by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
“The Carnival” launched the solo career of Wyclef Jean more than 20 years ago. While so many assume it’s a catchy name or catchphrase Jean uses for his albums, to the artist it’s more about his journey through music and the journey he strives to give his fans in his live show.
This Friday at Crossroads in Kansas City, Clef plans to bring that Carnival to life for fans. Despite having two major projects in the works, the artist is hitting the road for the fall leg of “The Carnival Tour” 2018.
During a phone interview last week, Jean gave details on the projects to CMN. During the last few legs of the Carnival Tour, Wyclef actively recruited talent from universities across the U.S., who are now collaborating with him on a mix tape called “Wyclef Goes Back to School” with a currently unannounced release date.
The other project, which Jean has been working on during his break in touring, is a country album. As one of the founding members of The Fugees, a successful record producer, and multi-Grammy award-winning musician, there isn’t much he hasn’t done. But the country album is personal.
“People will go ‘country where did that come from?’ My momma is from Haiti and my father was an evangelist,” he told CMN. “In the islands, country music is one of the biggest forms of music.”
Originally from Haiti, life in the Caribbean still has a profound impact on Jean’s life. He explained how when radio was becoming big in the islands, churches purchased big radio antennas to broadcast their own programming as well as country.
Growing up, Clef’s mother played tracks from Johnny Cash and “Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels. Growing up, Jean said he related to Cash’s music because his music heavily referenced Bible scriptures. But it was after performing “Delia’s Gone” at the Cash tribute concert in 1999 that Jean really felt pushed to delve into the genre.
Jean has been in Nashville working with artists such as Drake White and a production team that includes Tim Chance. He said Nashville is a good place because of how involved in the music industry he is these days.
“It’s cool to be within the hub,” he said. “Atlanta has a good music vibe. For me Nashville is for someone who’s a music writer.. Can you imagine what happens when you put the Nashville producers with the Wyclef style? It’s going to be crazy.”
When the recording is finished, Jean plans to debut the album with a performance in Nashville he wants to stream live via YouTube.
“My band, The Rebel Band, combined with some boys in Nashville will do a mashup together with eight original classics and then launch a (country) song from there,” he said.
Clef said he plans to release some music slowly with the performance in Nashville this fall, with the album, titled “Caribbean Cowboy,” releasing next summer.
He said he won’t drop any of the new country on fans at Crossroads Friday, but they can expect a career-spanning show.
“The good thing about when people see me perform, they get to see the man behind the music,” he said. “I’ve done so much music. My stage is setup like a recording studio. I take my fans on a musical journey as a producer and performer. We start in 1996 and end in 2018. It’s good for the fans, they get to see it. It’s like a Carnival I take you for a ride.”