|After years spent in the background, Anthony Hamilton — coming to Showcase Live at Patriot Place on Nov. 18 — is stepping out to the front of the stage and getting the recognition he deserves. (Photo courtesy of www.anthonyhamilton.com)
No matter how high his star rises, Anthony Hamilton remembers what’s important and who matters most in his life.
“Sorry, hold up,” he apologizes during an interview with the Banner. “This is a call from my mom.”
A few moments pass by. He returns, apologizes again and resumes talking about his new album, his upcoming concert at Showcase Live at Patriot Place in Foxborough and his circuitous path to R&B stardom.
The long journey has helped keep Hamilton grounded, the kind of guy who’d drop everything to talk to his mom and ask forgiveness for the interruption. Now, after years of struggle, numerous guest appearances on hit songs and several acclaimed solo releases, he is finally coming into his own as a bona fide R&B star.
Hamilton spoke with the Banner before coming into the Boston area for his Nov. 18 gig at Patriot Place — part of his “Playin’ It Cool Tour” in support of “The Point of it All,” his latest studio album, in stores Dec. 16. He said the long trip has been well worth it.
“I learned a lot, and I put it into my music,” he explains.
The lessons began in Charlotte, N.C., where he was raised singing in his church’s choir.
“I performed in the church, in the school,” he says. “I learned how to blend, I learned what harmony was.”
The more attention his singing received, the more his passion grew. Hamilton still remembers how special it felt when he performed.
“Growing up, it was the thing that kept my attention,” he says. “It kind of had a spooky vibe to it. I just felt, ‘Man, I’ve got be doing stuff with it.’ It got me bad.”
Bitten by the performance bug, Hamilton started entering local talent competitions and singing in neighborhood nightclubs, while training as a barber to help pay the bills.
Finally, he decided to take a gamble and move to New York. In 1993, he signed with Uptown Records, then home to high-profile acts like Mary J. Blige and Jodeci. But as is often the case, the business of show business got in the way and politics took over, impeding Hamilton’s path. He would be bumped to six different labels over the next several years. The constant jostling prevented his career from getting on track.
But while Hamilton admits the experience was discouraging, he says he never stopped persevering.
“There was a point where I thought, ‘OK, is this going to be an ongoing thing?’ and everything shut down,” he says. “But I don’t think God would give me this much love for music to make me hurt.”
While his career as a headliner was in limbo, Hamilton tried to make the best of the situation as a background singer, providing accompaniment for renowned R&B artist D’Angelo on his worldwide “Voodoo” tour in 2000.
“I watched,” he says. “I got to be a part of D’Angelo, and be part of that legacy.”
But wasn’t it difficult to play second-string when he knew he could be a starter?
“It was a true learning experience,” Hamilton insists. “You really learn how to sing from listening.”
Hamilton continued to use supporting roles to introduce himself to mainstream audiences, with guest appearances singing on hip-hop tracks like the Nappy Roots’ “Po’ Folks” and the Jadakiss smash “Why?” — both of which earned Grammy nominations — and posthumous remixes of popular cuts by the late Tupac Shakur.
He applied what he learned in the making of his first solo album, 2003’s “Comin’ From Where I’m From,” which earned the singer three more Grammy nominations and critical approval. Hamilton followed the success of that release with two in 2005 — “Soulife,” a collection of previously recorded material, and another album of fresh cuts titled “Ain’t Nobdy Worryin’” — and “Southern Comfort,” another compilation of previously unreleased material, in 2007.
Now, he’s touring to promote “The Point of It All.” Hamilton said his new album reflects his style as a singer and offers music to which his listeners can relate.
“My signature is the everyday, common man music,” he says. “Even with your eyes closed, it allows you to feel comfortable, the type of music that your parents listened to.”
He said he was excited for the national tour, which kicked off last week, and looked forward to being back on stage, connecting with his old fans and gaining new ones. One person he knows will be in the audience is his mom.
“She’ll come to a lot of my performances,” he says. “She is proud, she is happy.”
Anthony Hamilton will perform on Nov. 18 at Showcase Live at Patriot Place, One Patriot Place, Foxborough.
For more information, including ticket price and availability, visit www.patriot-place.com.
The artist's Web site offers biographical information, tour dates, photos, clips from his upcoming album and more. More »
As Hamilton travels across the country on his "Playin' It Cool Tour," coming to Showcase Live at Patriot Place in Foxborough on Nov. 18, he's updating this blog with photos and video clips from the road. More »