President Obama is a fan of his music. India Arie counts him as a friend and colleague. And he’s performing at the ESSENCE Festival on Friday, July 5.
Neo-soul singer Anthony David spoke with ESSENCE.com about his excitement for the ESSENCE Festival, the approach he followed for his latest album Love Out Loud, and his admiration for India Arie.
ESSENCE.com: What do you enjoy about performing live at an event like the ESSENCE Festival?
Anthony David: It’s the response (from the audience). I write music about real life and I write it for real times. When I see people saying or listening to the lyrics, that’s what it is all for. My band, the Do-Gooders, and I have been ready for the ESSENCE Festival. We have four albums worth of material and I might bring a few special guests. I know I will have some fans at the Festival, but there may be some people who have never heard of me.
ESSENCE.com: What makes your sound unique?
David: There’s an honesty and consistency with what I do. And there’s also a diversity in what I do that I don’t think is everywhere. I am doing stuff I don’t hear. I slide in covers from soul, rock, gospel and blues without people noticing half the time. I’m a lover of all these genres and try to include my influences in everything.
ESSENCE.com: How does your latest CD Love Out Loud compare to your previous albums?
David: There are consistent themes on the other albums, but this one is almost like a mixtape—a hodgepodge of stuff. I did what I felt like doing and didn’t really have an order. I got into more rock on this album than I had ever messed with, and I expand on what you can call R&B. You don’t really look to R&B to experiment with poetic and lyrical qualities, but that’s what I try to do.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve worked with India Arie before and she’s featured on your song, “Words.” Can you share about your appreciation for her?
David: That’s my sister. We’ve been cool before we ever did music. I’ve known her since the 90s. We started locally and have been able to see the world together. We’ve gone past every dream we had in the beginning. At this stage in our career and lives, we’re making new dreams. I am forever indebted to her—even on the friendship level—for just being loyal and cool.
ESSENCE.com: What’s next for your career?
David: I’m partnering with a friend of mine, a professor at Spelman College, to tour different schools to talk to children about politics and music and how they play into each other. There will also be more touring on the music side, and I’m doing a few things on India Aire’s album.
ESSENCE.com: What’s the nature of your work with the AWOL organization to provide arts and technology education to children in need?
David: It’s been in Savannah, Georgia, for 10 years, and we’re moving the headquarters to Atlanta. It’s an after-school program designed around hip-hop, technology and poetry. The kids make albums, put on plays and produce a lot of videos.
ESSENCE.com: Being from Savannah, Georgia, what’s your take on the food scene in New Orleans?
David: I love the spices. Boudin, chicken of anything with anything in it, and crawfish étouffée come to mind. The food in the Gulf area is better than most places. It’s so rich. You have to be ready to eat when you go over there.
Learn more about the other performers on this year’s ESSENCE Festival lineup.