Music Icon Terry Lewis Talks “Super Bowl Live,” Reppin’ Minnesota & More [Interview]
With Super Bowl 52 right around the corner, @Okayplayer spoke with music icon Terry Lewis of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis about his hometown and more.
This week marks the beginning of Super Bowl Week at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Last October, the legendary producing tandem, James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Lewis, were given the opportunity to provide a unique entertainment experience for their hometown and Super Bowl attendees leading up to the big game. Alongside the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, the duo have focused their creative energies on producing a 10-day music festival entitled Super Bowl Live in downtown Minneapolis.
Super Bowl Live is a series of free concerts showcasing the Minneapolis sound and artists across different genres, such as: The Jets, Morris Day, Sounds of Blackness, Soul Asylum, Andre Cymoné, among many others. The festival is being sponsored by Verizon. It began on January 26th and will last through the February 4th. In an effort to learn more about this event, we spoke with Terry Lewis about Minnesota’s musical legacy, the event itself, Prince, and much more.
Okayplayer: How did you become involved with Super Bowl Live?
Terry Lewis: We were asked to curate entertainment for Super Bowl Live’s 10-day long show. My first answer for probably everything is no. But in rethinking it, it was a great opportunity for us to engage with our music community in Minneapolis. And basically, toot our own horn and give each other love. We started to think about all the groups that were our influencers and that influenced music over the years that came from Minneapolis. When we did the list, it was just amazing how many wonderful acts came from here.
There was actually too many to put on one show for 10 days. With Prince being the head of all of it, when you just think about the amount of acts that he was able to help design a way for, it is just an amazing thing. We didn’t even get it down to all the acts that we’ve had influence over, like New Edition, Janet [Jackson], or any people like that. We just chose people from Minnesota. When you look at the reach of the Minneapolis music community, it has been pretty broad across the world.
OKP: Most definitely. Who was the person that contacted you from the NFL office?
TL: It was the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. This was never about the NFL. This was about the Minnesota community. That’s the other thing that makes it very intriguing for me and Jimmy [Jam], because we will forever be Minneapolitans [laughs]. Because no matter where we live, we’re all about Minneapolis. This is family. This is home.
OKP: When you started thinking about all the artists that have emerged from Minneapolis, what was your strategy or blueprint in deciding which artists would represent the city during this celebration?
TL: The blueprint was to get contacts and make calls by any means necessary. I found artists on LinkedIn, Facebook, a friend who knows a friend of a friend, managers, and agents. By any means necessary, we just made contact. The overall consensus was always positive. Everybody wanted to be a part of it. There were only two or three groups that didn’t consent because they were afraid, too busy, or something more organic that just didn’t work out. Some people are just afraid of the cold. I would be, too. The weather in Minneapolis in February and late January is kind of unthinkable for someone that is not used to it. You don’t know what cold is until you feel this cold.
OKP: How long did the process take for you to get the artists’ information, reach out to their representatives, and for them to come on board this project?
TL: I think, in total, it took about a month and a half to get everything solidified. Originally, it was supposed to be a lot less acts. I think the design was to book eight acts, but we were fortunate enough to be able to have so many people that wanted to be down, that it turned into somewhere around 50 acts being involved with this whole thing.
OKP: Yeah, that’s the same number I counted. What is striking about the list of artists is there are several different genres of music represented. How important was it for you and Mr. Harris to show a variety of artists like The Jets, Soul Asylum, Sounds of Blackness, Rae Sremmurd, etc.?
TL: Diversity is always important. The Minneapolis music scene was always built on diversity, which is why — the combination of being in Minneapolis and the time period that we were in Minneapolis — designed our whole career as songwriters, producers, and musicians. Even back in the day, when we were just playing local gigs, we could play a gig one day and it would be all songs for a Kappa convention, and the next day we might play some bar mitzvah, and then we might play a little polka wedding reception where they just wanted to hear polka music. We might play a Harlem thing where you had to play a dinner set at six and play all jazz, and then at eight, we’d go into fusion, and then by nine o’clock, we’d go on to pop and rock and contemporary hits. We had to learn how to play all styles of music. Diversity in the Minneapolis music community has always been a hallmark.
OKP: Can you speak about some of the influences that helped shape your musical sound and direction?
TL: The first bass tracks I ever learned were from Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool & the Gang. He just made the bass sound so good in a simple way. He taught me how to play parts. Then, I started listening to Sly and the Family Stone. I’m just speaking for me as a bass player. Then going back further, I tried to learn some of James Jamerson’s parts, but you can’t play those right away. You got to graduate to that. There are very few people in the world that can play like him, even today. My influences are many. We listened to everything: Chicago, James Brown, and Bootsy [Collins]. There were so many different influences.
OKP: From my previous interviews with Mr. Harris, he shared that you were the athlete of your duo. How does it feel being a part of this whole Super Bowl extravaganza as a former athlete?
TL: [Laughs] Actually, I don’t even feel like this is a Super Bowl thing to me, although it is the reason that this has all come about. To me, this is more of a celebration of Minneapolis music, than it is about the Super Bowl because the Vikings didn’t get in. [Laughs] Let me say that I’m salty about it. The Vikings didn’t get in okay.
OKP: I guess it would have been extra sweet if they were playing on Sunday as well. That would’ve been the cherry on top.
TL: Well, I can’t even imagine what this place would’ve been like if that were happening.
OKP: I’m sure it’d be rocking.
TL: Yes, they’re going to rock out anyway because the music is going to be rocking. It might be cold, but it’s going to be hot.
OKP: How did you and Mr. Harris select which artists would perform on certain days?