What Do Jazz Fusion and Poster Illustration Have in Common?

What Do Jazz Fusion and Poster Illustration Have in Common?

What does Jazz Fusion have in common with Poster Illustration? More than you might think! We caught up with Anderson Design Group founder Joel Anderson to talk about things that inspired him, and the conversation led to his most recent favorite album by a talented young composer named Davis Michael Ginn. So we decided to interview both Joel and Davis.

As we did, it became apparent that the creative process of a trumpet player/composer is actually quite similar to that of a poster designer/illustrator in key areas. Things like inspiration, collaboration, innovation, and passion play major roles in producing a finished product that will be enjoyed by many for years (even generations) to come. The discipline, practice, diligence, hard work, and cooperation needed to produce an award-winning body of poster art is the same combination of grit, guts, and glory that is needed to compose, produce, and perform intricate jazz fusion music. Our own Molly Mann interviewed Davis and Joel recently... enjoy!

ADG: Davis and Joel, please tell us about your backgrounds.

Davis: Hi ya’ll! My name is Davis Ginn, I’m a trumpeter, composer/arranger from Charleston and Nashville, and currently I'm a Peace Corps Morocco volunteer in the community development sector. I met Joel through going to college with his daughter Mimi, and he has since become a fan of the music of my band, the Bits of Goodness, after attending one of our shows at 3rd and Lindsley.

Joel: I am 59 years old, and I have been drawing, painting, writing, and creating visual art for as long as I can remember. My family moved a lot, and I grew up living in places like Dallas, Curacao, El Salvador, New York, Myrtle Beach. I began showing and selling my art at age 15. I started an airbrush T-shirt biz at age 17. After high school, I went to Ringling School of Art & Design in Sarasota, FL to study illustration and design. That is where I met my wife Patty (an interior design student from France). We got married right after graduation and moved to Nashville, TN where I worked for Carden & Cherry Advertising for 7 years. While there, I worked on lots of various projects including set design and graphics for movies and TV shows like Ernest Goes To Camp, Ernest Goes to Jail, and I won an Emmy Award for my animation work on the CBS kid's show Hey Vern, It's Ernest. In 1993, I co-founded Anderson Thomas Design, Inc. with my buddy David Thomas. We started our company in the attic of my house with no money, but with lots of faith, creativity, and hard work. Our biz grew into an award-winning studio with clients like Hasbro, DreamWorks, Universal Studios, MCA Records, Harley Davidson, and more. After about 15 years, David and I chose separate paths and I retooled the biz as Anderson Design Group, so I could return to my first love—illustration and poster design.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease about 5 years ago, so I have been focusing more on mentoring young artists and collaborating with talented illustrators to continue growing our collection of illustrated travel poster art. Now I act as a Creative Director more than an illustrator. I am evolving into a "composer and producer," vs. being a "solo performer." I can still hike, shoot photos, draw, paint, and create, but as I lose my fine motor skills and dexterity, I am developing new skills by discovering, directing, and encouraging a new generation of talented artists. My generation is on its way out, and people like me need to be training up the new peeps who will eventually take our places on the creative scene!

ADG: How you know each other?

Joel: My daughter Mimi just graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, TN. She pointed out Davis Michael Ginn as an up-and-coming trumpet virtuoso back when he was a student there. Davis was known as "Mr. Sunshine" among the other musicians he played with at Belmont because of his optimistic, positive, uplifting personality—and for his talent at playing, composing, and producing bright and colorful jazz fusion. I could see the dynamite potential in Davis (since part of my job is spotting stand-out creative talent, skill, and collaborative ability in young creative professionals). Davis is in Morocco for the next 2 years serving in the Peace Corps, but before he left, I got to know of his music through my daughter, and seeing Davis perform live only made me want to listen to more of his recorded music. My daughter Mimi and Davis were pals, so I had the privilege of hearing his music while a lot of it was still a work-in-progress. The first song I heard from Davis's new album-in-the-making was 'Run With The Pups.' It was a powerful intro to his magical world of innovation. Then I heard 'Salted Road' and 'Fountainhead,' and 'Nobles and Dreams.' Each song was fantastic on its own, but they have all come together so well on the new album, which is on the top of my playlist these days! Check it out: First To Hope Again. 

