Tonéx Outloud: An Insider Peek @ The Swerv InterviewPublished by L. Michael Gipson on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 12:15 am.
Grammy-nominated for his song “Bl3nd,” a 10 page spread in The New Yorker Magazine, and boasting a new album already in the works, for someone who’s career is suppose to be over, just ’cause the church said it’s so, Anthony “Tonex” Williams III’s (now Ton3x) career makes a mighty fine corpse. I caught up with the infamous six-octave singer/songwriter/rapper/and producer who’s been called everything from the Prince (as in the Purple One) of Gospel to the Bad Boy of Gospel (and some fairly un-Christian things in between) for an interview with the Black LGBT quarterly, Swerv Magazine. Several pages of transcript over my publisher’s page limit, but with too much untold scoop worth spilling, I decided to share some highlights of my Ton3x interview as an insider view with you faithful readers of the new BET/Centric Soul Sessions blog. This juicy exclusive includes Ton3x talking about everything from Donnie McClurkin’s ill-informed rant against gays and some rather uncomplimentary words about Ton3x at a religious youth convention to the recent home-going of Ton3x’s last existing parent. The recently self-disclosed bisexual gospel star of 24 albums (four major label releases) and hits like “Make Me Over,” “Personal Jesus” and “God Has Not 4Got” is clearly at a crossroads in his career and his life, but Ton3x’s also never been more free, vibrant, and outloud as he is walking in his truth right now. Catch a glimpse of the 2010 Spring edition of the Swerv interview everyone will be buzzing about:
LMG: Are you as fearless in your life as you are in your music, or are you moving courageously in spite of your fears?
Ton3x: At this point I am moving on courageously in spite of all of my fears. I am fearless when it comes to being afraid of what people have to say about me. I’m fearless when it comes to what a person can do to me. However, I do fear not having both parents around anymore. You start to feel like an adult orphan. You’re afraid because they usually had all of the answers. Now you only have God to depend on. He’s become more tangible to me post my mother and father’s death. I still can’t believe it really happened. My Spiritual Father and second earthly Dad (Bishop Norman L. Wagner) eulogized my Mother. Three weeks later, he died. Now, I’m just devastated. I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to attend his services. It’s all just too soon and too sudden.
I will visit the family after all of the hoopla is over. I know personally that’s when I REALLY needed someone to be around. Yes, I think that’s what I’m going to do.
I hope they all understand. I’m just a little overwhelmed by everything.
LMG: At this crossroads in your life, what does music mean to Tonex now?
Ton3x: At this point in my life, I don’t know what music really means anymore. I’ve recorded so much in a very short period of time that I haven’t really been inspired to write or record anything. I mean, I thought that I certainly would have a lot to say after my mother died but ironically, nothing has really come to me. I know that Michael Jackson’s death took a major toll on me. I’m still grieving his death. I felt like I lost my big brother. I can only imagine how Jan must feel about now. I don’t know what music means anymore. I’m sure as I live a little more outside of the studio, my purpose will come to me again. You know how there’s Bed, Bath & Beyond? I’m in Beyond.
LMG: With the recent death of your mother and the relatively fresh home-going of your father, both famous preachers, do you still have a passion for pastoring your own church?
Ton3x: No. I have a ‘passion’ for film acting. I think that later in life I will be ready to fully commit to the demands of pastoring. Until then, I have great help in place to help me facilitate what’s fallen into my lap. It’s very easy from the sidelines to say what should and should not happen concerning a church, but it’s crazy trying to deal with something you never asked for to begin with while simultaneously trying to grieve. I’ve handled it very well so far given my current circumstances. I do my best.
What’s kept me going was a genuine love for God’s people, particularly those who were black sheep in the family and church. I love pastoring, but I don’t have a passion for the vocation. I have a passion for the heart of people and their true feelings.
LMG: What did being Grammy nominated for “Bl3nd” mean to you and did you think you had a shot to win it?
Ton3x: I was sooo happy that I got the nomination. It was like vindication. So many wanted that album (Unspoken) to fail; and from a commercial stand point it did. “Unspoken” spoke loudest of all my previous work though. It set me up for my future. Even my worst critics could not deny that is really was a good album. You know in all actuality, I really did think that I would win this one for some reason. I thought that the message of the song was so clear and the melody was particularly catchy. I had to remember that names that are familiar (or ring a bell to the voters) often times get chosen over names they (the voters) aren’t familiar with no matter how good the actual product is. I was happy that India.Arie won because of how she was completely snubbed of 7 awards her first time around. I was also happy that Maxwell got his first Grammy.
In my humble opinion I thought it was looong overdue. I learned a lot about how things work. And I got to really talk at length with my musical hero & mentor James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III. After I spoke with him and Roberta Flack I was good.
LMG: The New Yorker has quoted you saying that “Donnie McClurkin owes you an apology” for including your name in his now infamous condemning outburst against homosexuality to a roomful of children and teens. Why do you think he included you and what would an apology mean to you if Donnie continues his crusade to sow more seeds of uncertainty in the lives of teens struggling with their own histories of sexual abuse and their sexual identity?
Ton3x: I just handed him a Grammy a few days ago. He gave me this big old bear hug like we were ‘boys’. I gave him a gingerly tap on the back to be polite and professional, but I wasn’t feeling him then and I’m NOT feeling him now. I don’t respect disrespect. How phony can you be to throw me up under the bus at the C.O.G.I.C. Convocation and turn around and hug me like I’m your brother in Christ? You don’t ever have to worry about me carrying on a legacy of self -hatred and personification of the very thing that I’m bashing someone else for. I know he must be in a weird place, but don’t ‘come for me’ because I know who I am in God and I know that God knows how everything is going to end and I trust God enough to be honest about where I am.
He still has yet to apologize for using my name to state his claims about gays in church. He called me confused and wounded. Uhm, no. He’s confused and trying to deflect the bullets on to someone else to cover up his own sexual insecurities.
The bible says work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. I’ve never had a beef with this man. He was in San Diego in September 2009 defending me and telling people to keep their mouth off of me (and I have the footage to prove it), yet in the next breath (because I’m a trending topic on twitter) you put me OUT there like that? Be a MAN and come to me if you got a problem. I’m only addressing this issue publicly because I was bashed publicly and a ‘fake hug’ ain’t gonna fix it.
LMG: If people have three careers in their lifetime, what is your next career? What is your calling now?
Ton3x: To be a recording activist and to be a better uncle to my nieces and nephews.
LMG: What would it mean to you if your talent and body of work were only celebrated and received posthumously?
Ton3x: I don’t plan on dying. My work and talent will be realized and affirmed this decade.
LMG: Out of all the lessons and sayings your parents have poured into you, what sustains you in the midst of this storm?
Ton3x: My dad used to say “trouble don’t last always.” And, my mom used to say “there’s got to be a bend in the road somewhere up ahead.”