Published on September 7th, 2022 | by MuzikScribe


Men at Large: God’s Timing


First things first, please introduce for me the members of Men at Large…

Jason Champion and David Tolliver.

Let’s hop right into this – looming-ly overdue – new LP, Love Benefits — Conceptually, what does this title represent both to and for you all?

To me, Love Benefits represents the notion that Love should not be one sided anymore. Somewhere along the way people adopted this terrible theory of Happy Wife / Happy Life. But with that comes the idea that the wife’s happiness is above all else. Love is give and take, push and pull, ying and yang, etcetera. Therefore, it should be Happy Spouse / Happy House.

How then does Love Benefits either differ and / or compare to previous Men at Large efforts?

We believe that it’s similar in the sense that we still captured that vintage Men@Large sound with all of its harmonies and soulful vocals. Where it’s different is…our producer, JayShawan Champion, was able to give us a very relevant and today sound that will catch the ear of this new young audience. We kept our core fans happy, but managed to get some new fans.

Love Benefits is a SRG-ILS Group project — What particular string of events actually led up to this inking?

Well, Dave hosts a room on Clubhouse every Tuesday at 9pm where he finds new and upcoming talent. The prize is $1000 and a chance to record a single. Chance would have it that there was a gentleman in the room that worked for SRG. During the contest, Dave’s DJ would play some of the new Men@Large album and this guy was blown away. One thing led to another and before you know it we were having a meeting with all the execs at SRG. The rest is as you say…history.

Love Benefits is the first Men at Large release in over two and a half decades — Why such a lengthy delay between records?

Dave and I never thought we’d actually get back together. We had been on very different paths up to that point. I left because I knew God had called me to something else outside the R&B world. I didn’t know I would become a Grammy nominated solo artist, but GOD DID! LOL!! But one day Dave and I decided to go live on Facebook on his show. It was supposed to be a 30 minute sort of tell all about where we’d been and what we’d been doing. One thing led to another and we announced that after much thought we were returning to do our 3rd studio album as the original group! We ended up being on there for almost 3 hours. Fans were tuned in and asking questions.

What was it about now – in 2022 specifically – that prompted you all to finally return to form?

It was just timing! Really no more and no less. God aligned everything just right. It was so clear to me that now was the time and that He had given me the green light to go back.

In having said that, what all had / have you all been up to – both personally and professionally speaking – during this lengthy group hiatus?

Dave was busy! He continued the Men @ Large legacy with a gentleman we met in our travels. Gemini Porter {R.I.P.} became the new member in 1997 and he and Dave went on to have some decent success with two more albums. In 2014, they had a smash hit titled “Date Night” that shot up the charts but didn’t have the right people backing it. Dave had also recorded several solo artists under the Southern Soul moniker and did very well. While I went on to sing and tour with Kirk Franklin, Deitrick Haddon, Canton Jones, etcetera. Then in 2008, I became a solo artist on EMI Records. I was nominated for Best Gospel / R&B Album at the Grammys in 2009. So we were super busy!

Reflecting, tell me your whole inception into music — When did you all first become interested in it? And, how did it all begin for Men at Large?

Both of us grew up in church and had family that sang as well, so…music was always prevalent in some way. But in 1983, David took me to a concert that featured New Edition and I was HOOKED! He, too, had that same feeling. Music was all around us and we started a singing group called BBT [Big But Talented]. We met the late great Gerald LeVert in 1986 at a housewarming party – that we had NO business being at – and he promised to put us on. Needless to say that didn’t happen, but 4 years later a chance encounter between him and Dave garnered us another audience with him and then the next day with his dad, the legendary Eddie LeVert of The Mighty O’Jay’s, he signed us that day!

Now you all are natives of Cleveland, Ohio, correct? So growing up in ‘The Forest City,’ who all did / do you all consider to be your strongest musical influences?

Yes, born and raised in Cleveland! For me, it was Donny Hathaway, Reverend James Moore, my dad Elder Leonard Champion, John P. Kee, Nat King Cole and many others. For Dave, it was John P. Kee, James Moore, Skip Martin of The Dazz Band – another Cleveland legendary group – and many others.

At what point in time did you all even opt to pursue music on a professional basis?

In 1990, I believe, after seeing Gerald again is when we knew we were onto something. It had always been a lifelong dream, but now it was going to be a reality.

With that being said, how do you all classify your overall sound and / or style?

