January 16, 2008

Friends & Neighbors: Marcus Bijour Southern

Local singer looking for career in music business

By Victor Alvis

Dalton may not be a hotbed of hip hop music like nearby Atlanta, but that hasn’t kept one aspiring singer from working his way through local venues looking for his big break.

Marcus Bijour Southern says he is inspired as much by Southern rock and soul masters Prince and Luther Vandross as any urban music pioneers who have seen recent success. The son of a former lead singer in the U.S. Navy band and a Japanese linguist, Southern started singing at age 5 and recently began getting serious about pursuing a career in music.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve always wanted to try to sing professionally,” Southern said. “I have a couple of contacts in Atlanta and am trying to network with friends there. My goal is not to be famous; I’m not superficial. I just want to do it for God and then my daughter. I want to put Dalton on the map.”

Southern said his parents, Raymond Southern and Monica “Motoko” Hariba, met in Japan but divorced when he was young. His mother named him Bijour, inspired by the French word “bijou,” which means “jewel.” He says the demise of the young couple’s marriage caused friction. Yet Southern also became a young parent; his daughter, Chloe Chovonne Southern, now 3, was born before he graduated Northwest Whitfield High School.

“It was a struggle sometimes when I was growing up, but ironically, I became a father myself at age 18,” he said. “That led to me quitting high school. But it’s hard trying to set a path for someone looking up to you when your own destiny is unknown.”

Despite the initial shock of becoming a young father, Southern says he earned his General Equivalency Diploma and got a job to help support his daughter.

“The harder I tried to not be like my parents, the more I turned out like them. I got out of the high school world and jumped right into the adult world,” he said. “But to have my daughter look at me as Superman is the best. I’ve written songs about her love that’s untainted.”

Southern has worked in the local carpet industry, filling orders by measuring and cutting carpet rolls. Many of the themes in his music, he said, were inspired by overcoming obstacles. His songs include “Passing Through,” “After I’m Gone” and “Notebook.”

“I believe God has kept me here through everything for a reason. I thank him for holding my hand through it all, even when I thought he wasn’t there,” Southern said. “My daughter renewed my drive to keep going in life. My passion is music, second only to God and her.”

Southern credits his chorus teachers at Roan Street School and Dalton Junior High for helping improve his voice when he couldn’t afford professional lessons. He said after his parents’ divorce he began listening to a more “malicious” style of music, but now he keeps his daughter in mind. However, some of his music does include adult themes and language.

He said his father is now the biggest supporter of his musical endeavors, going so far as to work sound boards and help out however he can as a “roadie.”

“Now that I’m older and have a daughter who gets tickled to hear my music, I’ve become more balanced,” Southern said.

That’s a sentiment echoed by Southern’s longtime friend and now manager, Haven Andrews, who also represents Chatsworth-based singer Chasi Lynn Dodd, who has already self-produced a CD, “Silent Secrets,” which features covers of classics such as “Natural Woman” and “To Be With You.”

“A lot of people believe in this music,” said Andrews, a Navy veteran. “We’re new at this, but our philosophy is that you get out of life what you put in it.”