First Listen: Kia Stewart – Winner (Honeycomb Vocal Mix) (Honeycomb Music
Honeycomb label head Josh Milan has an undeniable ear. His impressive repertoire since the early days of Blaze in the second half of the 80’s speaking for itself!
That ear, he no surprisingly uses it nowadays to run his label. With one of his latest discoveries being Waterbury, CT-born songstress Kia Stewart.
The lady first came to light a couple of months ago with ‘He Loves Me’. And she most likely confirms the impression on this follow-up. She not only vibrantly stars on this theme about self-worth and value. But also shows up as to how her voice perfectly fits with the one of Milan on background vocals. The latter crafting a deep atmosphere over a rumbling bassline. With David Pic Conley (Surface) on flute deliciously spicing up the whole.
‘Winner’, that’s definitely what this song is about. And therefore what it is! We just want more of these positive vibes.
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Josh Milan is one of those rare artists in this business whose music is truly timeless. You can play his remix (along with co-producer Kevin Hedge) of Coldcut featuring Lisa Stansfield’s ‘People Hold On’ today and it still sounds as fresh as it did back in 1989. Be you listening to Blaze‘s ‘Can’t Win For Losing’ and you’ll find lyrics that are forever relevant. His catalog totals over two-hundred published works, making it the largest one produced by any single entity in the genre. As artist and businessman, he has been involved in almost every facet of the music business.
Blaze (Josh Milan, Kevin Hedge and Chris Herbert) started writing music together in 1984. The three decided to form a production team after Chris introduced Josh and Kevin. In the beginning, they would meet in Kevin’s bedroom for writing sessions. That is where they laid the foundation for what they became most respected for: great spiritually uplifting songs…
“Songs have always been our main production focus”, Josh explains. “It’s the lyrics and melodies of our musical heroes that have influenced us the most”, thinking of Stevie Wonder and James Taylor. But it’s the combination of deeply soulful melodies, his blend of Afro, Jazz, Soul and Gospel. Not to mention the positive world views in their lyrics that makes most people compare his music to the legendary Earth, Wind & Fire.
Josh started to develop demo recordings in the style of the day’s popular club music. With “DJ” Kevin Hedge at the controls, they turned out song after song for other artists and producers to record. Some included ‘This Time’ by Colonel Abrams, ‘One Man’ by Chanelle and ‘Reachin” by Phase II.
The three ultimately signed their first record deal with the newly formed Quark records in 1985, producing three major club hits of the time… ‘Whatcha Gonna Do’, ‘If You Should Need A Friend’ and ‘Can’t Win For Losing’. The Blaze sound caught the ear of then Motown Vice-president of A&R, Timmy Regisford, who immediately put them to work on numerous Motown projects.
“These guys were making productions that were raw enough to move the club, but always kept the integrity of the songs“, said Regisford on Blaze. By now, the Blaze sound was capturing the spirit of dancers in the clubs and the hearts of radio listeners in New York. As a remixer, Josh (along with Kevin Hedge) has worked on projects for Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Jamiroquai, Lisa Stansfield and countless others. As overdub musicians, they have collaborated with David Morales, Frankie Knuckles, Timmy Regisford and Masters At Work among others.
In 1995, Josh scored his biggest co-writing success with a song called ‘Hideaway’ performed by De’lacy. He also co-wrote charts hits for Amira (‘Desire’) and himself with the #1 dance hit, ‘Breathe’. This helped him to become one of the most sought after writers, producers and remixers in the business, along with his partner Kevin. Musically, Josh has collaborated with super DJ/Producer Louie Vega (one half of the production team Masters At Work) to assist him with producing his first solo album, ‘Elements Of Life’.
Finally, after 25 years on the scene, Josh Milan is just as current as he was then, producing relevant hits today as he did back in 1985. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” Josh further explains: “Music is Gods voice and my ears are pressed against his lips. I believe that music is an extension of a man’s inner self…”
He grew up in a religious household, and learned to play the organ in the church. Co-writing and producing many artists, along with Hedge, became the primary focus. As his career blossomed, Josh learned to arrange vocal harmony, and vocal performance. “Donny Hathaway is my main vocal influence. He has touched my musicality in such a way that I find myself listening, and learning from him even today.”
After 20 years of writing, arranging, and performing music, Josh is now set to release his debut-album. “There is a lot of live instrumentation that the industry has gotten away from. That’s the main reason I’ve started Honeycomb Music. I wanted to be in full control of the music that comes out. Labels like to have a hand in your music. The industry has a way of dictating what some producers feel they should produce. I’ve chosen to march to my own BEAT!”