Interview: Anthony Hamilton – Singer and Songwriter

Posted: February 2, 2009 in interview, music
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Anthony Hamilton

Date of Interview: 02/02/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

For Anthony Hamilton, the road to success has been long and hard.  Without struggle, however, there is no progress.  Accordingly, the “bumps and bruises” Hamilton endured along his multi-label journey gave him insight into the “business”-side of the music business.  From the shelving of his debut album, in the midst of his move from Uptown Records to MCA, to his fateful transition from Soulife to So So Def, after twelve long years, Anthony Hamilton has finally realized “the point of it all.”

With seven GRAMMY nominations to his credit, Hamilton’s recent win for “Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance” solidifies his reputation as a dynamic—and significant—voice within the R&B genre.  Upon review of The Point of It All, Anthony Hamilton managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Al Green, fatherhood and his TASTE Foundation.

Clayton Perry: In retrospect, the beginning of your career could very well make use of the title from Lemony Snicket’s novels: “a series of unfortunate events.”  Along your six-label odyssey, what key life lesson did you learn?

Anthony Hamilton: I learned endurance, and how to not give up.  You have to believe in your dreams enough to follow them even when times get hard.

Clayton Perry: Is there a particular setback that you look back upon and see as a blessing in disguise?

Anthony Hamilton: There’s no one that deserves more credit than the other.  I think all of them are a blessing. They create character and personality. They also give texture to your life.

Clayton Perry: To date, you have released three studio albums: Comin’ from Where I’m From, Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ and The Point of It All. Two compilation albums—featuring unreleased tracks—have also been released: Soulife and Southern Comfort. What input did you have in the production of the compilation albums, and did you authorize their release?

Anthony Hamilton:Soulife was coming out whether I knew it or not. It was an attempt by the record company to make money off of the place I was in. Southern Comfort – I kind of got a whiff of that one. That was another last-minute-found-out thing. Same people, pretty much. Soulife – Atlantic Records allowed us to kind of get back in there. I was able to go to the studio and listen to it and approve some. I couldn’t really do any singing and all that stuff because of the contract but I was able to at least hear it. Southern Comfort was just a blatant, “We don’t care; we’re going to put it out.”

Clayton Perry: I was always curious about that – considering the awkward timing and promotion of those releases. The lead single off of your third official release, The Point of It All, is “Cool,” which features rapper David Banner. What is it about your persona that allows you to work well with artists outside of the R&B genre without the collaboration coming across as forced or contrived?

Anthony Hamilton: Me being real and people seeing my music as being real.  My fans can identify who I am, so it’s affirming who I am.

Clayton Perry: Over the years you have had several collaborations with Mark Batson. During the writing process, what chemistry do you have with him that you rarely have with anyone else?

Anthony Hamilton: He knows my music. He knows what I really want. I’ll come in and he’ll have five or six ideas that he knows I’ll love and we’ll go from there.

Clayton Perry: Out of all the songs you’ve collaborated on with Batson, what song has the most special place in your heart?

Anthony Hamilton: “Charlene” off of Comin’ From Where I’m From.  I didn’t have anything. He didn’t have to record with me. We did no songs before that record.

Clayton Perry: How did you hook up originally?

Anthony Hamilton: I met him through James Poyser. They had met doing Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, back in the day.

Clayton Perry: Both you and James have worked with D’Angelo in the past.  And back in 2000, you performed backup for D’Angelo’s “Voodoo” tour.  How did you end up landing that opportunity?

Anthony Hamilton: My first album was supposed to come out at the same time as D’Angelo’s, so we knew each other from the industry, played each other’s music, respected each other’s talent. He found out that my album wasn’t coming out and asked me to audition for the tour.  I was interested, auditioned and got the job.

Clayton Perry: What songs from the tour’s playset could you perform time and time again without getting tired of it?

Anthony Hamilton: “How Does It Feel,” “Lady,” and “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker!”

