The Man Behind Soave
Let’s take a ride down memory lane…
It’s the summer of 1989. You’re driving in your Camaro, T-tops off, windows down, with your Benzi Box blasting your Freestyle music. You switch through the tunes, skip over Stevie B and Corina in search of your favorite song. That new song you heard and recorded off Hot 97. The song that defines Freestyle music. The one that will forever leave a mark on your psyche representing a time in your life when Cavaricci Jeans were all the rage. It’s the song you play for everyone you know, the one you listen to in your car, filled with friends, on your way to the club on a Saturday night. You all sing along because you’ve replayed it so much you’ve memorized the lyrics.
“As I sat by my window just thinking of you…”
That opening line makes you think of your ex, the one that broke your heart.
“The pain and deception, which broke my heart in two…”
The second line hits home and boy can you relate! By the time the chorus kicks in you’re singing your heart out along with SOAVE… Crying Over You.
Ever wonder, who is the man behind Soave? Well I have. I have been a fan of his since that song came out and for me it IS Freestyle music. No other song defines a genre quite like “Crying Over You.”
I had the opportunity to meet Soave years ago and my first impression of him was he is a well-dressed, well-mannered, handsome, charming man. His warm, friendly demeanor puts you at ease in his presence. He quickly went from Soave the celebrity, to Jeffrey Martinez, the down to earth gentleman that I now call my friend.
No one can sustain a twenty-five year career without a few ingredients and Soave has perfected the formula. First and foremost, he’s not a jerk! Humble and appreciative is what comes to mind when you speak with him. Even though Freestyle music fell by the wayside, Soave has never abandoned his fans. He has continued to perform his songs that have defined a generation, for many years after they were forgotten by mainstream radio. He has performed all over the country. Large venues such as Madison Square Garden, Mohegan Sun, PNC Arts Center, and Sovereign Bank Arena, and small venues and clubs all over New York City such as Emerald City, The Palladium, and Copacobana. Recently Soave, along with other Freestyle superstars, made history with their Freestyle Concert at the world famous Radio City Music Hall. It was so popular, tickets for the one night show sold out and another night had to be added. That proved that although Freestyle music isn’t mainstream anymore, it is alive in the hearts of its many fans.
They say that some people are just born to be a star. That sure is true about Soave. Born Jeffrey Ray Martinez on December 23, 1968 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Jeffrey moved around a lot as a child. His family finally settled in a town called New Windsor in Orange County New York. It was there where Jeffrey spent most of his life and attended high school. The entertainer bug caught him early on. His first live performance was at six years old when he sang acapella at a talent show in front of three hundred people.
Growing up, Jeffrey listened to Michael Jackson but his biggest musical influence was New Edition. They influenced him so much that he even started his own boy band and called it Second Edition. Jeffrey was lead vocals for the five-man group that performed at local talent and fashion shows. He loved performing and loved R &B music and later became a fan of acts such as Guy, Keith Sweat, and Al B. Sure.
In the summer of 1985, at just sixteen years old, Jeffrey worked at Great Adventure theme park in New Jersey. He performed in a BMX Bike Show and had to act, sing, dance, and entertain the audience. He loved the feeling he got while performing for the crowd and knew right then, it was something he had to do. He needed to be an entertainer.
It would take four years for Jeffrey to become the performer he dreamed of. During his journey, he took his career into his own hands and made his dreams a reality. Sometimes fate places us in the right place at the right time. When something is meant to be all the stars line up and this is true for how Jeffrey got his break in the industry.
After a break up with his girlfriend, Jeffrey was anxious to find a way to see her again. He heard she would be at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City and decided he had to go in hopes of seeing her. Little did he know that there would be thousands of people in attendance and needless to say, he never did get to see her there. But something happened that day that would change his life forever.
Promoters were handing out flyers to those who passed by for local nightclubs and after dismissing most of them, Jeffrey finally took a moment to read one. When he saw pictures and names of acts that would be performing that night at a club called Broadway 96, he thought he would go see the show. It so happened his father, Otis Hughely, worked security at that very club. Jeffrey knew even though he was underage, he would be a welcomed guest at the event. While at the club that night, he had the opportunity to meet the performers and even acquired some of their autographs.
It was on one of those flyers that an autograph was scribbled on that Jeffrey noticed the talent agency’s name that represented all the acts at the show. Sparkle Management. As luck would have it, there was even a phone number listed. Taking his future into his own hands, he called that number, spoke to George Vascones at Sparkle Management and announced, “I want to be a singer.”