ADG: Thanks for giving us your time all the way from Morocco, Davis! Can you share with us your musical background and what led you to the Peace Corps?

Davis: Growing up in Charleston, SC I got hooked on trumpet in middle school after wanting to be an author. Competing in trumpeting and marching band competitions in high school throughout the country, I discovered a deep love of music through my favorite video game soundtracks ranging from: Legend of Zelda and Pokémon, all the way to Batman Arkham and Undertale, as well as the full jazz and fusion music worlds lit up with folks like Snarky Puppy, Roy Hargrove, and Carlos Eiene.

After gigging around in Charleston and graduating from high school, I attended Belmont University in Nashville, TN, double majoring in commercial trumpet performance and music technology. With wonderful, inspiring role models and teachers from middle school all the way through college, I know that I wouldn’t be here doing what I do if it weren’t for them, and if any of my teachers are here reading this, I just want to give my many thanks to you. While expanding my love and experience in performing, composing, and arranging in a multitude of avenues and styles all around Music City, I found many great friends and collaborators, and some of us, with our combined love of jazz, fusion and video game music, called ourselves the Bits of Goodness. Music lovers have found our music anywhere from dives and house shows to venues like 3rd and Lindsley. Comprised of some of the most versatile and well-equipped musicians on the Nashville scene, we tackle the many angles of fusion music head-on, with hearts full to share it. In the last of my time in Nashville, the Bits of Goodness and I recorded the foundational tracks for what is now released as ‘First to Hope Again.’ Now with the full release, we look forward to giving you all great new VGM and fusion music for the future to come. 

On the Peace Corps, since middle and high school, I’ve found much purpose in spreading positivity  to others, supporting and inspiring others’ dreams, and in volunteering. Though I’ve learned much in volunteering at places like the Charleston 180 place, Nashville's Cottage Cove and Rescue Mission, and at Belmont through leading in United Sound, I’ve felt I’ve lacked the tools to truly help people in need, in the ways that they want to be helped. Through Peace Corps Morocco, with my goals of supporting local musicians, making opportunities for the locals like sustainable music festivals, and helping create a sustaining homeless shelter, I am grateful to say I’m both learning and enacting these skills right now. With that, I’m beyond thankful for all the new music I’ve gotten to learn and experiment with alongside my new collaborators and friends here, in the rich traditions of Gnawa, Chaabi, Aisawa, and Milhoun music. All of these goals, alongside teaching English, music, and technology skills here, I very much look forward to bringing back to Nashville, growing with and alongside my music career.

ADG: Davis, your album First to Hope Again was just released in April of this year. Tell us about the creative process of playing, mixing, mastering, etc. an entire album while abroad.

Davis: Of course! So with the foundational tracks written and recorded in-studio back in Nashville, there was still a great deal of overdubbing and producing choices that needed to be made by the time I went into the Peace Corps. So it became a process of overdubbing trumpet, ukulele, percussion, and synths in my room on my faithful Bluebird large diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone, and receiving/mixing the rest of the overdubs from the band back in the states. After that, it was endless notes, calls, and videos between me and my amazing and patient producer, Wyatt Whitman. Through this process, some tracks, for example like 'Beam Through the Leaves' and 'For All Those That Hope,' came out even better than I had initially imagined them when composing, to which I’m infinitely grateful to Wyatt and the gang for. Their amazing passion, virtuosity, and belief in this project is what helped it truly turn from some of my hopes into a reality people can enjoy, and hopefully be inspired by.

