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Vesta | Features

Artist Of The Month


Vesta Williams

Vesta Pays Homage to Her Musical Heroes on Shanachie Debut Distant Lover - Vocalist Reinvents Timeless R&B Songs Sung By Marvin Gaye, The Spinners, Smokey Robinson, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Deniece Williams & Other R&B Icons

Webster's Dictionary defines the word 'classic' as 'being of the highest, rank or class' or 'serving as an outstanding representation of a kind.' Vesta's new CD Distant Lover exemplifies the word 'classic' on a number of levels. Not only is her Shanachie debut a sampling of some of the greatest R&B 'classics' but it is a sublime example of how a singer can rework a song when they posses an innate ability to personalize and take chances with a composition. Distant Lover is a refreshing exploration of R&B gems that reveal Vesta's personal connection to each song. Her intensely rich, earthy and soulful voice combined with her intelligent, thoughtful and often playful phrasing drive home the lyrics of any song she sings. The upbeat and charming singer shares, "I don't think people will expect to hear me sing all the different styles featured on Distant Lover. I hope to shock people when they learn that these are not only songs that I love but also ones that I can actually sing and capture the essence of all the incredible artists who sang them."

Distant Lover is a thrilling glimpse into the singer's personality and creative genius as a song stylist. Her renditions of Baby Face's "Whip Appeal" and Sly Stone's anthem "If You Want Me To Stay," show off her playful and comedic side. Vesta states, "I had a lot of fun with Sly's song and got to show off my more stank funky side!" Vesta equally enjoyed recording the Bill Withers hit "Use Me," a song she frequently performs in concert. "This song has a lot to do with some of the experiences I have had," says Vesta. "I have run into a lot of severe vultures in the business and in relationships." Vesta also calls upon songs from her youth on Distant Lover, like the Spinners staple "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" and the title track, which was a hit for Marvin Gaye. Vesta recalls "In my youth, I remember sitting in my living room and listening to 'Distant Lover' over and over again. Growing up it was one of my favorite songs. I guess I was lonely and the song just spoke to me."

Other highlights on Distant Lover include "Ooh Baby Baby," popularized by Smokey Robinson who Vesta calls "the coolest of the cool." The ballad is the perfect vehicle for Vesta to display her range of emotion as she delivers a stunning performance. The singer explains, "If you do not really pay attention to the words of this song, it can sound happier than it is. I tried to get to the real pain of the lyrics and convey what I felt Smokey was trying to say." Vesta also took great joy in recording Steve Wonder's "Knock Me Off My Feet." She confesses, "Stevie's songs are deceptively difficult. His genius is such that his songs sound easier to sing then they are. 'Knock Me Off My Feet' is so beautifully romantic and I am a romantic!"

While most of the tracks on Distant Lover are classics recorded by men, Vesta highlights three songs sung by women for whom she holds deep admiration: Deniece Williams, Sade and Syreeta Wright. Vesta remakes Deniece Williams' smash hit "Free" and says "Deniece Williams is an amazing vocalist and person. She happens to be someone who is as sweet as she sounds!" Sade's "No Ordinary Love" is a song that Vesta fell in love with the first time she heard it. She shares, "There is a wonderful mood to Sade's writing. She stands alone in her genre." Vesta and singer Issac Clemon, perform a memorable version of "Born Again," which was sung by Syreeta and the late Billy Preston. The singer confides, "I had the pleasure of spending time with Syreeta at her home and she was such wonderful person. When the idea of a duet came up, I knew 'Born Again' was the right song. With the passing of Billy Preston, it was heavy on my heart. He was a sweetheart and a killer piano player and you could almost forget how well he sang until you heard him singing. I called upon Syreeta in my minds eye when we were recording this song. Hopefully she came and visited. Maybe that beautiful smile from heaven blessed us with her essence."

As much as Vesta enjoyed recording the repertoire on Distant Lover, she equally enjoyed collaborating with the personnel on the CD which includes saxophonists Kim Waters and Marty Q, guitarists Derrick "HotSauce" Cummings, Randy Bowland, Rhon Lawrence and Wayne Bruce. Producer Chris "Big Dog" Davis, who Vesta affectionately refers to as "Muscle," plays all the additional instruments heard on the CD. "Recording this music with 'Muscle' was just magical," says Vesta. "Creative energies are powerful and sometime stubborn but this was such a beautiful experience."

