Brian: Gordon Sterling. He is a DC-based singer and guitarist. He started his career in 1996, as a founding member of DC .... The DC area jam band, The Ordinary Way. Which made a name for itself nationally, playing many festivals. Headlining clubs and theater and opening for such acts as Blues Traveler, Derek Trucks, Ron Haynes, Rusted Root and RatDog, among many others. After The Ordinary Way disbanded in 2006, he co-founded the progressive hip-hop rock band, Future. Gordon was also the co-founder of a short-lived but potent DC trip-hop rock band, called Crystal Youth, which we had here on the show as well. We featured their music. He is currently in the DC reggae powerhouse band, Nappy Riddem, which you just heard. Which is signed to Fort Knox Recording and tours the nation, sharing bills with such acts as Steel Pulse, The Wailers, Junior Marvin, De La Soul, The English Beat, and The Movement, just to name a few.
Nappy Riddem is releasing a brand new album in 2017. Gordon is also currently working on his first solo album, which he's planning to release in 2017 as well. Gordon also hosts an open jam at Iota Club and Café in Arlington, Virginia every Tuesday. After the live taping of this show, he's over there. If you like live jam sessions, this is it. He co-hosts with DMV area producer Sean Gotkin, who also was a guest on this show a few weeks ago. It's providing a creative and fun atmosphere for musicians of all styles and stages of their respective careers, to collaborate and bond. He's been a staple in the DC music scene for years. I am honored to have him here with me today and with us today. I heard about Gordon. He's been on my screen for a while. It is such a treat to have the man here with me. With that, listeners, it's with great pleasure that I introduce Gordon Sterling. Thank you so much for being here, man.
Gordon: You’re welcome. You're welcome. Very, very welcome.
Brian: One more time. Say it in the microphone. I have to turn on your microphone now. There we go. Hey you guys. So now ... So tell us about the first track was Angle It, and that's by the group Nappy Riddem. Tell up about Nappy Riddem and what's going on there.
Gordon: Well Nappy Riddem, that song, is off of the first EP, One World Sovereignty. It actually was done in a different format back then. The two leaders of our group were Mustafa Akbar and Rex Riddem. At the time, it was them with different members, like Hash, the bass player from Thievery Corporation, is on that track, and a lot of different people. Now, we for the last couple of years, have been a full on live act. We're in the middle of recording our first full band album right now. It's going well. It's going well.
Brian: That's amazing.
Gordon: I can't wait to get it out, actually. I'm really excited about it ..
Brian: Yeah. I mean, that ...
Gordon: We're really heavily behind it.
Brian: When you say touring, are there places you love to tour? Is that a national tour? What do you have in mind when you say touring?
Gordon: We'll be touring nationally.
Gordon: We'll probably do the country in stages. You know? I love going to the West Coast.
Brian: Got it, Okay.
Gordon: I love going to the West Coast because, let's just say things are freer there. You know what I mean?
Brian: Got it.
Gordon: It's nice. It's a lot of fun. The crowds are really great. I love DC too. Don't get me wrong. I love my East Coast. I'm from New York, originally.
Brian: Got it.
Gordon: I'm looking forward to going out West. We will be definitely hitting both coasts for sure. As far as what we're doing in the middle of the country, we're going to figure that out as we go along. As it gets closer to the release.
Brian: How many pieces does Nappy Riddem ... That you're recording with now? What does the band consist of?
Gordon: There's Mustafa Akbar, who is our lead singer. Rex Rex Riddem, who also plays a baritone uke.
Gordon: It's an interesting thing. You got to check it out.
Gordon: It's pretty cool, yeah. He also sings. I sing a bit, and play guitar. Then we have Patrick Cheng, our bass player. Charles Flye, or my brother in stage right, doing keys. Right now, we've gone through a bunch of different drummers. Right now, our most steady one has been Paul Dudley.
Brian: Got it.
Gordon: He's recording on a record with another guy named [inaudible 00:04:32], who currently plays with CI. Also plays with Junior Marvin. He did a couple songs on our record, too. There will be other guests, but I can't say it because [crosstalk 00:04:42]
Brian: Okay. Fair enough. Keep those under wraps. What about the name? Where does Nappy Riddem the name come from?
