YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to talk to Brian Casey from the legendary R&B group Jagged Edge. The group just released their double album “A Jagged Love Story” to celebrate their tenth studio album. We talk to Brian about the approach that they took with this new album as well as some of the challenges that came with it including multiple pushbacks. We also talk about them using autotune throughout the album and why it was important for them to bridge the gap between young and old R&B listeners. Lastly we talk about the group’s brotherhood and why they’ve been able to release music consistently for over 20 years now.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You guys just dropped your tenth studio album “A Jagged Love Story”. When you look back at your journey, what are you most proud of?
Brian Casey: One of things I’m most proud of is being able to be consistent. We come from an era where so many acts were producer driven, so for us to be able to do that for ourselves is great. We came from So So Def and a lot of people thought that Jermaine Dupri had the recipe to what Jagged Edge was, but we’ve always written our own music. We’ve been able to be consistent. When you go back to our albums, you can say that the sound that we’ve created is consistent. It’s not like one way on the first album and different on the second. When you have producer driven acts, you hear sounds changing at certain points in their careers. We like to be able to go back and forth as far as maybe an old school feel and also something that’s fresh, but we always want to give you that Jagged Edge sound.
YouKnowIGotSoul: A lot of artists that came from your era, they’ve stopped releasing new music and just tour off their catalog. What’s that conversation like with the rest of the group to continue pushing?
Brian Casey: I think everybody knows me and my brother do the bulk of the songwriting, so there are many times that we’ve sat around together and talked about our favorite groups like New Edition, Guy, Jodeci or Boyz II Men. It seems like they all got to three or four albums and stopped making new music. We always cautioned ourselves against that to not be like our favorite groups. It seems like groups get to their third or fourth album and then they have no interest in making new music. For us, part of why we wanted to be in the industry is because we love to make music. Touring is great and we love feeling the appreciation from the fans, but there’s nothing like going in and making new music.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Over the last two albums, the group has truly gone independent as you guys run your own label now. “A Jagged Love Story” experienced a handful of delays, so talk about what happened behind the scenes.
Brian Casey: When we were under a major label system who run like pipelines, we still had albums pushed back. It’s just part of the record industry. With “Layover”, when we found out we were doing Unsung and we got the date, they told us that two weeks prior to airing it. We took those two weeks and put together an album. As much as we were proud to be able to do that, we rushed some things to meet that date. “Layover” was just to accompany the episode and let people know that we’re still out here making music. When it came to “A Jagged Love Story”, our goal was to put it out two years ago. We had a couple of sampling issues that we needed to get cleared. Without a major label, some things just fall on you. We were trying to get some samples cleared and that took a full year, so we had that as an issue. Also we didn’t shoot any videos for “Layover” so we figured we wanted to get some videos out there for this album. We’ve done three videos already and we’re about to do “Seasons Of Us” soon. When you realize what really goes into this and how many processes there are, another year has passed. We didn’t plan to make it this long. As well as before COVID happened, we were on the road every weekend. When you have a major label, they handle everything for you but when you put it all on your shoulders, it is a lot of work but at the same time, we’re getting that experience. I think the next album is going to go a lot smoother and it won’t be pushed back for two years. *Laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: How did you approach this album creatively and when did you decide it would be a double album?
Brian Casey: We started to almost feel guilty because we still had people waiting. Before we knew it, we were already at about 19 songs. We eventually got to 22 and decided to make it a double album. If you think about it, it’s actually a triple album because we have 31 songs. I’ve never seen an artist really take the fans with them through the whole process of putting together a record. Once we started listening to the whole body of work, we were like “Let’s just give them all of it”. As long as the fans have been waiting, we wanted to give them a glimpse into the process when we make an album. We’ve had albums where we’ve recorded 60 records but only put out 14. We just wanted to give them a bigger chunk because the fans have waited so long. When we back to listen to it, we felt it was cohesive and we felt we had a lot of great records.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We noticed on this album that you and Brandon produced a handful of songs. We know you guys as songwriters, so when did you get into creating beats as well?
