The Reel Black List: Jeff Morrow, Vocal Music Producer

Jeff Morrow (photo: Orel Chollette)

Jeff Morrow (photo: Orel Chollette)

Jeff Morrow is an accomplished singer, vocal producer, voice-over artist, arranger, voice coach and contractor. He is currently the vocal producer for the hit Fox TV show Empire. This past summer he worked as the vocal contractor and toured with Aretha Franklin. He has worked with Stevie Wonder, R. Kelly, Janelle Monae, Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, Valerie Simpson, Carol King, Ramsey Lewis, Jay Z, and Ruben Studdard to name a few.

His motion picture credits include Dances With Wolves, Hoodlums, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Unconditional Love, and Just Visiting. In the spring of 2016, he played himself on the season 2 finale of Empire. Jeff has been featured in jingles and voice-overs on over 6,500 television and radio commercials, including: Friday’s, Ford, Toyota, Kraft Lunchables, McDonald’s, AT&T, ComEd, Jewel, Kellogg’s, Nintendo, many others.

His character voices include “Dig’em” & “Tony the Tiger” for Kellogg’s, “The Jolly Green Giant” and “Palmy” on VeggieTales.

What was your first break?

I was teaching middle school music and working in a band that played clubs in NW Indiana. A guy walked into the club one night and asked me if I ever thought about singing commercials. I said no. He said that I should, because I would be really good at it. Turns out he was a commercial producer out of Chicago. He started having me come in and watching sessions. The next thing I knew I quit teaching and started doing commercials full time.

Worst thing that ever happened to you to remind you that you are Black?

I’ve had a couple of incidents as a voice over artist where the client had never met me, and when they did my long running weekly VO gig ended! One was for a major retail store.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are Black?

Lol. When the AA ad agencies started embracing me as a VO talent and not just a singer.

Since then they have always been very loyal and good to me. When they started using me regularly as a VO talent, that created a very high visibility for me as a VO artist. That exposure opened up the doors to General Market agencies for more! And I’m forever thankful to Burrell Communications, E. Morris and all the other AA agencies that gave me the opportunity to grow as an VO artist.

I also want to thank you AA music production houses that were incredibly loyal to me! Thank you Herschel Commercial (Paul Wilson) and JoyArt Music (Butch and Brenda Stuart)! I ended working for every major music house in the city (including Steve Ford Music, ComTrack, Klaff Weinstein Music, Moore Music Group, Shaffer Antelis Music and more) but those two companies used me on commercials every week!

Work you are most proud of?

I’m proud of all the work I’ve done over my 35+ year career thus far, but I must say. That I’m especially proud of my work of the number one rated Fox Network show Empire . I’m excited about the ability to not only showcase my gifts, but also the opportunity it gives me to showcase some of the other amazingly talented artists here in Chicago!!

I’m been fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest producers in the business and do vocal
production on their tracks. Including Rodney Jerkins, Jim Beanz, Da Internz and many others. And that is an incredible blessing.

How has the business changed since you broke in?

Well… the biggest change is that on the beginning there was tons of work!! With 30+ music houses in the city working on ad music day and night! Singers and VO actors were constantly busy!! I would be forced to turn down sessions on a weekly basis due to the fact that I was already booked! It was crazy.

And I must say that I feel bad that that form of employment isn’t as readily available for the young singers entering into the business now.

Trapped on an island, what are the creative essentials you must have?

My mind… my Voice and my ability to communicate.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self?

I would say… “Jeff, make smarter choices, save more money and spend more time with your kids!!!” Time really flies!

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why?

My father JW Morrow. He passed March 17th 2011. I wonder what he would think about how his kids turned out. And what his thought would be on the state of of the country right now.
And what he thinks about the Cubs winning the World Series!! :)))

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