GFM Spotlight Interview: Christopher Williams Talks New Music & Finding His Niche in Today’s Industry

christopher-williams-2015-e1447200548122

christopher williams 2015

Grown Folks Music caught up with one of the definitive masculine voices in R&B in the late ’80s and early ’90s– Mr. Christopher Williams. He graciously chopped it up with us about returning to recording after a long hiatus and carving out a new lane for himself as a veteran artist in a new music climate. Read below and enjoy.

GFM: Let’s talk about the return to recording. Do you feel like a new artist in some ways because the musical landscape has changed and the industry has changed so much since you last recorded in 2001?

Christopher Williams:I definitely feel like a new artist. It’s like the flip side of being a new artist. I have to kind of will myself to be thankful for the openness and the unknown and the new. But then there’s a part of me that has 25 years of experience that knows the players and pretty much the game has changed, but a lot of the players have just grown up. Meeting some of the new people in the business is also a lot of fun. [There are] new media outlets, new radio, new everything. So it is [new] in a sense, but I have a calmer and more educated demeanor. It’s new to me, but I feel more calm. I feel more calculated as to where I’m trying to go and what I’m trying to do. Obviously, you’re hopeful and prayerful that people will receive you inside and outside of the business again and that they’ll remember you, and [with] those who don’t remember you– you’re hoping you can re-introduce yourself to new audiences and new experiences.

GFM: You mentioned that there are new media outlets now. Let’s talk about that for a second– not necessarily just the new media outlets– but the new way of promoting your project or music and/or interacting with the fans. I’m speaking specifically of social media. Talk about what you are doing to embrace that or use that as a tool in this next chapter as an artist.

Christopher Williams: It’s really a good advantage for me because in the ’90s when we came out I remember me, Bobby Brown, New Edition and a couple of other guys from the ’90s used to talk about how it [the industry] was transforming. We were kind of there in the middle when rap was taking another form and you had a lot of rap moguls coming out in the ’90s like Jermaine Dupri and other people. It started taking a different shape then and us guys, especially me, being new and not having the catalogue like Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat or Johnny Gill, were trying to figure out, ‘Well man, where will land in it?’ Now, with being able to reach out and touch people personally [we] understand that you can go find out and identify through analysis, data and some traditional ways where your fans really are. So, it’s kind of an advantage. I call it the “modern Motown days”. I really believe that’s the time we’re in. People really want again something organic and home grown, but they want it to look as if they can buy it in Nordstrom or Bloomingdales, or Saks or Barney’s if you know what I mean. Today people want the personal touch, but they want it look professional– like it’s hanging on a rack– so that’s the advantage for artists today. Especially me… who has been around the block a few times.

GFM: When you were ready to return to recording were you met with challenges? Who did you call? Was there a group of people that as soon as they got the call were responsive and supportive?

Christopher Williams: Thankfully [it’s] the people that I’m working with– my company and my team that is helping reach these goals and getting me out there. That was really humbling because everyone was really open and receptive. As a new company and me coming as an indie brand having some juice left in my brand, but having a lot of work to rebuild the brand in today’s climate, it was really humbling that they even remembered me and knew who I was. These were people that I started seeing spawn when I was on my way in decline in ’95/’96 and coming out of a record deal. I don’t want to say decline… but coming out of the industry as we knew it then. To see these people 10-15 years later emerging into all these amazing projects and for them to reach back out to me and say, ‘Hey I still get it. I think you can do it. Charlie Wilson did it, El [DeBarge] was about to do it. We definitely feel like you can carve your own niche in music today.’ Sort of how Maxwell, Kem and Charlie Wilson [did]… even some of the younger guys that I like… like Joe.

GFM: Let’s talk about the new music. The new single [is] “Too Late”, from a forthcoming album called Simply Christopher.

