After over two decades as the lead vocalist for the incomparable hit-making R&B band Mint Condition, singer and two-time Grammy Award nominee Stokley Williams is charting a new course with his breathtaking debut solo album, Introducing. Featuring guest appearances by the likes of Grammy-winning jazz pianist Robert Glasper and Estelle as well as production by multi-platinum duo Carvin Haggins and Ivan Barrias, who have worked with Ledisi, Tamia, Kenny Lattimore, Introducing is long-awaited by fans.
While Williams was content with his band of brothers in Mint Condition as well as his outside collaborative endeavors, he realized that the time had come for him to embark on a musical voyage in a vessel meant for him to steer. Introducing finds Williams stepping into the spotlight, a vibrant portrait of an artist on a quest to cultivate a creative statement as an individual. The album offers listeners a fresh perspective of a dynamic voice that has resonated with core fans around the world.
The album’s groove-laden lead single, “Level,” finds Williams wielding his mighty pen as a songwriter, weaving lyrics of affirmation over a propulsive rhythm, guitar-driven track.
Williams says, “We all seek to find someone or something that fits just right for us. Everybody wants something that fits with them comfortably. Something on their level.”
Read what he has to say.
When did you know that being a musician was your calling?
I always loved experimenting with different instruments, seeing what they can do, how they spoke back to me at a very young age. This includes my voice. It was fun to me and I loved the feeling or high it gave me. However, I really didn’t start thinking seriously about it until the beginning of high school. I met two people, an instructor named Cliff Alexis Sr. who ran the Steel Drum Orchestra and a classmate named Homer O’dell, Mint Condition’s co-founder and guitarist.
Describe three other occupations you’ve held.
Waiter/bus boy, Domino’s Pizza driver, Printing Press engineer.
What inspires you to perform?
Simply the magic of music, when a particular beat, melody, or phrase of words hit me, my body gives a reflex.
What instruments, if any, do you play?
I can find my way around a guitar, bass, keys, kalimba, harmonica, steel pan. Most percussion, drums for sure since that’s how I started. Sometimes flute.
How would you describe your brand of music?
A feel good energetic vibration. Even if it’s slow there’s seems to be a kind of high energy to it. I think it’s just my true personality coming out through the music.
When you are on stage, what do you want to convey about your style?
I want to show the colors between the colors. I want to show the common thread that subtlety runs through many different musical genres, & that may happen inside of one song in a performance.
Name three musicians who have influenced your approach to being a musician.
Cliff Alexis Sr., Prince, Maurice White
Describe your creative process from concept to complete song.
My creative process happens many different ways. Sometimes I may listen to a style of music that is polar opposite of what I’d like to create, and then I just go. Sometimes it will be a phrase that I use in a conversation with a friend, sometimes it will be a particular set of chords, sometimes it will be just a drumbeat. I usually hear the arrangement in my head as I go along or sometimes the whole thing. Melodic bass lines also inspire me. From there it’s all just arranging what comes first all the way to the end. I may want something to build and blossom at the end or I may want the climax to be in the middle and very quiet in the end. Depends on my mood.
How do you select your creative music partners to fashion your musical voice?
That’s totally a vibration thing that I must feel with the person. There are a lot of creative people out here and they all have a unique process. If I like somebody’s work then somebody I know usually has worked with that artist whose work I dig. They usually share the working experience and either I’m interested or not. but everything flows from there.
What advice would you give anyone preparing to enter the music business about publishing and management?
In this ever moving target of technology one must stay on top of how fast it moves. Because the ways of doing business change so quickly and frequently because of technology. There are so many independent artists now who are very successful without a major record label. So that shows you that just being resourceful & persistence pays off. So really build your particular skill set. Build your catalog of music or if you’re a manager to have your artist write as much as they can to build a solid base because that will help bring you closer to success.
If you were going to sing for any famous person as a celebration of what they have done for humanity, who would it be?
Stevie Wonder or President Barack Obama.
If you could go outside the U.S. to write and produce music, what country would you choose and why?
I would absolutely go to France because it feels like a very open society and I love the independent spirit of the people there. They seem to be very engaged with what’s happening not only in their own country but with what’s happening around the world. that’s very inspiring. Two other places would be Cuba and South Africa. Both of those places put me in direct connection with all of my African-isms.
What do you like the most about being a musician?
Traveling to different countries, experiencing different foods, cultures, religions. This passion that I have provides all of this and more.
What producers are you looking forward to working with soon?
None that many may know of but are near and dear to me and my sensibilities.
Name three musicians you would like to record with that are hit makers.
I like the pulse of Kendrick Lamar. Solange. Janelle Monae.
If you could make a duet with someone, who would it be and why?
Tony Bennett, because I love jazz. And he’s been powerfully dope for more decades than I’ve been alive. I would love to hear all the stories and serve countless vocal tips.
What musical awards have you aspired to receive and it happened?
None and none. Although multiple Grammys would be cool.
What musical achievements have you yet to obtain?
There are some places or festivals I haven’t traveled to or performed at through music. India, Africa, Brasil. NAACP Award, Soul Train Award, Grammy, all the rest of the popular ones…although I don’t do it for awards. Working on Jazz, African & experimental albums simultaneously right now.
Finish the sentence…
When I hit the stage I feel…
When the crowd is responding to my music I know…
We got this
I appreciate my fans because…
They appreciate me coloring outside the lines
Music is my calling…
Because the bell rang early for me so I had to answer
My method of studying music is…
To listen, listen, listen
When you find my music, I want you to…
Buy it, play it, dance, play it again. Find things you didn’t hear the first and second time. Call your radio station and request it, them come to the show and light it up.
Name your favorite two books.
Miles Davis autobiography
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell