Anthony David has spent the last four years compiling music for his sixth studio album, The Powerful Now. The Georgia native, who became known for his “Words” duet with India.Arie eight years ago, was last heard from on 2012’s Love Out Loud. His carefree approach to life’s layered emotions turns his music into moving poetry. “Beautiful Problem” is his new song and it is about the worthwhile battle for love. In a recent phone conversation with David, he explained that he waited four years to prepare his album because he wanted the songs to have meaning. His creative philosophy is why he has become one of the most recognized R&B artists to emerge from Atlanta’s soul kitchen. The commitment to music making from the heart also attracted the admiration of the Obamas who used “There’s Hope” as one of their campaign songs. In the following interview David discusses The Powerful Now, bogus R&B niche claims and his love of West African pop music among other things.
“The thing they called neo-soul was niche until Adele does it and then it’s a mainstream thing”
What does the album title The Powerful Now mean to you?
It applies to the moment as in the time we live in now and it can also mean a specific moment you’re in and a lot of times it deals with meditation the here and now. But also, in terms of the album the whole album has that because there’s different moods on each song. I picked moments of inspiration of all different types so the album doesn’t really stay with one flavor.
When you said that “R&B” is not niche what did you mean?
It’s really funny dealing with that over the last couple of years from festivals to TV appearances and things like that one thing you get back all the time is from so-called mainstreamers is “this song is niche only a certain amount of people listen to it.” And it’s really strange now because you’re in a, I guess you could say Black music of a certain songwriter aspect like that’s nothing that people in the mainstream know and we look back and there is this ‘90’s R&B resurgence. That’s not the kind of thing they thought everybody would be listening to before but all of a sudden yeah a lot of people grew up on that and you can see the influence all kinds of ways much later. The thing they called neo-soul was niche until Adele does it and then it’s a mainstream thing. It applies to a lot of people we’re not singing to certain people we’re singing to humanity. I heard one time Musiq Soulchild was trying to get on Jimmy Fallon or something and they were like “Ahhh” it’s like dude he’s sold millions of records, how is that something niche? But it’s like gangsta rap, but that’s something that’s for a certain amount of people.
What inspired “Beautiful Problem?”
To me, it’s about a romance kind of thing. A cycle like dealing with the reality of things acknowledging the difficulties of it but who wouldn’t want to deal with the problem of love. Like would you not want to have that experience?
How do you feel about all the stuff going on with police brutality and Black Lives Matter?
Generally, the reaction to whatever is going on is worse than what started it. I’d like to see more organization. I think we should’ve had more organization a long time ago. If anything it alerts us to not necessarily new problems, it’s not a new problem, but it definitely wakes people up. The scariest part is not what’s happening but a reminder of like wow do we have a community? But it’s interesting to see people say “Let’s go back to Black banks” old people that you swear up and down ain’t doing nothing ain’t never left that Black bank. Particularly in Atlanta, you have to look at some of the politicians in it and you go in a lot of ways we have to take stock of what is working and we also look to correct things.
Tell me about “Out Of My League?”
I think neo-soul means someone who has a broad base to draw from. I use to be in a hip-hop rock band I’m talking like 2006 that’s some of the influences I never really got to get off so I don’t think people think I have any rock or funk influences. That was another moment where I might normally say I don’t want to put that on there but I said fuck it.
“Long live Afrobeat!”
What’s the Atlanta music like now compared to when you came out?
It’s a continuum of before we got here like Gladys Knight or James Brown and Otis Redding so there’s always these waves. Now Janelle Monae is having a nice wave. I think that Janelle’s camp is the strongest so there’s always something happening, there’s always a local thing. You can always come here and see live music that’s Georgia. Georgia is important musically to the world so I think the strongest representation of the new is what Janelle did and I don’t get out that much right now but it won’t surprise me that you will see another one.
Who is the singer on “Never Again?”
A girl named Reesa Renee, a girl from DC. I met her through Instagram I was in DC doing a show and she was like “I got this track” and we just did it. It kind of has a go-goish feel to it, I like that I love that vibe. I think it also has the quintessential whatever people attribute to the early neo-soul.
We’re planning a tour but I wanted the album to be out for a while so people can get the gist of it and I really want to organize the tour. We’re trying to plan out which parts of Europe and what parts of America. Long live Afrobeat! That’s the music I listen to the most. I’m into now the snog on the album “I Don’t Mind” is modeled after artists like The Wizkid. It’s fun West African music. When I do go out that’s usually where I go it’s fun, it’s not crazy. Our music right now, American music it’s pretty crazy so I like West African pop, Afropop. It’s my favorite music right now. I’d love to work with several of the artists.