At a recent live broadcast of The-Steve Harvey Morning Showfrom Georgia World Congress Center, the comedian and talk show host declared before his massive audience that George Tandy, Jr. is “a bad boy.”
The transparent singer, songwriter and keyboardist croons on-stage with undeniable sincerity and clarity. Reminiscent of a classically trained pianist, Tandy’s fingers delicately glide and caress the keys. At the same time, the multi-talented performer attacks his instrument with high octane tenacity as an ode to an arena rocker.
Almost immediately following Tandy’s jaw-dropping two-song performance, he jumps off of the stage and lands into a group hug from his immediate family. “You got talent,” declares Harvey. “You came out here and did what I wanted you to do.”
Tandy is indeed well on his way to becoming one of current R&B and soul music’s most unorthodox talents. His debut LP, The Foundation, is an 11-song soundscape: combining jazz, rock, alternative, hip hop, gospel, blues, reggae and folk into a pleasant, 50-minute listening experience.
“As a new artist, I wanted to create something that was timeless because I plan on being around for a little while,” says Tandy. “My first introduction to the world needs to be something 30 or 40 years from now you can still play.”
Being honest and kind are Tandy’s musical and ethical core values. The Virginia Beach native’s current single, “March,” is an encouraging, piano-driven ballad built with a refraining drum bridge.
The song’s subject matter addresses perseverance despite failure. The album title, Tandy says, directly correlates to his musical integrity.
“I listen to everything, and I wanted to make sure everybody could feel my influences,” says Tandy wearing a teen idol smile and matching dimples. “Nothing lasts without a strong foundation. All of it influences me to this day.”
The 32-year-old avid reader has an idiosyncratic approach to crafting songs. These days, Tandy ironically doesn’t listen to music as much as he once did. Rhythms and melodies, on the other hand, are what fuel his creativity.
“One word will trigger a whole song,” says Tandy. “I’m in tune with my emotions to the point I know how to communicate them. Melodies are always popping up in my head.”
“I can hear them in people’s conversation. There’s a vibe there that can trigger something,” adds Tandy.
The performer has music and performance in his DNA. Tandy’s father is a jazz keyboardist. His mother is a singer and vocal coach. Originally playing the clarinet as a kid, a then-introverted Tandy used to sing and play music with his siblings.
The self-proclaimed “kid with a keyboard that loves music and people” relocated to Miami to pursue music at the insistence of his mother. He spent eight years as a hip hop dancer. Following that stint, Tandy became a barista at Starbucks Coffee.
Determined to make music his livelihood, Tandy recorded a demo and regularly performed at amateur nights. His fellow Starbucks partners were quite encouraging once they figured out he could sing and play by ear.
“They would play my music over the speakers sometimes,” says Tandy resting comfortably on a leather sofa. “The managers would show up to shows. The relationships I’ve built along the way is the real foundation.”
One random day at Starbucks, Tandy handed off his demo along with an iced venti black tea to RedStar Entertainment CEO Cima Georgevich. The musician’s exchange with his regular customer completely changed his fate.
“You treat people one-on-one the same way you treat anybody that walks into your house,” says Tandy. “Do what you need to do in order to do what you want to do. Be kind to everybody. You never know who somebody is.”
When Tandy walks through the doors of famed Atlanta record store Moods Music, the charismatic musician greets everyone in the store. He gives everyone hugs and handshakes.
As he sits on the store’s leather sofa, he mimics and pokes fun at Starbucks customers ordering custom beverages. He segues into eloquently articulating how he draws from the premier coffee purveyor’s guiding principles to address his intentions to share his music with audiences.
“It’s helped me to learn how to value each individual one at a time,” says an extremely personable Tandy. “When they walk in, they get an experience instead of a transaction.”
Tandy had a deal before RedStar/Republic Records, but things didn’t work out. The optimistic singer prefers not to dwell on that experience. He barely goes into any detail about the deal other than to say he was treated “less than human.”
“We already know what industry we’re in and how it can be,” says Tandy. “But can we be the example of what’s possible in a positive way and be successful?”
The morning following Tandy’s close to two-hour in-store appearance, his exceptional talents bring the massive audience to its feet. The room erupts with thunderous applause and euphoria after he performs “March.”
Serenading the room about an hour before Grammy winner John Legend sits behind the piano, Harvey reiterates to Tandy that he definitely delivered an impressive set.
Tandy, on the other hand, has his eyes set on having longevity. The 10 years he spent pursuing a professional music career are starting to pay off.
“There are millions of people who would love to be in the position I’m in because of the efforts that I put in and the relationships I’ve attached to my life,” he says.
“I care a lot about people and music, so that’s the real foundation.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.