Christopher Williams: “Too Late is the continuing of Christopher talking about love. Sometimes in life I think at this stage, I tend to want to get my mental liberated and not over analyze things or overthink things too much. We’re grown now. We know there’s gonna be challenges. There’s gonna be falls and there’s gonna be climbs. So, just try to get yourself in a really balanced emotional and spiritual place and just try to be free and let things flow. I think a lot of times in love people are looking for the perfect thing and that’s probably never gonna happen. Even in perfect love there is give and take. “Too Late” is a song that says, ‘Let it go. Be free. Why be so cautious when everything you want is in your face?’ Spend time speaking those things, instead of, ‘I’ve always got a bad man, or I always get a girl that’s jacked up.’ Maybe speak some positive things before it’s too late. That’s really what this whole record is about. It is, again as I said, a clear indicator that Christopher Williams is trying to create a new musical lane for himself– a frequency somewhere between what is now and what was then. I’m hoping that we’ve accomplished that.

GFM: What can we expect from the album? [Is it] more carving out a new pocket where you can sit? [Are there] ballads, up-tempo [songs]? Who’s producing and who’s writing?

Christopher Williams: Definitely a full blend of uptempo, mid tempo and ballads. Being a balladeer, I definitely know that when we do release that first ballad it’s gotta be amazing. Some of the ballads that I’ve loved in the last few years have inspired me. Some of Adele’s music and I really dug “All Of Me” [by John Legend]. So, there’s been a lot of music in the last few years since I’ve started doing this to inspire me. I definitely want to have a good blend. We’ve got a few remixes– songs produced by Avion and G. Flowers who worked Tyrese and Alicia Keys before and Da Interns, who have worked with Chris Brown and Rihanna. I got a blend of young producers and young and grown writers to fuse together and we all pitched in. I feel like really love the record. I’m not going to lie.

One of the reasons why I kept jump starting and dry starting… you asked about challenges earlier… was (1) economically– just finding the right financial people to invest in my dream and let me be free to do what I felt like we needed to do to win, and (2) trying to find that place– honestly, I had listened to artists who had come out in my era and they still sounded and look great, but I was like, ‘These records kind of sound like from that era, and they’re probably not as good as the ones that hit for them in that era.’ I said I wanted to take my time since I have waited so long. I want to come out and find something that makes people say, ‘This doesn’t really sound like Chris.’ It doesn’t sound old and it doesn’t sound new. It’s gonna be a work in progress to build this new artist and this new sound and everybody’s got all hands on deck. We’re really excited. We’ve gotten a chance to blend with new and old people. I did a couple of records with 9th Wonder, who did Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey and he’s also done many, many rappers from Rick Ross and T.I., so it’s really an interesting fusion of music that I’ve compiled this time.

We also have a Christmas record. The single is “Silent Night”, and it’s a new, modern rendition that fuses some of the sensibility of how Nat King Cole used to approach records but with the frequency of how we feel now. We’re also getting back to a lot of organic stuff. We’re gonna do a lot of stuff where we come into your area, go to radio, plug guitars in and really just do everything from “Dreamin” to the new stuff unplugged. Give people the sense that although I’m new, we’re gonna keep it traditional and plug in instruments and sing and play beautiful music for people and try to get them to connect.

GFM: What you’ve said is so in tune with what we try to promote here at Grown Folks Music– to be current, but to find a lane between missing the “good old days” and always moving forward– yet not leaving the musicianship and integrity behind. So, you have me excited and intrigued about what you’re going to do.

GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?

Christopher Williams: Something that, to me, makes you feel good. You don’t have to be grown to experience to it. [Sings] “Midnight Train To Georgia”, I didn’t really know what Gladys [Knight] was talking about, but it felt so good inside my body once it would hit my ears. I believe grown folks music edifies you. It teaches you. I learned about love through Marvin [Gaye], Teddy [Pendergrass], Luther [Vandross] and Stevie Wonder. Just listening to amazing lyrics from all different sides. I’d listen to Teddy and I’d be like, ‘Okay, this is how I wanna date a chick.’ I’d listen to Marvin and I’d be like, ‘This is how I wanna swoon a chick. This is how I wanna make her feel romance.’ Stevie Wonder was like, ‘This is how I wanna talk to a woman.’ Luther Vandross was like, ‘This is how I wanna perform for a woman.’ I would get lessons. Music was my world. It surrounded me. Music was like my friend so that’s a very encompassing question for me. Grown Folks Music… I guess my answer would be that it’s so many good things to my body.

