Interviewed and written by: Melody Charles
For some, it’s a surprise; for others, it’s been a long time coming. Super group Mint Condition’s lead singer, Stokley Williams, is stepping into the spotlight all on his own with his solo debut, Introducing…..Stokley.
Slated for a June 23rd release, Introducing…..is a project that will display new dimensions of Stokley, but one that’s been in the making for years and has already scored a well-received mid-tempo single, “Level”. A summer tour is in the planning stages and Stokley’s in promo mode, granting Knowshi a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his motivation, his collaborators and where he stands with MC:
KNOWSHI: Why now for your solo debut Stokley? Why have you not done it before, in the tradition of other well-known frontmen from other groups?
STOKLEY: “Like everyone else, you do one thing for so long and you just want to experience whatever else life has to offer. You try to make the time and space while you have the energy to do that, just to have some life enrichment things, whatever it may be. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do.
What’s been different [timing-wise] is that most people go solo earlier in their careers. Very early. In groups from the 70s, for example, the cost of doing business broke a lot of them up. Mint Condition is a moderately-sized group, but back in the day, outfits with the horns like Chicago, EWF, Cameo
….that’s twelve and thirteen people in there. So how can you really sustain yourself, know what I mean?
It can be hard, but we when we first set out on the path to perform, we all took our cues from the past and decided that everyone would contribute and participate, especially in the receipts [chuckles].”
KNOWSHI: Good point, a lot of our best bands did implode and catch cases over money.
STOKLEY: “Some people did get killed over money man; it just gets to be where artistic control and differences clash and somebody’s had enough. From what I’ve studied and musicians I’ve spoken to, it’s been interesting to learn from that.
Another reason it’s taken so long is that I’ve been enjoying my family, the brothers, there’s nothing better than that. It’s been an amazing journey and experience we’ve been having. I felt it necessary for us to exist in the musical world the way that we have and now it’s time for some different.”
KNOWSHI: So you will get back with Mint Condition one day….sooner or later?
STOKLEY: “I would hope, at some point, we come together, see where we are, compare notes…..it’s always been a dream of mine. For the most part, everything’s been cool. I just wanted to try some new territory because I felt I was getting comfortable, so I wanted to get in an ‘uncomfortable’ position. That’s where a diamond becomes a diamond. I was feeling a little rusty, so I just want to keep growing. Also, I want others to see the other talent that’s there [within MC], cuz’ it’s not just me. There’s a lot that we all bring, I just happen to be the lead singer and jumped out first. If it were someone else in the band [dropping a project], you’d be talking to them and it would likely be the same conversation.”
KNOWSHI: Did you feel compelled or experience pressure to arrive at a new sound for Introducing…..?
STOKLEY: “Everyone I’m working with has been handpicked from the heart; I’m not doing anything manufactured from a label b/c I’m part of the label [via his imprint Blu Raffe]. At this point in my career I’m going to do everything I want to do. There’s no wizard in the background pulling my strings. I worked with Carvin Haggins, Ivan Barias (Musiq), I worked a lot with Sam Dew—-he’s been on a lot of projects with Wale, Robert Glasper, Estelle, and I worked a lot with a couple of producers called the A Team.
This process has taken years, I’ve always been active outside of Mint and before Mint, I just decided, while I have the energy, I’ve got to hit it and create a new story. Starting a new chapter, that’s what life is all about. The older you get, you realize that life is short, and then it’s shorter than [snap] that [laughs]. These folks were picked from the vibes that I got. You’ve got to have some musicality to you, because I am a player. I keep my ears to the streets and check out the technology and the modern-day sounds everybody is getting into.”
KNOWSHI: How would you characterize “Introducing….”?
STOKLEY: “‘Introducing….’ Is about old and new, analog and digital, a guy who’s spent his early beginnings in the back of the stage, now I’ve been in front of the stage for the last 25 years. Now I’m bringing all of those experiences together, I want to bring everybody together to resonate off of the things I like. I want to rescue somebody from whatever they’re going through in life, gonna give you something where you can dance, laugh, cry, make love, ponder, think about the future, think about the past, whether they’re in their car, in the club or whatever. I want [listeners] to get those things in this project. That’s what I’ve been hearing from people who’ve heard it, it’s old-school and new-school, with new flavors. I got tired of my own [creative] voice, so I wanted some new vibes, it creates a different energy. I like collaborations, adding varieties and different textures to my sound.”