"I had a little room to play with some stuff," he says of the more social, sensual and even political content of his upcoming release, As Above, So Below, which drops on March 22. "I love the love songs and I'm always going to have some of those, but I just wanted to be multi-dimensional. The artists that I like are the ones who don't always do what's expected of them, so I always make room for creativity."
In an exclusive chat with SoulTracks, the army-brat-turned-acoustic soul man talked about stretching his style, reaching the masses and how other indies can find success on their own terms.
MELODY CHARLES- You've retained your trademark acoustic flavor, but you've definitely added some hip-hop and even some political and religious commentary in the mix. What's that about?
ANTHONY DAVID- "I'm always going to do that, switch up what people feel they can expect from me. It's all an expansion; you've got to be careful you don't leave people behind, but you can't stay in a box and become too rigid either, letting people keep you in a space that you're not totally into anymore. Ever since I did my first album, it was all acoustic, and folks said that was great, but even doing shows, I would feel like, ‘oh, I wanna get up sometimes!' (laughs)So that's where the different sounds came from.
MC- Well, fans must definitely be feeling it, because its first single, "4evermore" (featuring Algebra) is already a hit.
AD- "Thanks! The people who know me well, they're like ‘good, you're letting that (hip-hop) side out more,' and others who didn't say ‘oh, I didn't know you could do that.' I really wanted more of a sampled feel on a lot of the songs, I like those rustic edges. Artistically, I was trying to work some of the topic s I use in conversation into my music without being too heavy-handed while crafting and cultivating my music to make sure it was right."
MC-Another song that stuck with me is "God Said," where you seem to take sarcastic aim at religious leader Pat Robertson's declaration that Haiti can't be helped because it's cursed and its souls have already been promised to Satan----that was deep.
AD- "Cool, you caught all that...his words really set me off...people pretending to know stuff that they couldn't possibly know: that's what Pat Robertson wants it (the fate of Haiti) to be. That's his own racial bias, he wants to be foul and hide it behind scripture. I had to call him out on that, so if it makes people think, or even if he hears it and doesn't appreciate it, oh well---- mission accomplished (cracks up)!"
MC- What about that Tears for Fears remake of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"---you must have a thing for the 1980s.
AD-"I do: I've tried to make it a tradition to find an 80s tune for each of my CDs. Sometimes, I think of doing a whole album of those.....I grew up in that era and enjoy those happy songs. The whole album is a journey with rhymes and stuff, and I pick songs based on rhythms that I like. Another song I was writing didn't turn out how I wanted to, and since we hadn't picked a remake at that point, I just decided to go ahead with this one."
MC-Speaking of time periods, it's been awhile since your last CD, going on three years. Was that a purposeful absence? And will you hook up musically with India.Arie anytime soon?
AD-"I was traveling and working, in Australia and Ethiopia, then I had to get the label situation together. I was on Universal , but then we had some power shifts and people get moved around. Russell, a friend of mine, runs Purpose records under E1 (Entertainment 1) and he invited me there. I've got my own imprint now, Rollin' Mojo Records, but I haven't signed anybody yet. As for India, we've worked closely together for years, but she's off working on her own thing, expanding her sound as well, so....it could happen, who knows?"
MC-Okay, that'll work. Let's get into the business end for a minute---- Isn't it a ‘seller's market' for artists as far as labels go these days?
AD-"In a way, because the labels aren't in the same position anymore. They're dealing with numbers instead of potential, so the labels don't do a lot of development these days, which is fine, because there's a lot of equipment out there to allow people to do more on their own.
MC-Have you ever encountered static from a label about how to sound? And what advice do you have for others getting that kind of treatment?
AD- "I always hear suggestions, but they don't bother me, because I don't actually have to do any of them (laughs). Criticism comes from label peopleand regular people, so you try to process it all, split the difference or just outright not do certain things. I will say that independent labels have less of a take on it because they're giving up less money and don't have as much stake in it as you."
MC-Good points. To wrap it up Anthony, what advice do you have for those who are just starting out or those who are already grinding but want to get to your level?
AD-"The major labels will tell you how they want to build you up, but the best way to get polished is to perform in front of people and let their reactions, or non-reactions, dictate what you do, not just one (A&R) person who just thinks they know everything. Take Drake for example--- he's a guy who's been putting out a lot of songs, some of them worked and some of them didn't, so by the time the public knew who he was, he knew who he was. Start where you are: India and I just began playing in my living room and it just grew and grew and grew. I don't care for people who want to latch on somebody else's thing or are just passing out their CDs all over the place. Go to the local scene and get it poppin'--- push your thing out to the people so that people want to seek you out and find you. Get it in where you are and elevate from there."
By Melody Charles