Demos & Dentistry: Brian Ligon Talks Funky Electro-Fried Instrumental Album ‘Nowhere But Here II’

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and jazz musician Brian Ligon is what many would call a modern-day Renaissance Man. 

This multi-faceted artist is not only a seasoned musician and producer- he is also a former college basketball player and a current practicing dentist. Yes, he can compose some killer grooves and give you a root canal. (probably not at the same time)

Ligon has been musically gifted since a young age, and after graduating from Butler University and receiving his doctorate in dentistry from Meharry Medical College, Ligon returned to his musical roots where his true passion lies. 

He released his first jazzy electro-instrumental album, Nowhere But Here, in 2016, and since has put out several releases, his most recent being the adjoining follow up album, Nowhere But Here II, which dropped November 24th. Ligon describes his work as a reflection of his expansive musical influences, and his constant desire to further better himself as a musician and person.

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While considering himself a jazz artist, Nowhere But Here II is far from traditional jazz one might expect. Incorporating contemporary, experimental, and funk sounds, the new record melts various genres and influences, creating a unique style all his own.

We had the chance to chat with Ligon about his new album, what he has learned since his 2016 album release, goals for 2023, and much more.

So how has 2022 treated you? Any notable highlights?

2022 was great. Business is back steady, and the completion of Nowhere But Here II was the icing on the cake.

I see Nowhere But Here II is a follow up to your 2016 album of the same name but Part One. Why the six-year gap between album releases, and how much do the two compare and contrast?

Time to compose and produce is the main reason for the gap between albums. During the time between albums, I was working on other projects, producing for other artists, and taking Berklee courses to learn Music Composition for Film and Television. I think both albums showcase my unique sound with original music, and on Nowhere But Here II, I was able to collaborate with talented musicians Stephen Gibb and Doug Emery, and engineers Carlos Alvarez and Javier Valverde. Both albums were mastered by Jim “Pinky” Beeman.

Nowhere But Here II

What do you feel you have learned since the first album that you maybe incorporated into the second?

The Berklee courses for Music Composition for Film and Television made me a better musician by being able to intentionally compose music for scenes, energy, and emotion. Also communicating with other musicians for collaboration, great ideas and music can come from it. There’s also always new technology becoming available for music production, recording, and engineering, which is always for high quality music.

Did you find it burdensome to have worn the producer hat as well, or was it more exciting to be in control of the project like that?

I love producing music. It was definitely exciting producing this album while working with other talented people. 

As an instrumentalist and multi-genre artist, how do you know when a song is finished? Do you find yourself wanting to keep tinkering and re-recording tracks etc.?

I listen to my music many times before I’m ready to release it. I listen to the music in different places to make sure the quality is the best it can be, and to see if any ideas come to me for edits of the production. After listening to the music numerous times, ideas for edits stop coming to mind, and I just start enjoying listening to the music knowing it’s finished.

Is there a rhyme or reason for the names of your songs though they’re instrumentals? Can you give a few examples?

Most of the song titles arose from what I thought of while listening to the music, the vibe, a feeling the music gave me, or potential lyrics for the records, although released as instrumental music.

What has been your favorite/the most rewarding part of making this album?

The entire process of making this album was my favorite part. Collaborating with Stephen Gibb and Doug Emery musically was awesome. Carlos, Javier, and Pinky definitely captured the audio quality I was striving for on this album- it sounds great. Working with them was a cool experience. The final product of Nowhere But Here II is the most rewarding- to say I enjoy listening to the album is an understatement. I listen to it every day. Its reception after its release makes it that much more rewarding. Reaching #1 on the iTunes Jazz Chart was definitely cool. 

What does success as a musician and songwriter mean to you?

Success as a musician and songwriter to me is creating music you enjoy that’s also enjoyed by others.

What does a dream gig look like for Brian Ligon?

The dream gig is producing an album for some of my favorite artists, like Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Drake, Bruno Mars, and others, and scoring major studio films and TV productions.

What are some of your goals – whether musically or otherwise – for 2023?

I aspire to continue to produce music for myself as an artist and other artists, compose music for film and television, and continue to reach new listeners creating fans. I also want to win Grammys from the Recording Academy. I think that’s the ultimate award from the music industry.

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