Duane Forest ready to change lives with 'The Climb' Image

by Biko Kennedy

We caught up with the crooner to find out more about his beginnings, his non-profit charity and musical journey.

JAMusic: Some of the most genius artistes have thrived when taking chances and innovating. How important/present is that on the soundscape today; from what you've seen and that might have help in composing your singles?
DF: I think that might be the most important thing for music today. Because of the internet we have access to so much music! And so much of it sounds exactly the same or fits in a box neatly. The pressure to sound like what seems to be “working” is very present… but I think it’s important to find and trust your sound, especially if it is something different. This type of thinking plays a large part of my writing. I am constantly trying to bridge the gap of Pop to my own sound so I can bring listeners over.

JAMusic: What elements do you hold that’ll define you as an entertainer as oppose to just another artiste?
DF: I think my connection and presence with the listener. People often tell me that they feel peace, honesty and intimacy when I perform.

JAMusic:  What's the biggest risk you've taken artistically; one that went over surprisingly well and one that might've gone over people's heads?
DF: Starting my musical journey with the mission of funding a brand new charity. It would make more sense to start something if you had money for example haha, or when/if I got famous. But For me my music and my passion for marginalized youth are one and the same.

JAMusic: Let’s talk a bit about your album The Climb. What’s the story behind the project and what’s the message you’re trying to portray?
DF: “The Climb” comes from a conversation I had with a friend in Mexico. I was interested in her but I was living as a volunteer working with drug addicts, I had nooo money. I never actually asked her out etc. One day she told me that she was an apple high in a tree, and that this tree had many apples, even some on the ground, but if I wanted to be with her, I had to climb.. I remember it like yesterday. At first I didn’t get it but now I see what it means – knowing the woman’s worth and knowing mine. This album is about the ups and downs and what it takes to “climb”.

JAMusic: Can you speak a little about your non-profit charity 'Genesis Community of the Arts’?
DF: Back in 2011 after spending some time in the country as a volunteer I discovered that majority of the youth in several communities in the area never had a chance to learn a musical instrument, paint on canvas, explore different dance styles or perform in a play. I gathered my local and foreign friends from town and shared my thoughts on the current situation, and my vision about the importance of education in the arts, and how that can improve the way children experience the world. It was then decided to start an art pilot program with their help. On March of the same year the pilot was launched under the wings of UrbanPromise Honduras. The opening classes of guitar, drawing, painting, dance and cooking were a hit and very successful. Our end of semester Recitals and Art Exhibitions really gained the attention of the townsfolk and schools. After seeing how the programs were being appreciated by the community, I started to see that my vision could be taken to another level. I created a non-profit to provide free art classes to the youth of Copan Ruinas, Honduras, employed local artists to become teachers, and found a place with the proper environment for teaching. The Castle, as people started to identify it, was the perfect place. A colonial style house with a great backyard and roomy interiors to transform into classrooms. The enrolment for first classes in Genesis as a non-profit had over 120 children that wanted to try this beautiful thing we call art. Classes were offered as an After School Program for public schools and for youth from 3rd to 6th grade.

JAMusic: With the album inevitably getting rotation on local and international radio stations what insight can you give on the power of music and its ability to communicate certain messages verbally and non-verbally? And what do you think your music represents?
DF: Music may be the most powerful medium of communication in the world today. It literally moves and changes cultures, ways of being and feeling. My music does touch in areas of sadness within a relationship context but also hope and new beginnings. I hope that the warmth is felt through the music.

JAMusic: What would you consider to be the greatest contributor to your musical diversity and versatility?
Growing up I didn’t listen to main stream pop, hip hop etc. I was into jazz radio. It often had world musc on as well, I was introduced to bossa nova through that as well. Oh and my mom had these sick basement reggae jams. Those songs I would go to sleep to.

JAMusic: How do your musical influences compound when you are sitting to write a song and record it? / Apart from them being timeless, what drew you to all the artistes that influence your sound?
Storytelling. All of my favorite artists are masters of telling a story, making me feel like I am where they are but in my own way. I hope to do the same.

JAMusic:  We live in an era where the average person's attention span is limited to what they want to see or hear. What are you doing differently that will hold their attention?
DF: Our team knows this and we are releasing music in interesting and innovative ways. For example very short music videos, videos of me in different places, alternate versions of songs and hearing our fans and trying to bring content that they are  directly having influence over.

JAMusic: When you look to the future, what are some of the areas you’d like to change professionally and personally?DF: Haha I’d like to be more on time in both areas. I also would like a bigger a bigger stage to share my art. I am hoping for larger festivals around the world, this will allow me to connect more people than ever to my efforts to educate marginalized youth all over the globe. I’d also like to go deeper into writing and my personal emotional development. Currently I am working on being present, in the moment and being grateful.

JAMusic: What's the purpose on your musical journey? What's the message you're trying to give?
DF: The purpose is to remind people that life, love and even the hard times are beautiful. The sum of them is beauty. And that there is possibility floating in the sea of life, just dive beneath!

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