With that, if you'd like to come support the album, come check out our Bandcamp and Spotify store pages! Along with the album and singles, we have sheet music, logic walkthroughs, and the stems and producer breakdowns for our single, 'Run With the Pups.' Thanks for considering supporting our music, it really helps the band and I out and makes our upcoming projects all the more doable.

ADG: Davis, what were your influences for 'First to Hope Again'?

Davis: For the album, I wanted to make a connection between songs of hope, and how they could travel across different genres, showcasing the parts that I love and connect with the most in each. They’re each deeply personal songs, drawing on influences from my dreams, fire, hopes, wistfulness, and love.

Songs like 'First to Hope Again,' 'Beam Through the Leaves,' and 'For All Those That Hope' are very jazz and folk influenced, from artists like Jake Shimabakuro, Jacob Collier, Kenny Wheeler and even some from my wind ensemble background, including artists like Percy Grainger and Eric Whitacre. Originally these were written as one song, ‘First to Hope,’ and was the start of the album. After scrapping, re-writing, splitting, and turning the project on its head, it seemed fitting to rename the album, ‘First to Hope Again.'

‘Run With the Pups’ is a rock fusion tune mainly containing Snarky Puppy, Rush, Mario, and Zelda, and is dedicated to Snarky Puppy. It’s one of my greatest dreams to join the GroundUp music family and make music with the Snarky gang, and this song was made out of that sentiment.  

ADG: We've seen that poodle on your cover design before somewhere.

Davis: Yeah, that's Sophie, the ADG office dog and official mascot! She granted us world-wide rights to use her image for the 'Run With The Pups' single.

‘Salted Road’ is a latin-jazz and rock tune filled with Carlos Eiene, Art Blakey’s and Pat Metheny’s influence, dedicated to Carlos Eiene, the VGM composer/arranger that inspired me to start composing music. 

‘Fountainhead’ is full of Mario Kart and again Snarky Puppy, and is a very simple inspiration: I just really love jumping in fountains haha. Growing up a few minutes from the ocean, being in water is one of the most grounding centers for me, so moving to Tennessee, a landlocked state, I found myself just jumping in a lot more fountains to bring it back home. With that, this tune was written only with melodies that came while I was in a fountain, a shower, or the rain.

‘Nobles and Dreams’ is mainly inspired by Barnes and Nobles, artists like Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, and Roy Hargrove, and was written for Mimi Anderson.  

ADG: Joel, you often immerse yourself in music, art, and travel to garner fresh perspectives for new designs. In what ways did Davis's music inspire you while creating new artwork?

Joel: Music often becomes a mental soundtrack when I travel, work, and create. When I look at a finished work of art, I often recall the songs I listened to while making it. Davis' music is "time-stamped" all over several of my recent pieces. 'Salted Road's' bright, lively, sometimes frenetic, sometimes mellow tempo helped me sail through a bunch of recent posters in our Coffee Collection, where I worked on posters about Haitian coffee, African beans, and Middle Eastern blends.

That song takes me places. Listening to 'Nobles and Dreams' and 'Fountainhead' was like taking an audio vacation. I listened to those songs a lot while finishing off World Travel posters of Rome, Granada, Marrakesh, Dublin, Canyonlands, Indiana Dunes, Great Smoky Mountains, and Zimbabwe—these posters were started by my collaborating artists Nguyen Tran, Steven Garcia, Mary Withers Kirkland, Arden von Haeger, Douglass Cole, and Kenneth Crane, and I spent several enjoyable hours fine-tuning and finishing the designs with Davis' music playing.

I'm working on a Mod design of Palm Springs rendered by collaborating artist Annie Cauffman and 'Run with the Pups' is driving that piece forward.

ADG: Joel, what similarities do you see in your artistic process as a visual artist and Davis's as a musician? 

Joel: I'm sure we both share these things in our daily processes: trial and error, collaborating with other talented people, creating art that comes from the center of our beings by tapping into our passion, interest, and style, while hoping it will connect with our audience and bring others the same joy it brings us as we create.

