Wyclef Jean Talks About His Carnival Tour And Working With Some Of The Biggest Names In Music

Wyclef Jean will tell you he has come a long way from his birthplace in a small village in Haiti, but appreciates his upbringing more than we know. Today, the three-time Grammy Award winning artist/rapper/musician/actor is a household name in the music industry having worked with everyone from Michael Jackson, Shakira, Queen, and Mick Jagger to Paul Simon, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kenny Rogers, and Tom Jones, to name a few.

As a solo artist, Wyclef has released  albums that have sold millions of copies worldwide, including his 1997 debut of The Carnival and follow up 2007 Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant.

His latest studio album, Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee, was released in September and was quickly named one of the “25 Most Anticipated Albums” of the fall by Billboard.

We caught up recently with Wyclef to chat about his nationwide Carnival Tour, coming to Boston’s Wilbur Theatre on Thursday and working with some of the biggest names in music.

Can you give us a preview of The Carnival Tour and what we can expect when you come to visit?

It’s like getting inside a time machine that starts in 1996 and lands in 2018. When you go to a carnival, some people want to go on the merry-go-round and some people want to go on the roller coaster. Life is about different rides and in the Caribbean, carnival is a celebration of life. During the show, which is the carnival, I’m producing the crowd.

You’ve worked with some of the most talented people in the music industry like Prince, Whitney Houston, Carlos Santana and Shakira. Tell us about some of your favorite memories.

I have real great memories with Whitney Houston, her daughter and her husband at the time. Seeing her sing one of our songs was one of my most insane memories. She really had an anointed voice.

Wyclef JeanPhoto Credit: Wyclef Jean/HEADS Music

Anyone you would like to work with who you haven’t had the opportunity to yet?

What I am really excited about is new talent. I am excited about finding the new talent that is coming around the corner.

Your music has influences of everything from reggae to hip hop and pop. Where do you draw your inspiration?

Inspiration comes from the universe. I never looked at music like ‘this is rock’ or ‘this is reggae.’ Music just talks to me. I have always been driven by the idea of eclectic, that we are different in the world, but share some of the same cultures from music to food and philosophy. It’s all about trying to fuse that ‘global gumbo,’ as Quincy Jones says.

What are you most looking forward to when playing in Boston this week?

I have always had a great relationship with Boston because after high school, my father had it set up that my brother and I would go to Eastern Nazarene College and then study law at Boston University. I had a different plan, but my brother did that so I was constantly in Boston. The best restaurants in the city are in Mattapan. Boston reminds me in a sense of Toronto and Brooklyn. It’s a real melting pot.

You were the first hip hop artist to play Carnegie Hall with a philharmonic orchestra. What was that experience like?

Carnegie Hall was great because for me in high school, I played at my dad’s church every Sunday. A teacher introduced me to jazz and classical, so when I discovered this form of music and then had the chance to play with a philharmonic orchestra, it was an accomplishment that I will never forget.

Who inspired you the most when you were growing up in Haiti?

The people in the village. We had a little church in the village and I remember everyone constantly singing. Sometimes as a young kid, I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I could always feel the passion.

What is the greatest lesson or piece of advice you have learned along the way that you’d like to share with your fans?

Stevie Wonder said to me one time the entire music business is like a marathon. You have to pace yourself and run the course. Consistency is the most important thing to worry about. If you do one thing, do the best music you can and people will find you.