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Marcus Johnson On the Tee with A.J. Ali
Marcus Johnson, Billboard chart topping keyboard player, band leader, record label owner, and true renaissance man sits down with A.J. Ali between rounds of golf and music to discuss life, passion and the pursuit of happiness. His most recent album, “Poetically Justified,” was nominated for Outstanding Jazz Album at the 41st NAACP Image Awards. He is a man of many of many extraordinary talents, a drive to match, and a desire to help other excel.
AJ - Marcus, you're an avid golfer, you're an accomplished musician who owns a record label and a recording studio. You also have a law degree from Georgetown and you're very outspoken about political and social matters. And if all that isn't enough, you're creating a wine label and opening restaurants! I'd say you were a pretty well-rounded dude. What is the source of your motivation?
MJ - Honestly, my parents said that I've always been different. They were scared when I was younger that I would be taken advantage of because of my desire to help others. I look at life as a war to be enjoyed. However, in order to enjoy it, you have to have the weapons to play - thus the education. As for being in the community, I memorized the Constitution while I was in Law School and the Preamble stood out to me. The fact that this is a country of "We the People," is an important concept that is often overlooked. There are so many people that complain but they do absolutely nothing to make a difference. It's easy to raise a sign in protest of someone, but it takes a true American to lick envelopes next to a women in Stage 4 of her fight against breast cancer or someone who is dying of ALS. I just want to have a whole set of friends waiting for me once I take my last breath here in this life. I figure that helping folk is the best way to make a difference.
AJ - Maybe that's why you and I get along so well. My personal mission statement is to make a difference in the world daily. You're definitely a person that also lives that out every day. Your music is just one of the ways you help people. Who are some of the people you've looked up to in your lifetime that helped shape your desire to help others?
MJ - My Mom and dad, Hillary Clinton, Marion Wright Edleman, my brothas at Alpha Phi Alpha-and all the other frats and sororities, coalition of 100 black men, YOU AJ, and just all the folk who have realized that it’s not about us.
AJ - Thanks, my brother, for including me in some great company. You’ve also provided me with a great deal of inspiration through the years. I can’t tell you how many times you’ve encouraged me to keep going when the going was tough. We’ve been through our share of challenges, but also some great times too. Out of all your pursuits, what are the things you enjoy doing the most?
MJ - I love it all. I love teaching at Bowie State University. I love performing music and making people's necks move back and forth with the rhythm of the music. I often tell people that I'm not in the music business but rather in the Music Therapy business. I love knowing the fact that I help people get up in the morning, get to work, make it through the day, get home, cook, enjoy dessert (ya know what I mean), and go to bed. If I could just make people smile all day, that would be best. I also like mentoring young folk. They are our future and we are leaving them with too many problems. We better give them the wisdom they need to save humanity.
AJ - As a law school grad, you must have felt enormous pressure from family and friends to become a lawyer. What drove your decision to become a full-time musician instead?
MJ - Simply put -- passion! I didn't want to practice law in the courtroom. Also, the thought of working doing transactional law didn’t sit too well. My mom was always like, "You are a Georgetown Lawyer!" I would reply, "Yep I am and a Gtown MBA! Now watch my work!" Georgetown taught me a lot about life. It provided me with the knowledge and professorial wisdom to know that following one's passion is the best way to be successful. Additionally, I would argue that I'm not a full time musician. I'm a CEO, Professor, Brand Manager, Mentor, colleague, Husband, and friend. I would never be just a "Full-Time" musician. There is a lot of money out there for them, however, I love business, entrepreneurship specifically, too much to just settle for one full-time job. That's just me. I have the entrepreneurship sickness and I love it!
AJ - How has your legal background helped you in music?
MJ - I know what I want. hahahaha. Assume that the music business is a building. The JD helps me understand the foundations of the music business. The MBA helps me understand the wiring. And my passion is the electricity that that lights everything up. This industry is changing every second. Musicians have to understand their value. Part of it is in the intellectual property that they create the music and other concepts that are protectable. When you don't understand this, it’s easy to be taken advantage of. However, when you understand your value and your worth, you are less inclined to simply give it away for an undervalued price. The law degree and MBA have positioned me to create a portfolio of content and properties that, together, allow me to generate revenues from many different sources. In the current market, we HAVE to do this. Records just aren't selling any more. You better have a brand and know how to work it!!!
AJ - You've recently launched the "Flo" brand. Can you explain what that's all about and what the future holds for Flo and Three Keys?
MJ - FLO Brands, LLC is the new company created “For the love of.” It's really a lifestyle company that has huge breadth. We have launched three CD’s with more to come. Our Flo wines are launching on May 1, 2010, and in Late 2011 we'll be opening our Flo Lounge in Washington DC. I have always tried to figure out how to do something in music that allows folk to carry the experience with them, like I love the smell of Tide. The difference between Tide and music is that once you get done with the music, what else is there? With Flo, we have created products that work synergistically for the maximum lifestyle effect. Once you run out of Flo white or red, you can buy another bottle. Once you are ready for a great dinner/music experience, you can come get your Flo. For the future, look to come to a Flo branded hotel or wear a Flo branded fragrance. Flo will be your therapy!! We are for the love of you!!
AJ - I love that! Don't forget about Flo Golf, Flo Cruises and Flo Wellness Spas.
MJ – Um, exactly. It’s Flo… For for the love of (TM) everything. We are in the process of registering all of these trademarks NOW!!
AJ - Can you describe your perfect day?
MJ - Waking up! P90X, looking at the day's activities, calling in to the office, morning meetings, round of 9 or 18, dinner and some Flo wine with the wife, a lil piano and thanking God for another one!
AJ – That works for me too, except I’d throw in a little time at the beach, trade the P90X for some time writing some lyrics, and trade the keys for a guitar. Before we wrap it up, tell me one more thing – something your fans wouldn’t know about you.
MJ - If I wasn't playing music, I'd be a pilot!!
AJ – Well, you’re already flying high! Keep up the good work. Thanks MJ, for getting "On the Tee with A.J. Ali."
For more information about Marcus Johnson and his work or to order his music, visit www.threekeys.com. Also visit www.ontheteewithajali.com for more profiles on celebrities that are doing great things to help other people and to find out ways you can get On the Tee with A.J. Ali to help end cancer and promote wellness.
© 2010 A.J. Ali