We are both willing to work hard on an idea that may have come easily, but would never become anything worth sharing with others unless we were committed to devoting countless hours to trim, shape, slash, build back, hone, finesse, and smooth out the idea until it took its final form. Ideas never stop coming, but it takes focus and drive to turn them into final products that the world can access and people can enjoy.

ADG: Joel, give us your thoughts on the importance of young creative talent like Davis and the positive impacts of it on our culture. 

Joel: Young people like Davis Ginn, and the many artists whose names you can see next to the posters on ADGstore.com, are the future of our society, industry, and culture. They create the art that helps to define, celebrate, interpret, and enhance our daily experience in the world. Young, talented, risk-taking creative people are constantly producing art that expands our enjoyment of everyday life. All of us build on top of what others have created before us. We are constantly being influenced and are influencing others. This is what pushes invention forward in humankind. None of us can do what God has already done—In the beginning, the Almighty Creator made everything from nothing. We simply take what He has freely given us and we use it to craft reflections of Divine magnificence and mystery. That is why we are always drawn to love, beauty, delight, and awe. Our natural response to the gift of life is to fashion new variations of music, art, food, dance, literature, films, photos, drama, stories, games, buildings, cities, feasts, festivals, lore, traditions, etc. We pick up and use what we find laying around, but each new generation adds something new to this ancient conversation that has been going on since the world began.

Davis and others like him are shaping our future one song, one poster, one food truck, one YouTube video at a time. There is a lot of sub-par stuff being generated these days, since technology allows almost anyone (even AI programs) to easily create new variations of what has already been invented. But excellence, originality, beauty, talent, character, virtue, skill, wisdom, Faith, Love, and Truth will always propel the right people to the forefront to lead the way. Those are the kinds of people I look for, collaborate with, and tell others about. Davis is that kind of person.

ADG: Davis, what does your future with music look like when you're done with the Peace Corps?

Davis: I’m looking forward to expanding my trumpeting, arranging and video game composing careers in Nashville, as well as releasing projects with my band, the Bits of Goodness.

Bits of Goodness: 

Bits of Goodness members featured: Alex Mondine, Michael Daugherty, Cameron Gallagher, Owen Fader, Grace Usselman, Hayden Thomas, Cameron Petros, and Sam Spheeris

With that, it’s my pleasure to make this announcement for the two big upcoming Bits of Goodness projects: our EP, the first full release under the BOG name, which will be comprised of all video game music reimaginings, spanning from Legend of Zelda to Deltarune; and secondly, a live, in-studio album with a headphone-wearing audience, hearing all new original music. This debut album will be the full extent of what I have been composing in Morocco, fusing elements of Gnawa, Aisawa, and Milhoun music with the fusion jazz that I love, as well as fusion folk tunes and VGM (video game music)-inspired tracks. Bringing in all of the Bits, we’ll be experimenting with new colors like: a string quartet, woodwinds, live vocals and jazz comping with VGM style synths.

ADG: As creatives who are busy with making music and running an illustration studio, how do you both relax in your down time?

Davis: I love anything from jamming with friends, going running/working out, spending time with my loved ones and friends, reading, writing, playing video games, hiking, swimming, and boxing. Meaningful rest and recuperation with the folks I care about is a big priority when outside of music.

Bits of Goodness and First to Hope Again producer, Wyatt Whitman, in the studio for tracking

Joel: I love to listen to good music (of many genres), I love to taste great food (of all types), I like to travel, explore, discover, and share the things that inspire me. I love gardening, hiking, reading, making folk art with found objects, and spending time with people who are dear to me (like my family, friends, and collaborators).

Joel meeting with his son Nathan and wife Patty at the ADG studio


One of Joel's folk art creations

Friends from Belmont University from left to right: Davis, Christine Subrati, Mimi Anderson (Joel's adopted daughter from South Korea), and Sadie Nayman

We hope you enjoyed this interview. Please check out Davis' music!

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