Guillaume Eyango Biography
In this French/Cameroon vocalists hands (or rather, voice), his is a style of rhythm and blues—of soul—that recalls bygone eras of melody and lyrical meaning with depth.
Guillaume’s made his living over the past decade as a highly sought-after and respected touring musician and session vocalist, performing and recording with a wide array of musical stars, including Yannick Noah, Horace Andy, Jimmy Cliff, Craig David, Lionel Richie, Kool & The Gang, Manu Dibango, Marianne Faithfull, Jason Mraz, Youssou N'Dour and Véronique Sanson.
"I have this musical universe that I carry with me everywhere I go. But I prefer artistic collaboration over creative isolation. In the end, I enjoy the process: fighting and blending with someone else's musical universe in order to get the unexpected result," Guillaume says, describing the origins of Do it by Myself, his debut CD over ten years in the making.
Ten years is apparently the length of time it takes someone with Guillaume’s prodigious talents to finally say no to all the extra work, all the tours, all the collaborations with other artists on musical projects other than his own.
The tours, the recording sessions, the work—they were ostensibly a good thing. A busy musician is a happy one because it means he's making a living. Guillaume was no exception. But he longed for a creative outlet for his own personal muse. And so, throughout the years, in fits and starts, he cobbled together the beginnings of his own debut album.
Whenever he was off-tour, Guillaume wrote sketches of songs, worked on lyrical and melodic ideas, and collaborated with other musicians on original material. These snippets of ideas would become the album Do it by Myself.
For someone who enjoys collaboration, Guillaume is aware of the irony of his debut album's title, for many were involved in its creation (including bass-god Marcus Miller, who makes a funky appearance on one of the tracks, Guillaume’s infectious cover of the soul classic, Back Together Again).
When viewed in context, Do it by Myself is less a contradiction than it is a declaration of intent, the necessary adoption of a DIY-ethos by a musical artist tired of waiting for his professional life to make room for his innermost creative impulses.
After a decade of music focusing on other people’s music, the on-again, off-again approach to Guillaume’s own music finally proved too burdensome. So Guillaume did something about it last year: he took a hiatus from all outside projects in order to finally finish his first album.
One listen is a revelation—it was well-worth the wait. Do it by Myself pops with grooves that sit in the pocket, melodies that thrill in surprising twists and turns, outlining the contours of smoky R&B chords that give everything else on top a nice, made-bed to sleep on.
This isn't just music for the bedroom, but alternately, music for the spirit, for the soul. R&B that uplifts and not just facilitates the next cliched club-hookup or the kind of fetishized sexual escapism that mainstream Hip-Hop/R&B peddles the most these days.
Guillaume counts American gospel music as a primary influence, although the connection to gospel wasn't preordained by any stretch. Like most Parisians growing up in the eighties and nineties, Guillaume knew next to nothing about the James Cleveland Choir or even Aretha Franklin's original gospel roots.
But for the unlikely intervention of a high school teacher who decided one day to forego an entire lesson in favor of an impromptu listening party to a gospel CD he had recently purchased at a concert by an American gospel choir on tour in Paris, Guillaume’s career as a musical creative might never have materialized.
The CD of gospel music Guillaume heard that day changed his life. Mesmerized the entire time, Guillaume couldn't quite understand what he was hearing. But he knew it was special. And he knew it moved him. Before he realized what was happening, the hunt was on. Guillaume’s new obsession found him traversing the city looking for any and all gospel CDs he could lay his hands on.
He devoured the music, and like most newly-minted fans, he found a kind of solace and creative well-being within this music that, simply put, called to him. Gospel became his musical classroom, teaching him a style of singing, of backgrounds, of arranging that he would aspire to as an artist and vocalist for the rest of his life.
Years later, the original burst of inspiration Guillaume found in gospel was the catalyst in another musical project, Hazkeni Voices, a choir project that blended a unique hybrid of Gospel-style arrangements with ancient, traditional Hebrew liturgical musical. Guillaume was a founding member, and they released a well-received CD of music in 2009, of which Guillaume was the creative driving force and producer.
It was a singular musical artist, however, that proved to be the final piece of the puzzle that formed Guillaume’s musical education: Bobby McFerrin.
"For me," Guillaume says with the slightest hint of awe, "he is my standard, my benchmark for everything I do." Guillaume professes to spending much of his professional career following McFerrin’s musical journey, studying his albums meticulously. He basically considers himself a disciple. “He’s the master,” he says, “period.”
In the end, wherever his creative wellspring resides, Guillaume’s musical education continues, but the results surely speak for themselves: Gospel as the base for this particular recipe, with generous helpings of improvisatory flights of fancy and jazzy, layered backgrounds a la McFerrin. Add a touch of classic Parisian flare, a dash of soul and R&B, and presto, out comes Do it by Myself.
It's a signature sound that never gets old after repeated listens. As debuts go, Do it by Myself is a refreshing and inspiring musical statement, particularly in today’s parched musical landscape. Guillaume’s managed to create an album that looks and feels like a classic one, but in this case, it’s as if it fell out of the sky and into your lap without warning. These days, you don’t expect to hear music this good.
Despite trends, Guillaume’s created this particular brand of R&B all the while upholding an artistic vision that's at once sincere and catchy in its iterations: hook-laden songs that make you bob your head. He creates music rooted in but not beholden to the past. Like classic artists from yesteryear, always willing to explore new ground but never at the expense of authentic grooves, melodies, or songwriting.
This is what classic R&B fans long for, someone like Guillaume, who comes along every once in a while like that big brother or sister who bought you your first record and said those magic words, as they handed you a freshly, shrink-wrapped LP: "You've got to check this out."