We are smooth, a lil edge and soulful, with mature adult content. We talk a lot about love and relationships.

When you all sit down to pen your lyrics where do you all draw your inspiration(s) from?

Pretty much our life experiences. Our little brother and producer, JayShawn Champion, does most of the heavy lifting in the writing department, but we do contribute quite a bit. Whatever is going on in our lives or in the world is what we pull from.

What particular string of events actually led to y’all’s initial linking up with the late, great Gerald LeVert and later signing with East West Records?

Dave used to dance, believe it or not, for a very famous Hip Hop group in the city of Cleveland, Johnny O, and where they rehearsed was the same place Gerald’s studio was. One day on Gerald’s way in, Dave was on his way out and Gerald said, “hey!! I remember you.” He then asked, “where’s your partner in crime I met a few years back?” Dave told him. And his reply was, “I wanna start a singing group consisting of 3 to 4 guys that can sing, dance and have a good overall look and I’d love for you two to be in it!” Dave called me up and we went to audition for him, and then the next day his dad.

Switching gears here, what exactly do you all want people to get from your music?

We want people to walk away inspired most of all. Inspired to LOVE again, try love, give love, welcome love. We want people to have hope again. We desire for people to rethink their behaviors when it comes to how they treat their person. How they talk to them and how they care for them. We desire for the music to touch places in your heart and soul that may have been dead and dormant because life tried to beat the love out of them. To awaken it so to speak!!!

If you all could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

For me, it would be Nat King Cole, Donny Hathaway, Gregory Porter…because of their smooth approach and the way they phrase their songs. I love the orchestration of those artists. I’d also love to work with Joe, Charlie Wilson and Babyface. I believe that our voices would really compliment each other. Not to mention Babyface writes some amazing songs. Dave would love to work with Joe, Lil Baby, Mobb Deep, Luther Vandross and many others. He is a huge Hip Hop guy, so with his vocals and their flow…match made in heaven.

If you all could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?

We would love to play Wembly. Why…’cause it’s Wembly! Lol! The prestige, the history and that many fans would be insane. We’d also love to play our hometown baseball stadium in Cleveland. That would be awesome to entertain that many of our hometown fans at one time!!

In terms of longevity, what do you all feel it is that will continue to sustain you in this grueling industry?

We must be consistent with putting out QUALITY content. We have to put more albums out more frequently. We have to really work our social media platforms heavy. That’s just (the) way the game is played these days! But as long as we do that and continue to stay visible and tour on this road, we will be fine.

Do you all have any other outside / additional future aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?

I would love to get back on the radio as a host of my own show where I talk about life, love, relationships and how we can do better with loving each other. This world is so me driven. Not many want to make the sacrifices needed to have that winning love. That God kind of love that goes way beyond the surface!! I’d also love to do some acting in movies or TV shows. Dave would love to get back in syndication with his radio show, Party & Bullshit, as well do his LONG OVERDUE Hip Hop album.

On a more serious note, are you all happy with the current state of R&B?

We realize it’s not where it once was. In the ‘90’s it was absolutely CRAZY! You had some ridiculously good music being put out then. We aren’t back there yet, but we are encouraged with where it’s going with people like Tank, Joe, Ruff Endz, Sevyn Streeter, Teyana Taylor, etcetera…there’s some good music out there. It’s just not being heard as much as this new millennial stuff.

To date, what has been your biggest career moment(s), at least thus far anyway?

The Grammy nod for me and being the entertainment for Bill Clinton when he was running for President. For Dave, it would have to be being considered for the Grammy on three different occasions.

Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you all see yourselves?

Prayerfully, somewhere preaching and teaching God’s word. Helping people mend their broken relationships and find peace in their broken hearts and souls. And still making great music!!! Dave wants to still make great music, but also wants to help his daughter become the next sensation. She’s an incredible artist at just 16.

As for the immediate, what’s next for Men at Large?

We are about to start working on a new album to follow up to Love Benefits. We are also gearing up for some international touring overseas!

Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?

No, you had some really great questions! The only thing I can think of is including where people can find us on social media. On Instagram it’s @themenatlarge @jasonlchampion @davementatlarge on FB it’s @thementatlarge @davetolliver @JasonChampion

Any “closing” thought(s) for our readers?

Thank you for the almost 30 years of rocking with us and supporting us! We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you all. From the bottom of our heart, we say THANK YOU!!!! Go download that new Love Benefits album if you haven’t already.

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