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After 20 years, group’s still in Mint Condition

By// Kendra D. Cusic

There are only a few music groups that can say they have stood the test of time — Mint Condition is one. With 20 years under their belt, Mint Condition has no intention of slowing down. Their eighth album, Music @ the Speed of Life, in stores now, stays true to the R&B legends’ diverse range. JETmag.com was lucky enough to talk to Jeff, Rick and Larry — three of the group’s five members— who shared their secrets for what it takes to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the title, Music @ the speed of Life?

Jeff: When we began writing, we wrote about the experiences that we were having at the time. When you listen to some of the songs you’ll hear life happening. You’ll hear music going in a certain direction and then life happens. It’s basically music in real time.

Q: Was writing the songs for the album a group effort?

Jeff: We pretty much passed it around. If you broke it down, yeah, some individuals would write more than others, it changes for every project.  As far as our song writing we write any and every way. It may be one person that comes with a complete idea. Or it may be three or four of us that might have our hands in one song.

Q: What excites you about this album?

Larry: Life itself inspired us, the ups, the downs, the bad times and the good times. Everything that happens in real time was our inspiration. The writing process touched on experiences that happened to us recently.

Q: After being together 20-plus years, looking back, if you could share something with your younger self what would your say?

Larry: One thing I would say to my younger self is to savor the moment. When we were with Jimmy Jam all this stuff was happening. Wow it came so fast. You work forever for this stuff, but when your record is blowing up, you really don’t get the impact. When they were like “Oh, you have a No. 1 or a top 10,” I really didn’t savor it as much as I could have. Then later is when I realized it was something special. It’s not an everyday thing.

Jeff: I would probably say, whatever your gift is, try to master that gift. If you’re a keyboard player or all around artist, really master what it is your gift is.

Q: Being in a group, do you find it difficult sometimes to figure out what you want to say musically?

Rick: I feel like we’ve been pretty cool with letting everyone say what they want to say. As long as the song is good I think everyone is cool with it. That’s very important to me because if we had an album title and just recorded songs around that. That would kill me because I like to write songs in accordance to the way I feel. It’s hard to write songs when it’s not something that I’m going through or feeling at the time.

Q: When you look at the span of your career what are you most proud of?

Jeff: We’re still charting real high and we’re still relevant and viable in today’s music, even though it [music industry] changes every six months to a year. We’re able to produce great music that you can play along side many other artists.

Larry: I don’t want to take credit for the music that comes from a place higher than ourselves, that’s given us this gift. But, every once and awhile we’ll get someone who says, “I was in the hospital” or “I lost someone and this tune just got me through it”  or “Your cd got me through, I played it everyday.” Its nothing that we’re bragging about; I guess we did something special. I don’t know what it is that touches people. There’s something about music that’s magical like that. We’re proud to be a part of a great legacy.

Rick: Hearing musicians from other bands, whether its Alicia Keys or Charlie Wilson or Kanye West, and they’re like big fans. That’s definitely a beautiful thing and then hearing some musicians say we were one of the first to introduce them to rock and roll, that’s incredible.

Q: You’ve toured with Prince during the ‘Welcome to America tour.’ What was it like?

Rick: One of the biggest things Prince did was ask us to come out and tour with him. We ended up playing for 35,000 one night and 60,000 people another night, I mean that was the most people I ever played in front of. That was an incredible moment. Growing up listening to the Tyme and Prince was a big part of the reason why I moved to Minnesota, to hopefully one day be in the business. To open up for them was almost like a dream come true.

Q: What motivates you to create the real music?

Jeff: We love the music, we live it — it’s our world. We’ve been doing it forever and we don’t intend to stop. This is one of our best CDs. There weren’t any cat fights or anything like that. We really feel good about this CD, we think its one of our best sets. Whatever our best CD is this one is up there with it. We’re still doing great work and proud to be here.

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For even more information on tour dates go to mintconditionmusic.com

Check out Mint Condition’s new single, Believe in Us, below and tell us what you think.