Contemporary soul singer Christopher Williams was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. The nephew of jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald decided to become a singer after sitting with his aunt Ella, Frank Sinatra and Count Basie after a show. With talent in his genes and the desire to be a great recording artist, Christopher Williams emerged during the late 1980s, as a recording artist for Geffen Records. He released his debut album, entitled “Adventures in Paradise”, in 1989. The singles “Talk To Myself” and “Promises, Promises” reached the R&B Top 10 charts, and Christopher’s soulful, powerful voice made him stand out among his peers.
In 1991, he landed his first acting role portraying Kareem Akbar, appearing alongside Wesley Snipes and Ice-T in the pop culture movie hit, New Jack City. His single from the soundtrack of the same name, “Dreamin’” turned gold and became a #1 single on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks charts. His 1992 Uptown Records album “Changes” featured the hits “All I See”, “Every Little Thing” and “Come Go with Me.” The album peaked at sixty-three on the U.S. Billboard 200 and reached the twelfth spot on the R&B Albums chart. In 1995 the album “Changes” was followed up by “Not a Perfect Man” on Giant Records. This album brought a new direction for Williams; his first album as sole Executive Producer uses elements of reggae, R&B, hip-hop and country. In 2001, after a six year hiatus the album “Real Men Do” was released on the indie label Renegade, receiving rave reviews from Ebony Magazine and many other notable publications.
As Christopher’s career progressed, he continued to make strides in music and acting. After appearing in the movie New Jack City, he became increasingly interested in acting and began to focus on the performing arts in television, film and theater. In the 1990’s he had a cameo appearance in the popular police drama, New York Undercover as “the singer,” performing “Stranger In My Life,” in the episode entitled “The Shooter.” He had another cameo in Gunmen, starring Christopher Lambert and Mario Van Peebles, also singing the “Stranger In My Life”. He’s also starred in over thirty successful off-Broadway Gospel theatre productions during the 2000s, including “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, “A House is Not a Home”, “Men Cry in the Dark”, and “The Man He Used to Be”. Williams played a main character in the stage play “The Clean Up Woman”, written by JD Lawrence, and played alongside actress Telma Hopkins and Jackee. Williams also appeared in plays “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”, starring K-Ci & JoJo, and “The Man of Her Dreams”, starring Shirley Murdock and Dave Hollister of Blackstreet fame.
Christopher Williams continues to stay relevant and popular among his millions of fans and followers. Working harder than ever in between plays and touring, he’s currently finishing his much anticipated, fifth solo album and in the studio with superstar producers Ced Solo, Mike City, Da Internz, Carvin & Ivan, Eddie F and 9th Wonder.
Christopher Williams spoke to Aries of UrbanBridgez.com recently about his new album ‘Simply Christopher,’ why he has decided to return to music now, the influence of his aunt legendary Ella Fitzgerald, what really happened with Housewives of Atlanta and he breaks news to UB on the sequel to ‘New Jack City.’
Get reacquainted with this R&B balladeer!
UrbanBridgez.com: Let’s start by talking about this new release, which I for one am very excited about? Why now have you decided to come back to R&B?
Christopher Williams: Well I was really focused on getting everything lined up right and working with the right people to help me. People who share my vision and where I want to be in part two of my career. I just felt like now was the right time, there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff coming in the fourth quarter. We have a Christmas album that we’re working on along with the new music for the album ‘Simply Christopher’. We just felt like it was time and we’re really excited about everything with the single (Too Late) being released on iTunes now. We’re starting to get a lot of radio and I’m just humbled that radio and press are picking it up. It’s definitely exciting!
UrbanBridgez.com: You have an impressive list of producers that worked on this project from Eddie F to Mike City, tell us how you decided who you wanted to be apart of this project?
Christopher Williams: It kind of happened organically, it was like a fusion of some of the OGs, people from the 90s who’s still in the game like Mike City. Then we got some new people like Avyon (Too Late) and The Interns who’s worked with Chris Brown and Rihanna. It just all came together and was like finding that pulse that works and we didn’t want the music to be dated. But I’m not trying to be Trey Songz or Chris Brown. We did what just came natural. The topics worked out, I wasn’t trying to come in with 27 or 28 year old topics. I don’t have anything against those topics, they’re just not my topics anymore. So that’s how it happened man, it was exciting. When producers like Mike City are trying to come aboard or come back and work on some music with me.
UrbanBridgez.com: Absolutely loving “Too Late” & the genuine R&B feel to it, what made you decide to go with it for the lead single?
