Calvin Richardson certainly talks a good game. Guess you have to do that when you call yourself “the Soul Prince.”
“I am the prince of soul music!” exclaims Richardson. “A lot of people out sing soulful music. But I am the keeper, I’m today’s keeper, of yesterday’s soul music – and that’s not gonna change!”
The Charlotte-area native (who will be one of the many musical acts at this weekend’s African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County in downtown Raleigh) is on the phone from New Orleans, where he has lived for a year. “I’ve lived in so many different places,” he says. “You know, when I came to Louisiana, man, I just wanted to hang around for a little while, you know wha’m sayin’, and get the experience of living off Louisiana, man, and the culture of the people.”
While he has good words for his place of residence, what he really wants to talk up is the new album he’s finishing. “The most important thing is it’s going to be new,” he says. “It’s just new music for me.” From the way he talks about it, Richardson feels his next album will be in the same league as the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On.”
“I’m-a go way past the surface, you know. Soul music gets way past the surface anyhow. Well, I’m-a go a little bit deeper than that.”
Just how deep are we talking about here? “I’m-a touch on some issues that a lot of people, they live and experience,” he says. “They don’t wanna talk about it. But, you know, and sometimes, even when some things can get so deep, they don’t even wanna be in the room when other people talk about it. It makes ’em feel that much uncomfortable. But I gotta do it. Like, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ I live by that, you know.”
Richardson says he’ll touch on love, relationships and matters of the heart, but he’ll also riff on social issues and the economy. And just what is the title of this magnum opus? Why, it’s “Enough Said.”
“Because when you make a bold-enough statement,” he says, “there ain’t nothing else to say.”
At this point in the Bible-quoting performer’s career, the 30-something Richardson feels he knows what is essential to create a great album. Having started his career as a major-label darling – his first two albums, 1999’s “Country Boy” and 2003’s “2:35 PM” (named after the time of birth of his second son) were released on major labels – Richardson considers himself more of an independent artist these days. “I had more success as an independent than I ever had when I was with a major,” he says, citing work with hit producers like Raphael Saadiq and the team of DJ Eddie F and Darren Lighty (who produced “More Than a Woman,” his duet with Angie Stone) during his time with the majors.
After five years of nonrecording, Shanachie Entertainment reached out to him about joining its label. That union resulted in three albums, including a Grammy-nominated album of Bobby Womack covers (titled “Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack”) in 2009. “It didn’t take much convincing to redo some of Bobby’s greatest hits, because it was in me already,” he says. Richardson had already covered Womack’s “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much” on “Country.”
“Bobby has been a great influence, as far as the music is concerned, for me from day one. I grew up on it, you know. I grew up listening to Al Green, Bobby Womack, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye – and that’s basically what came out.”
The last album he did with Shanachie was 2010’s “America’s Most Wanted.” And now that he’s fully on his own, usually doing three to four live shows a week and set to release music on his own label, NuMo, Richardson is ready to let everyone know he is his own artist – and he’s gonna be around for a long time. “I just want to continue, man, putting out music,” he says. “And, you know, that’s a lot of pressure that I put on myself because it’s not easy, man, to make music that’s obviously relevant to today – and yesterday – and have substance in it as well.
“I’ve grown a lot,” he says. “The music has evolved and, you know, I’m gonna be around as long as I wanna be pretty much, you know what I mean. Because it’s not up to the industry, you know. It’s up to me. It’s who I am and who I want to be.”