Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Feature

Walter Christopher: Love is all you need

Walter Christopher @bluesandsoul.com
Walter Christopher @bluesandsoul.com Walter Christopher @bluesandsoul.com Walter Christopher @bluesandsoul.com Walter Christopher @bluesandsoul.com

Affectionately known as “Walt Chris” to his devoted female fanbase, Harlem, New York contemporary soul singer/songwriter Walter Christopher this month releases his third album ‘It’s All About Love Vol. 2’ in the UK. The follow-up to 2000’s ‘It’s All About Love’ and 2006’s ‘Can’t Wait’, Christopher’s new set finds him teaming up with producers Rhemario ‘Rio Beats’ Webber (of US R&B chart-topper Lyfe Jennings fame) and Hubert Eaves IV, to deliver nine love-themed new tracks that combine the old skool sincerity of such soul legends as Al Green and Teddy Pendergrass with the prowess of more contemporary vocalists like Eric Benet and Maxwell.

Indeed, released through New York-based independent AVH Entertainment (run by April Harris, former lead-singer of hitmaking late-Eighties US female dance/pop trio Seduction), the ever-soulful moods on the urban-adult-contemporary-flavoured ‘It’s All About Love Vol. 2’ range from the undulating midtempo groove balladry of ‘There You Go Again’ and the romantically sensual, shuffling US single ‘So Amazing’; to the slow, sexy sway of the appropriately-titled ‘Passion’ and the joyous, infectious punch of the funkier, celebratory closer ‘Oh My’.

All of which accurately showcases the vocal and songwriting talents of an artist whose skills have previously been utilised on several US TV and radio commercials, in addition to opening-up live for a diverse range of iconic artists ranging from LL Cool J and En Vogue to Destiny’s Child, Diahann Carroll and Boyz II Men!

…Cue for a courteous and warm-mannered Mr. Christopher to hook up for the first time with ‘Blues & Soul’ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis. As - speaking from The Bronx - the clear-speaking native New Yorker discusses his aforementioned new LP; his early days of singing in the church choir; plus his ever-growing career as both a live performer and recording artist.

PETE: Your new album has been described as the having the occasional Eighties influence of acts like Surface and Atlantic Starr. What did you want to achieve musically?

WALTER: “Well, musically I definitely wanted to do something that wasn’t TRENDY! Like when you go back to the time of groups like Surface and Atlantic Starr, if you hear that stuff on the radio or on the internet now, it still sounds fresh and it still sounds GOOD!... And so I too want to be that type of ARTIST! In that, no matter whether you play me now, or five years from now, or 10 years from now, you still get that feeling of NEWNESS. Where you can be like ‘I remember when that record came OUT! It made me feel good then, and it makes me feel good NOW!’!... You know, I definitely wanted my album to be a kinda throwback to the times of artists and producers like Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye or Babyface - an era when you took you time with the music and it was all about the SONG!”

PETE: Meanwhile, lyrically it’s been hailed as “a collection of feel-good, positive love songs”…

WALTER: “Well, being as the actual music that was presented to me through the producers was ROMANTIC music, I had no CHOICE! My spirit just wanted to emit sounds of romance and love! And it was the same with the songs I created in conjunction with the producers, or that I wrote the lyrics for first! With the state-of-mind that I’m in today, I basically just wanted to come across as ‘the guy that constantly and consistently talks about love’! Because, to coin a phrase, I genuinely do think that what the world needs now is more LOVE! So that’s what I like to WRITE about!”

PETE: Let’s discuss the two producers you collaborated with on ‘It’s All About Love Vol. 2’ - Rhemario ‘Rio Beats’ Webber (of contemporary soul star Lyfe Jennings fame) and Hubert Eaves IV

WALTER: “Rhemario Webber was actually introduced to me through my label, AVH Entertainment. They’d done previous business with him, and thought he and I together would be a good mix, a good vibe. So I went to his studio, started listening to his tracks, started coming up with lyrics on-the-spot… And it was just a good FIT! Because he’s an excellent producer, excellent songwriter, and a highly accomplished keyboard-player. Then Hubert Eaves IV is actually the son of Hubert Eaves III, who played in (Eighties New York soul/disco chart-toppers) D-Train, He plays multiple instruments - drums, bass, keyboards - and, as we’d already been in a band together, I’d go over to his house, listen to songs he’d done... And from there we basically decided ‘You know what? We should WRITE together, because we’re definitely on the same PAGE!’!... And that’s basically how those two collaborations came ABOUT!”