Christopher Williams’ new single, “Too Late” is out now! Get it at iTunes.

Connect with Christopher Williams

On Facebook
On Twitter
On Instagram`

Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.

#NewMusic: Christopher Williams: “Too Late”

christopher-williams-2015-e1447200548122

Growns, Christopher Williams, who is one of our favorite R&B male crooners is back with “Too Late”– his first new record in many years. We understand that this is an introduction for many listeners (if the songs makes it to radio… but that’s an editorial for another time) so it fits in nicely in the current musical atmosphere. It doesn’t sound dated, but it doesn’t try too hard either. However the initiated, the Growns if you will, are sorely missing strong male vocalists in R&B, so we were hoping for a ballad. Even though Mr. Williams has been off the music scene for a while, the pipes are untouched and we wanna hear him belt out a tune. But baby steps Growns… baby steps. Welcome back Christopher Williams.

CONNECT WITH CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS:

Facebook: /ChristopherWilliamsOfficial

Twitter: @RealMenSingCW

Instagram: @ChristopherWilliams_Bx

Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.

GFM Top 40 Week Ending 8/23/14

Curated by you, the GFM Family! Enjoy your day as you get down with the sounds of GFM!!!

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.

Same Name, Different Tune: Christopher and Vanessa Williams

vanessa-williams-dreamin

Please enjoy these equally wonderful songs about dreaming by two BEAUTIFUL and TALENTED artists with the same last name. “I’m Dreamin” by Christopher Williams and “Dreamin” by Vanessa Williams. One is an up-tempo club jam, while the other is a smooth and slow.

Christopher Williams: “I’m Dreamin”

Vanessa Williams: “Dreamin”

Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.

Grown Folks Missin’: Christopher Williams

cdub-fb-page

 

Grown Folks Music caught up with ’90s R&B singer Christopher Williams, after a recent performance in Atlanta. Williams talked about where he’s been over the years, the music industry today and of course a return to recording and a new project.

Where he’s been: Christopher Williams has been starring in urban theatre plays where he’s been acting and singing. (Remember his acting debut in the urban classic movie, New Jack City? The #1 single, “I’m Dreamin”, from the movie soundtrack is now a twenty-year-old classic.) He has a love for acting and calls himself an actor who sings.

About the music industry now and young artists: Williams said he believes there are talented artists today, but due to instantaneous fame vehicles–namely reality tv, anyone can become an artist rather quickly and the development of the artist is suffering and/or missing.

Why he’s coming out with a new project: Williams said he was inspired by El Debarge’s return to music and feels that his chapter two in music is more about the fans this time around as he is not a young artist looking for his first record deal. He has experienced success in the business and has the opportunity to write this next chapter just the way he wants to. He said that with his new project he hopes to have a “smorgasbord” of songs and make music that moves people to love each other again. He’s currently recording and working with some hot new producers and hopes to have the project out soon.

Why Grown Folks Music is missin’ Christopher Williams: Christopher Williams is one of the best male vocalists to ever pick up a microphone. Not one of the best R&B male vocalists, but one of the best male vocalists period.

