Orpheus Ascending: Old-School Funkateer John Orpheus Reaches New Heights On “Get Right!”

Break out your velvet couches, champagne flutes, and Soul Train swagger: Performance artist, musician and author John Orpheus brings back the golden age of get-down on his mood fixer of a new single, “Get Right!” Watch on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDQuPmi7_AI&feature=youtu.be

Like an urgent, time-traveling bulletin from an era when funk, punk and pop coexisted happily on the dancefloor, the new record finds the Trinidad-born, Toronto-based Orpheus applying his talent for musical shapeshifting to deliver a motivational sermon that’s nostalgically succinct:

If it feel right, jump on it

If it ain’t right, we don’t want it 

If it ain’t right, we don’t get your money

Now what could be fairer than that? The rhythm section maintains a breezy bounce as Orpheus raps out his exhortations with a trebly delivery that harkens back to both 90s west-coast rap and the Funkadelic records they sampled. Meanwhile, the song’s melodic flow is kept at the forefront by the indispensable purring of female guest vocalist Elise LeGrew.

“‘Get Right!’ is about finding your swag, securing the bag and eating well,” Orpheus says. “It’s a party vibe with an old-school funk energy reminding you to get up, get down and get right. The goal is to dance and shake off whatever is holding you back from your best and baddest self.”

Listen on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/track/3iBCMe9fZI0Q8my82kRPxM?si=ff0a8bcb9a914b70&nd=1&dlsi=5d3ccb750d764f1c

Asked to name the biggest influences on the song, Orpheus has a shortlist handy: “Rick James, Prince, Sly and the Family Stone, soul music, cognac and daddy issues.”

Come again?

“My brothers and I grew up mostly without my dad around, and we would go into the basement and play all his old music. That’s where we first heard funk and disco, and it was kinda our way of kicking it with our dad.”

The retro aesthetic is on full display in the accompanying music video by ace production house Moon Reel Media, which combines house-party antics with onscreen titles straight out of a circa-’73 grindhouse flick. That’s not to mention the canny wardrobe choices of Orpheus himself, who’s bound to receive some sort of Best Costuming award for his judicious use of a snorkel.

“Get Right!” is the title track to Orpheus’ forthcoming EP, due in June of this year. It’s the follow-up to his 2021 album Saga King, and like the single that’s preceded it, it revels in the decor of vintage R&B—specifically the oeuvre of George Clinton as filtered through a litany of ’90s homages – we mean you Dr. Dre. But its “whole-school” approach embraces the entire musical diaspora, holding space for everything from dancehall to Afrobeats.

Recorded over the course of just nine days at Copper Sound in Guelph, in collaboration with musical director Adam Bowman and producer Mike Schlosser, the record shows Orpheus’ affection for the past by emphasizing live instrumentation and real-time performance. “Making records the old-school way—playing instruments, vibing off each other in the same room, sharing the moment—is still a magical way to make music!” he enthuses.

With that attitude, it’s no surprise he’s in such demand as a live act. Whether appearing at festivals across Canada and the U.S. or opening for Liam Gallagher on a UK tour, he’s become known for rabble-rousing shows filled with audience participation, chanting and impromptu dance-offs that make his time on stage feel more like a Caribana road party than a simple concert.

When he isn’t tearing up studios and stages as John Orpheus, this tireless and multifaceted artist is giving vent to his literary alter ego, Antonio Michael Downing. Under that moniker, he’s published a well-received memoir, Saga Boy: My Life of Blackness and Becoming (Penguin Random House), written two children’s books and is hard at work on his debut novel, Black Cherokee (Simon and Schuster). But whatever the medium and whichever name he’s going by at any given moment, he’s comin’ at ya with the same sense of playful reclamation and joy. And that, at its core, is what “Get Right!” really means.

“My life right now is about being whole and happy and having a blast,” he says, “and this song says all those things to a beat.”