Interview: Anthony Hamilton
Tue, 04 Mar 2008 13:10:04
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R&B old soul Anthony Hamilton's world weary voice channels ghosts of decades past, so it was only fitting that director Ridley Scott would choose him to provide a song and cameo appearance for the movie American Gangster. The epic gangster tale transported viewers back to 1970s Harlem to chronicle the real life rise and fall of drug kingpin Frank Lucas. We had the chance to speak with Hamilton in conjunction with the recent DVD release of the film. He spoke to us about his time on set, his take on gangster depictions in the media and how he developed a personal style defined by honesty.
How did you first get hooked up with American Gangster?
Well, Hank Shockley, who was the music supervisor for the film, actually oversaw the whole thing. He and Cathy Nelson, who oversaw the music as well for Universal, got together, and they wanted to bring something old school, but something new to the movie, and they wanted somebody who could convey that musically. They all agreed and they played my song for Ridley Scott, and he was like, "Oh man, I love it." I came in, and I did what I was supposed to.
You held it down. Was the song "Do You Feel Me?" already written, or did you write it specifically for the movie?
Actually, I had the honor of playing a Diane Warren songshe wrote that song. Hank Shockley and the Bomb Squad, they reproduced it.
Well you definitely made it your own, that's for sure.
I had to.
Had you spent anytime on a film set before?
I think I had.
When you were out there what was it like? Were you out there for just a couple hours or a couple days?
It was two days of shooting time for me, and I had to take in a lot. It was like being on a video set times 20. I had never seen so many cameras, and crews, and some many trailers. A lot of drop cords too.
[Laughs] I can imagine. You've got to watch your step.
Yeah, you can just tell it's a much more serious production than a video. Videos are very important too, but there was too much money in this so we couldn't slip up.
You've got to get it right.
I went in there with my bib on because I didn't want to spill anything on my outfit.
You got to rub elbows with Russell Crow and Denzel Washington. What was it like getting to kick it with those cats for a couple of days?
Well, I didn't get a chance to see Russell on the set, but I did get a chance to talk to Denzel. Actually, he scared me. I was peeping in from the side, and he came out the exit to get a break and he was like, "Antony Hamilton," and I turn around and said, "Hey Denzel! How you doing sir?" He's like, "I bet you don't remember the first time we ever met." I said, "Yes I do, it was at the 70th anniversary of the Apollo Theatre." He said, "That's right, that's right," and we started talking about the South, and soul music, then he told me how much he really enjoyed my music, and we just had general talk after that. He asked me where I was from and all that stuff. I think he knows some people, or has some family from the South.
Seeing all those folks acting, hanging out with Denzel, did it spark a little of that acting bug for you as well?
Yeah, I had already had it. I just wanted it to come about in a natural way. So that was the most natural way to get on the big screen, playing myself, a musician. It's was believable for people and there's talks of another appearance in a movie that I just got an offer for.
I'll definitely be on the look out for that. For a brother like you, who sings from the heart, it seems like acting would be something you'd fall into naturally.
Yeah. I don't have to study too many books on that one.
You've got that old soul style, that fit perfectly with the movie. What artists from the '70s inspired you to start making your music?
Well, just the whole '70s period was an influence. I can pull out a few names, but they were following a big category of other greats. Al Green. I even go back to the 60s with Ray Charles; I love Ray Charles. Um, James Taylor. I love country. Johnnie Taylor, Gladys Knight,and Aretha Franklin, of course. I also like Janis Joplin.
All of those are some serious artists and they can all sing.
Yeah man, and Jodeci.
[Laughs] Lest we forget, do not leave K-Ci & Jojo out of there.
My favorites. One of my all time favorites.
The movie, American Gangster, gave a pretty real take on the hustler lifestyle. It showed the glory, but it also showed the gritty. What was your take on the character Frank Lucas after seeing the movie?
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