Gordon: Okay. It's Riddem of that Wicked Wickedness. Rid-dem of that wickedness, that's why it's spelled that way. Right? R-I-D-D-E-M
Brian: Got it. Okay.
Gordon: Rex Riddem, that was his DJ name.
Gordon: He along with Mu, like I said, are the leaders of the group. Rex basically made it his namesake.
Brian: So Nappy Riddem was his DJ name also?
Gordon: No. No. Well ... Rex Riddem was the DJ name.
Brian: Right. Rex Riddem. Okay. Got it.
Gordon: Nappy Riddem is Nappy Head's Rhythm of that wickedness.
Brian: I get it now.
Gordon: It's a lot to ... Yeah.
Brian: I see. This is why we have you on this show. To find out these amazing things.
Gordon: [inaudible 00:05:25] information you want to hear.
Brian: Yes. Absolutely. Speaking about information, tell us about ... Information about you. When you're not playing amazing guitar and doing these musical things, what else is there? What else is there to you, Gordon?
Gordon: Not much more, dude. That's really simple. I love playing guitar. I love playing guitar. It's my favorite thing. My daughter [inaudible 00:05:46], also ... She's 13. She'll be 14 actually, in January. She has taken up music as well, and theater. She's been playing bass for like 6 years. Now, she's moving more into musical theater and [inaudible 00:05:59].
Gordon: Honestly, my existence, as for the last year, I've lived in the studio. I went from record to record to record. All of them have been with Sean, which is funny.
Gordon: Sean Gotkin.
Brian: Sean Gotkin. I say, we heard about the Blue Hippo recording. He does some great work out there.
Gordon: He does. He does.
Gordon: He's recording the Nappy Riddem record and my solo record too.
Brian: Wow. A lot of recording.
Gordon: Lots. Music has been my entire life for a while.
Brian: Just ... That means daily just going out to the studio and coming back. Also, spending time with your daughter when you can.
Gordon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And writing. It's funny, she is better than me, man. She's like ... She can play ... I don't read music, right? I just can play it. She like, can sight read Mozart and play it and have a conversation with me.
Brian: Holy smokes.
Gordon: She's like, "Dad, can you do this?" I'm like, "Dude?!" So yeah.
Brian: Tell us about the best show you've ever had. What comes to mind?
Gordon: Off the top of my head, I've ... There's been a few. Joshua Tree. Going up there ... I've played Joshua Tree a couple times. My favorite time playing it was with Nappy Riddem. It was with Nappy Riddem and it was while we were on tour with Junior Marvin. We toured with him for the better part of a year. We went out there ... His band toured with us on the East Coast. Out West, we did a little differently for, you know, cutting costs and all that. We went up there as the opener and we also played as his backing band, when it was time for him to play.
Brian: Wow. Okay.
Gordon: We did two sets out there. We did our Nappy Riddem set. We did his set. My parents are Jamaican, so we did Redemption Song. There was about 7,000 people. I want to say about 7,000 people. Something like that. I was on stage with him. We were playing Redemption Song and the whole crowd was singing it back. I'm not going to lie, I teared up. It was crazy. It was really a beautiful moment.
Brian: 7,000 people. Holy smokes.
Gordon: Yeah. I don't know if that's my favorite show, but it's probably my favorite moment.
Brian: That's amazing.
Gordon: I got a few.
Brian: All right. What about ... Tell us a time that you tried and failed.
Gordon: Other than that?
Brian: There's a lot of laughter there. That means this is going to be good. Okay.
Gordon: Wow. A time I've tried and failed. That happens a lot actually. I think, in the writing process, I try and fail a lot, before something gets out. I don't mind failing. It doesn't bother me. I don't ... Some people are afraid to fail. I think you learn a lot from failing.
Brian: Absolutely. Would you say ...
Gordon: I just remembered one time I was playing football, I was coming to sack a quarterback, and I wasn't watching myself, and got crushed.