Christopher Williams: Thank you man. We just felt like when I came back this time, it was time to create a lane. It’s just like the CD says ‘Simply Christopher,’ just trying to carve out a lane like KEM has his and Maxwell has his. For years I was pared with Al B. Sure! or New Jack, which are all good things. But in this time and age now with the new frequencies and music and the blending. It’s not a lot of ballad written songs being recorded anymore. So I just felt like it was just a really good time to blend those fusions of things and just come with a sound that goes right down the lane that we feel as soul music. It’s kind of refreshing also and doesn’t seem like I’m trying to redo my old stuff like Dreamin, All I See or Promises. Those hits from the 90s are going to remain those hits, you got to be able to keep moving through the decades as some of the greats have. Diana Ross and Charlie Wilson had hits in four or five different decades I believe. So you got to try and keep up with the times.
UrbanBridgez.com: As a fan, who has all 4 albums in my iTunes you have always recorded great music from day 1 to Real Men Do. You’ve always been more of a ballad man. What separates the “Simply Christopher” from your previous albums?
Christopher Williams: I would say only one or two ingredients that separate them, I think at this time the team I have is important like I say just a lot of great energy. To keep it real, even the fights and disagreements but one thing we’re all trying to do is reach the apex with this project. Specially on the ballads we’re trying to touch the heart-strings, just like on some of the older ballads. This time around I just think it’s a very interesting lane for Christopher Williams, it’s not different or far off but I believe it’s just unique. That’s the only real difference. You’re going to get the up-tempos like you did with Every Little Thing and some mid-tempo’s and ballads. I just wanted to make an album that really speaks to people from the music, the words to the vocals. I want it to feel like it’s a good meal, like it’s an enjoyable experience. That’s what we’re trying to do with this record and hopefully with the Christmas record as well, we’re excited about that too.
UrbanBridgez.com: My favorite songs by you from each album are Promises, Promises, Good Luvin ,Oh Girl and Where Would You Go. I would love to know what are your top 5 favorite songs from your catalog including the new album?
Christopher Williams: Oh wow, I’m going to have to agree with Promises, Promises. I have to say Changes, oh this is hard! I think for me, except with some of the bad kids which I would agree to a point considering other people were encouraging me to record those songs (laughs). But most of my songs are like my kids and you love them for different reasons and they all have their own special thing. Like I would be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate Dreamin, it’s not actually one of my favorite songs but I love it because it’s done so much for me. It’s a song that has also done so much for my audience, when I do it live they really get up and party. They sing the lyrics whether I’m in America or outside the country. When they don’t even know English well, but they know the words to that one. I’m humbled about all of that stuff truthfully man, I really want people to get the full experience this time. From my vocals, stage performance and this record. We’re trying to make this record like when Sade came out with Diamond Life, just like a new frequency. It’s going to be familiar and it’s going to be a little weird to people honestly because it’s a little different. But that’s cool too.
UrbanBridgez.com: Till this day I don’t think the majority know that the legendary Ella Fitzgerald is your aunt. Tell us about her influence on you deciding to become a recording artist?
Christopher Williams: Just as an aunt and an amazing family member, just all she did for our family and everyone. As a young person and not even knowing who she really was. It was around 9 and 10 when I begin to really know due to my love for music and her sharing her life and experiences with the family. I got the chance to be around the people she was around like Frank Sinatra who me and my sister got a chance to sit at the piano with. Tony Bennett and a host of others. I was just in awe of these people who were so gracious and cool. I was like wow, because I got a birds-eye view of it all. It really gave me a lot of push to feel like I was almost apart of it. She was always there as a sounding board, even when things got rough. She would say Chris take it from me, myself, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan we had it rough. Just persevere, it you love what you’re doing keep going. That’s what I’ve always taken from her, I love singing and acting and that’s what I really love doing. I’ve never done anything else, thank god. I’m just thankful that I’m getting a chapter two to do it again on these terms.
“Sometimes people watch ratchetness as an escape because they’re so regimented“
UrbanBridgez.com: You just mentioned acting, let’s switch gears for a moment. You have an impressive acting resume from film to TV to theater, what’s been your favorite role you’ve done thus far?
Christopher Williams: My favorite role that I’ve done so far is actually from a play I did called The Clean Up Woman, because I got a chance to play a comedy role. New Jack City was also one of my favorite roles because it made people see me as an actor. They seen my value in film, even though I’ve only done one other film Gunmen. I continued to stay in theater which is where I come from. Theater has always been a passion for me, something like a cousin to live performing. That’s my favorite place, television and film is also great but to me there is noting like the feeling of a live band, the performance, the instruments, the smell of the stage. Everything that connects me with the crowd. We do plan to do some more television and film. As I stated earlier in the conversation regarding this business. We’re always looking for great opportunities but in this day, we’re always trying to create our own intellectual properties to really push these things forward ourselves.
