Lee England Jr., “The Soul Violinist” Q&A
I had a chance to sit down with the talented Lee England Jr. An Illinois native, currently residing in New York, Lee has been coined the ‘Soul Violinist.’ He has traveled the world while stunning crowds while playing popular classics. Now it’s time to hear him sing.
The Q & A…
Anthoni: Who is Lee England Jr.?
Lee England Jr.: Straight to it huh?!
Anthoni: Straight to it! *chuckles*
Lee England Jr.: I am a peaceful man. Let me start there. I am authentic. I am real. I am a life-loving, love-loving, musician, artist, producer, singer, and songwriter. There’s much more, but that’s a good start.
Anthoni: How did you get started with playing the violin?
Lee England Jr.: After going to an instrument shop, I chose the violin, which was my second choice, a week later I went and picked it up. I played it and thought it was broken and went to my father and told him I quit. My father told me “Sure you can quit but you have to practice 15 minutes a day.”
In my six-year-old mind, every time I picked up the violin, I was quitting because I didn’t know what that meant. So I was doing it every day and I think it wasn’t until I got to college that I realized that I had been Jedi mind tricked. So I kind of picked it up and never put it down
Anthoni: OK, what kept you going?
Lee England Jr.: My first teacher, Mr. Dudley, gave me enough love to get through all of my bad teachers. So when I did have rough times with other teachers or those on higher levels, it was too late because I already knew that I had been loved enough to know that I was capable and that all they had to do was practice and work on my craft. I liked going to church and trying different styles.
Being there was a really good motivating thing because the musicians embraced me and I got to learn so many things and certain things they did, I wanted to emulate. This wasn’t something that I was learning in school so I started taking what I learned in church back to school. I did this for the entirety of my career so it wasn’t a thing to want to put the instrument down. This was always something that I love doing, and it wasn’t something I was forced to do, or what someone expects me to do. It was like my own thing.
Anthoni: Are you still signed to Jumpman?
Lee England Jr.: Yes
Anthoni: How did you come across that opportunity?
Lee England Jr: When I was in Chicago, and I was tearing up the stage, I got invited to do a gig out South (South Side). At that gig, an artist saw me perform. I tore the house down. He came to me and was like, I need you to come record with me, I need you to come on tour with me and I’ll pay you as a musician and I will also pay you as a part of my act. So I was getting paid double everybody else getting paid to be a musician but then also is like a feature.
As a featured performer, I would also get to be on stage for five minutes by myself and in those five minutes, I was winning over crowds from all over the country. We ended up in front of Michael Jordan for his birthday party in Dallas in 2010 and in those five minutes… Have you ever been in a space where somebody devastated the room with their talent and just like everybody’s like wow like, what was that?!
I devastated a whole room of people who weren’t paying attention to what was going on on the stage until I got up there. When I finished I was told I would be taken care of. I didn’t know what that meant though. I went home, got a box full of clothes. Then the next day, I got a box of shoes and the next day I got a contract. The contract was stipulated for like two years or something like that but with them it’s like once you’re in, you’re in.
Anthoni: When was your most memorable performance to date?
Lee England Jr.: There’s a lot but I think the one that is most relevant to how I feel at this moment would be when I won a talent show off campus during college. The reason why that one was so notable was that it was the first time that my father saw me, and I saw myself in a space where I thought like you, this could be something. And it was also the last performance my father saw me at. I won and it was eye-opening. He was telling me, “Like that you gotta come right back on campus for another competition,” Which I did, and won.
Anthoni: Who are those celebrities that you wanted to work with when you were little that you have gotten to work with since stardom?
Lee England Jr: Well, the big three are Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Prince. I missed Michael Jackson because he passed and but I did work with Quincy Jones who has told me that M.J. would’ve loved you. Prince… I missed that one too. I had just had a conversation with somebody to whom I had sent music to that was going to send it to him cause I was starting to do a lot of riffing with my violin pedal and making it sound like a guitar. I did perform with Stevie Wonder once when I was younger when I was in Chicago. That was dope.
From there, I can remember someone doing an interview and somebody asked me who I wanted to work with. I responded to Lauryn Hill and a week later I was on the stage with Lauryn Hill. So if I had to say now who I want to perform with, it would be Jasmine Sullivan. H.E.R., again with Alicia Keys; was somebody I wanted to perform with and did, and India Arie as well. I like Post Malone as well. Andre 3000. And producers Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, John Williams, and Hans Zimmer. If I had to categorize myself as a producer, I would say I was like if Timbaland and Hans Zimmer had a baby. I would live there in that space.
