Music transcends and evolves throughout time—it touches our souls in ways that are indescribable. The various genres are limitless and often categorizes the music as a way for marketing heads to target their audiences but when most of us hear a great voice or musician—our spirit is immediately drawn to it—no matter what category it’s in.
Anthony Hamilton is a singer and songwriter whose voice is timeless. Over the last two decades he’s built a solid reputation as a prolific singer and songwriter. A native of North Carolina, his Soulful voice is influenced by the rich traditions of Southern Gospel and foot stomping hymns that are often compared to music legends like Al Green, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway as well as his male back-up vocalists The Hamiltones—a modern day version of The Mighty Clouds of Joy.
In the mid-1990’s, with several record labels under his belt and touring with D’Angelo as a background vocalist, he was also working on his music. In 2003, he made impact with “Charlene” on his second album Comin’ From Where I’m From –later certified platinum in 2004. Other studio albums followed including Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ and Southern Comfort—Hamilton signed with Arista Records and debuted with his fourth album Point of It All in 2008.
His voice was also heard on the song “Freedom” from the soundtrack album for the Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained with indie artist, Elayna Boyton.
The Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter graced us with Back to Love and his celebrated Christmas album, Home For the Holidays on RCA Records released in 2014.
Recently, the label treated fans with another stellar project, What I’m Feelin’ on March 25—launching a 30-city concert tour along with Fantasia that will carry into this summer. The lead single, “Amen” written by Hamilton and co-produced by Salaam Remi and James Poyser reveals the poignant honesty and appreciation of a woman’s attributes. This message in his music can also contribute to his large female following and strength across Urban AC radio formats.
The Chicago Defender shares a Q&A interview with Anthony Hamilton as he breaks down his journey in music, life and love.
People love your music and it’s compared to the Soul greats like Otis Redding, Al Green and even Eddie Levert—who were some of your musical influences growing up?
There was a lot of Natalie Cole and Andre Crouch played in my house while growing up. Bill Withers and Otis Redding both provided a blueprint for bringing raw emotion into my music. I also draw from all types of genres, especially Country and Blues, which both tap into that vulnerability that allow you to let go.
How much does your faith play into how you compose, produce and deliver a song?
I’ve always been a man of great faith having grown up in the church. Each and every day, I acknowledge that my voice is a gift that I’ve got to nurture and protect. When working on new music, I have faith that I’ll be guided. I have faith that whatever I’m feelin’ will shine through, especially because I know so many of us go through the same things in life.
As a successful musician and recording artist, what were some of the challenges in building your career in an ever-changing music business?
I don’t like to look at them as “challenges” but rather as “opportunities.” Life in general is about shifts and changes so I apply it to my music. I’m ready for whatever. As an artist, you gotta always be conscious about staying true to your creativity.
What are the changes that you see today in music versus when you first came out?
Today, you have more direct interaction with your fans thanks to social media. It gives you an immediate response of how they feel about you and your music.
Walk us through the new project, “What I’m Feelin”—what are some of the key songs that resonate with you as you worked in the studio? By the way, you killed it on “Amen”.
What I’m Feelin’ was a chance for me to express such a wide range of emotions. I went through a divorce and allowed that moment to really inspire me. “Walk in My Shoes” deals with that period of my life. But the project isn’t just about pain. I’m “Grateful” to know that love still exists. It also deals with building love back up again.
Your music often reflects the love, pain and healing process from a male perspective but also carries a message to women. It is the flipside of what is being produced and heard on the radio formats—how important is to show a balance to younger listeners—especially young males?
I create music for anyone who’s ever been in love or ever lost love. I speak about the fear that men have about love and the power that women have to influence love. I also think about the heartbreak that women endure because of men who are afraid to be vulnerable. I believe that’s my mission. Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves and that’s not for me to judge.
Where were you when you heard your first Prince song?
I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina and was running around at a family reunion at a cookout and Little Red Corvette came on. I knew then that it was something special, unique. Sonically, from there it had my attention.
You’ve been to Chicago several times and have a solid fan base here—what sticks out for you every time you visit?
Chicago is one of those cities that reminds me of New York and London but has its own unique way of offering its own beauty. The food, the dialect, and we definitely can’t forget about the “Two Step.”
Who are your favorite Chicago natives in music and sports?
Common is definitely a favorite. Although he is not from Chicago, the legacy that Michael Jordan left behind is a favorite. There are great voices like Syleena Johnson.
Quick ‘Pick’ Questions:
Favorite Female vocalist?
It’s kinda hard to choose one vocalist when you have so many. You have the greats like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion. As far as today, you’ve got singer like Fantasia.
Most memorable Gospel hymn?
The Winans “The Question Is” has always been dear to me. It’s a song that deals with my relationship and my faith in my God and the desire to never leave Him.
Dirtiest song you’ve heard and had on repeat?
I’m a big Jodeci fan. Gotta have “Freekin’ You” on repeat.
I like West Indian food. I love curry and stewed anything with rice, peas, and Plantain.
Best all-time song lyric from an artist?
“Daredevil Baby” by Van Hunt has some of the greatest lyrics. Here’s one that stands out:
The clown is really just a man who
Once dared to make his dreams come true;
The make-up hides the damage from the crash and burn
When he told her he loved her
His collaborations from Tupac, Nappy Roots, Nas, Carlos Santana, and Jill Scott showcases his vast diversity in music. In 2009, his duet with Al Green earned him a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance on “You’ve Got The Love I Need”.
Anthony Hamilton returns live in concert to Chicago’s Arie Crown Theater on June 1. If you don’t catch him in the windy city—make sure you check his website for other cities. It is a show you don’t want to miss!
Enjoy music from Anthony Hamilton and the latest youtube clip from The Hamiltones’ take on Birdman’s ‘Respeck’ message to The Breakfast Club.
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