R&B music lovers are familiar with Stokley Williams, lead vocalist and drummer of the Grammy-nominated group Mint Condition. For over two decades, Stokley blessed fans worldwide with his virtuous voice. The group collaborated with legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to work on their debut album, Meant to Be Mint in 1991. Over the years, Mint Condition released several chart- topping singles including, “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes), “You Send Me Swingin’,” “Forever In Your Eyes,” “What Kind of Man Would I Be,” “You Don’t Have to Hurt No More,” “If You Love Me,” just to name a few.
Outside of the group, Stokley also collaborated with other artists such as Elton John, New Edition, Usher, the late Prince, and Kelly Price on her single “Not My Daddy.” The song was a top 30 hit and received two Grammy nominations for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B song.
But now, Stokley is ready to embark on a journey that will allow him to enter the spotlight as a solo artist. Music lovers will hear fresh music from a familiar face. He says, “My thirst has been building. And I’ve been moving at a great pace with Mint Condition. But I just want to take some time to move differently right now. I think one should experience everything life has to offer. And if you have a gift, and most of all the ambition, you should do it.”
Singersroom.com spoke with the skillfull vocalist about the his new single “Level,” new album Introducing Stokley, Mint Condition, and more.
Single “Level”: I decided to call the single “Level,” because everybody wants someone that is just right for them. You want someone to love you for who you are and deal with the good and bad. The older you get, you start to realize you want someone who is on the same level as you. You realize you want your partner’s lifestyle and personality to balance well with yours. You are going to bump heads, but it’s all about having someone in your corner who has your back. It’s an important thing because you want your partner to be real with you and feel comfortable around your presence.
New Album Introducing Stokley: I called the album Introducing because everyone knows pieces of me from Mint Condition. So you only know portions of me; that’s why I name the album, Introducing Stokley. I am introducing Stokley, the man, and singer. You’re getting all of me, top to bottom. This album is all of me. I want the title for my album to be short. I was thinking a self-titled album and making it to a concept album, but I realized Introducing was a stronger name.
Photo: Margaux Rodrigues
Guest Appearances on the Album: Ahh, man there are so many great people on the album. I have Grammy Award-winning pianist Robert Glasper, Estelle, producers Carvin Higgins, Ivan Barias, and The A-Team. I worked with Robert on a Mint Condition record “Why Do We Try,” and it was great. I am thankful these incredible people were a part of my album. And Carvin Higgins and Ivan Barris produced a song on the album called “Organic.” They introduced their talents and artistry, and I was open to new ideas. I love collaborating because you come up with ideas to create something real and magnifying.
Balancing Solo Work with Mint Condition: For me, it’s all about balancing my projects with the group and home life. At some point, group members would like to venture off and work on other projects. The same thing applies to Mint Condition. All of us have families, so we decided to take a break from the group after touring. I say to myself why not use this opportunity to work on a project that represents who I am artistically. It is the perfect opportunity. When you’re in a group, you have to think about the records that would fit well with the group. Everyone is in unison it’s a team effort! But when you’re working on your own project, you can do everything on your own terms. Everything falls on you 100 percent. I have more creative freedom and control even though I am collaborating with other people.
Photo: Margaux Rodrigues
The “Minnesota Sound” & Other Artists Who Musically Influence Stokley: The Minnesota Sound had such a HUGE and POSITIVE influence on me as a musician. So many groups from the 70s and 80’s were performing in Minnesota, from Prince & The Revolution to The Time. I was mesmerized by the look, style, stage performance, and everything else as a whole. Prince was evolving as an artist, and it was like, who was not a fan of Prince? He was different, but he moved people as soon as he walked on stage. I loved when he used his falsetto voice on certain records, and I studied him even more. He is definitely on my list. Al Green was another artist who also had a falsetto voice. He wasn’t afraid to bring Gospel to R&B. It was like he was ten people all in one and he took risks. Also Curtis Mayfield, another soul singer and composer who also had a falsetto voice. These were the kinds of artists you wanted to emulate because they were so natural in their work. So it’s like, I have to give credit to these artists.
Message He’s Striving to Convey From the Album: I want this album to be a refuge that allows people to get whatever they want or need from the record. On the record, they can dance, laugh, cry, celebrate life, or make love. The energy for each song is different. Artists can change a person’s outlook when they listen to certain records, and that’s what I kept in mind while completing this album. I love art and singing, and I want listeners to pay attention to on the Introducing album. On the album, I also talk about social injustice and inequality all around the world. I also want people to forget about the naysayers, continue to fly, make the most of every moment, and believe in yourself. I am just balancing the scale musically. If you like the album, great. If you don’t, maybe it just wasn’t your cup of tea.
Photo: Margaux Rodrigues
Purchase “Level” on iTunes HERE.