Contemporary soul and R&B star Anthony Hamilton recently gave me a message for Memphis and Mississippi.
"Memphis and Mississippi, I love you," said the ultra-cool Hamilton in an exclusive, backstage interview with The New Tri-State Defender after his performance at the Landers Center in DeSoto County last Sunday night (March 3).
That love, said Hamilton, goes beyond Memphis-area support for his music. It's a genuine affection that reflects his recognition that people here enjoy life and aren't afraid to go to a concert and have a good time.
"Every time I come here, I'm handling your passion," said Hamilton, who's touring with Mary J. Blige, the "Queen of Hip Hop Soul." "Just the whole scene tonight was beautiful, and I thank you all for ... letting me ride down my sweet chariot. I appreciate you all!"
Without a doubt, one of the best voices in soul and R & B belongs to Hamilton. The chart-topping hits say it, the sold out shows prove it, and his soul-shaking vocals on blockbuster movie soundtracks make you a believer. Fresh evidence is "Freedom" on the soundtrack to the Oscar-nominated "Django Unchained."
Humble, kind and genuinely an all-around nice guy and family man, period. That's the Anthony Hamilton I first met back in May 2009. It was the same setting as Sunday night's concert, except this time I wasn't shaking with nearly as much nervousness.
With no hesitation, he agreed to a reunion of the minds. After a hug and a few laughs, we headed to the dressing room for a candid exchange.
Here's a sampling of our conversation:
Anthony Hamilton: How have you been doing? It has been a while since I saw you.
Nyah Nile: I have been doing fine, thank you so much for asking. I was not sure if you would remember me.
AH: I did remember. You brought me carrot cake the last time. Hey, you look great. I am glad you're doing well.
NN: (laughter) Thank you ... Anthony, I've been talking to the people out there and they love you!
NN: Yes! Oh yes! Those people have been dancing all night and on their feet for you!
AH: I know, I know, I love that! Memphis shows me love every time.
NN: Catch me up. What's been going on?
AH: Sure. Well, this past week we had CIAA, which is an event held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Of course you know that's my hometown. This year, instead of partying, we took the initiative to party for a purpose. We did something similar to Anthony Hamilton's Big Payback. Now that is where we donate $15,000 to three different charities....
One of the charities was the man shelter, then the women and children's shelter of Charlotte, then we donated a truckload of food and supplies to Second Harvest Food Bank, and we gave to a children's place. So really, four different charities and we were extremely happy about that. It was just great.
NN: That is wonderful. Tell me about that clothing line, because you know I'm a fan.
AH: Well I'm still trying to work on it, it is coming. I am going to work it out though. Speaking of fashion, you're looking very dapper today, and on point.
NN: Ahhhhh, thank you. I just was channeling my inner Mary J.
AH: (laughs). Well, you look great!
NN: You look great too. I love the shoes you had on stage. You look good head to toe.... Did you feel it out there? There is something in the air. Every little thing you did made the ladies scream. What's all the recent sex appeal about? (Laughs)
AH: (he cannot stop laughing)
NN: Seriously, what is going on? The swag is definitely turned up.
AH: (laughs) You know what it's all about? Getting into a place where you're comfortable and letting go. That is what I have been doing, and I am working out a lot lately.
NN: (laughter) You are always moving on stage.
AH: Yeah, I have a trainer and she is amazing! She has me doing two hours of cardio and crunches. I'm just trying to get my sexy stomach action in there.
NN: All right now. Last time I saw you perform, I was so impressed. You ran (during) an entire song called "Soul on Fire."
AH: Yeah, I haven't done that in a while. I messed up once performing that song.... I used to jump during that song. I had to have surgery. I came back with my crutches though, still performing....and was still doing the same kind of show... I had to get back to doing shows.
NN: Now that's what I'm talking about. Glad you're doing well. So what is next for you?
AH: What"s next? Well, I just got back from South Africa...we went there and we took in the whole culture. We documented a lot of stuff, so we are in the editing process now to create a documentary. We did concerts over there and everything.
It is important to show just show how important travel is...also it is so important to see where most of us are coming from...Man I just have a whole different appreciation....An appreciation without judgment, without any preconceived notions or any motives. I just have love now. Just love. (Leans over to me) Hey, I want to know though I am like Justin Bieber over there!
NN: What? (Laughter)
AH: Yes, I am like Usher and Justin Bieber wrapped into one! Over there, I had to have police escorts and everything!
NN: WOW! Give me the scene. Give me details; that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
AH: I know, right. Truly it is an overwhelming anxiety feeling....it's a 27-hour flight. And the whole flight you had that same feeling, the whole time. I've been over there three times and every time I'm overwhelmed. I can never sleep because I'm so excited.
When I get there they greet me with so much love. At the airport, they walk me through and people just start screaming, even when I get off the plane people are screaming... and it's like that every time I go, and it's growing and growing.
(For more information on Anthony Hamilton, visit his official web site: www.anthonyhamilton.com.)