Have you ever seen someone and instantly knew you wanted to know more about that person? Like, you really couldn’t put your finger on why you wanted to know more…you just got this immediate spirit of intrigue.
Now. You have to understand that I am an extrovert. And I have no qualms about approaching someone and striking up a conversation, not an “I’ve been watching you from across the room” type convo, but an “I love your outfit” type deal. I do believe that’s how I preluded my talk with Courtney. It was the IMAKEMADBEATS EP Release…a room fullcreatives. Let me tell you something, standing out amongst a group of creatives is no easy feat. But Courtney did that thang, y’all, and he did it wearing all black. So yea, I had to introduce myself to this walking piece of Black art.
Weeks later, Courtney and I met-up at HM Lounge for some chicken wings and a recorded interview. By the end of our brief encounter, my spirit of intrigue was settled and satisfied:
Courtney, what’s your Memphis story?
I was born and raised in South Memphis. I grew up around Alcy, where I attended Alcy Elementary. My mom was a single parent, I have an older brother. I was always the kid who was wandering off into space, in my own world, and my mom allowed me to be that kid. From Alcy, I went to Snowden where I continued to play the cello in the orchestra, which I had been playing since I was in 4th grade. I started taking piano lessons in 3rd grade. My mom really didn’t believe in extracurricular activities, because she worked so much trying to provide, but she still let me do some things. As a kid, I didn’t understand why, but she continued to sacrifice. I played the cello through middle school, then I got in the show choir. In high school I stopped playing cello to focus on my vocals, so I just sang in the choir. I participated in All-West and All-State.
Memphis has always been inspiring to me especially now I’m back here. I had been gone since 2005. I left to attend school at Middle Tennessee State University. In college I studied Vocal Performance, then I switched to Biology. Right after college, I figured I would come back home to Memphis. I’ve met some amazing people here, like meeting you has been life changing. It really has. It’s helping me walk into my destiny.
Tell me a bit about your music writing:
I have always been a song writer. My toy was a cardboard box. I would just beat on it and create melodies and sing. My mom would be in the kitchen singing, she could sing really well. I would pick up on stuff she would sing. I’ve been writing songs since the 2nd or 3rd grade. I would go outside to freely create…kinda like Pocahontas singing ” just around the river-bend” lol.
What type of music do you write?
I’m flexible. I like to go where I need to go to create the types of music that need to be created. I don’t do vulgar. People are looking for hope, so I create music that’s hopeful.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Mariah Carey, first time I heard her was 1995. I was playing with my toys and I instantly dropped them because I never heard a tone as such. Brik Liam, he’s a dope artist based in Houston. He’s very soulful. I love Solange too. Her sound has always been different. She’s very underrated, but it’s time for the underrated artists to shine. It’s underrated season. The universe is definitely uncovering.
Babyface, Brian McKnight, and Maxwell definitely influence me. I love listening to house and indie electronic, but being in my environment inspires me the most. Like I can be sitting here and a melody suddenly comes to me. Even objects introduce melodies.
My older brother is a musician. He discovered I could sing. He played for the church, and one day he was in his room practicing “In My Name” by the Thompson Community Singers. He heard me in my room singing, and he burst through my door. Anytime anybody just burst through my door like that, I was in trouble…and he said “what did you just do?” He brought my mother in the room and he made me sing it again. I was singing that song the next week at church. I was like 3 or 4. I was really young.
Would you like to work with any Memphis artists?
Jackson Ave. I’ve met them a couple of times, their melodies and harmonies are really nice. I would also love to work with David Porter. My dad recorded at Hi Records (now Willie Mitchell’s studio) back in the day. Now he performs in a band called the SoulSations. He plays the trumpet, and his dad was a jazz musician and music teacher in Mississippi. My mom’s side has blues and jazz musicians. Music is a part of me. It’s in me.
What do you love most about Memphis?
I love the sense of family and community here. I missed that in Nashville. I think I was missing my soul. It took me coming back home to realize that Memphis is like a blank canvas, you can create anything here. My friend Markevius Faulkner (who is in Las Vegas now) said Memphis is the place where you can do something and it will become a trend. It’s been interesting digging into the culture, cause I was a church boy and my mom didn’t let me do that much. Now that I’m older, I meet people who are doing different and unique things.
Where do you shop?
I used to shop at Express a lot, now I go to Goodwill and thrift stores. I like to shop at Flashback at the corner of Central and Parkway, it’s pretty cool. I’m not really flashy. I buy sale and clearance. I don’t really buy outfits, I buy pieces that I can wear with a million other things. I like to go undercover sometimes.
Where do you hang out?
Usually Midtown. I go to Mollie Fontaine a lot, I like the colors and the feel of the different rooms. Side Street, they have really good drinks. I’m still learning the hot spots. Love Lounge is nice. I liked the feel and the lighting is dope. I’m looking forward to see the growth in Whitehaven. Lots of new businesses are popping up.
If you could start a business, what would it be?
I would open a sound stage. I would take an old building, carve out space for a dance studio, a rehearsal room with a stage, and a recording studio. I’d like to give opportunities to people who wouldn’t normally have access to these things.
As we bid adieu…
I’m just a regular person. We all experience things differently, but we all have the same story. We’re here to impact the lives of other people. The things that we do here on earth aren’t meant for us, but they’re meant for others to enjoy and to find some type of emancipation, and help them come into their own. That’s what Memphis is doing for me. Even coming here to chat with you. I needed this. It’s interesting how things line up without you having to plan it.
As we exit HM Lounge…
I said something about wanting to hear his music and he asked if I had time to listen. Ummmm, of course, Courtney!
Y’all, when I tell you, if I had the capital to fund Courtney’s passion, I promise I would. Y’all know how I feel about music. I do not delight in musical frivolity. The little that I did hear, I could tell it was nurtured in feelings and emotions, and most importantly, it was steeped in a musicality that doesn’t come from just passion and experience. It comes from having an understanding of what makes a song complete and whole. His music had rise and fall. It had an anchor with still enough give to allow it permission to move freely. It definitely had positioning. I know good music when I hear it…and Courtney had it. Courtney has IT.
I’m looking forward to see and hear him grow. And I suspect that as he grows, he’s going to take people with him. He won’t be that I, I, I, me, me, me artist. He won’t get to a destination and celebrate the finality of the moment without considering the pit stops and pot holes, and somehow finding a way to parlay them into his progress.
Oh, and did I mention, Courtney is a 2 year cancer survivor? He mentioned it in such a calm and unbothered manner… at the end of the interview, y’all! Clearly, cancer wasn’t and will not define him. Whatever it is this young man is setting himself to become, I’m all here for it.
You can find Courtney on social media @Courtney Terez.