A lot of the things that I create are more like soundtracks and yeah I would say those people are influential. I would love to perform with Kanye and most definitely Beyonce. Kirk Franklin is a genius and I would love to create with him. Yo-Yo Ma is on the classical side. Right now I’m into Afrobeats so I would also say Burna Boy or Omar Leih from Nigeria.
Anthoni: What was the last biggest award that you received?
Lee England Jr.: I got an award in Waukegan from the City Council a couple of years back for outstanding work in the community.
Anthoni: You just recently switched gears to singing. What prompted that switch?
Lee England Jr.: It was never a switch. It was more of a reveal than a switch because I’ve always wanted to sing, and always aspired to be a singer, but I was always afraid that my singing wasn’t good enough to match the prowess of my being a violinist and perfectionist for sure. So I preferred to you know, keep my little thing a secret until I felt that it was notable and presentable. And other people might have had other ideas about the timing of it and I should have done it a long time ago.
And yeah, I don’t care about that because I was always spending time being a successful violinist. I would say I was moonlighting as a violinist while I practiced being a singer. I’ve been writing music and singing on my tracks since college.
This song ‘Anything’ most people don’t know, but there was a core set of people that do know, that I released because the team I’m currently working with felt that song never got its due diligence or seen a day in the light. It never got the correct promotion so they wanted to reintroduce them to that and it was a way for my team to show me what they could do.
As far as singing goes, something I’ve always done I just wanted to be. I want to be confident. My album is done. I’m not THAT shy. It’s like I’m shy but I work the entire time. I don’t know just that I haven’t had that confidence behind it the way that I do now. I’ve been singing and releasing music. I’ve been singing at my shows. It looks like it’s something that just came out of nowhere but in all actuality, nobody was paying attention. I’ve always known I was there, as it was a reveal with confidence.
Anthoni: Do you have a release date set for your upcoming project?
Lee England Jr.: No. It’s more like testing the marketplace. Now with social media, there’s so much that you can do to keep that curve up because you can release content that the people that you know will never see it. But if you keep creating content it will be seen by a new audience every time. I am super anxious because I’m ready to get a lot of music out right, so I have the EP that is going to come out first called ‘Finally.’ The album is going to come out after that called ‘A Guidebook For A Gentleman.’
Anthoni: After the album what should we expect from Lee England Jr. and what is he bringing into 2023?
Lee England Jr.: There are certain things I would love to see in the world that I would create with resources. One is that my orchestra would be huge, even become a household name. My non-profit work would have me build a school, I think a musical trade school. It will be a place where students have their specific needs met and learn so many ways to make money with music. A portion of what they create goes to the teacher, to themselves like a legacy fund, and a portion of it goes to the school.
As far as what I’m bringing in 2023, I’ve never actually been intentional about my presence on social media so this year is going to be filled with content, music, a lot of music coming out, a lot of content coming out. My voice will be amplified this year. It’s like any conversation that I’ve been having or thinking of having that is normally my normal self is just quiet but now that I’m starting to understand that social media and being online is a personality type of thing, I’m so good at being myself that this is now easy.
Anthoni: If you could give advice to the youth that’s looking to become an artist of some sort but may not have the type of support that we need, what type of advice would you give them?
Lee England Jr.: Find yourself by being yourself. I feel like the reason why I’m gonna be wildly successful is because I have found authentic ways to express myself and if ever there was a need for me to create more, all I do is dig within, manifest it, and give it out. When you learn to be yourself on and off stage, when you get on stage you’re not turning on and becoming a character. Also, be mindful of the fact that there may be things that you don’t know and it’s okay to not know them.
There’s no excuse for not knowing more about it or finding someone that can do it. Being honest seems like the key to my success and not just with other people but with myself as well. It takes a lot of digging and examination but I think it’s because we were more prone to studying ourselves instead of the outside world.
The outside world is very valuable if the inside world is in order. In pursuit of being an artist, pursue knowing yourself, knowing God, pursue knowing the spirit that lies within you. We are gifted with this persona, this ego, this person. And give yourself the best opportunity to live the fullest, richest life!
Check out “Remember Tomorrow ” https://ffm.to/wkjnj5q
Also available on all platforms is “Anything” https://ffm.to/leeenglandjr