PETE: Though you were born in North Carolina, you were actually raised in Harlem, New York. So can you fill me in on your early background?

WALTER: “Like you said, I was born in North Carolina but, by the time I started attending Grade School, I was already in Harlem! So yeah, I guess all my nurturing and raising was done within the context of good ol’ Harlem, USA! And as a child I guess I just did the kinda things children DO. As a young boy I had an interest in basketball; as I got a little older I took up martial arts; when I got to High School I started doing some gymnastics... And, though at school I never really pursued music, it was nevertheless always something that was in the background. Because my mother had a great collection of vinyl records, and so on Saturdays - when she’d do her cleaning - she’d play Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight & The Pips... And I always loved what I was hearing, not to mention being an avid watcher of ‘Soul Train’! But as I said, though music was always something I could feel calling me, it wasn’t until I started singing first lead in the church choir that it REALLY came out and I was like ‘This is what I wanna DO! I wanna sing PUBLICLY!’!… And so from me singing in church, everything ELSE opened up! I got the opportunity to work with some local bands, we started performing in clubs throughout New York City - and I took to it like a fish in WATER!”

PETE: So can you expand on how all this ultimately led to a full-time career in music?

WALTER: “Some of the musicians playing in the church choir were also playing with the local bands that were doing secular music. So one day they approached me and were like ‘Do you just sing gospel, or do you do SECULAR music?’... And at that point I basically just wanted to do it ALL! So I was like ‘You know what? Just name the time and place, and I’ll BE there!’!… And that’s basically how it started - doing small clubs and private parties; meeting more and more people; networking… To where it eventually got to the point where I was able to pursue music full-TIME.”

PETE: Prior to going solo, you were in a New York band called Love Peace & Soul. How do you recall that experience?

WALTER: “Oh, that experience was great! Because the venues were very intimate - you know, they weren’t stadiums, they were small CLUBS! Which meant you were right there face-to-face with your audience, and so you had to BRING it! And, because sometimes New York audiences can be rough, you had to be constantly on your A-game!... So yeah, working with Love Peace & Soul I learnt how to TURN it on and KEEP it on, how to work the crowd, how to get personal with the audience so that they get into what you’re doing... Because we weren’t actually doing any ORIGINAL material - we were mainly a Top 40 band. And so, when you’re doing someone else’s hits that people are used to hearing sung in a certain way, it means that you have to bring your OWN fire to the table so that they can accept you covering the other person’s SONG!”

PETE: So how did that then lead to you signing as a solo artist to AVH Entertainment?

WALTER: “Well, my first album - ‘It’s All About Love’ - I basically did and put out all by myself, along with some of my friends. So, when AVH came to one of my live gigs and approached me to partner-up with them, I was like ‘I guess this is the natural progression I need to take this thing to the next STEP!’... Because they’re very knowledgeable as far as the business end of things is concerned, plus they were prepared to give me the freedom I need to write and produce in the way that best expresses the way I FEEL. So I was like ‘Yeah, this is a good MATCH! This is gonna WORK!’… You know, we just clicked straightaway - and here we are TODAY!”

PETE: Finally, with you as an artist very much going the independent route, what are your thoughts on the indie-versus-majors debate?

WALTER: “Well, with the majors they’ve already got a good machine in place that they can straightaway put behind you, plus they’ve got like 30/40/60 years experience in the business. Which means they’ve already carved out a niche for themselves, and so having their name behind you will open DOORS for you. But then you also have to remember that, when you’re with a major, you’re there alongside dozens of OTHER artists! So your release-date on your project has to fall in line with what’s going on with the OTHER artists that they’ve signed. Whereas with the indies I find - certainly in the case of the indie I’M with - there’s more freedom, plus I don’t have to wait until so-and-so releases THEIR CD for ME to fall in line. You know, if my project is ready and all the preparation is in place, then we don’t have to wait for ANYONE! It’s like ‘Let’s GO!’!”

The album ‘It’s All About Love Vol. 2’ is out now through AVH Entertainment
Words PETE LEWIS

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