Arguably, the best example of his excellence as a vocalist is his third CD Not A Perfect Man. A mature album–right up there with the maturity of Luther Vandross’ work at the time– was perhaps ahead of Williams’ time.  Not a comment about the man himself, but about the project being a departure from the new jack swing and urban R&B sound of his previous album Changes, which, mid decade (1995) he could’ve easily continued to ride the wave of.  Instead, Not A Perfect Man went beyond. With contributions from Gordon Chambers, Brian McKnight, James Stroud, Rashaan Patterson and Diane Warren among others, this could have/should have been Christopher Williams’ crossover album. Not that it was ever his goal, but the album showed enough growth, versatility and ability to do so. Williams left everything he had on the studio floor and proved he wasn’t just a R&B heartthrob, but a vocal performer on songs like “If You Say”, “Learning To Love Again”, “Not A Perfect Man”,  “We Don’t Know How To Say Goodbye”, as well as a cover of the country song, “Down On My Knees”.  But the album failed to launch and to take him to the next level.

The good news is 22 years after his debut album Adventures In Paradise, Williams’ voice remains in tact. He still sings with power and range. It’s not only that he can sing; he also knows how to sing. He’s never been too handsome or too cool to open up his mouth and let go. He’s a throwback to a time when singers stood flatfooted and just sang with no sound tricks and no stage gimmicks. If ever presented with the opportunity to see him perform live–get there. Williams has been talking about a releasing new project for a while now, but seems more passionate than ever about making it a reality.  We wish him all the best.

–KKC

Follow Christopher Williams on Twitter

Listen to Christopher in his own words during his episode of TV One’s Life After

Watch the video for the the 1991 #1 single “I’m Dreamin'”

Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.

[Concert Review] Second Chance Tour: El DeBarge with Al B. Sure!, Christopher Williams and Chico DeBarge

Second Chance Tour - El DeBarge, Chico Debarge, Al B. Sure & Christopher Williams

Second Chance Tour
El DeBarge with Al B. Sure!, Christopher Williams and Chico DeBarge
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Detroit Opera House
Detroit, Michigan
8:00 PM

Aside from urban stage plays we haven’t seen much of Christopher Williams. However, when he kicked off the Second Chance Tour show he seemed to pick up right where he left off in the 90s–as a sex symbol–much to the delight of the female fans. Williams delivered a sexy performance that included moving about the audience to serenade the ladies and a bit of disrobing too. But, along with the persona he brought the voice. His vocals were clear, strong and appeared untouched by time. He especially shined during his rendition of the Teddy Pendergrass classic, “Come Go With Me” and a heartfelt version of Marvin Sapp’s “Never Would Have Made It”.

For the past year or so, Al B. Sure! has been performing in clubs and in his set he presents his music in a style that is laid back, includes humorous onstage banter, but seems to more prominently feature his background singers as they sing lead vocals and verses to the songs with Sure singing intermittently. Not so during this show. Sure gave a confident and animated performance fueled by the energy of the live band and the fans and the backup singers were just that: back up. Sure sang the full version of his songs and as expected, he ended his set with his 1988 mega hit, “Nite and Day”, but with an unexpected horn version of the opening melody to the song that sparked an immediate feel-good reaction from the audience.

Chico DeBarge was dapperly dressed and had a smooth stage presence. His act had a soul/funk flavor, but he brought down the house when he invited his sister Bunny to sing the (heavily sampled) 80s DeBarge classic album track, “A Dream”. It was a major treat for the audience.
Continue reading “[Concert Review] Second Chance Tour: El DeBarge with Al B. Sure!, Christopher Williams and Chico DeBarge”

Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.

Uptown Unplugged Finale

uptown-mtv-unplugged

Everyday is a throwback here at GFM. I haven’t repped for the old school in a minute so I thought I would post this gem from ’93. Back in the era where your label affiliation really meant something. Father MC, Jodeci, Mary J, Blige and Heavy D. all put it down and let us know in no uncertain terms that Uptown was still kickin’ it.

It’s unfortunate that in a very short time Uptown would go the way of so many cutting edge labels. But, nothing lasts forever… I think one of my favorite parts of this clip is when they had to actually bring “Puff Daddy” on stage, I’ll let that one marinate.

 

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.