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​Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer.
Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer.

Keyon Harrold celebrates Vulnerability on 'Foreverland'

We sat down with Keyon Harrold to discuss his newest album, Foreverland, and why it’s so important to “Find Your Peace.”

The supremely gifted trumpeter and vocalist, Keyon Harrold has blown away audiences on several global stages and worked with powerhouses like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, 50 Cent and John Legend, just to name a few. His newest studio album, Foreverland, is his most personal to date, relaying themes of peace, solace, and vulnerability. On this opus, the multi-dimensional artist wears his heart on his sleeve and uses stirring melodies and heartfelt lyrics to deliver a personal, yet highly relatable album.

In an exclusive interview with Okayplayer, Harrold stressed the importance of themes and intention in his music. The opening track, “Find Your Peace,” isn’t just a song — it doubles as an inspirational mantra. The idea of “taking back your power” flows heavily through its melody and accompanying lyrics, making it the perfect album opener. When asked about the deeper meaning behind the track, he says, “So often we think to be validated by people and other sources but if we can get deeper into ourselves, we can find the true meaning of why we’re here and our purpose.”

Photo by Kwaku Alston. Photo by Kwaku Alston.

Foreverland’s title track paints a picture of a back-and-forth exchange between two would-be lovers. He opens the song with poignant lyrics of these love-bound souls beginning on different paths, but trying to find their way to each other. Harrold sings soulfully on this track and is accompanied by the captivating vocals of Laura Mvula. The sultry affair is elevated by the mellow percussion stylings of drummer, Chris Dave. Additionally, the instrumental portions of the song help to build an ethereal soundscape, further delivering the idea of a dreamy, utopic “foreverland.”

The new album shines with notable guest slots, proof of Harrold’s respect and clout in the game. One such noteworthy feature is Common, an artist he has a longstanding bond with. “My first professional gig was working with Common,” he shares. “I was about 18 or 19 working with him on Like Water for Chocolate. To have us still working together is one of the most rewarding things to me. In the beginning, I was just a trumpet player but now I’m the artist and he’s featured on my album and it’s a beautiful thing.”

Harrold also shared details of his cherished relationship with PJ Morton, and how the pair met while on tour with Erykah Badu.

“I played on his first solo record, 'Emotions,' but this is the first time he’s featured on my album,” Harrold states. “Even Robert Glasper, we met when we were fifteen years old, he’s my son’s godfather, and he’s an amazing individual in general and he’s on my album too.” His excitement was palpable when describing the enduring family vibes between the musicians on this project. “It was like a reunion or a musical smorgasbord. It’s a spiritual process with people that can come together musically.”

Like any vibrant genre, evolution is needed to keep things fresh and dynamic. When we asked about his feelings about the state of the modern jazz scene, Harrold only had good things to share. “I think it’s flourishing and we are where we’re supposed to be. Jazz is dead when it’s not growing and [the] music is definitely growing. It has elements of hip-hop, rock, classical, funk, fusion, R&B, and everything in between. But it’s how we spin those things together that makes it special.” He was also very vocal about his desire to incorporate and respect the African origins of jazz and shared his commitment to continue uplifting the genre’s trailblazers.

Following the release of Foreverland on January 19th, Harrold will be performing the album at Blue Note in New York City on three consecutive nights. If you’re in town, be sure to try and catch him live.