Space Capone brings the soul

Photo provided by Arts Council of Greater Baton RougeSpace Capone
Photo provided by Arts Council of Greater Baton RougeSpace Capone

If the soul revival comes, Space Capone is ready to ride that train.

Individually, Space Capone is the Nashville-based Aaron Winters. Collectively, it’s a band that, depending on the venue, can be as large as 10 pieces.

No matter where Space Capone plays, the band’s lineup features horns, those instruments that are a quintessential ingredient in the classic soul and R&B that inspires Winters.

“That’s the one piece that has to be there,” Winters said last week. “I write songs for horn arrangements. You either have those pieces or else you’re stuck with the blues.”

Space Capone’s recently released self-titled album features contributions from Jerry Hey, the horn arranger for Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and many others. Jay Graydon, the session guitarist who played for recordings by Ray Charles, Donna Summer, Hall & Oates, Patti LaBelle and Steely Dan, also contributed.

A larger than normal recording budget from AVJ Records, the Atlanta-based label that released Space Capone’s new album, helped make working with Hey and Graydon possible.

“So we went for it,” Winters said. “We got these guys who we’re trying to emulate to actually be on this album. That’s why it’s special for us.”

Winters co-produced the album with the formerly Nashville-based but now Los Angeles-based Calvin Turner, whose previous production work includes Raphael Saadiq and southwest Louisiana soul singer Marc Broussard.

“Justin Timberlake did a lot to help the soul music cause recently,” Winters said of the singing star whose new album, The 20/20 Experience, nods to Sly Stone and Michael Jackson.

“But soul has always been around,” the 30-year-old Winters said. “It peeks out in different types of music. The alternative rock that happened in the ’90s, there was some soul in that.

“Moving into the 21st century, people are becoming more romanticized about the original soul sounds. I think that’s where it’s headed, traditional soul as opposed to soul being inside of a rock song or an urban R&B song. That’s exciting. You see it with Allen Stone and the Alabama Shakes and, gosh, too many others to mention.”

The return of soul, a genre of music in which the expression of emotion, rich arrangements and skillful songcraft are stylistic trademarks, may be a reaction against electronic dance music that’s executed by DJs who neither sing nor play an instrument.

“People are maybe getting tired of the boom-boom-boom, in-your-face, climax-after-climax music,” Winters said. “People are looking for something else. I hope it’s soul and bands featuring musicians who actually play instruments.”

The sound of Space Capone also includes Winters’ singing, something he’s not particularly proud of.

“I write songs attuned to my voice,” he said of his limited vocal abilities. “Where I do well is more the staccato, choppy singing that Michael Jackson did a good job with. But I’ve never claimed to be a singer’s singer, someone you’d hear on American Idol.”

A native of Carthage, Ind., Winters dropped out of Ohio’s Miami University after two years and moved to Nashville. The city is less expensive than New York or Los Angeles. It’s also geographically advantageous for touring artists such as himself.

“Everybody knows each other here,” he said. “There are a lot of young people doing creative stuff. It’s a really cool city to be in right now.”

Nashville is also a great place to find classic soul pressed onto classic vinyl.

“There are three or four vinyl record stores within a five-minute drive from where I work,” Winters said. “I’m a sponge right now, soaking it all up, still learning. And people are always handing things to me, saying, ‘Listing to this. Listen to this.’ That’s songwriting fuel for me.”