Developing One’s Identity: The Journey of The World Famous Tony Williams
Many artists would gladly trade places with The World Famous Tony Williams. For starters, his cousin is Kanye West and has performed alongside him since College Dropout first hit shelves. Tony has been featured on all his albums since and tacked on two Presidential Inaugural Balls in the process. He is an accomplished artist on his own accord and the time has come for the world to take notice. Recently, Redefinition Records and The High Society teamed up and are allowing the world to hear Tony’s latest release King or The Fool: An Opera, Volume 1 in a physical format for the first time. This pairing is one of quality as both companies understand Tony William’s vision of creating an identity, his identity. As we are all constantly lumped into broad categories irrespective of our backgrounds and interests, striving for that special, differentiating factor becomes our life’s mission and Tony Williams is no different.
What’s going on with the The World Famous Tony Williams and your movement?
I’m trying to create it right now and it embodies a kind of a throwback mantra, a love and happiness movement. I’m trying to keep it in the Marvin Gaye vibe, a hippie vibe. I just finished up my morning jog. So, this is not about me talking about hitting the club and partying all night long (Laughs).
How has Hip Hop or R&B influenced your music?
It’s interesting that you called it “an R&B lane” because by default I’m gonna land in that lane. I don’t really define myself as a “soul singer,” but someone who has soul. I don’t set out to define the kind of music I make; I just make it. Nothing is contrived or forced. Still, because of the artists who I’ve been around for the last several years, there will be Hip Hop in it as well.
Read the rest of the interview after the jump! -Allindstrom
Explain some of your projects up to this point?
Finding Dakota Grey was my bridge album. This full-length was my first indoctrination for my fanbase into the world of The World Famous Tony Williams coming out of the work that I’ve done with Kanye. That piece of work was me giving fans what they expected of me with an added twist. It’s a bridge between what one expects of me and where I’m going now. With King or The Fool, this represents who I am; this is my real artistry. Now, the next project will be more of a minimalistic approach, very organic, with a lot of live instruments and less emphasis on electronic elements.
How has The King or the Fool been received?
For those who have given it a chance, I feel they have been pleasantly surprised. The “Another You” single is proving that I’m gaining new fans and people really seem to be gravitating towards it. I’ve been doing music professionally for 14-15 years prior to working with Kanye. My sound is a more mature sound and it’s ironic that I’ve developed a fanbase with a younger audience. I’m grateful for that it and I would like that younger generation to introduce it to their family members and friends who are familiar with that musically mature vibe that I’m bringing. Buy an extra copy of the album for your grandmother (Laughs).
Speak on the single “Another You.” How did that come about?
The single does have that family reunion feel (Laughs). There was a song on Some Of My Best Rappers Are Friends called “Marsha Brady” with Chip Tha Ripper and Mr. Bentley and that’s what we were recording at the time. In one of the other studios, BINK! was in there recording and we connected after he came in and said he had fresh beats. So, he starts playing them and we took that beat on whim. Keep in mind, neither Kanye nor I had seen BINK! in years! He played the beat and we wrote “Another You” right then and there. So, we were all in the studio laying this song down to “Another You.” Kanye wrote the hook and sung the melody, too. It was a very organic process.
You mentioned Charlie Wilson in our conversation. Give us some background on that connection?
I am a slightly younger version of Charlie Wilson (Laughs). He’s from Tulsa; I’m from Oklahoma City. I have an aunt that was a director of a big mass community choir, similar to Kirk Franklin and God’s Property. Charlie Wilson and his brothers were in the choir and I was in the choir when I was 10. So, the close family ties are there, plus the whole Oklahoma vibe thing.
Your music doesn’t sound forced. It seems like you mix various musical elements naturally?
My claim to fame is my work and association with Kanye. He understands that my voice and my style are just as good as having used an Otis Redding sample. So, it’s the authenticity of it and not contriving my style to fit in. I keep my library very broad. I’ve stopped listening to R&B music years ago. Now, if someone was to cut me open, my veins would be running over with soul; that’s what I’ve put into me through all of my influences that I’ve ingested. Soul comes from everywhere, not just music. Kanye uses my voice, my instrument in a very authentic way and his ingredients matched that.
Only so many artists get to perform at a Presidential Inaugural Ball and you performed at two of them. What was that experience like?
It was amazing! Artists from Stevie Wonder to Sting to Denzel Washington, everyone was there. The whole downtown DC area was blocked off and there were balls at most of the hotels there. So, there was no traffic as President Obama was the only one allowed through due to security reason. I had police escorts that shuttled me around to the balls. These events don’t happen but every four years and I was fortunate to do two of them. It was a great experience.
Where’s the momentum shifting for you now?
My passion is that of a performing artist. I haven’t really focused on that as much, so we are working on getting more shows and tours setup right now. Like I mentioned before, we’re gonna have more live instrumentation.
Who would you compare your vibe to and where your music is heading?
I would have to say Maxwell and his last album, or maybe Corrine Bailey Rae as she is one of my favorite artists. As far as taking a band into the studio and coming out with an album that is very minimalistic, that’s the approach I’m talking. That’s my roots and what I do naturally. Where I come from musically is very authentic and classic, something I can do forever. I’ve taken a lot of time to craft my sound and style to create my distinct identity. My mission is to get my fanbase from my work with Kanye and introduce it to another generation. Also, I want to forge my own identity –an identity that I had before I even started working with Kanye. One of the writers that I collaborate with said that he couldn’t tell if I wrote the song yesterday or twelve years ago. I thought that was one of the greatest compliments anyone could pay me.
Check out music from “The World Famous” Tony Williams here:
Redefinition Records’ listen and purchase link: “Another You” 7″ and King or The Fool full-length CD
Bandcamp link: The World Famous Tony Williams
I would like to thank Tony Williams (@TWFTonyWilliams), John Notarfrancesco at Redefinition Records (@REDEFrecords), and John Stewart (@theworldfamous) for making this article happen. Much success on your future endeavors. GOD BLESS