(Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 11--When they leave Memphis for New York on Monday morning, David Porter and an unknown (for now) Memphis songwriter named Sheridan Taylor want do more than just pitch songs to producer Kerry "Krucial" Brothers.
They are hoping to generate buzz about the contemporary soul music starting to flow out of Porter's nonprofit group, The Consortium: MMT (Memphis Music Town).
"I just hope it builds a relationship -- I'm not going there saying, 'Here are our songs, pick us,'" said Taylor, a 23-year-old from Whitehaven. "I hope they see some potential in us and say, 'It's got to be more people in Memphis like that.'"
Taylor, whose musical background was mostly tied to Gospel music, completed a six-week Consortium: MMT session this past winter, and, with Porter's encouragement, teamed with an earlier Consortium: MMT graduate, Keenan Smith, to produce a five-song collection of secular soul music.
Taylor and Smith applied concepts taken from Consortium: MMT to tailor songs to fit an artist like Alicia Keys, who works with Krucial. They have been working many nights until well past midnight to finish the songs, and Porter even brought Taylor on as an administrative assistant at Consortium: MMT to give her more time to devote to music.
Porter, a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame and one of the earliest musicians for Memphis' legendary Stax studio, started the Consortium last year to help Memphis develop -- and retain -- more successful songwriters, recording artists and producers.
And he believes soul music -- marketing the talent here through the brand of that "Memphis sound" -- can be the foundation for a resurgent music industry here.
"I think it will send a message to all the artists looking for quality, hit material, to try to find a path to Memphis, Tennessee, to get some of this creativity that's happening right here," Porter said. "The music is soul music, it has its own individuality to it, sounds like itself rather than a duplication of someone else's work. But it also has connectivity, a kind of emotional connect and feelings, that we believe is part of what made the Memphis sound so significant in years past."
The next Consortium session will begin May 31, and applications will be accepted at TheConsortiumMMT.org up until the May 26 orientation.
Smith, like Taylor, gravitated to music through church and Gospel music, not unlike Porter and his old writing partner, Isaac Hayes. But they have come to understand the potential for developing secular music infused with the feeling and storytelling prevalent in the church music they grew up with.
"In my opinion, Gospel music is built upon emotion and feel and things that reach the heart," said Smith, 28, a producer for Optimum Studios and a music director at his church. "Translating that into soul music, that's a perfect fit. Soul music, too, needs a good groove, nice melodies and also music that you really feel."
Smith and Taylor had known one another before becoming involved with Porter and the Consortium. After going through the initial sessions last summer, Smith encouraged Taylor to apply.
"I got a better understanding of songwriting. Before, I wrote at random and just whatever I felt," Taylor said.
"Before, it was haphazard. Before I understood these concepts, I would never have thought to say, 'OK, I want to write a song about a woman and how strong she is' and then take note of my surroundings for material.' "
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