The first time you hear Anthony Hamilton sing, you’re struck by how clear, smooth and effortlessly powerful his voice is. Simply put, the man was born to sing — and although he’s happy to tell you that himself, it doesn’t come across as arrogance. It’s just a fact.
The Grammy-winner jumped onto music lovers’ consciousness in 2002 when he sang the soulful chorus on Nappy Roots’ hit Po’ Folks, and it’s been a steady rise since, culminating with the 2011 album Back to Love, featuring the aching ballad Pray For Me.
Hamilton takes the stage Sunday, March 16 at Jazz in the Gardens, where he’ll perform a mix of tender and uptempo songs. He talked about his influences, why he loves reality TV singing shows, and whether he’ll go for a baby girl after fathering six boys.
What attracted you to this festival?
Well, any time you get a festival with some of the best fans and some of the best people coming to Miami, I’m never too busy for that. But I’ve been hearing about this festival for a long time, and a lot of people say it’s one of the better ones that they’ve been to, and a lot of my fans have been wanting me to come and do this festival, so when the opportunity came, I was excited about it.
Anyone else on the bill you’re excited to see?
LL Cool J — I haven’t seen him perform in … God knows. That’ll be exciting to go back to I Need Love and all that stuff. I’m hoping he does that – that’ll be enough for me. I know Jamie and I love Jamie and those knuckleheads, and Kelly Rowland. It’s gonna be exciting. It almost feels like a new type of festival, you know? When you think of festivals, you think of the older groups, but this is gonna be a young, sick festival. I like that. I’ll have to get me a new shirt! [Laughs] And do some push-ups, in case Kelly Rowland looks at me. I’ll be ready to look nice in my new shirt.
What can we expect from your set — will it be mostly from The Point of It All and Back to Love?
Back to Love, Comin’ From Where I’m From — a little bit of all of it. I try to mix it up as much as I can, to remind people of why they fell in love with Anthony Hamilton, what it is about me that they first saw. And then I’ll take them on a journey through the new stuff — just kind of walk them through it all.
Anything brand new from a new album you’re working on?
Ahhh, not yet, not yet. But I do have a few pieces that I’m really excited about.
You’re a really soulful singer—– who influenced you the most musically?
You know what, man, I have some influences from people that nobody even knew. I used to walk to the store for my grandmother and my mom, and I would hear these guys singing in the path — they would sit down and be drinking wine and their beers, and they would just be singing. And I was like, man, where is that coming from? So I go over there and I see these older guys who probably had a hard time of life, and they just had all this music in them. So that’s where it really first started. And my dad sang — he almost got signed to Motown. Back then, you didn’t think it was possible to get a record deal like that. He was in a group called The Showstoppers. They didn’t take it seriously — they thought the guy was a fake agent, and they never really pursued it. And then I had the Al Greens and the Marvin Gayes and the James Clevelands, Joe Cocker. All these people — Elvis, Hee Haw. I really grew up watching that stuff. That was the highlight of my week.
Did you always feel like you’d be a singer for your career?
Yeah, I knew it from a child. I think God told me that before he put me in the womb, and I was like, “OK, that sounds good to me.” Roll with it. But I always knew it. I didn’t know how it was gonna happen, or when, but I knew it. I knew it. And it feels good to have known that that early in my life, and have it come to fruition. It’s beautiful — I can teach that to my kids, like if you really desire and you dream it, believe it, and stick with it, you can do it.
And you didn’t even have anything like American Idol or The Voice to help you out, either.
Only "Voice" I had was the voice I had. We didn’t have any of those big platforms to be showcased on. It was either the school talent show or singing in the bathroom.
How do you feel about those shows?
I think anytime you can have a show that can allow people to express themselves and dream and build dreams for other people, I think it’s always awesome. I love it. It makes it interesting, and it allows people to fall in love with music over and over again. And the passion that people have and what they put into their music, I think people don’t really get it if you don’t see it first-hand. And they show both sides — they show the musical side, and they show the passion, hard work and the dedication, and the desire. It’s almost like watching a Disney musical — it’s that big and beautiful for some people. I think they should let me be one of the judges, but hey, we’re gonna wait on that.
There you go. I’ll print that and we’ll see what happens. Maybe it’ll get back to Simon Cowell or Simon Fuller, or whoever.
Yeah, and I’ll wear one of those low-cut T-shirts, if that’s what they need. I’ll be the black Simon Cowell. [Laughs]
Then you’d have to get a flat-top.
I had one, man! I was known for having the best flat-top. I’m a barber/stylist, and I used to cut hair, so I used to have the most perfect flat-top in the world. I will put it up against anybody’s. I took pride to make sure it was perfect. And I had an older brother who was a bully, and he would just mess it up and I would just be so pissed, but I couldn’t beat him. So I would just go back and fix it again. God, he was the worst. That’s why he’s got a bald head now [laughs]. The Lord don’t like ugly [laughs].
Speaking of family, you’re the father of six boys — what’s that like?
Ohhh. Could be expensive. Could be time-consuming. But it’s always beautiful. A lot of hard work, a lot of emotional hard work, because it’s so important to make sure that they’re their best, and that they’re all right. But I love it, man. I love being a father.
Are you going to try for a girl?
No. Look, I had two girl dogs and gave one away to my mom, and … yeah. You know what? It doesn’t seem like it’s on my side. They’d be like, “You got 10 kids!” No thank you. My aunt had nine, and I just don’t wanna compete with her. Six is enough. More than enough.