Spree Wilson
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Spree Wilson


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"Spree Wilson on his 'Life in Technicolor,' writing for G.O.O.D. Music"

In 2010, Spree Wilson was signed to Jive, readying a debut album that featured production work by Q-Tip. But when Jive dissolved in early 2011, so did Plastic Dreams. Since then however, Wilson released a free album, The Never Ending Now, and has regained control of his musical career. After signing to Universal Music Publishing Group as a songwriter, Wilson hooked up with production duo the Flush in creating a return to '90s Atlanta bass music, "Right One|Wrong Time," now the first single off his forthcoming Life in Technicolor EP.

While stationed at Stankonia Studios, Wilson spoke to CL about the moment that sparked "Right One|Wrong Time," his contributions to G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer, and his newfound freedom.

When I last spoke with you in 2010, you had just moved to New York. What brings you back to Atlanta?
Just doing music out here with my friends. I'm doing that in New York too, but more so songwriting; I do most of my performance stuff in Atlanta. When I came out with The Never Ending Now I was doing the same thing, basically writing songs in New York and then coming back to Atlanta to record them.

Why does that process work for you?
In Atlanta I'm around my family and friends. I'm able to maneuver around the city, I'm able to hear my music in the car. It's different; it's not as vast as New York. It's more of a vibe type of thing. When you're recording in New York you can get a certain kind of vibe, and you get a totally different kind of vibe in Atlanta. I feel more comfortable working in Atlanta; I can't quite explain it. It's like not having to take your shoes off when you go to work at your mom's house.

Have you worked with the Flush before?
No, but I've worked with Go Dreamer before. It was my first time working with Jeron [Ward]. So this was actually our first collaboration, but we've known each other for a few years.

What sparked the collaboration?
It started off with me being bored. I had The Never Ending Now, and then I had a couple of projects at the top of the year, but I don't know [music] just didn't feel as organic as it once did for some reason. So I took a long break in between February and maybe May, and then I went to LA to work with this dude [...] to write songs. Then I came back to New York and then was like, "Aw man, I think I know what I want." At the time, I think for a long time, I was listening to '90s music. Then I was at a club in LA, and I heard Ghost Town DJs' "My Boo." I was like, "Aw man, how come nobody makes any music like this anymore?" Then, "Shit, why don't I do it?" That's usually how my music always starts out I hear music and I'm like, "Man, how come nobody's doing music like this right now, as far as making it modern? So I think I called up Jeron first, and I was like, I'm trying to make modern-day Atlanta bass music and he was like, "Shit." Then I called up Dreamer and he was like, "Shit, let's do it." So they flew up the next week and started working on it.

Is that what Life in Technicolor will sound like?
Yeah, pretty much. It's basically what Atlanta bass music, from when I was 14, would sound in 2014. That's the sound of the EP and shit, maybe something else. It just depends on how much of an interest I still have in it, but right now I'm doing it man. I'm getting tons of responses too, in YouTube and tons of downloads from blogs. It's only been about four weeks, but the response has been amazing.

How much time do you think you're going to give yourself, to figure out whether Life in Technicolor's an EP or an album?
Say that it really takes off. Maybe I'll make an album, maybe make it a little more modern, maybe push the boundaries of what I think Atlanta bass music can be. We'll see. Maybe that will be the beginning to the new Spree Wilson sound, but maybe I'll transform it to something else. I'm having fun right now while taking it just day in and day out. I have a plan, but I'm not set that far ahead, and I don't want to get ahead of myself and not overthink it.

Back in 2010, you just signed to Jive and were recording your debut album. What happened?
So I was on Jive, and unfortunately just four to six months later, my A&R left and went to Warner Brothers. Then the head of Jive left, so it was just Def Jam and Universal. For maybe a year, we had nobody over there. Just imagine you going to Creative Loafing every day and there being no boss to tell you what to do, nobody to give you an assignment, nobody that even wants you to do your assignments, nobody to approve your assignments for you. Just imagine for a year, you can't really do anything. There was things that I wanted to do, and there was no way to approve it. Basically, that was the conundrum with my stay over there. Then RCA came and fired everybody else, so I didn't know anybody. I ended up having a meeting with them and they couldn't see eye-to-eye with me, and at the time I was in a bidding war with Universal and EMI for a publishing deal. I figured that was good, because then I could go from one interest to another, so I signed to Universal Music Publishing Group as a writer. The G.O.O.D. Music album [Cruel Summer] that came out, I did a song for there ["Sin City"]. I actually wrote seven songs, but I don't know where the other six went. I also did stuff for Cee-Lo and Theophilus London that hasn't come out. I felt like a weight was lifted off me.

I have more freedom to make what I want, so I could do songs like Life in Technicolor and I don't have to wait for a label to approve it or be like, "Well, I don't think it's the right time to do a song or a video." I can just get the record out there to people, so it's double the pleasure and double the fun. I'm just extremely happy with where my life is, man. Being on a major label, that shit's the pits.

Spree Wilson plays Star Bar tonight (Wednesday, November 14). $5, 9 p.m. 437 Moreland Ave. - Creative Loafing ATL


Still working on that hot first release.



He has the type of sound that makes even the most seasoned music purists struggle to cook meaningful words together to describe their ear’s experience. He has the type of look that makes audiences in venues all across the country scramble to put their finger on it. But Spree Wilson is used to being an anomaly. He, as well as his ever-increasing fanbase— ranging from alternative rock-influenced college kids, to Dead Prez’s M-1 and legendary director Spike Jonze— knows that his career is at the cusp of fame showering breakthrough that’s nothing short of unstoppable.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Spree (born Joseph Young) was an only child raised in a single parent household. “My dad wasn’t a fixture in my house at all,” Spree says, adding that he and his father (who sang in a doo-wop group called The Blue Shirts) were and are friends till this day regardless of his absence. Spree’s love for music came early thanks to his mother, who kept artists like Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Minnie Riperton, and Whitney Houston in constant rotation. By the age of six, Spree decided that he too wanted to become a musician. In high school he experimented with making beats on a Casio keyboard, before graduating to an MPC. Much of his motivation stemmed from the one record Spree says changed his life: Outkast’s platinum-selling 1998 otherworldly album Aquemini. “Everyone has that one record that changed his life,” Spree says. “I didn’t even know hip hop could sound like that. It gave me the courage to start musically blending, genre-wise.”

While attending Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, Spree began to learn the ins and outs of the music industry, and wound up meeting one of his future music mentors, Dallas Austin. Impressed by Spree’s guitar skills, Dallas offered the multi-talented upstart an internship at his famous studio Dart, and later a recording contract, which Spree ended up turning down- “I had kind of exhausted all possibilities in Atlanta,” Spree says. “So I sold my car and I bought myself a one-way train ticket to New York City.”

With a peculiar and dynamic live show, it didn’t take long for Spree Wilson to become the talk of the town, eventually finding himself being covered by major pop publications like NME and VIBE, and making appearances on MTV. In 2010 he signed a recording contract with Jive Records, home to artists such as Miguel, Justin Timberlake, R. Kelly, Tool and Usher, and dropped his critically acclaimed mixtape The Never Ending Now (presented by Converse). He’s now back in the studio preparing for the release of his official debut album The Spark, which will feature production from the trio behind the sound of his favorite group and label-mates’ Outkast, Organized Noise. His concept for the record is simple. “I really believe wholeheartedly that this will be the record that—not to sound cliché— will spark everything off,” he says. “Like, gets me to where I see myself and where I know I’m supposed to be and where my path is headed.”