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Rudy Currence plays more gigs in a day than you go to in a week

If you consider Rudy Currence strictly an R&B artist, you're way off the mark. His music runs the rock ´n' soul gamut, including touches of gospel, jazz, blues, funk, folk, pop and classical. It has crossover written all over it, although he still seems to be searching for consistency and an identity of his own - something listeners can readily latch onto as Rudy Currence music. His self-released CD, More Than You'll Ever Know, is an eclectic mix that runs from old-style soul to funky dance grooves, doo-wop to hip-hop. "I consider myself a singer/songwriter," says Currence, 25, who's been making music ever since he stood up to sing in the Rock Hill church where his father served as pastor. "I was taking piano lessons since I was six. Played in a jazz band, too. I play jazz piano. In high school, we were all-state in South Carolina. I play guitar as well."

Keyboards may have given him his sense of melody, but the guitar, Currence says, "altered my sound — in a good way. It helped simplify my songwriting. In mainstream pop, simplicity matters."

More Than You'll Ever Know is far too eclectic and experimental to be mainstream, but Currence has found some success in the mainstream arena. One of his songs was used in the movie The Bourne Identity, and two others were recorded by R&B singer Mya for her 2003 smash, Moodring. Apparently, he and Mya got along well. "I'm working on her next project, for her forthcoming album," he says.

Currence's own music hinges on his ear for great hooks — and a voice that's versatile, resonant, strong and expressive. He's been compared to Prince, Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway, but Currence is no clone. He's also not a cynical, manipulative, whatever-sells type of musician. In fact, after spending some time away from home, he chose to move back to the Carolinas, where his musical roots are strong.

"Rock Hill is home for me. It's where I was born and raised," Currence says. "I attended Furman (University), in Greenville. Their music program was strict and disciplined — very much classical. I finished a little early, in about three and a half years."

He puts the same obsessive energy into his performing schedule. Currence plays regularly in the Charlotte area, and has been known to do as many as three shows in one day. This week, he performs two shows, a Thursday gig at the Evening Muse and a Saturday performance at the Afro-American Culture Center. His shows range from solo acoustic ("I play college campuses, so I often do solo coffeehouse sets") to full-frontal, full-throttle, plugged-in rock. "For some venues, like Charlotte clubs and showcases, I play with my band," he says.

That band includes his brother, Patrick, on drums, who co-produced More Than You'll Ever Know. "We also have a female bass player — she's awesome — and a keyboard player, which frees me up to jump off the keys and into the audience," Currence says. "I also have three singers as backup. But that all varies. For the Muse set, I'll probably have a subset of the band. Definitely some accompaniment. I'm still experimenting on sounds."

Experimenting is what Currence does best. He considers "Superstar," a fuzzy, lilting, Funkadelic-style rocker from his CD, to be an anthem of sorts. The song, he says, encourages people to "believe in themselves, love themselves, no matter what, even if no one else does."

That's something he's been telling himself for a long time. "I strive to innovate," he says. "I want to be a leader. I want to lead people. I want to lead to good things. As an artist, I have a responsibility to the public and I want to put out something positive."

Make a date with Rudy!

¨ Thursday, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. 8:30pm. $6. 704-376-3737.

¨ Saturday, Afro-American Cultural Center, 401 N Myers St. 8pm. $20 at door; $15 in advance. ($15/$10 for members.) 704-374-1565.

¨ Saturday, June 18, Juneteenth Festival, Independence Park. 6pm. Free. 704-376-6160.

¨ Saturday, June 25, Discovery Place, 301 N. Tryon St. (Details TBA)

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