It just can’t be that easy…yet somehow, Will Downing, the Prince of Sophisticated Soul, is still finding new ways to thrill his fans. This past March he released of Euphoria will be Downing 17th studio album. The uplifting title may offer clues to the secret formula, (as Euphoria is defined as: an overwhelming state of happiness, confidence or well-being) and may also perfectly describe the grateful mind-set of a man overcoming industry and health challenges in recent years to celebrate career and birthday milestones in 2013. I’m sure Downing’s Euphoria is a great feeling but wait until you hear how it sounds!
Honestly, at this stage in his career, even without over-the-top sales or multiple Grammys…Will Downing has nothing to prove! Who could seriously argue against placing him at the top of the list of Smooth R&B adult male vocalists? After a solid 25 plus year career, the proof is in his product. So why would he tweak an already proven formula? Well, that’s where the overwhelming happiness, confidence and well-being come in. You see, Downing’s Euphoria is his arrival at a point of creative freedom to make his music his way!
The winning formula of Euphoria is not about what gets added, but more a matter of addition by subtraction. A slick “less is more” production approach by the team of Will Downing, keyboardists Chris “Big Dog” Davis and Mike Logan, push his rich baritone vocals to the forefront and creates a more intimate “soul-lounge” feel, complete with upright bass licks and brushed drum strokes. Within this format, Downing deftly swings from R&B to Blues to Blue-Eyed Soul to Jazz to a Brazilian classic sung in Portuguese. Yes, I said POR-TU-GUESE.
We had a chance to chat with him and take a look at some of his answers!
E8: What do you hope people can learn from your career path?
Will Downing: Longevity is the key!! Don’t chase the trends!! Be true to yourself! I’m primarily known as a Balladeer/Crooner and one thing I know for sure is that a Good/Great song and performance will stand the test of time.
What has been your greatest lesson in life?
Will Downing:I don’t know if I can limit it to one but….. I think life is to be enjoyed I’ve been blessed with the ability to make music but there are other aspects of life that complete me as a person (Family, traveling, Religion etc…)
E8: Who is your hero and why?
Will Downing: Parents are my Heroes. They instilled values in me that I live by today!!
E8:What encourages you to get up and go on? Do you have a mantra
Will Downing:I had a serious health crisis in my life. The disease reduced me to 115lbs and put me in a wheelchair for a year and a half. I prayed for healing and said that if I ever got back to the old me I’d never complain again. So when I wake up and I put me feet on the floor and I can move!! I’m grateful and THANKFUL!!!
E8:What is the most shocking fact about you that people don’t know?
Will Downing: think that people are shocked that I have a personality or that I’m no different from them. When people attend a show they think that it’s gonna be all serious Love songs then we get to having fun telling Jokes etc…. after every show someone says “That guy was funny and could sing”.
E8: What do you want to do this year?
Will Downing: would be a good start.!!! I try to take it one day at a time. Hopefully I’ll get started on project # 18.
E8:has this project/ time in your life changed you and made you better?
Will Downing:On this project I went back to my roots Musically. In my early recording I put a lot of emphasis on Jazz. I challenged myself to go back to that on this project and incorporate R & B as well. It felt good to let go Musically and push myself artistically.
E8:What do you want your fans to know? ( ex: Why should they get this project, watch you, follow you etc… This is your chance to plug you!)
Will Downing: I want the fans to know that I appreciate the support and love of the last 26 years. Also that I’ve delivered what could be my Project to date. From start to finish nothing but Quality music.
It should be noted that the album’s first single, is a very fresh take on the Teddy Pendergrass classic, “Turn Off The Lights”. Incredibly, Downing avoids every temptation to borrow from the original Gamble & Huff arrangement in favor of an almost purely acoustic, more sensual alternative, punctuated by sizzling sax breaks by good friend Gerald Albright. As a result, the listener can put aside knee-jerk comparisons and simply enjoying the brilliant contrasts between two one-of-kind artists. Similarly fresh turns on Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” and Lou Rawls’ “If I Were A Musician” invite the same appreciation while tapping the considerable background vocal talents of Downing’s wife Audrey Wheeler-Downing and teen daughter Aja.
Downing’s well documented skills as a song interpreter, may soon take a back seat to his underrated growth as a songwriter, as exemplified by a beautiful original composition, “Heaven In Your Eyes”. The song evokes memories of days gone by, when grown men were unafraid to express love from the heart. This is a straight old-fashioned love song and Will breaks it all down mid-song in a rare moment of husky spoken dialogue.
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