Calvin Richardson’s expression of classic soul has resisted fads and an ever-changing music industry since his debut back in the ’90s. In 2009, he made the rare move to salute his musical idol Bobby Womack with a tribute album. Like many artists, Richardson was apprehensive about approaching the work of an idol. The album, Facts Of Life The Soul Of Bobby Womack not only enchanted Womack but was a timely piece because of his 2009 passing. Anyone familiar with Womack can hear his influence on Richardson’s style that still has its own timbre. Richardson’s respect for Womack, gospel training and his stubbornness about following his own muse has kept him working as one of the go-to independent R&B artists of the past 20 years. His breakout song with Angie Stone, “More Than A Woman” is still an exciting introduction point for new fans.
Richardson has just released his seventh studio album, All Or Nothing, which is a collaboration with southern producer and songwriter Willie Clayton. The video for “Treat Her Right” championed Richardson’s vision of old-fashioned romance by putting the woman at the center. The North Carolina native spoke to this website about the making of All Or Nothing and his artistic origins.
“I know what my roots are and I know what moves me”
What’s the backstory to All Or Nothing?
It was just time to you know to get in the studio and create an album again. Willie Clayton’s a blues southern soul artist that’s done pretty well for himself in that particular area but we got together and did “Treat Her Right” and we put it out to radio independently on our own and just got a lot of traction. The song got a lot of attention we just got in the studio and made an album. There was no inspiration I was just inspired by life in general just as an artist being creative.
How did Willie Clayton come into the project?
Our paths crossed many times. I work in a lot of markets where he works as well. We have been on shows together and sometimes over the years we’ve become really good friends and had talked about doing some stuff together and so we actually just had a show together in February in Little Rock, Arkansas and we just bumped into each other in the hotel after the fact later on that night and you know we were just talking about doing something let’s just do it and we did it.
What’s Monroe, North Carolina like?
It’s much bigger now it’s a small little town but it’s more of a city now. It had a very small population when I was there real country wasn’t a whole lot going on. Just a little family town I left many years ago and I only go back now just to visit it’s not that often that I even go back.
How did you become a Bobby Womack fan?
It was just the music that I heard. My uncles who I spent a lot of time around their place that was basically what they played. My uncles they used to party a lot my mom was different from that she didn’t partake much into that but she was on the church side. When I was with her we used to have to go to church and sing all the time in quartets and groups. When I was with my uncle it was a whole other side. They didn’t do the church thing. They did the drinking, hanging out and fish frys, loud music and Bobby Womack playing they liked to party that’s how I got exposed to that music. When I heard it everytime I heard it, it would just grab me for some reason kind of caught up by it. I really liked it. It became a part of who I am.
How did you feel when Bobby Womack recognized your tribute album to him?
It was definitely something that I will always be proud of the fact that he took time to listen and give me his seal of approval because I was reluctant to touch it from the beginning. Bobby Womack having made such an impact on my life as a singer it really changed my perspective as to who I am and what I have to offer to soul music.
You made a breakthrough song with Angie Stone and you have recorded with Ann Nesby and others. Is there any other woman singer you have thought about singing with?
I’ve done other songs with other artists. I’m open to just working with creative people. I’ve done songs with Monifah, me and Fantasia did a song together. I never had dreams of working with any other artists other than the ones I would’ve dreamed of working with are gone. The ones that really inspired me but I have a huge respect for other artists. There are several artists that I have a huge respect for I would love to work with as well.
How did “Make Me Say Nah Nah Nah” come about?
Willie Clayton wrote that particular song. It was just about a chance meeting with someone in a bar getting to know them kept trying to get to know them. Them affecting you in a certain type of way but every move that you make with an individual you just have to pump your brakes as far as moving forward that’s why we say “nah nah nah.” Even though you want to take things further sometime you have to slow down and look back and let’s just have this moment.
Do any of the songs stand out for you?
“Can’t Let Go” is one of my standouts it’s more acoustic. Because I started in the vibe. When I first started working on the album before me and Willie hooked-up I was going to do a strictly acoustic album and that’s where I started with that one that was going to be my foundation I was going to build everything around that based off of that even after we got to the last song it’s still one of the songs that I still favor.
How have you resisted trends and stayed true to your sound?
I stay true to myself as an artist as a person. Person being the same as the artist as far as I’m concerned because I know what my roots are and I know what moves me and a lot of people was able to understand where I was coming from and being able to connect with that so it wasn’t hard for me to just do me. Although I felt the pressures from the powers that be I’ve been from label to label to label I’ve probably had six record deals. Every album that I put out this is the seventh album is on almost a different label. Shanachie was home for three records but it wasn’t that hard for me because that’s just who I am.
How has social media changed things for you because when you started it didn’t exist?
Initially I wasn’t a huge fan of social media but I had to embrace it and like you said it wasn’t there at the beginning of my career. But had it been there things would’ve been very different because you can reach a lot of people without the assistance of being limited to what the label decides or promises to do for you when it comes to marketing you can market yourself the world is at your disposal and you can really gain some ground and build a fanbase. Now I use it to my advantage and rather than being intimidated by it and it definitely makes a difference.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Will you be touring the record?
I will be out promoting the album with performances but we haven’t scheduled an All Or Nothing tour yet. My website is IAmCalvinRichardson.com people wondering where they can see me next and where I’ll be and all that I have going on that’s the spot to check. I have entertainment cruise coming and a lot of stuff going on. So people can find out what’s going on at my website and not feel left out because they don’t know what’s going on.