UrbanBridgez.com: You appeared on some episodes of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. What made you want to film with the cast and can we expect a reality show of your own one day?
Christopher Williams: Well truthfully everybody on the cast I’m either fond of or I’m actually cool with them. Even Apollo, it’s really unfortunate what happened to him because he’s really a cool dude. I actually knew Cynthia and Peter previously and we went on originally to sing a song for their anniversary. I have a song called ‘Not A Perfect Man’ that they wanted me to sing on the show, so we did it. The Producer winds up being from the same city my wife is. So they started talking and one thing led to another and we were asked to come back on the show. Then we found our selves on the show two or three more times. Again that was cool with me, so we were trying to see how serious they were. And I think they was trying to find out who exactly Christopher Williams was. They made the mistake of putting us on the show but not contractually. So I said, well I’m not really going to give you the juice, if you don’t give us a real contract. So then they ‘staged’ the whole pillow talk thing. I’m sure they wanted me to beat up the guy, but we wasn’t going to do that. I had nothing against Brandon and I actually didn’t know who the guy was until I saw the story afterwards. But he was just defending Kenya and I have no hard feelings, I was also just protecting my family. That’s her job to be Kenya you know. I’m not even mad at her, because it’s her job. Her and her actions as well as that show, mean as about as much to me as a baked potato I ate in 1982. But I do like the fact that the show is doing well, it’s a brand that has 65 million viewers. For me it would of been important to display my music. But it didn’t work out and I wish them well, I met a lot of cool people on the set. I had done a play with Nene Leakes also, playing her pimp which was interesting. So I really love Nene and Greg, all of the other people on the show are cool too. Sometimes things just don’t work out and we wish people well and there are no hard feelings. It was really exciting while it happened and a bit crazy and the funny thing in the aftermath of it all…in terms of the Housewives of Atlanta. Our episode ‘Pillow Talk’ is the highest rated episode ever, in the history of the Housewives (laughs).
Christopher Williams: Yeah, so that’s been really cool. And as far as doing my own. I’m not oppose to that. Actually I love television, television like scripted television. But I’m not oppose to reality TV, some of it is very entertaining. People take some harsh views on music and TV sometimes, some of it is just meant to be entertaining. It doesn’t have to always teach you something. Sometimes people watch ratchetness as an escape because they’re so regimented. Entertainment is abstract like music, so people need to just not be so critical. If there is an audience, you better believe it will be there! (both laugh)
UrbanBridgez.com: Exactly! What’s been your biggest challenge you’ve faced in this industry and how did you over come it?
Christopher Williams: Being an artist and a business man at the same time. Having people except that and having to wear two-hats and trying to manage and coach personalities and relationships. Having people feel like you’re a diva or difficult or these things they think and at the same time you have to have this tough skin and feel like I really don’t care what people think, because I’m trying to reach a destination and as long as you’re operating with integrity. Because of the history of how artists have been treated and how artists have taken some of the responsibility of how they’ve acted. So that’s one of the things that I really enjoy that’s apart of my journey when the chapter and the book is closed. Like Frank Sinatra, he did it under his terms and he was blessed enough to have a lot of doors open up and relationships open up. That made it cohesive, I’ve never felt like I had to be the biggest or the best or any of that stuff. I like peace in my surroundings and good energy around my life personally and professionally. So those have been my challenges, but yeah just stay sucker free and keep everything peaceful (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: Outside of “Simply Christopher” what else can fans expect from you soon?
Christopher Williams: Well we’re working on My Brothers Keeper, I just got a script option which is the second chapter of New Jack City. It’s actually a film about YCMB, which is a new generation of CMB. Right now, we’re trying to get Lil Wayne to play Nino’s son Nico and hopefully Drake or Chris Brown will be playing my son Kareem Jr. The first scene will be Kareem Akbar getting out of jail, Nino doesn’t die. I have connections to the Russians who some I’ve been locked up with who have been running everything, so that’s how the film starts and then the younger generation takes over. It’s a movie about Marijuana coalition and a picture of the future in America pertaining to Marijuana, medically and economically.
UrbanBridgez.com: That sounds so dope, beyond excited! Anything else you want to leave with your fans before we wrap up?
Christopher Williams: Go on iTunes and get my new single please, entitled “Too Late.” I hope everybody likes it, I look forward to seeing you guys when I tour the country between now and next summer. It’s going to be a new show, live band and just a new experience. ‘Simply Christopher,’ follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I’m just thankful for you guys! Come on team CW, let’s get charged up again and get this real good music poppin.’ I’ll be around soon and God bless.