This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.
Legend has it that one day the souls of Bill Withers and Mos Def would intertwine. On that glorious day a man by the name of Anthony David would come to Atlanta, Georgia, and “evoke the energy of music rather than the style.” For years, Atlanta natives have clamored over his coming, yet the world turned a deaf ear.
In 2004, evidence of Anthony David’s arrival was discovered: 3 Chords & The Truth, an independent album released by Brash Music. In 2006, a second sample, The Red Clay Chronicles, was found. Both, ATLiens say, bear the mark of “Acey Duecy.”
On June 17, 2008, SoulBird Records will distribute Acey Duecy, a collection of his underground recordings. With A.D.’s name slowly entering the mainstream’s consciousness, the prophesy has been fulfilled. Enlightened, Clayton Perry managed to track Anthony David down and discuss life and the inspiration behind his music.
Q: How does it feel to be the artist that christens the SoulBird label?
A: Really good. India.Arie and I have been friends for a long time. It is comforting to know that she has enough confidence in me and my music to represent her new label, you know? I’m anxious to get out there and prove her right and share my music with the world.
Q: How did you and India.Arie first meet?
A: She was the first person I met when I moved to Atlanta 15 years ago. We just got to talking and we never stopped. We hung out all the time—doing the same type of music. And I ended up going on the road with her, singing backup, in support of Voyage to India and Testimony (Volume 1), her second and third albums. Now, I represent our label.
Q: How would you describe your style?
It’s rhythm and blues. Blues is the foundation to everything. When I learned to play guitar, blues kind of evolved in it. I was trying to link the things that I like about hip hop to things that I like about blues. I found that there’s a link between everything, so it’s just taking it and making it modern.
Q: How did you find your voice?
Through my songwriting, really. I was a writer before — poetry, screenplays — but in my songwriting, I really did find my voice. It took me a long time to discover that I could sing.
Q: As talented as you are, that seems hard to believe. But I remember you mentioning a guy named Laz, whom you said was a mentor that gave you a “$10,000 music education in three months.” Tell me about that relationship.
A: We first met in the West End, when I first started playing guitar, man. I was on my porch and he came walking up to me. I believe he was a painter. He was in his uniform, so I really didn’t know right off the bat if he was somebody I could trust. He told me he could teach me if I listened, so I made him walk up the steps. He put it down and I said, “Yeah, I want to learn how to do that.” So, literally, he was teaching me every day.
Q: How much time do you spend in the studio? Take us through a day in the life.
A: If we’re home and we’re in recording mode, I take my dog out. I go to the studio, either the one in my house or with someone else. We get involved for a couple of hours, going back and forth writing — input and output. Go somewhere, get some inspiration, and put that right back out. Then I run errands and whatnot; a pretty simple life.
Q: Well, you definitely have a knack for capturing everyday experiences in your music. How do you manage to “bottle” the familiar and make it relevant to different audiences?
A: Listening to folks. By the time I start writing, it’s not hard. It just comes out of me. Usually it’s very personal. Sometimes I start from other people’s experiences, but usually it’s rooted in something that’s all my own. I like to hear stuff that hasn’t been thought of yet, or something I have to examine.
Q: I see. So what’s the story behind “Words?”
A: It’s about perfection and backing it up with action. It’s about how people express themselves to their loved ones and let them know they’re willing to back it up.
Q: For many “Words” will be their introduction to Anthony David, but how have you grown since 3 Chords & the Truth?
A: I’ve been around the world several times. I toured a lot with my past two records, 3 Chords & the Truth and Red Clay Chronicles. Now, I am more seasoned onstage and in the studio, and my personal life has grown.
Q: What lessons have you learned on the road?
A: A lot about performance, a lot about touring certain cities, how to take care of myself, how to take care of my voice, how to keep my own life together. There are just so many things: where to eat, how to eat, how to stay healthy.
Q: Have these revelations caused you to approach the music industry differently?
A: No, I approach the music industry pretty much the same. Living in Atlanta, you get to know the industry after a while. I had a production deal with a company, got close with India, performed in a hip hop rock band, and put out two independent records—it’s all been the same. With India’s label, I hope to reach a bigger audience.
Q: Acey Duecy – how did you come up with that title?
A: Well, this record is a compilation of two independent records I did. One is acoustic, and the other is more R&B, so this is two sides of the same man. That’s where Acey Duecy comes from. Plus it’s my nickname, shortened from Anthony David (AD) – that’s the second part. The third part is derived from a backgammon board that my family used to play. I figure that’s a place where people get to check out my family.
Q: Where do you see yourself fitting, musically? Are you trying to branch out into different forms and styles?
A: Not necessarily. What I’m involved in now is pretty broad and diverse; there’s more to explore. A lot of people know my hip hop background, so that may be seen more.
Q: What’s your opinion of the current musical landscape?
A: There are a lot of good artists out there. Right now, I’m a big fan of John Legend, Amy Winehouse – there’s a lot of good music out there. I’m honored to be part of it.
Q: Are there people in particular you would like to work with?
A: Jack Johnson, people like that. I’m a big fan of Sting, too.
Q: India Arie once noted that soul is not a sound or a color; it’s an intention. What’s your intention?
A: My intention is to give people the good things that I have gotten out of music. It’s all about having joy. I was always a big fan of Anita Baker when I was a kid. She gave me a good feeling. So that’s what I’m looking to provide.
Q: What responsibility do you feel, as an artist, for the craft and listeners of your music?
A: As an artist, to provide an honest, quality product, giving them my best shot, putting my best foot forward every time.
Q: What do you get on the road that you don’t get in the studio?
A: The initial feedback, it’s a good, positive affirmation. While I’m onstage, I see hands up in the air. It’s letting people know where I’m coming from.
Q: How do you want to be remembered 10 or 20 years from now?
A: I wouldn’t mind leaving a legacy of just songs that people can relate to. That’s one thing about Bill Withers that I really want to identify with. I always knew his songs more than I knew him.
For more information on Anthony David, visit his official website: http://www.anthonydavidmusic.com