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ED GORDON, host:

The British band The Brand New Heavies grew from a trio of childhood friends into a funk and soul act in the late 1980s, led by the powerful vocals of Atlanta native, N'Dea Davenport. The Brand New Heavies the United States R&B charts with their 1992 hit, Never Stop.

(Soundbite of song, "Never Stop")

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES: (singing) Never stop, never giving, never stop, never giving up. Never stop, never giving, never stop…

GORDON: The group's third album went platinum in Britain, just before Davenport left for a solo career. More than a decade later, The Brand New Heavies have reunited to record their new CD, Get Used to It.

NPR's Farai Chideya spoke with some of the band members.

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

We're sitting up on a rooftop patio at the Hyatt West Hollywood in Los Angeles with N'Dea Davenport and Andrew Love Levy of The Brand New Heavies. They have reunited and they join us now.

Mr. ANDREW LOVE LEVY (Band Member, The Brand New Heavies): Hello.

Ms. DAVENPORT (Band Member, The Brand New Heavies): Hey, hi there, how are you, how's everybody?

CHIDEYA: So let me start with you, N'Dea. You are from the States. When exactly did you start?

Ms. DAVENPORT: I started, I guess, I would say probably at around 1990, and I was living in Los Angeles, came to get to know them through our record label, which is Delicious Vinyl, which we're now affiliated with. And it was like a great, great match because I think we had a lot of similarities as far as lifestyle and things like that. So it worked out real well.

CHIDEYA: Andrew, how would you describe what The Brand New Heavies is?

Mr. LEVY: It's soul music, but it's funky and it's got a little bit of jazz. And it's really positive music as well, it's really uplifting music.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: What's your favorite song out of your previous work before this new album?

Mr. LEVY: I guess Dream Come True is one of my big favorites 'cause the crowd just go crazy when they hear that for some reason.

(Soundbite of song, "Dream Come True")

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES: (Singing) Is it a dream come true about a love I once knew. Was it all in my mind or did I dream it all the time?

CHIDEYA: European crowds seem to have a certain zest for soul music and soul funk fusion. Do you think that your band could have been born in the U.S. or is there something about the U.K. scene that really was able to nurture you, N'Dea?

Ms. DAVENPORT: Of course the band could have been born here, but I think there's this different type of uniqueness by it because there's a different type of appreciation by them being from the U.K.

Mr. LEVY: There is - it's kind of - the whole disco thing and the 70s funk music and stuff, we really kind of respected that a little bit more than maybe the Americans did because they were on to something else already.

Ms. DAVENPORT: That's right.

Mr. LEVY: And we kind of got it a little bit late.

Ms. DAVENPORT: I think it's also great, though, I think why the combination works between - the dynamic works between us because they have that perspective and I'm actually, being from here, that is the originating force of soul music. And that's probably too, you know, makes it a nice gel, you know.

(Soundbite of The Brand New Heavies)

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES: (Singing) I don't wanna let you go. I want to sail away, but I gotta (unintelligible) on the shore, I don't wanna let you go. Gotta get used to it. You better get used to it now…

CHIDEYA: Tell me a moment of a performance that you've loved, one of your own performances that, you know, maybe someone in the crowd struck you or someone who was a fan told you what your music meant to them.

Mr. LEVY: Music meant to them? I - we get - when you get fan letters and stuff like that, and I got one letter from a fan that was really moving, actually. He said that he was in prison and he - his - the album really made him get through his prison term. And I just couldn't believe how far reaching music can be.

(Soundbite of The Brand New Heavies)

Ms. DAVENPORT: A lot of kids, too, in high school or college students that really, really were having a very tough time. And by them actually, like reaching out and like saying that you know this music really helped me to push on, especially like on a song like Brother Sister, which I have gotten numerous, numerous people commenting on this song, about them just pushing forward, just hanging in there. Sometimes everybody needs a little encouragement. And just that little bit is like okay, maybe I can do this. And that strict - that sticks out to me.

(Soundbite of song, "Brother Sister")

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES: (Singing) So you stand up. Be strong go out there. Hold on to the real thing that matter. 'Cause no one's gonna hand it to you on a silver platter…

CHIDEYA: Do you still live in New Orleans?

Ms. DAVENPORT: Funny enough, I owned a property there for about nine years, and 90 days before all the flooding and everything happened, I sold my property. It's unbelievable.

CHIDEYA: What does New Orleans' musical heritage mean to you, and has it influenced you in any way?

Ms. DAVENPORT: Oh my God, I don't think I'd be the person that I have become and evolved to that I can even contribute to this new album with the guys if it wouldn't have been for New Orleans because now I think I understand so much more of what legacy is, what history is.

(Soundbite of The Brand New Heavies)

Ms. DAVENPORT: And it gives you a sense of also where people have the richness of life, it's so sacred and so special. There's always a reason to celebrate for something.

(Soundbite of The Brand New Heavies, “Don't Know Why (I Love You)”)

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES: (Singing) I don't know why I love you, but I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah. You throw my heart down in the dirt. You made me cry on this cold, black earth, baby. I never knew how much love would hurt, do I love you, baby, baby, baby, baby…

CHIDEYA: Andrew, you have been a musician for how many years now?

Mr. LEVY: About - I think I started playing when I was a teenager, yeah.

CHIDEYA: And so having been in the game for a long time, how do you keep up the enthusiasm for what you do, especially when you're around some of the same people again and again?

Mr. LEVY: To be honest, I've only ever played in The Brand New Heavies, you know, all my life. I can't really imagine playing with anyone else. And meeting the other two guys, Simon and Jan, at school when I was 12, they're like my brothers. And you can't really - you're never going to hate your brothers. So, they - I just treat them like family in a way.

Ms. DAVENPORT: Can I say this as well? Even though we didn't know each other from childhood, but considering we spent so many years together, they've always been like estranged brothers, but still my brothers, too. Even now, we just got back together. So we're the same, but now we're like - it's like you know communicating, I guess.

CHIDEYA: You're a family again.

Ms. DAVENPORT: Yeah.

CHIDEYA: Yeah.

Ms. DAVENPORT: That's all.

(Soundbite of The Brand New Heavies' “Let's do It Again”)

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES: (Singing) Again, let's do it again…

GORDON: That was N'Dea Davenport and Andrew Love Levy of the band, The Brand New Heavies. They spoke with NPR's Farai Chideya. You can hear music from this interview at our Web site on NPR.org.

(Soundbite of The Brand New Heavies' “Let's do It Again”)

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES: (Singing) Again, let's do it again. Wanna do it again. Oh, baby, baby. Let's do it again, my baby, we've got to do it, my baby. We got to do it, yeah…

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