Whether categorized as “retro-soul,” neo-soul or simply soul, the decade-plus trend of resurgent soul music has only accelerated recently. Artists as diverse as Janelle Monet (doing a James Brown homage on David Letterman), Raphael Saddiq (who evoked Motown on his most recent album), Leela James, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Raheem DeVaughn, Amy Winehouse and more have ridden the soul bandwagon. For Calvin Richardson, affectionately dubbed The Soul Prince, soul music is more than a trend or even a musical style; it is a set of values that he has been living since even before his debut release in 1999… Read more
He translates the essence of soul music into a contemporary context and consistently brings the music to the people via constant touring with a full band. His persistence seems to be paying off. In the past year he has seen his classic soul composition “There Goes My Baby,” collaboration with Babyface, become one of the biggest R&B hits of the year, thanks to Charlie Wilson’s great version. On June 25 2010, Calvin received an ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Award for writing and publishing the song which topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Music Charts in 2009. Calvin Richardson also scored two Grammy nominations for his last album, Facts Of Life, his heartfelt tribute to one of soul music’s greatest creators, Bobby Womack, an honor topped only by a personal benediction from Mr. Womack himself. With the release of his new album, America’s Most Wanted, by Shanachie Entertainment and his own Numo Records on August 31, 2010, Calvin Richardson is poised for the breakthrough many have been predicting.
America’s Most Wanted is a straight-forward assertion of soul music with no gimmicks—great songs beautifully sung, top-flight musicianship, much of it live in the studio, devoid of samples—that represents Calvin coming into his own as songwriter, singer and producer.
“This album is all original,” notes Calvin, “and as always I write about things that are important to me, that I deal with directly or indirectly on a day-to-day basis. I think the major difference on this album is that I continue to grow as a producer as well as a writer. I paid closer attention to not only lyrics but the melodic structure. This one definitely says a lot about the space I was in when I was recording and this time I was in a beautiful place in life.”
The album’s title track, for instance, lays out a scenario of a man and a woman who come from very different stations in life and yet through love can build a wonderful relationship. Indeed the power of love is a recurring theme on such songs as “Adore You,” “You’re So Amazing” (the first single), “Never Do You Wrong” and “Reach Out.”
“Adore You,” Calvin explains, “was inspired by my 17 year-old daughter. She has the most beautiful spirit and is so sweet and loving. She was over for the weekend and before going to bed she came in my writing room and the words just fell out of the sky. “You’re So Amazing” is basically about that one person in your life that everyone either has had or will encounter and fall in love with and even if life takes you in extremely different directions you will always love them unconditionally and no one will ever take their space in your life and heart.”
Although the theme of love is explored on American’s Most Wanted, which was recorded mostly in New York and Los Angeles, not all of the songs revolve around this topic. The sensual side of life is expressed on songs such as “You Posses My Body” and “Sexin When We Dancin” and wider messages are explored on songs such as “Monday Morning” and “Thug Livin.” The latter song shows a young man at a cross-roads, tired of the destructive “street” lifestyle and ready to make a change—a real-world dilemma experienced by large numbers of young men in urban America. “Come Over” shows a more vulnerable side of The Soul Prince.
“I love ‘Come Over’ so much,” Calvin says, “because it really put me out there in the sense that it kind of opens the door to how I spend the other 80% of my life, which is alone. Because I’m an entertainer I get love from so many people so no one would think that when I go home it’s to an empty house. Sometimes nothing else will do but that one individual, if you know what I mean.”
Calvin Richardson came by his soulful style honestly. Born in Monroe, North Carolina, the fifth of nine children, Calvin had a strong musical upbringing. His mother sang in the local gospel group, The Willing Wonders, and he sang with them as a youth but he was able to listen to secular soul music and funk and was particularly inspired by Bobby Womack, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Donny Hathaway. Singing on the gospel circuit, he met and became friends with Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey and Joel “Jo Jo “Hailey, who went on to form the hit-making group Jodeci in the early Nineties. Calvin was inspired by their success to form the urban contemporary vocal group Undacova, whose song “Love Slave” was included in the New Jersey Drive soundtrack in 1995. When Undacova folded, Calvin launched a solo career that resulted in his debut solo album Country Boy on Uptown/Universal Records in 1999. Despite strong material, including a great cover of Womack’s “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much,” the album failed to sell, possibly due to confusion engendered by the album’s title. While Calvin was working on this follow-up, Angie Stone heard a demo of his song “More Than A Woman” and invited him to duet with her on a version of the song for her album Mahogany Soul. A second album for Universal was shelved before release but Calvin’s album 2:35PM, named after the time one of his children was born, was released by Hollywood Records in 2003. The album went on to sell 250,000 copies without a breakthrough hit. Though lumped in with the neo-soul trend, 2:35PM revealed Calvin as an authentic soul singer bringing a classic vocal style to a contemporary production sound. 2008 saw the release of Calvin’s Shanachie Entertainment/Numo Records album When Love Comes, with its single “Sang No More” hitting the Urban AC charts. 2009 brought success via Charlie Wilson’s hit rendition of Calvin’s co-write with Babyface, “There Goes My Baby” and with Facts Of Life, his powerful live-in-the-studio tribute to Bobby Womack that garnered two Grammy nominations, one of which was for his duet with Sounds Of Blackness powerhouse Ann Nesby.
“I didn’t give myself the name or title ‘The Soul Prince’” Calvin notes, “but that I am. I don’t actually know where it started but some things just happen and it’s a title not easy to live up to. I exist wherever there’s Soul music i.e. R & B, blues, gospel and southern Soul. I earned the title and I’m not giving it up. I think soul music has taken its place and probably will never be the front runner as far as the industry is concerned but it’s alive and well. As long as I’m around it won’t break down. I see myself as the keeper of Soul music so I live a very soul-filled life!”
00 – Calvin Richardson – We Gon’ Love Tonite (Intro)
01 – Calvin Richardson – Love Has Finally Come At Last (feat. Ann Nesby) (Facts Of Life The Soul Of Bobby Womack, 2009)
02 – Calvin Richardson – We Gon’ Love Tonite (I Am Calvin, 2014)
03 – Calvin Richardson – Daddy To My Kids (When Love Comes, 2008)
04 – Charlie Wilson – There Goes My Baby (Uncle Charlie, 2009)
05 – Calvin Richardson – All Or Nothing (All Or Nothing, 2017)
06 – Calvin Richardson – Flowers (All Or Nothing, 2017)
07 – Calvin Richardson – Make Me Say Nah Nah Nah (All Or Nothing, 2017)
Background music during the interview:
Calvin Richardson – We Gon’ Love Tonite, The Abyssinian Baptist Choir – He Is Such An Understanding God, Calvin Richardson – Country Boy, Angie Stone – More Than A Woman (duet with Calvin Richardson), Calvin Richardson – Treat Her Right, Calvin Richardson – The Only One, Calvin Richardson – Let It Out