Prince of Sophisticated Soul Will Downing Self-Released 17th CD “Euphoria”– In-Stores Now
Surveys R&B, Jazz, Blues and More in Singer’s Singular Signature Style
With a quarter century of hits under his belt, soul singer supreme Will Downing is flexing his freedom as never before with an outstanding offering that showcases the broadest breadth of styles yet, fittingly titled Euphoria –in-stores now. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Will Downing’s romantic voice and soul-stirring songs over the years, so when Will was in Atlanta recently for his spring/sumner tour, I (Sonya Jenkins) caught up with the man dubbed the Prince of Sophisticated Soul – along with Sonya’s Spotlight’Web Mag’s Washington, D.C. correspondent, Ashly “Blaze” Miles. Right away, Will had us laughing, with his fervent sense of humor and clever remarks. It is Will’s positivity, strength and consistency that has kept him grounded throughout his 26 years of belting out heart-gripping hits and makes him stand out among other singers.
While maintaining a quarter of a century career in any field, especially entertainment, is quite impressive, Will acknowledged that we (my film crew) did not have enough film in the camera or enough memory on the disk, for him to discuss the challenges he has gone through. “There are a lot of people that started the race the same time that I did musically and for some reason or another I’ve been one of the fortunate ones to maintain a career,” Will said. “And it’s tough to not follow trends, to be yourself and to be able to have loyal followers for the past 26 years. So, Ive been blessed.”
Will Downing’s 8-song Euphoria is a delectably eclectic affair that finds the singer moving from the psychedelic soul swing of Stevie Wonder’s conscience classic “Too High” (a lament for a drug-addled girl) to the timeless ballad of longing “If I Were a Magician” (popularized by the late, great Lou Rawls). Downing takes the bark out of Teddy Pendergrass’ bedtime command on the lead single “Turn Off The Lights” (smoothly waxing as effectively crooning over a jazz quartet featuring longtime musical partner Gerald Albright on alto sax) and adds layers of his own background vocal accompaniment to the torch standard “Lush Life” (featuring Najee on tenor sax). Daryl Hall & John Oates’ soft rock gemstone “She’s Gone” receives the identical loving Downing treatment that Paul Davis’ “I Go Crazy” received two decades before while his take on alt-rocker Ray Lamantagne’s “You Can Bring Me Flowers” finds Will in a decidedly “all blues” frame of mind.
Rounding out Euphoria at the highest of heights is Downing singing Brazilian superstar Djavan’s world famous “Meu Bem Querer (My Wishing Well)” in its native tongue of Portuguese followed by the CD’s one original composition of Will’s, “Heaven in Your Eyes.” As always, Will Downing sings of love in ways that soothe the hearts of the lonely while simultaneously bringing the hearts, minds and bodies of those luckier in romance…closer together.
Brooklyn-native Will Downing has cultivated a faithful audience worldwide with his sonorous baritone voice, gallant charm, easygoing sense of humor and sincerely engaging stage presence, including a youthful audience. When Blaze, who is also an entertainer – with Christian rapper at the top of her myriad of accomplishments – asked Will what he’d say to younger generation artists, Will said, “There are a lot of very talented people out there – young men and women. The one thing that I feel sorry for them – in regards to the music business – is that there is no such thing as longevity anymore.” Will said that when he was first on the music scene what was normal was a record company grooming, styling and teaching an artist better communications skills. “And then they’d put out another record and as the success came in, they’d keep going. I don’t see that these days,” Will noted. “I see artists that come out with maybe two or three records and then it’s ‘Next, Next, Next.’ So that’s what I fear for. There’s no longevity.”
Beyond the music, Downing is a published photographer with one coffee table book, “Unveiled Series I” (2005) and a follow-up soon to come. He is a passionate and purposed spokesperson for the American Stroke Association, often hosting a charity bowling event of his creation, “Strike Against Stroke,” to raise funds towards awareness and education in the disproportionately affected African American community. The American Heart Association officially recognizes Downing as a Celebrity Ambassador. Closer to home, Downing battled and beat the chronic muscle inflammation disease polymiositis over the course of several years, beginning in December 2006 – a hard-won triumph that has given him a new lease and outlook on life.
A master of sensuality on record, Will Downing is – ultimately – a family man, married to singer Audrey Wheeler-Downing and the father of three children including his daughter Aja – both of whom vocally grace Euphoria. When asked how he balances personal life and career, Will said, “I try to use my career as someone who works a 9 to 5. At certain points I just stop and say, ‘It’s personal time.'” During those times Will says he chills, watches TV and most importantly, spends time with his family.
For aspiring singers, Will advises staying true to one’s self. “That’s the one thing that I think has made me maintain this career,” Will acknowledged. “Pretty much what you’re hearing me do today is what I’ve been doing since I started – sometimes against the wishes of of the record company. I think what I do, I do well, and I’m going to try to stay in my lane, so stay in your lane.”
Will Downing kicked off his 2014 Spring/Summer concert tour and will be performing in a town near you.