Gordon: That sucked. I know, you're talking about music though. As far as music, I would say ... Actually I got a good story with that. With Nappy Riddem, I've never actually talked about this in public before. This is ... I'm going out on a limb with this one. With Nappy Riddem, when I first joined, I was really used to kind of getting by on my talent. I know that's really obnoxious for me to say, but I'm just being honest. It was ... I had always been a front man. I had always been a band leader.
Gordon: I never had to live up to the expectations of a band leader. When I joined Nappy Riddem, I kind of was just coasting. It's a longer story than I have time to tell now, but there was a point ... Literally, it lasted an hour, no joke. They were like, "Man, I think we're going to go in a different direction." I was like, "Oh. Okay." It was a weird thing to deal with. I never had to deal with not making the cut before.
Gordon: That never happened to me.
Gordon: When it happened, I ... I really had kind of like a come to Jesus moment with myself. I was just like, "Yo. Do you" ... I was like, no. I really want this. I actually love this group of guys. I love playing this music. I want to do this. It made me, for the first time in my career, have to fight hard for my position. You know?
Gordon: I wanted to fight hard for my band, but not for my position in a band.
Gordon: It absolutely brought out the best in me. That was years ago. Now, we're killing it. It's ...
Brian: I was going to say, and you guys are killing it. Good gracious. The music's just amazing. One other thing I'd love to ask to kind of bring it to a ... One of the last questions that I'd like to ask is: what's one piece of advice you would offer?
Gordon: Stay persistent.
Gordon: Don't get kicked down. If you do, don't stay down.
Brian: What does that mean? Say more.
Gordon: Keep fighting in this industry. This industry is designed to use your talent, and suck you dry, and throw you away. You know what I mean? It really is.
Brian: Yeah, it is. Yeah.
Gordon: It's not even ... It's not made in such a way that musicians can really make money, unless you're at a certain level. It's not designed where you can, necessarily express what you want to say. You have some A&R telling you what to do, or somebody ... If somebody is financing you, then they get a say. You know. Sometimes it's hard to ... If you believe in yourself and believe in an idea, sometimes it's really easy to get deterred from that idea or that notion.
Brian: That's right.
Gordon: That's true for anything in life. I would say my best advice in the music industry, and also in life, is to just keep going. If you believe in something, and you believe in yourself, don't settle. You know what I mean? Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. Stay true to yourself, and learn. Keep an open mind and learn. Don't think you always know everything, but learn as much as you can every day and keep pushing, every day.
Brian: Wow. If folks want to find out ... Follow you and find out more about you. I think you mentioned there's a ... Something you're excited ... Something coming up that you're excited about that you wanted to share. Tell us that part. Where do we find you and what's coming up for you?
Gordon: You can find us at Nappyriddem.com. If you just type in Nappyriddem.com, it'll go to our site, which is connected to our record label, which is Fort Knox Recordings. Shoutout, what's up guys!
Brian: Got it. If your checking it out, it's Nappy Riddem. N-A-P-P-Y R-I-D-D-E-M.
Gordon: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Brian: That's Nappyriddem.com
Gordon: On that ... Nappy Riddem is also on Facebook and also on twitter. You can find me through Facebook. Just Gordon Sterling. G-O-R-D-O-N S-T-E-R-L-I-N-G.
Brian: Got it. Okay.
Gordon: It is me that will talk back to you.
Gordon: I had to deal with fans and stuff, and artists that I think I'm talking to them. I really did. Then to find out, "Oh, that was my manager." I was like, "Oh. Wow."
Brian: Amazing. What's at Baltimore Sound Stage?
Gordon: That's right. I was going to say. Baltimore Sound Stage on December 8th. We will be there with The Movement and The Holdup. It is going to be explosive. That show is going to be awesome. If you like reggae music and American reggae music specifically, please come check it out. Baltimore Sound Stage, December 8th. I'll point the camera. Baltimore Sound Stage.
Brian: Yeah. I got it on video too. If you want to check out Gordon on video later, I got this whole thing on video. Check him out, because he's a good-looking man, I got to say.
Gordon: Wow. Thank you. Thank you very, very much.