I wish I could ask George what made him take Jeffrey seriously and give him a chance, but unfortunately he has since passed. We will never know, but we should all be thankful to him that he did. You see, George believed in Jeffrey and scored him a meeting with Owen Soba of Micmac Records. During his audition, Owen handed him a poem an ex girlfriend had written. He told Jeffrey, “Sing this.” When he did, he gave that poem life, singing it in a way only he could. In that moment Soave was born. In two weeks, at eighteen years old, he had a contract. Can you guess what the name of that poem was? “Crying Over You.”
The question I’m sure most fans have pondered is how did Jeffrey come up with the name Soave. In person you would know right away how fitting that name really is. Soave means smooth, and cool. Jeffrey certainly fits both descriptions. At first, he had every intention of using his real name. Management told him he needed a stage name. All the Latin artists had one. It was unheard of to have a name like Martinez on the mainstream, popular radio stations. It took nearly four days, and numerous names on scraps of papers for him to decide on Soave. It was one of the first names he came up with and the one he kept going back to. “It just felt right,” he says.
As proof that Jeffrey was on the right path, headed for stardom, he found out his first performance as Soave was going to be at Broadway 96. He was only 19 years old, but was confident and excited for his first show. It wasn’t the dance club atmosphere he expected. The patrons were seated at tables away from the stage. He says he had all his moves planned out for that performance and one of those included throwing a rose out into the crowd. Well, he did keep to the plan but watched as the lonely rose fell slowly to the floor with no one to catch it. That performance didn’t stifle his ambition. Some might have taken that as a metaphor and given up right then, but not Soave.
Once “Crying Over You” hit the airwaves and the single was released, it was an instant hit and has become a Freestyle classic. Now that doesn’t mean he didn’t have any obstacles during the rise to celebrity. Living far away from the hub of the Freestyle scene often made it difficult for Jeffrey to maintain his career. Most of the other Freestyle singers lived in the city, and worked together. They all formed a bond, one that Soave wasn’t initially a part of. They all were Puerto Rican, including Soave, but he was the only one who didn’t speak the language. He felt like an outsider, and it took him awhile to break into their clique. Once he did, he created life long friendships. Those friendship are still strong today and they all still tour together doing shows all over the country.
To this day there isn’t a single Soave performance that doesn’t have everyone on their feet dancing and singing to his songs. Let’s not forget also, how every woman in the room scrambles to get a closer view or maybe even a handshake from the debonair entertainer. Yes, as you would imagine, Soave has a huge fan base and the ladies love him. He loves his fans too, but Jeffrey is a family man. Married to his lovely and supportive wife for eighteen years, they have four beautiful children ages sixteen, fifteen, ten, and nine. He is a wonderful husband and father. He’s never quit his day job (currently the sales manager at a highly lucrative BMW dealership in New York) and has supported his wife and children and given them a comfortable life in the suburbs of New York City. But Soave isn’t done reaching his goals and isn’t ready to retire as a performer anytime soon. He is fortunate to have a wife who believes in him and stands by his side as he follows his dreams.
Jeffrey has long been a lover of R & B, Hip Hop, and Dance/Pop music. Free to pursue the genre that he loves and is closest to his heart, Jeffrey plans on pursuing a career in those genres. I asked him who he listens to and what performers influence him now, and I wasn’t surprised to hear him reply, “Robin Thicke, and Justin Timberlake.” Their music is what he would like to emulate as he pens the lyrics to his new songs. Lucky for us, we will be treated to Soave’s talent once again with new music for the first time since the early nineties. Soave plans to release a new single in July 2013 and follow that up with a video in August 2013 and EP by the end of the year under his own label, GoSoave.
Jeffrey is determined to do it right this time. As a young kid, his dreams and aspirations got in the way of what should’ve been a career filled with numerous albums, and number one hits. After conflicts with his label, some bad decisions and deals gone awry, he found his name, which once brought about his biggest success, also brought about his biggest failure.
Today, he is proud of the name Soave and vows that this time it will be different. He has learned to accept that Soave the artist isn’t a separate person from Jeffrey Martinez the man. The two are synonymous. He has embraced that without one, there couldn’t be the other.
During our last conversation I asked Soave what he wanted to be known for. What legacy did he want to leave behind? What did he hope people would say about him when he was gone? He answered simply, “That I was a class act.”
There are no doubts that he has already left that impression on everyone, but there is still so much greatness to come in his future. He deserves to be in the music industry, he deserves all the success he has already achieved. I look forward to what he will accomplish next. His future is bright and you can bet I, along with the rest of his fans, will support him in this next chapter in his career. We will be cheering him on every step of the way.