Clayton Perry: After doing a little bit of research, I found out that you have a songwriting credit on one of my favorite songs of all-time: “U Know What’s Up” by Donell Jones. When you hear that track, is there a specific memory that comes to mind from the early days?

Anthony Hamilton: Yeah, I was on my way to being broke. That song, I was just breaking up. That was the beginning of my Comin’ from Where I’m From album. I didn’t have any money. My relationship was broken up. My record deal had fallen through for the third time. But that was a little ray of sunshine that I got from that experience.

Clayton Perry: Recently, you received a nomination in the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance category for “You’ve Got the Love that I Need” featuring Al Green.  What life events led the two of you to collaborate with one another?

Anthony Hamilton: James Poyser was working on Lay it Down with Al Green and we had already worked together in the past.  He knew I was a fan of Al Green’s music and Al Green was a fan of my music.  They knew my voice and thought it made sense for us to work together.  You can’t take Al Green and work with any ol’ soul/R&B singer.

Clayton Perry: Having grown up listening to Al Green, when you look upon his legacy, what about Al Green do you most admire?

Anthony Hamilton: He has a great body of work.  He is an inspiration.  I grew up listening to him.  He sounded like someone I knew, was familiar with and that is what music is all about…connecting with people.

Clayton Perry: In your mind, which Al Green track reigns supreme?

Anthony Hamilton: “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”

Clayton Perry: During the 2008 BET Awards, you covered “Tired of Being Alone” in a tribute to Green’s career. What intrigues you most about that song?

Anthony Hamilton: I actually didn’t choose to sing that song.  If I had a choice I would have sang “How Can You Mend a Broken  Heart”

Clayton Perry: In the liner notes of The Point of It All, you wrote a special thanks to your father, who you are glad to have back in your life. What were the ups and downs of that relationship and how did that help you in your own relationship with your children?

Anthony Hamilton: He wasn’t around like he should have been. I remember him but he wasn’t there for me and what-not. Sometimes I had to keep asking him myself because he made me feel like he didn’t want to do it. Now, it showed me that a kid without a father there is a lonely spot in your life. After a while I learned to cover that up. I found love through an uncle or an older man from the church or wherever that gave me that father energy. It’s just allowed me to see that that’s not how I want my kids to feel.

Clayton Perry: One of my favorite movies happens to be Daddy’s Little Girls, largely because it’s one of the few movies that has a positive black father figure. On the soundtrack, you make a contribution on a song entitled “Struggle No More.” As a father of three kids, what do you think has been your ultimate struggle?

Anthony Hamilton: Being a father on the road and with my career, in the beginning it was hard. Now I have a home back in Charlotte and I can afford to fly them out and what-not. It’s gotten better. But just being able to give them quality time and being able to just go out and be a family and not be bombarded with people wanting autographs – that’s the hard part about being a father.

Clayton Perry: Before you made it big in the industry, you were a barber. Is there a particular skill set or a certain business practice that you learned back then that helped you navigate the music industry?

Anthony Hamilton: Being kind to people, being honest, doing what you said you’re going to do, respecting people – that’s about it.

Clayton Perry: Oftentimes, with a lot of artists, you never get to hear what they do behind the scenes. I want a little bit of information about your TASTE Foundation. What’s the organization’s central mission and how you came up with the name?

Anthony Hamilton: The source came from the source. God gives you ideas and you plant seeds. You just got to be in a place to hear it. TASTE means “Take a Step to Elevate” – basically, take people from where they are now to the next level. When it comes to eating, there’s a whole variety of options you have when it comes to food and dietary things. The urban communities should know about the alternatives to pork and beef. People don’t know about vegetarian sausages and turkey and chicken sausages that taste just as good. Or organic vegetables. My job is to learn as much as I can and put somebody up on that. We haven’t really had the chance to utilize that yet, but it’s coming.

For more information on Anthony Hamilton, visit his official website: http://www.anthonyhamilton.com/

For updates on Anthony Hamilton’s TASTE Foundation, visit: http://www.broadtexter.com/antham

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