After a few albums and a string of hits in the early 90’s and the disbandment of the group that followed, fans really haven’t heard much from Hi-Five in over a decade. Although Tony Thompson had later attempted a solo career of his own, he tragically passed away in 2007 which put an end to that dream. However, Treston Irby, one of the original members of the group, is back on the scene with a solo album of his own. In this interview with YouKnowIGotSoul, he discusses how he knew this was the right time to come back, the challenges of trying to be successful after a long hiatus, how his sound will compare to that of Hi-Five, what to expect on his solo album, and more.
YKIGS: How did you know this was the right time to come back from your long hiatus?
TI: Let’s just say the good Lord put it and installed it in me. The day I woke up out at the hospital after getting shot 5 times, that’s when I knew it was time to start working. When it came to being the actual time it was the Lord’s time when the Lord felt it was fit for me to come back. Put it in my heart.
YKIGS: Was there ever a point where you thought you might be done with music?
TI: Yea, yea, yea about four years before I got shot. That’s when I gave it up there are too many changes in the industry and I was just out of pocket and I turned into that regular dude man. Yea so there definitely was a point where I thought I was done with music about four years before I got shot; let me just be a family man. Just gave up everything so I started eating and gained mad, mad weight, it was crazy.
YKIGS: Talk about being part of the group Hi-Five and how you guys originally formed as a group.
TI: Well the group was already started when I got there. They had Toriano Easley, Russell Neal, Roger “Pooh” Clark, Marcus Sanders and Tony Thompson. Then something personal happened with one of the members Toriano Easley, that’s when I came in. The managers were looking for a new member and they went to a talent show in Stevenson High School in the Bronx and a Gospel concert and they heard me sing. They came to my mother’s house a couple of days later and a week later I was gone. Everything was pretty much history at that point. Being a part of the group it was an experience that I don’t regret. It taught me a lot and made me the man and the artist and the business man I am today
YKIGS: How did you originally link up with Teddy Riley and what impact did he have on your career?
TI: Working with Teddy Riley was a blessing. To be able to work with somebody as large as him that’s new Jack Swing he made that style. Teddy Riley was/is still a force to be reckoned with. Mad respect to Teddy! Watching his work ethic, he don’t drink he don’t smoke he is a real cool guy. Just to be charged by being in the studio to see him like that you know gave me even more of a respect for him. You have a lot of producers that need to do a lot of other things to get in the zone and with him he is just talented like that and I love him for it. Yea, that man he did our first hits, “Kissing Game” and “Just Can’t Handle It”.
YKIGS: What do you feel were the main reasons that led to Hi-Five disbanding as a group?
TI: Bad management, not sticking together, allowing people certain people in our immediate circle who should not have been there, greed. Those were pretty much the main reasons why the group disbanded.
YKIGS: What can we expect on your new solo project?
TI: Fun music, happy music, I try not to deal with the depressing stuff. Real stuff but not depressing. Happy music, happy up-tempos you can dance to and get your sweat on. The ballads are there cause I feel like a lot of guys out there struggle with expressing themselves. I think that the guys are gonna feel me because they are gonna be like “Yo this brother be saying the same things I wanna say” and hopefully they like it and they can play it for their girlfriend and get a positive response. What I am bringing to the game is new because it has not been done in a while. I am not claiming to be the best but what I do I do it well. I do what I do, there is a lot for everybody.
YKIGS: How will your sound on the album compare to the music you made as part of Hi-Five?
TI: The sound is totally different from Hi-Five. Just think of it that was back then a different era the music has changed all around since then. Also, it is not five guys trying to decide what track to work on it is just me deciding what track to work on. If a track has a certain sound and I want to do it I don’t have to bring it to four other people I can just get it in.
YKIGS: Who did you work with on the album?
TI: Our producer Freedom Lyles, he has worked with so many people, Michael Jackson, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott to name a few. I am honored to work with him. I also did a song with Buddy from Intro.
YKIGS: What’s been the biggest challenge trying to return after so long?
TI: Biggest challenge trying to return after so long is having people get familiar with me again. Out of sight out of mind, you know you haven’t heard a lot of things from Hi-Five. Have to put the voice with the face and all that that’s pretty much the biggest challenge and to show that I still have it and I am able to drive the ship without anybody. You know what I mean, that’s been the hardest part that is putting the name Hi-Five with the face again is the challenging part.
YKIGS: Give us some background on the R. Kelly produced song “Quality Time” and how the song was created.
TI: Working with R. Kelly was cool too, “Quality Time” was a hot song. Yea I remember when we first heard the song, his driver had come to pick us up and bought us to his hotel in Cali and I remember him playing the piano and he said how the song was going to go and he was playin the chorus to “Quality Time” and Tony and I said “Wow that is gonna be a hot song!” We recorded that song in Dallas and that was pretty cool.
YKIGS: Give us some background on Hi-Five’s biggest hit “I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)” and what you remember about making this song.
TI: That song was produced by Teddy Riley and working with him in the studio like I said was a blessing to see his raw talent. He put his all into it. My fondest memory about doing that song was watching Tony do his thing. He being so young and giving his heart and soul into the song to make that song come across the way it did was a total blessing. So I wanna say rest in peace to my man Tony Thompson and thanks for singing “The Kissing Game” the way you did. You are missed but never forgotten.