Tell us about yourself and your music
I was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. My father worked for the Department Sanitation and my mother worked as a nurse in an emergency. I’m the youngest of 9 children in a blended family. My mother had three sons and my father had four when they got married. Then came my sister and me. There was always music being played in the household. All types of music. From Jazz to R&B and Rock. Sometimes there was classical music played as my father played classical piano when he was young. Before WWII.
While attending Public School I learned that I loved to play music. The alto saxophone in particular. I began writing songs at the age of 12 and formed a band to play original music exclusively while in High School. Something that wasn’t very popular at the time. Most other bands were playing the top 40. Mostly to play in clubs and bars. I’ve always felt a need to play the music that was in my head. After High School, I went to Business School and studied accounting. After years as an accounting clerk, I then went into facility management. I went to Bronx Community College and studied Building Maintenance. All the while I played in clubs around the tri-state area, doing cover songs playing alto sax and singing background after work and on weekends. But, I always kept writing and recording original music. My real passion has always been creating music. I released my first Album “Mr. Nasty”, in 2013, Then in 2015 I put out a single, “Bass Dream”. In 2018, I put out 2 singles; “Funky Money”, and “I’ll Give It to You”. Last year I released an EP “Our Love Grows”. This year, 2020, “The Catalogue”, was released in May. In total, I’ve released 38 songs since 2013.
Talk to us more about your latest release
My latest release “The Catalogue”, is a collection of songs that I’ve written over the years. There are twenty songs on this album. It has an RB/Jazz feel. I played and programmed all the keyboard and drum machine parts, sang lead and background vocals, and played all of the alto sax solos. I just wanted to get most of the music that’s been swirling around my head onto one release. I also wanted to give the public a clear understanding of who I am as a musician, songwriter, and recording artist.
What inspired you to write this release?
I was inspired to record these songs by the things that were going on in my life. I had gotten married a couple of years earlier and I felt that it was a good time to record. I felt and still feel like I’m in a good place. I wanted to express all the things I had experienced during my lifetime. A ten-song album just wouldn’t do it for me. I had too much to express. So I decided to put together 20 songs that had a range of emotions and that could display what I had to offer the public in one package.
Describe the writing and recording process
I usually write from true life experiences. Sometimes the lyrics come to me first, or I might hear a melody in my head, or a bass line or a drum beat. It can come from something that happened to me, a dream I had, or something someone said to me or I overheard. I’ll write the idea down in a notebook, or record it on whatever is available. (I still have a cassette player/recorder and cassettes). Lately, I’ve been using my phone to record most of my ideas. Once I have the idea established I start working from the bottom up. I’ll lay down a drum pattern first, then either piano chords or a bass line. Then I’ll work on the lyrics, or if it’s an instrumental I”ll add some strings or horns or both. Then I’ll build around that foundation adding vocals or a lead sax line. I always try to leave room to allow the song to breathe and create itself organically. After the lead lines are done then I’ll sweeten it with some background vocals, (if the song has lyrics), percussion, guitar, and anything else I might hear in my head. I always try to give a full sound without being overproduced. I know most people don’t listen to more than one or two sequences of music at a time. It’s like a conversation. You want to be sure that you can be understood,
Any plans to hit the road?
I was trying to set up some shows until this pandemic hit. Now everything is on hold. Don’t know when I’ll be able to do some live shows.
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
I call the style of music I do “New Old School Music”. I write music in the vein of the ’60s, ’70s, and 80’s R&B/Jazz style. I don’t know of anyone who’s writing, arranging, producing, playing sax, and singing their songs. All of the sax players I’ve heard are strictly instrumentalists in either a Smooth Jazz or Hard Jazz vein. I feel that I’m original in my approach to music in general.
Who have you been listening to lately?
I listen to a wide range of music. From the oldies like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles to Post Malone. I like to listen to John Coltrane and David Sanborn when I’m relaxing around the house or cooking. I like to mix it up.
Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influence when I started playing sax was Grover Washington, Jr. When I started writing lyrics it was Smokey Robinson. My greatest influence for all-around musicianship is Stevie Wonder.
Tell us about your passions
When I’m not playing or writing music I like to watch sports, basketball in particular. I’m a long-suffering New York Knicks fan from way back. I also like to cook. I like to make Caribbean, Italian, and Asian dishes. I mostly cook for my family. I couldn’t do it for a living, though. Too much pressure. I like to take my time and cook for the ones I love.
What else is happening next in your world?
Well, since I have a lot of extra time on my hands with trying to stay home as much as possible because of COVID-19, I’m working on some new music to be released sometime in the future. I hope to be able to set up a tour once everything settles. I’m looking forward to putting a new band together and doing some live shows. I want to play some of my older releases, my latest release, and try out some material yet to be written.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Henry Williams Jr
Connect with Henry Williams Jr
Website: http://henrywilliams.comFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/henry.j.saxInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/hwjsax/Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-nj47XoN9Vvk2yuuY_c_-Q?fbclid=IwAR1G0mTi8aZfkhuhy2HkjAVhzMA3iY4C9tf9DF04y0QcKIz0GXeI4XGq5Gw