first impressions of Estonia?
It’s beautiful here! It’s actually beautiful. We got here yesterday, drove around and then I got a chance to walk around just before dinner. And it’s so colorful here, got this colorful vibe. I am a big city guy but coming here I really noticed how colorful this place is, night and day – the buildings, architecture, the people so far. It has been very very nice. And the food. It was amazing. Went to a really great restaurant (Pegasus, ed.) and had best bread there. I feel so fat after that (laughing). It was so good.
So what is going to happen today, what are we going to see on stage?
I don’t know. We are going to play music and it’s going to be good. This is our seventh show.
Can you tell us something of who the Funk Apostles are?
It’s my baby. My baby is three years old – the Funk Apostles are three years old. We started in January 2015. The group consists of bass Sharay Reed, keyboard player Nicholas Semrad, guitarist Adam Agati, drummer Taron Lockett and two backing vocalists, Denise Renee and Tiffany Stevenson. The Funk Apostles is a funk-soul group reminiscent of Sly and the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, Prince, James Brown. But with a new flair of our own – but those are our influences. We like to play music, we like to party. We like to have a good time. But we like to play music with a message though.
What is the message of your music?
It’s a message of love, hope, being together. I think we are better together than apart, in psychological terms. They way we believe, the religion. There are a lot of things trying to divide us and think that music is the unifying force. I like to play music and hopefully play types of music that can inspire a change for the better. Take people who feel bad or feel sad and make them feel better somehow. Or leave them with hope about the world we live in. I don’t do this all the time, but sometimes if I read the news before I go on the stage I just become a news reporter. Because I feel, that’s the way to tell people about the truth, at least your truth and my truth. We want to dance, we want to have fun, we want to tell the truth and we want to inspire the chance to all the people who listen to us.
You play Hammond B3. What is the charm of the Hammond? Have you ever thought about replacing it with a newer version?
I love playing the Hammond, I have been playing it since I was a kid. Me and the Hammond have a love–hate relationship. When I am with my own its love, it’s like beautiful, but when I’m with another it’s very tough. Hammond is a very old instrument, although it’s being made now in the same way technically. So I have a new instrument, a new love, that’s pushing the Hammond out of the way a little bit, just slowly. It’s called a harpejji. It has 16 strings, it’s wood, it’s like a guitar and like a piano, but it sounds like a guitar. And want to be a guitar player at heart. I spent almost 30 years playing a Hammond organ. I am not trying to divorce it, but I am definitely trying to make way for the new love of my life. I love the organ, I never thought something else could make me feel as connected to music as organ did, but the harpejji does in a very special way.
Is it the Hammond that creates gospel in Funk Apostles?
The Funk Apostles are not a gospel group and Hammond, the organ, the sound of the instrument is not predominantly a gospel thing. People just know it to be predominantly gospel because of YouTube. Back in the day, church people really didn’t want the organ in there, because it was used in rock ’n’ roll, for example the Beatles and Rolling Stones. The fact that it is a gospel thing now, it’s cool. It’s like what Billy Preston used to do, I think about Billy Preston a lot or Sly and the Family Stone. Sly was playing organ and that was just funk music. It was funk and soul and that’s what it is. The organ is a very soulful instrument. And in this and in most bands, it brings the soul. Literally the soul to the band. It’s the most soulful thing.
Is funk something that lasts?
Oh yea! It’s definitely there and it’s coming back, it feels like a measured way. Seems like a lot of people want to play funk music these days.
What is the trend, is funk the trend or what are the trends in jazz music?
Looks like funk is the trend. People want to be funky.
You started playing at a really early age, you have shared the stage with wonderful artists, you have won Grammys – how has that shaped you as a musician?
That’s a good question, I don’t even know. But I am happy to have that opportunity to have done things that got me recognition. I don’t know how it shaped me though, but I am the person I am today because of those things, because of the church upbringing, because of the days and years spent in high school, practicing for hours, year after year. I think all those things shaped the person that’s sitting in front of you right now. I can’t really choose one thing over another. But I am definitely happy, blessed and fortuned enough to have had such a career.
You won three Grammys as a member of Snarky Puppy. What was your role there, when you got the recognition?
For each Grammy I played a different role. The first Grammy, I was the organ player. I made a suggestion about the song that enabled Lalah (Lalah Hathaway, ed.) to do what she did at the end – the three voice polyphonic singing. That wasn’t really a part of it and we didn’t know if she would do that. So I made a suggestion that wasn’t a part of the song, that gave Lalah the potential to improve what she did, and that was, like, whoo! For the second and third ones I was just a musician. The first one was special because I really loved the process of that.
How many instruments do you play in general?
Five. I play bass, guitar, Hammond organ, keyboards and harpejji.
What inspires you to create such versatile music?
Life inspires me! Inspiration comes to me in different forms – movies, or when I am just outside looking at buildings. I can’t say it comes in one place. As long as I am alive and want to play music, I am just happy. I’m there you know. Conversations are inspiring, very inspiring. Sport is inspiring.
Basketball. Bowling too, but basketball predominately. I love basketball. I want to be a high school basketball coach. I will quit music to do that.
Please, not right now.
Not today, maybe tomorrow (laughing).
Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles (USA)
April 21st at Vaba Lava
Cory Henry – Hammond organ, piano, vocals
Nicholas Semrad – keyboard
Adam Agati – guitar
Sharay Reed – bass
Taron Lockett – drums
Denise Renee – vocals
Tiffany Stevenson – vocals
See pictures from the concert here