Vesta Distant Lover available in stores and online nowBorn in Coshocton, Ohio (outside of Columbus) Vesta Williams moved to Los Angeles as a child. Music, the arts and media have always been a part of the singers life. Her father, Hugh Williams, was one of the first African American TV anchormen in the country, while her grandmother, Vivian Williams, was a visual artist whose work has been exhibited at museums throughout the country. As a child, Vesta formed a singing group with her three sisters. "It was more like a hostage situation," laughs the vocalist whose grandmother said she began singing as soon as she could talk. "I planned it so I could get them to sing with me." Although music was a part of Vesta's daily life, she was twelve when she knew it was her destiny. She shares, "My cousins had a band called Flash out of Dayton, OH and they invited me to sing with them because I bugged the hell out of them telling them I was a singer. So they were playing this festival and handed me the microphone and when I began singing they never took it back! For me that was the beginning. I knew that singing was all I was going to do…that this was my thing, my passion and who I was."

Vesta has had the privilege of collaborating with such diverse artists as Anita Baker ("Rapture"), Jermaine Jackson ("Precious Moments"), Jeffrey Osborne ("Emotional"), Stephanie Mills ("If I Were Your Woman"), Gladys Knight ("Good Woman"), Najee ("I'll Be Good To You") and Sting ("Nothing Like The Sun") among many others. She also toured as the lead vocalist with the Crusaders and as a backup singer with Chaka Khan. In addition to using her voice as a singer, Vesta has worked extensively as a voice-over artist doing jingles in commercials for such notable products as McDonald's, Diet Coke, Honda and Revlon Cosmetics.

In 1986, Vesta signed with A&M Records and released her self-titled debut which spawned the popular singles "Once Bitten Twice Shy' (which reached #9 on the R&B charts), "Don't Blow A Good Thing" and "Something About You." The same year her version of "'Suddenly It's Magic" appeared on the soundtrack for the film Soul Man. In 1988 she released the gold selling CD Vesta 4 U that included the top five singles "Sweet, Sweet Love" and "Congratulations." The same year, Vesta contributed to the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning movie Mississippi Burning starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe. She sang a riveting Mahalia Jackson-like performance of the song "Try Jesus." In 1991 Vesta released Special, which included the dance track "Do Ya", and the title track, which peaked at #2 on Billboard's R&B Singles Chart. In 1993 she released Everything-n-More, which featured several producers including Brian McKnight and Chuckii Booker. The album featured Vesta's song "Tell Me." Around this time Vesta made her acting debut in the major motion picture Posse directed by Mario Van Peebles. She portrayed the Mae West-like saloon singer, Vera, in the film. Her songs "Tell Me" and Ride of Your Life" were highlighted in the film's soundtrack. To add to Vesta's credits, she has also appeared on the TV sitcom Sister Sister, playing the reoccurring role of "Monica."

The vocalist parted ways with A&M after Everything-n-More and kept busy working alongside such artists as Gerald Albright, George Duke, Howard Hewett and Christian McBride. In the mid-90s, she signed with MCA and recorded an abum that was never released. Following a 1997 tour with Fourplay, guitarist Lee Ritenour invited Vesta to join his new imprint, I.E., at Polygram, where she released the recording Relationships. In 2005 producers Duke Jones & Norman Connors invited Vesta to contribute as a featured vocalist on their The Café Soul All-Stars CD, which joined Vesta with Peabo Bryson, George Benson, Glenn Jones, Christopher Williams, Roy Ayers, Kenny Garrett, and others.

With the release of Distant Lover, Vesta is sure to delight and surprise old fans and garner new ones with her refreshing takes on timeless classics. Vesta concludes, "I hope that my love for this music and the musicians and composers who wrote and sang them comes through."

Distant Lover
Vesta - Distant Lover Track Listing:
01. Use Me
02. Whip Around
03. Distant Lover
04. If You Want Me to Stay
05. With You I'm Born Again with Isaac Clemon
06. Knocks Me off My Feet
07. No Ordinary Love
08. Free
09. Ooh Baby Baby
10. Could It Be I'm Falling in Love

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