Grammy-nominated Will Downing Releases New Album
Grammy-nominated, R&B crooner Will Downing has one of the most recognizable voices in R&B and he is back with his latest project, “Black Pearls”, which pays homage to some of the great female R&B chart-toppers from the 70s through the 90s.
Known as the reigning king of romantic ballads and his sophisticated style, Downing has been around for 28 years and 19 albums later in the jazz and R&B world, and he has put out over 4 million albums worldwide, and he is still serenading fans with his velvety smooth vocals, classic love songs and his signature sound.
In a recent interview with Will Downing days before his show at the packed Wolf Creek Jazz Festival in Atlanta, GA., Downing talked about his 28 years in the music industry and his latest album. Downing closed out the three-day festival with his soulful and heart-rending performance, and he proved that his smooth voice still drives the ladies and couples crazy, decades later. Downing pulled out all of his hits and added some of the hits off his new album, “Black Pearls”. The Wolf Creek Jazz Festival featured Will Downing, Najee, Pieces of a Dream, Gerald Albright, David Benoit, Rachelle Ferrell, Paul Taylor, Jeff Lorber, Cindy Bradley, Boney James, Euge Groove, Alex Bugnon, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, Rick Braun, Vincent Ingala, Ragan Whiteside, Josh Vietti, and Peter White.
Downing released his latest album, “Black Pearls”, a tribute to great women voices in R&B in July. This is his first full-length album in six years. His talented wife, Audrey Wheeler, who lent background vocals, joins him and Saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Najee make appearances on the album. Pianist, producer and longtime-collaborator Chris “Big-Dog” Davis and pianist/arranger Mike Logan are also featured on “Black Pearls”. Downing enjoys taking classic songs with great lyrics and put his personal touch on the songs.
Full of female cover songs, he renders his own versions of Cherrelle’s hit, “Everything I Miss At Home”; The Emotions, “Don’t Ask My Neighbor”; Randy Crawford’s, “Street Life”; Phyllis Hyman’s “Meet Me on the Moon”; Brenda Russell and Oleta Adams’s “Get Here”; Angela Winbush’s “Your Smile” and several more songs. Downing’s “Black Pearls” is a great album to add to your collection. It is hard to pick a favorite song because Downing did an exceptional job with each song.
Here, in his own words, Will Downing talks music…
Angela: What inspires your artistry?
Will Downing: I love what I do. It’s very rare that people know what they want to do, and I’m going to keep doing it until the wheels fall off.
Angela: What age did you realize that you have a sexy voice and could sing?
Will Downing laughs and says: I don’t know about the sexy voice… Around 14. A teacher gravitated toward me and encouraged me. When I went off to school, I was being paid small amounts to perform. I did a lot of background performing and in 1988, I had my first professional gig,” he says.
Angela: Let’s talk a little about your new project. You put out a new album, “Black Pearls” in July. What is your favorite song on this album and what did you hope to accomplish with “Black Pearls”? How did your latest album come about?
Will Downing: “Black Pearls” was inspired by a conversation I was having with a friend of mine. We were talking about Phyllis Hyman. I choose songs based on lyrical content and melody. I enjoy singing songs that are reality based and that I can identify with and that my audience can relate to as well.
Angela: What’s your favorite song on your new album?
Will Downing: I love them all. I can’t pick one. I don’t have a favorite song on the album.
Angela: With a successful music career that has had its ups and downs, you have had staying power in the entertainment business. What would you say contributes to your longevity in the entertainment business?
Will Downing: To me it’s about consistency. If you want to put on my very first release from 1988 to now, you’re going to get a great song that lasts forever.
Angela: What advice would you give aspiring singers and musicians?
Will Downing: Advice that I would give aspiring singers and musicians are I think you should learn your craft. There is no one way to get to the story. The one thing you can do is deliver your craft. I worked behind people a long time and learned the craft. Do as much as you can to cultivate your craft. Be as many places as you can to help your career. Get your name out there as much as possible and if you are as good as you say you are, you will get an opportunity.
Angela: You can catch Downing through his web-based radio show, The Wind Down, which he host and produce and is heard on a growing number of stations across the U.S. and Japan. How is your radio show doing?
Will Downing: It’s doing pretty good now. Seven years and I’m doing it weekly. I play a lot of classic music. I think it’s a good opportunity to introduce new artists and artists that are independent.
Angela: You’re performing this weekend at the Wolf Creek Jazz Festival, and I understand jazzheads are traveling from across the country to come to Atlanta for this Labor Day Weekend Festival… What can your fans look forward to?
Will Downing: I’m going to do what I normally do. We’re going to pull out all the hits that people want to hear and add some of the hits off my new album.