Anita Wilson is one of the newest kids on the proverbial “Gospel block,” but her vocal maturity and calming spirit would lead you to believe she’s been at this far longer than anyone would think.
With her debut CD Worship Soul being dubbed as one of the best projects of 2012, everyone is beyond ecstatic about this breath of fresh air.
I recently sat down with Anita in a candid interview about life, Worship Soul and navigating through the music industry.
How did you get connected with Donald Lawrence?
When I moved to Chicago, my brother did a recording and VaShawn Mitchell had done some writing and producing on the project. Then in ’04, VaShawn called me to do background work for his CD Believe In Your Dreams. Donald came to VaShawn’s live recording and there was a song called “Lost In His Presence” that I did the tag on at the end of the song. A few days later, VaShawn called me and said someone wanted my number. I thought he was trying to hook me up, but it was actually Donald that wanted my information because he liked what he heard at the recording. I ended up doing an engagement with him in Chicago and afterwards he told me I did really well and that he was going to call me. Now in my head I was thinking he is not going to call me back (lol), but he did. And it was at this time that he was putting together what everyone now knows as Donald Lawrence and Company. And the rest they say is history. From there he used me on different projects with Marvin Sapp, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Hezekiah Walker and DeWayne Woods, as well as, leading “Happy Being Me” and “Second Wind” on Donald’s CD’s. Donald is a big brother and mentor to me. He’s a wealth of wisdom and just so unselfish with his platform. When he’s out performing he let’s me perform my single “Speechless” without a second thought.
How come Donald wasn’t more involved on Worship Soul?
It just kind of worked out that way. Donald definitely consulted me all the way through the project and my producer Rick Robinson would call him, but it was like I was spreading my wings. I just wanted to make him proud so he would know that all the years I had been singing with him it wasn’t just about getting a check. He would always say, “That we become so others can become.” It felt good to be able to stand on my own and let him know all he had taught me led to this. He told me he felt like a proud papa that night.
Did you always want to be a solo artist?
I had thought about it off and on for years. And I say that jokingly, but seriously because you sing “Safe In His Arms” enough on Sunday and everyone’s telling you, you should be on the radio. But I’m not someone who believes the hype because there are singers who can sing rings around me. And I know there are many people who are eager to call themselves artists, but that wasn’t me. So one day as I was driving back from Chicago, and I said, “God I’m cool being in the background, so I don’t have to record a CD.” And God said, “But what if there are some people I need you to reach? What if you don’t sell a million records, but only sell a couple hundred to the people down the street? Will you still do what I’ve asked you to do?” And it was that conversation I had with God that day that got me together real good! It was that conversation that really brought my true heart to the surface. It’s not my goal to be a star or super famous. Of course we all want to be successful and for people to know our music, but I really want to do the music God has placed in me to encourage and give hope. And when I first recorded Worship Soul people were always asking me what did I want to see come from this project? What did I want it to do? And not to be deep, but I genuinely want God’s will. If only people in Chicago hear it, then fine. If people all over the world hear it, that’s even better.
But Anita let me ask you this. I hear you when you say you just want people to be blessed and know matter who it reaches you’re ok. But recording is very personal. It’s your blood, sweat and tears that you’ve put into a project. Doesn’t it get frustrating and discouraging when you know you have a quality project with great music and for one reason or another it’s just not performing as well as you would like it too?
I am not going to lie to you, it can be very frustrating to take it all in stride and be patient with the process. It’s a small world, but it’s a big world. “Speechless” was released last August and some people have still never heard it or someone will hit me on Twitter and say, “I just heard your single and I love it.” To a lot of people it’s still brand new. You really have to have a strong team around you because sometimes it’s a slow, slow build and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. But in all humility, it is my baby and I believe in it. I believe it’s a solid project from A to Z. There are projects that come out and we may like 1 or 2 songs and the rest you never have to hear again, but I don’t believe Worship Soul is one of those projects. So I am always trying to maximize on my relationships and connections to help get the word out. I continue to hope for the best and do all I can do. Because at a certain point there is nothing else you can do. I don’t want to pretend for one second that it’s easy because it’s not. And I don’t want to come off ungrateful or that I feel like I’m better than anyone else, but it can be disappointing. If I let it get to me, like it has before, I will be crying and having an attitude and that’s not what I want. So I try to have balance and remain positive.
So with all that said, does it ever cause you to question God?
Never, because it goes back to that conversation when God told me to do this project. That’s why I am so thankful for Facebook and Twitter because that’s how I gauge who I’m reaching. I do get the charts every week and I’m aware of what I sell and how my single is doing, but I don’t let it consume me. I am motivated when I get messages on Facebook from people telling me I was about to commit suicide, but I listened to your music and realized just how much God really loves me. It’s one thing to hear other artists and other people talk about those types of testimonies, but when you read them yourself, it’s really powerful. So God reminds me not to get so caught up that I forget the reason I’m doing all of this. And Donald told me not to get caught up looking at the charts because it will make you question your calling and what God told you. So I try to follow that advice.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be myself. I’m a believer that influence is not imitation. I have learned to find comfort in the style that God has given me. I know God has a sense of humor because he keeps putting me in situations where it gets real good and the whole place is just INNNNNNN and then I have to come on and I’m like, “I’m about to bore this crowd to tears!” And then God does his thing. So he constantly reminds me what I do is good enough.
So is there a special person in your life or are you single?
Well I’m not married, but there is a very special someone in my life!
When and if you get married do you want kids?
Sometimes I think I want them and sometimes I don’t. I just turned 36, so time is of the essence. But with my schedule the way it is, it’s really not feasible right now. I’m an auntie, so I have a good time with my nieces and nephews, but it feels good handing them back to their parents.
Tell me about your family.
I grew up in East St. Louis, IL as a P.K. (preacher’s kid). I have one brother and one sister and I’m the baby. My brother plays keys and the organ and my sister is a singer. We get our musical background from my dad. He plays the piano and organ, as well. My dad actually pastors in Chicago where I now reside, but by the time he had moved here I had already settled working at Fellowship Missionary Baptist, so that’s why I’m not at his church now.
Did you go to college?
I was in and out of college, but it never stuck for me. I’m actually a certified massage therapist. DA GOSPEL TRUTH: All the more reason that very special someone will be staying around! lol
Who are some of your musical influences?
I have so many. I grew up on Yvette Flunder, Donny Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, The Winans, Daryl Coley, The Hawkins Family, The Clark Sisters and a little Thomas Whitfield. And of course the divas like Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and I love 90’s R&B!
ANITA’S 10 RANDOM TRUTHS
1. Richard Smallwood or Walter Hawkins? Walter Hawkins.
2. Marvin Sapp or Fred Hammond? Fred Hammond.
3. Favorite movie? “Purple Rain.”
4. Least favorite fruit? Banana.
5. Guilty pleasure? Reality TV.
6. Favorite reality TV show? Mob Wives.
7. What movie made you cry? Antwone Fisher
8. Last CD you bought? Byron Cage’s Memoirs of A Worshipper.
9. Karen Clark Sheard or CeCe Winans? CeCe Winans.
10. Morning or night person? Night.