Brian Casey: It’s been a process that started back when we did the “Jagged Little Thrill” album. One of the reasons that our production has grown is because we taught ourselves how to play the keyboard while being in this business and being on the road constantly. A lot of times artists like Alicia Keys and John Legend come into the industry learning how to play instruments already. Just the progression of learning instruments, we’re finally comfortable with where we are as musicians. It’s showing in the production and in the growth of it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How do you balance your classic Jagged Edge sound with some of the more modern production in R&B today?
Brian Casey: We read a review that said Jagged Edge is the best at blending what was with what is. We took that as a compliment and it made us focus. We can do some of what’s going on right now and still blend it with what we do best and make it a hybrid. We try to make it where it’s not totally unfamiliar to our old listeners and also grab some new listeners. A lot of times we see our diehard fans playing the music with their kids and they love the music too. We feel we didn’t want to just leave out the younger generation, but we also didn’t want to leave out our diehard fans. We tried our best to bridge the gap. A lot of people knock the younger generation of R&B, but we’re not like that. I believe they can be better guided with the message in their music, but I like what they do. Calling their music trash isn’t something we’re willing to do and we wanted to incorporate it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We noticed some autotune on the new album “A Jagged Love Story” as well as the previous project “Layover”. Talk about the usage of autotune for Jagged Edge and what it does for the group’s sound.
Brian Casey: I don’t feel like we have to do it. We were talking about Pleasure P from Pretty Ricky about this and he’s a diehard Jagged Edge fan. Pleasure asked Brandon about this and my brother’s answer was like “We can do whatever we want to do”. I think when people come to see us live, everyone knows we can sing. I don’t think it’s a mystery to people. We would be almost throwing away what the younger generation is doing like it’s trash if you look at the autotune thing. The younger generation likes that sound, so for us to ignore that and still want to garner new fans, it would be dumb on our part. If you come see us live, we’ll sing those songs without anything. We don’t feel it hinders us in any kind of way. Also some of the vocal settings that come in ProTools, they aren’t necessarily autotune. There’s a sound that provides that feels like autotune, but it’s just a vocal package. You have to be into production to understand that, but it’s not the same as when T-Pain came out. At the same time, we had used autotune on a few songs on “Jagged Little Thrill” and “Hard”. It’s not our fault that T-Pain staked his claim so hard that people thought he came up with it. We had been doing it five years before that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Kyle and Wingo are the ultimate team players and they understand their roles in the group. With you and Brandon handling the majority of the songwriting and producers of the group, how do you decide who sings which parts on the songs?
Brian Casey: I want to highlight that even more because we feel the same way. This group couldn’t have made it without those guys being the best team players. They’re the most humble guys we could ever ask for. To be honest, I would like to get them on even more records, but me and my brother are in the studio so much that we can’t even expect them to come as much as we’re in there. We’re in there all the time. They would have no lives like us if they were in the studio with us all the time. Whenever they come, we sprinkle them on the songs and pick the parts that fit their voices best. People don’t understand that Kyle has one of the best falsettos. I think he rivals Maxwell or anybody that sings in that register, but he’s just a team player. He doesn’t look at his role as something that needs to be at the front. They’re the best team players we could have ever asked for. When I look at other groups and they come out in the beginning and tell you that they’re brothers but then you find out later on that they’re not. We really are brother. Before we even came out, we were together everyday. Us being able to make it this long in the business is a testament to our real friendship. It’s nothing fake about it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about that crazy run the group had from “JE Heartbreak” to “Baby Making Project”. It was like an album every year or so for seven years. Just reflect back on that time because that was crazy.
Brian Casey: The music business can afford you so many different material things and privileges, sometimes we as artist don’t treat it like a job. Me and brother never wanted to fall into that trap. We would treat our music career like a job. We would get up and go to the studio everyday. Our dad always told us “You can’t be afraid of the hard work”. We had to put our hours in and bring our creativity minds everytime we got in the studio.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Brian Casey: We’re already midway through the 11th album. We just gave you “A Jagged Love Story” but we don’t know how to stop. We’re going to put a little more focus on midtempos and uptempos. For us, it’s always going to find that fine line in between it. We want it to be sensual but we want to you to be able to groove to it. On “A Jagged Love Story”, there’s a record called “Can’t Help It” so it’ll be similar to that. This new album won’t be 31 songs, but we’ll still be giving you this work. *Laughs*