Music Interview: R&B / Soul Artist Anthony David

Interview By: Melody Charles

Anthony-david-album-coverWhen you’ve earned a Grammy nod, become the only male headliner of a red-hot tour and been name-checked by President Obama and  First Lady as one of their favorite new artists, it’s safe to assume that the only direction you can go is up, and it’s exactly the path Anthony David is traveling these days, enjoying the heady success of his third CD, As Above So Below and touring the country to promote it on the strength of a Top 30 R&B charting single, “4evermore,” and a provocative video for an anti-dogma track, “God Said.”

“Artistically, I was trying to work some of the topics I use in conversation into my music without being too heavy-handed while crafting and cultivating my music to make sure it was right,” the Atlanta-based performer revealed in a recent phone chat. “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.”

A part of last spring’s “BET Music Matters Tour” featuring Marsha Ambrosius and Melanie Fiona, Mr. David debuted his video for “God Said” on the network’s “106 & Park” show in April and displayed his penchant for both political and religious commentary, bluntly referring to Pat Roberson as an “idiot” for his televised assessment of Haiti as “cursed” and deserving of last year’s catastrophic earthquake. “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—-these topics have to be addressed.”

As far as the label trying to censor him or dictate what he puts on his CDs, Mr. David, who released As Above…..through his own imprint via E1 Entertainment, takes their suggestions with a grain of salt. “Criticism comes from label people and regular people, so you try to split the difference or just not do certain things. Suggestions don’t bother me, because I don’t actually have to do any of them,” he chuckles. “The whole album is a journey with rhymes and stuff, and I pick songs based on rhythms that I like.”

When asked about collaborating again with long-time friend and one-time mentor, India.Arie, he says there’s nothing set in stone. “We’re always trading song ideas, that’s what happened with (the Grammy-nominated) “Words”: she told me ‘this song sounds really good, but it needs another verse.’ So she added it and we made it into a duet— but she’s off working on her own thing right now (in the studio), so who knows? It’s possible.”

For those who believe his success came overnight, Mr. David labored for years as Ms. Arie’s opening act and was content to remain a songwriter until friends urged him into performing: with his trademark grainy vocals and introspective approach, Anthony’s carved a niche for himself as one of the most essential artists of his generation and hopes that others on the come-up follow his example to have success on their own terms: “The best way is to perform in front of people and let their reactions, or non-reactions, dictate what you do. Don’t chase people around talking about ‘listen to my CD’— push your thing out to the people so they’ll seek you out on their own. Get it in where you are, perform wherever they’ll have you and elevate from there.”

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