Musician Arnold McCuller tells his story

Arnold McCuller

Arnold McCuller, an Ohio-native vocalist, made his name well known through his singing talent from a young age.

“My first professional job was when I was nineteen, doing a Broadway musical [‘Hair’],” he said.

His early musical experiences are centered in the church, where both of his parents were vocalists. He performed on Broadway and studied acting, dance and voice in Manhattan.

“Those are my two passions,” he said.

Bringing his gifts to Philadelphia, along with Matt Cusson and Marc Purrington, Arnold McCuller performed recently at Milkboy at 1100 Chestnut St.

As a child, growing up around music, he allowed his interests to float into learning how to play various instruments.

“When I started as a kid, I was doing viola,” he said. “And recently I’ve been practicing a bit of guitar. [With the viola], it was terribly difficult but I was too young. I just didn’t stick with it because I wasn’t too focused. [However], I love the guitar, and I love playing the guitar.”

McCuller released his first album in 1990, titled “Exception to the Rule,” and decided to release a single for “Soul Searching,” in 1991. McCuller added more vocals, to enhance its sound. Bonnie Raitt, whom McCuller has worked with before, sang on the original track.

The motivation that McCuller embraces when he performs his songs stems from music that he grew up listening to.

“When I did the Latin jazz record, “Sabor,” the motivation was listening to Nana Caymmi, Ivan Lins, Djavan and other Brazilian music and musicians,” he said.

McCuller has been working with James Taylor, ever since Taylor hired him in New York in 1977.

“James is the longest relationship I’ve had, [as for] touring and recording,” he said.

McCuller and Taylor performed “Shower the People” and “I Will Follow” together, while McCuller worked as a lead vocalist.

His latest album, “Soon As I Get Paid,” was released in 2011, two years after “Sabor.” “Gods and Monsters” is a song that McCuller wrote in the middle of the night after hearing a friend of his play at a club in Los Angeles. The concept of the song, according to McCuller, resembled Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” because he was inspired by listening to music and taking in the soulful environment.

“I don’t know what the next record will be, but the writing has already started,” he said. “I got, like, three or four tunes that are already started.”

In hopes of releasing a 4–5 song EP, rather than a full album, McCuller hopes to get into the studio in the beginning of the year to create an album for release by next summer.

Besides working with numerous musicians, such as James Taylor, Luther Vandross and Aretha Franklin, McCullers’ musical relationship with Cusson, an award-winning singer/songwriter and pianist, continues as the two work together, once again.

McCuller and Cusson met in 1992, at the Tanglewood Music Festival, held in Boston. At the age of 14, while Cusson was helping with moving tables and other equipment backstage, he had recognized McCuller from a previous performance on VH1. He decided to take his chances in showing McCuller what he was vocally blessed with and, ever since then, the two have worked together creating music.

“Matt’s a great singer and songwriter, and I’m lucky to have him to play with me,” McCuller said.

Just like McCuller, when it came to music, Cusson’s love for it was natural.

“Honestly, music was all I ever did, since I was a kid,” Cusson said. “It was either that, or try to be in the NBA.”

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