Heed Exclusive: Gospel Artist Anita Wilson Talks ‘Vintage Worship’
Grammy®, Stellar, and Dove-award nominated Motown recording artist Anita Wilson released her sophomore project, “Vintage Worship”, this week. She first found notoriety as part of the Grammy®-nominated ensemble Donald Lawrence & Co and her first solo project had two Billboard Top 20 hits. Wilson’s effort was recognized by the New York Times’ Ben Ratliff as one of “2012’s top ten albums” across all genres, she was named as one of “8 Rising Gospel Stars” by JET Magazine in 2013, and Essence.com named Wilson one of “15 Gospel Artists to Watch in 2014.”
Her sophomore album showcase songs with ingredients of classic gospel, funk, soul, pop, and R&B, as the singer cites R&B/Soul favorites such as Eddie Kendricks, Lalah Hathaway, Chaka Khan, George Clinton, Boosty Collins, Evelyn Champagne King and others as major influences. Heed Magazine caught up with the soulful Gospel Artist to chat about the project.
Alisha Jones: What role do you play in the gospel music industry? Who is your audience?
Anita Wilson: I use the analogy that I don’t need to tell my brother or sister how cool my daddy is. They grew up with him to too. So they know his personality. They know he is cool. They know he is funny. They know he is amazing. They know about him. If I want someone to know my Father, I need to tell someone who does not know him.
God has assigned me to be a worshipper to the one who does not know he or she is a worshipper yet. Jesus did not tell us that the folk were supposed to come to us. Jesus told us to go to those who do not know him.
I think that people in the church can appreciate it but I also believe that it is an evangelism tool. I want to be relatable to everyone. That is the angle of Vintage Worship.
AJ: I am glad to see that you are continuing your collaboration with Rick Robinson. What is your creative process?
AW: It is a natural thing, as well as a progressive process. What I mean is that the music from both albums is a very kind of natural space for me. So, when we began to write songs, some were his ideas and some were my ideas. He would complete my ideas and I gave him a line or a note here. We work well together – we bump heads a lot (laughs) – but I am very grateful for Rick.
I do know that there are many artists who want to be artists but they have yet to really link up with a writer, producer, or musician who helps them convey their sound or develop a sound for them. I am very grateful for Rick. He understands me. When he hears a song – even though he writes and produces for so many other artists – he can hear a song and say, “Yeah, that’s Anita.”
We give ourselves plenty of time to come up with the tunes that are right. We prepared a year in advance for Worship Soul and a year in advance for Vintage Worship. We never want to put ourselves in position, where we are not prepared for recordings. We never rush and throw songs together or have album fillers.
We love happy music. I do not think that gospel has to be sad, you know… I like to praise God from a victorious place. And even if my circumstances aren’t happy, the way I want them to be, I have to trust that God is working it together for my good. I will still praise him with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. I know that God is going to come through for me.
As far as the sound, with this album, I was just pulling from my influences. You may listen to one song and hear an Eddie Kendricks influence or an Andrae Crouch vocal influence or a George Benson influence. And it is not exactly from one song but it is just an influence. I think influence is very different than imitation. I never want to imitate anyone. Like I am trying to be like them or I am trying to sound like them. I am just very clear about what is natural for me.
AJ: You worked with a lot folks on the album: Anaysha and Bishop Yvette Flunder. What was it like to get in the studio and work with these artists and legends?
AW: Yeah, Bishop Flunder is absolutely a legend. I grew up listening to her, of course, on the Hawkins’ album. As a little girl, I love that heavy raspy voice. And even before I knew that I would have this heavier, raspy voice, I just loved her songs. So to have this full circle moment and to have contacted her last summer and ask would she be interested in singing this song with me and for her to consent –uh pretty amazing for me! And she was so accommodating. She flew to Chicago, by herself. She didn’t have an entourage. She didn’t have a lot of demands. She came by herself. She had studied the music and she did her thing on that song. She blessed my soul. She and Avery Sunshine on it!
AW: I love Avery! That’s my sister friend home girl. I met her a few years ago at Gerard Bonner’s event. We have been connected since then, we are very close and I am so happy that she consented as well! We all kind of came together with this idea together, to sing this song with Bishop Flunder. It was very humbling to have my friend and a major influence of mine to be on this recording with me. It is an arrangement of the hymn, “Oh, How, I love Jesus.” They are doing their good singing! A few minutes into the song, I was like, “Go for it!”
Anaysha Figueroa-Cooper, who we know sang with amazing artists like Alicia Keys and Kirk Franklin, has her own single out on the radio, “Holy One.” She is such a doll and sweetheart. I was grateful that she consented as well. She and I are doing a 90s feel duet. It is kind of reminiscent of Faith Evans and Mary J. Blige duet. It’s called “Time After Time.”
The fourth collaboration is with Mr. Tommy Sims who is an amazing artist, writer, and producer. He wrote classic songs such as “Change the World” by Eric Clapton and “No Diggity” by Blackstreet. The 90s fans will remember that. He and I did a beautiful duet called “Reasons, Don’t Take Your Love Away.” It’s reminiscent of songs that Quincy Jones used to give us by artists such as James Ingram and Patti Austin.
AJ: One of the things that I have observed about you is that you are careful to give credit to mentors. What are the ways in which folks can honor the people who have paved a way for them?
AW: Well, I think that there is nothing new under the sun. You have to acknowledge where you got that. You did not come out of the womb singing that or writing like that. You have to just always acknowledge it.
Sometimes people want to take all the credit for themselves. They want people to think, “Yeah, I am that dope.” I just don’t have that kind of mentality, Alisha. All of us are just a big ball of our influences.
It is not that I am trying to…to
AW: IMITATE! Thank you Jesus. I just want to give honor where honor is due. We are all standing on other’s shoulders. And a lot of times artists who have been in the game a long time, they feel a little stepped over. They may hear your song or they may see and know that you would not have been able to do this if it were not for them. So, I say their names whenever I have the opportunity.
You know, a friend of mine Ricky Dillard got a lot of flack back in the day for doing all those moves, while singing. Now everyone is doing it.
Donald Lawrence is the one who was the first one to put strong beats with tracks under choir vocals. It is the norm for us to do that now.
Even for someone like me, Tremaine Hawkins was one of the first to be very fashionable on her album covers. She had red nails and red lipstick – things that were kind of frowned upon in the 80s, when it was done. She was sexy, classy, and a lady at the same time. We have to acknowledge these influences. Whatever you have, you didn’t come up with it yourself!
Be sure to pick up Anita Wilson’s new record today and stay connected with her on Twitter!