Leon Marcus Michels (born 1982) is an American music producer, record executive, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist best known as the leader of the eclectic soul project El Michels Affair and co-founder of Truth & Soul Records and Big Crown Records.[1] He is a founding member of soul and funk bands Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Menahan Street Band, and Lee Fields & The Expressions, and has played with Charles Bradley as well as Wu-Tang Clan. A frequent collaborator of Dan Auerbach, Michels was a touring member of The Black Keys and co-founded The Arcs. As a producer, Michels has produced records for artists such as Lee Fields, Norah Jones, Clairo, Chicano Batman, Nicole Wray, and Hanni El Khatib.

Leon Michels
Birth nameLeon Marcus Michels
Also known as
  • El Michels
  • Truth & Soul
Born1982 (age 41–42)
New York, New York, U.S.
Instrument(s)
Years active1999–present
Labels
Member of
Formerly of
Websiteelmichelsaffair.com

History

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Michels' professional career began as a teenager in the late 1990s. He got his start playing in the high school funk band The Mighty Imperials with Thomas Brenneck, Nick Movshon, Sean Solomon, and Homer Steinweiss, which soon found a home at the small Desco Records label, the precursor to Soul Fire and Daptone Records.[2] At age sixteen, Michels and Steinweiss joined Desco's house band The Soul Providers and toured internationally as part of Sharon Jones' band.[3]

When Desco folded in 1999, The Mighty Imperials became the house band for Phillip Lehman's Soul Fire Records. With Movshon and Lehman, he produced Lee Fields' 2002 record Problems, beginning a decades-long relationship with Fields. When Lehman decided to leave the music industry in 2003, he helped Michels found retro-soul label Truth & Soul Records with DJ "Jeff Dynamite" Silverman. Truth & Soul was active from 2004 until 2016 as both a label and production team.[4][5] Outside of producing and releasing Lee Fields' albums, Truth & Soul is best known for producing Aloe Blacc's Good Things which contained the single "I Need a Dollar."

During the time of founding Truth & Soul, Michels left Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, with whom he had toured with for seven years and released two studio albums, and began leading his own project, El Michels Affair. El Michels Affair released its debut album, and Truth & Soul's first release, in 2005. El Michaels Affair was soon recruited to be the backing band for members of Wu-Tang Clan.[6] In 2007, Michels helped found the Thomas Brenneck-led Menahan Street Band with whom he has released three albums as well as four albums with Charles Bradley.[7]

In 2009, Michels produced the first Lee Field & The Expressions' album My World. The album was well-received and got the attention of The Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, who recruited Michels and Movshon to tour with the band. He worked with Auerbach as a songwriter and session musician for a few years before co-founding The Arcs.[6][8]

Following the closure of Truth & Soul in 2016, Michels co-founded Big Crown Records with T&S label manager Danny Akalapse.[9] Since then, he has produced a majority of the albums from the label's roster, including Lee Fields, Lady Wray, Paul & The Tall Trees, Brainstory, and Liam Bailey. Michels has also produced records for Kali Uchis, The Carters, Hanni El Khatib, Chicano Batman, Marco Benevento, and Don Toliver.[6]

A native New Yorker, Michels now lives in Upstate NY.[3] He maintains two recording studios under the name The Diamond Mine, one in Upstate NY and one in Long Island City with Thomas Brenneck, Nick Movshon, and Homer Steinweiss.[9]

Discography

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With The Mighty Imperials

  • Thunder Chicken (1999; 2001)

With Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

With Lee Fields & The Expressions

  • Problems (2002)
  • My World (2009)
  • Faithful Man (2012)
  • Emma Jean (2014)
  • Special Night (2016)
  • It Rains Love (2019)
  • Big Crown Vaults Vol. 1 (2020)

With El Michels Affair

  • Sounding Out The City (2005)
  • Walk On By (A Tribute To Isaac Hayes) EP (2009)
  • Enter The 37th Chamber (2010)
  • Loose Change EP (2014)
  • Return To The 37th Chamber (2016)
  • Adult Themes (2020)
  • Yeti Season (2021)
  • Ekundayo Inversions with Liam Bailey (2021)
  • Glorious Game with Black Thought (2023)

With Menahan Street Band

With The Fabulous Three

  • The Best Of The Fabulous Three (2014)

With The Arcs

With The Olympians

  • The Olympians (2016)

Production discography

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Albums

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In addition to the records Michels has produced as El Michels Affair, he has produced:[10][11]

Singles

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Other tracks produced include:

As sampled artist:

References

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  1. ^ "How Big Crown Records Is Creating More Than the Retro-Soul Revival". Observer. 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  2. ^ "The Mighty Imperials | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  3. ^ a b fleamarketfunk (2020-07-30). "Big Ups With Leon Michels". Flea Market Funk. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  4. ^ "Soul Fire". www.propermusic.com. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  5. ^ "Truth and Soul | WHO?MAG". Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  6. ^ a b c "El Michels Affair". Big Crown Records. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  7. ^ "Leon Michels, El Michels Affair,Enter The 37th Chamber". Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  8. ^ "The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach Announces New Album With The Arcs". NPR.org. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  9. ^ a b "How Big Crown Records Is Creating More Than the Retro-Soul Revival". Observer. 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  10. ^ "Leon Michels | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  11. ^ "Leon Michels". Discogs. Retrieved 2021-03-11.