For True Groove Record owners Marla Mase and TomásDoncker, music is considered as much a mission statement as it is art. Not only does this record label release great sounding albums time and time again, they also manage to consistently speak about topics that matter to the masses. Proving that both hard work and passion are the keys to the kingdom, True Groove Records is a juggernaut of sound with a great respect for sharing the spotlight with other artists. In a world that seems focused on disconnecting, Marla Mase and TomásDoncker are here to help us reconnect through music.
Ryan: True Groove Records is quite an interesting entity as it doesn’t solely rely on album releases alone, as you also have a healthy relationship with the theatre arts as well. Can you tell us a bit about how the theatre part plays into your company and life?
Marla:Theatre plays a big part in our company. In fact,Tomás and I met when I was doing a play called “A Brief Night Out.” I needed a musician to flesh out the songs I was writing. I come more from a writing/performance background and when we met he said one of the reasons he was interested in working with me was because he was looking to move more in a theatrical area with his music.
Tomás: Yes, absolutely! I had seen the Tony award winning rock musical “Passing Strange” (written by Stew and Heidi Rodewald) and it had just blown my mind completely. I realized that there was a new “American Songbook” being created, and I immediately saw my place in it. It was the perfect time to meet Marla and move more in that direction.
Ryan: The creative process is different for everyone. How does True Groove Records go about creating their impressive projects?
Marla:We give our all, all the time –that’s me, Tomás and James Dellatacoma (head engineer, co-producer, and artist on the label). The band (True Groove All-Stars) are phenomenal, and always bring a focused and creative spirit to all the projects.
Tomás: Our process is that there is no process. We strive for greatness and authenticity with every song, every artist, every project, every album, etc etc. Really.
Ryan: Both the music and theatre productions that come out of TGR are thought provoking and sometimes very hot-button issues. Where do you find your inspiration?
Marla:Everywhere, life, – how can you not feel it? There’s 6 billion people here, not to mention all the other living things(animals, plants, the sea) – certainly enough energy floating around to snatch on to something.
Tomás: It’s in the air. It’s all around us.
Ryan: There is no shortage of important music and moving theatre productions in the TGR camp. Can you tell us a bit about the vision you have for the company in 2016?
Marla:We already have quite a few theatre productions lined up. We just finished a run of a play called “Water From The Moon” by Rosemary Loar, a well-known and respected Broadway performer.(I was The General Manager and Tomás was the guitarist and an actor in it.) True Groove is also producing an exciting new musical called “Diana & Navy & The Golden Tooth” written by up and coming playwright Phoebe Nir (Phoebe is also an artist on our label).Tomás composed the music. We just did an abridged concert version of it at the prestigious 54 Below in NYC. We are currently looking for a theatre to launch a full production of “Diana and Navy”. We also are developing a play that I wrote with my family called “The Pill”. Each member of my family (son, daughter, parents) contributed to it and we expect to premiere it in the Spring. We are also expanding Tomás’ new album, “THE MESS WE MADE” into a theatrical production. Tomás and James recently scored world renown painter/playwright, John Ransom Phillips, play “Fatherless Sons” and feature length film “Dick and Jack.” In addition, True Groove artist,Heather Powell, will be premiering her one-woman show “Moonprints” at The College of William and Mary. (Tomás composed the music and it features poetry by Sandy Miller.) ONE MORE THING…Tomás is developing a musical with actor/director/writer Khalil Kain – sorry, can’t say anymore – it’s Top Secret. We will keep you posted.
Tomás:And don’t forget about all the music releases we have scheduled —
Charlie Funk “Give Me A Groove” – True Groove’s #1 Funkateer (featuring performances by Amp Fiddler, and rock-n-roll Hall of Famer, Michael “Kidd Funkadelic” Hampton)
Mac Gollehon and the Hispanic Mechanics – legendary trumpet player/latin electronica throw-down
Marla Mase – “Miracles Lost and Found” – Marla’s 5th album, a psychedelic journey into the world of hope and possibility
True Groove Artist Debut EP’s from:
Phoebe Nir– “Broken Parts” – alt female singer/songwriter
Ryan: Speaking of the projects you are currently working on, what are some of the projects that you would like to shed some light on, and where can we either support or see these projects?
Marla: “The Mess We Made” is a very important project to us – written by Tomás in 10 days, it is his response to the Charleston Massacre (see album trailer: https://youtu.be/p2XIgKogDGU) – the key word being “WE” – it’s not a blame album, it’s about collective accountability – where “WE” are at – he wanted to start a conversation – we are turning it into to a theatrical show – along the lines of Melvin Van Peeblesgroundbreaking play “Ain’tSupposed To Die A Natural Death”, a show Tomás and I greatly admire .
Ryan: There seems to be a lot of collaborative efforts within True Groove Records. Is there anyone in particular that you would like to work with in the future if given the chance?
Tomás: It was David Bowie….
Ryan: For anyone that might want to start their very own record company, what advice do you have to give?
Marla:RUN FOR YOUR LIFE – You have to LOVE IT!! As Tomás always says, it’s a lifestyle choice, not for the faint of heart. If you must do it then do it because you LOVE MUSIC and YOU BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF MUSIC…
Tomás: Marla just said what I was going to say and what I always say to someone who is interested in working with us.
Ryan: For anyone that is looking to work with True Groove Records. What advice do you have to give?
Marla:First and foremost – work ethic – no matter how talented you are if you are not willing to grind and work we are not for you. Integrity and Talent is next.