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THE REVELATIONS FEATURING TRE WILLIAMS 2011 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW
THAT BLUESY ROCK-N-ROLL SOUL
Phone interview recorded November 15, 2011

The Revelations featuring Tre Williams represents something old as well as something new in the world of soul music today. They bring a sound and live show reminiscent of the 1960’s deep southern Soul movement, while giving new audiences something they can feel. Akim Bryant caught up recently with lead vocalist, Tre Williams, to discuss their latest project, CONCRETE BLUES. And where there’s deep soul, you’re likely to find hip-hop lurking nearby...

SoulMusic.com - Akim Bryant here once again, and speaking of Soul music, our special guest for this new installment reminds us of what we've really been missing. Soul music has its roots in the Deep South, where the original sound was raw, gritty, and bluesy. Tre Williams, along with The Revelations, are back with their sophomore album, CONCRETE BLUES, which further cements their commitment to keeping the Blues alive. Welcome to SoulMusic.com, Tre!

Tre Williams: Nice to be here.

Akim Bryant: And you’re here, of course, speaking on behalf of all the band members.

TW: Yeah, yeah, I'm going to hold them down.

AB: So can you tell me exactly, who are The Revelations?

TW: As far as the band members, there's Wes Mingus. That’s my guitar player, and he’s going to carry his own legendary status one day.

AB: Yeah, because he's worked with a number of big name artists, right?

TW: Yeah he’s an incredible dude. The drummer, Gintas Janusonis, another incredible dude, and pretty much, those are the two holdovers from the original group. Everybody else who got to play on that are basically filling in and out, but those are the main key components, the two I can't do without.

AB: How did you guys come up with the name, The Revelations?

TW: What happened is that, originally, when I first started, I was going to do another deal, and once we did the first song together, and another label heard it, and they were, like, “Well listen, we know Tre might be doing another solo deal, but can we do a deal with the band featuring Tre? And that way, the band could have the brand, and Tre would be the sound; can we do that?” And when they came to me with it, the idea was great. I was, like, “So what's the name of the band?” I was going to come up with the name, and Bob Perry, which was the guy that produced us and put us together … he said, “You know what, man, this band has got to be something new, something with zeal, something that brings something, the revelations, like a revelation, like the Revelations.” That's what we are, a revelation to music in itself, and I fell in love with the name right away. I was like, wow, I like that.

AB: Yeah, definitely flows, and it flows well with your name - featuring Tre Williams, of course.

TW: Yeah, it really did, I was like, “You know what--I like that.” And that kind of lets you know, basically, how we even stayed in, because sometimes, when something feels that right, even in the name … when you don’t got to force the name, you know something’s right. Something is going in the right direction, so that was the beginning of where we were trying to go.

AB: So my next question, because I know you do have another featured vocalist who also contributes, musically, to different songs for the band, and he is pretty well known, especially through the ‘90s, as part of Roc-A-Fella, the whole Roc-A-Fella camp, that’s the singer, songwriter Rell, himself.

TW: Yeah, Rell--he's like my brother, man. I love him to death.

AB: How did he come into the fold of The Revelations?

TW: Well, when we were putting this together, I was pretty much writing most of the stuff, so when I came in the studio one day, Rell was there, and I was, like, “Listen man, I know you are right here; why don't you write a couple of songs on this thing? Far be it from me to try to write everything.” I need and want a different thing, and I love what he do. I love his style of writing, and it would compliment what I do. So he started writing, and as he was writing the songs, he was asking me … I was helping him. I was, like, “Well, why don’t you do this--why don’t you lay the song?” And then, we would go from there. As he laid the songs, I would redo the lead, but the chorus--the background vocals--I was like, “Man, I ain’t getting rid of them; I'm keeping them.”

So one day, I asked him--I said, “Man, listen, let’s be real right now. When I do these songs, who's supposed to be you? Who do we get that’s going to sound like you?” He thought for a minute. I said, “Well, let me answer for you: how about you! How about you just come aboard, man, and do this with us? Rock out! I would love to have you with me, and it will compliment everything we’re doing. And, in the meantime, you’d be working on your stuff, as well.” And he said, "Ok, Tre I’ll do that." And we rocked out, and what an incredible marriage it was between us. It really, really, really worked out good. So there we was, and now, he is actually in the studio, as we speak, working on his new project--still being a Revelation--we’re backing him up with the music, laying the tracks for him. We definitely got Rell on deck.

AB: Speaking of the band backing him up on his forthcoming solo project, they also did the same for Calvin Richardson, right? And got a Grammy nomination.

TW: Yeah. It wasn’t heavily publicized, but the band was the musical layer for that album. They pretty much played that … basically the entire album, but the band is working. They did the music for the last two Wu-Tang albums, CHAMBER MUSIC and LEGENDARY WEAPONS. Yeah, the last two Wu-Tang albums, the band did the music behind it. I got a song on each one of those … one with Ghostface, one with Inspectah Deck and RZA, but the band played all that music, so they are working; they are putting in, and it’s not just Soul music. They are on the Hip-Hop scene; they are everywhere, so … the next coming of The Roots!

AB: I like the dynamic that you guys have with the band, where they can branch off and do other projects, but then, come back to home base to do what you guys do best.

TW: You can’t hold that much talent back. You can't. You can't handcuff that talent--you got to--it only helps, it only makes people notice us even more that we are able to do that, and it’s incredible to say that I am with guys that can jump from scene to scene, and never miss a beat.

AB: Exactly. Now, your founder, the producer, Mr. Bob Perry, was responsible for, basically, putting you guys together and making this project happen. What was his initial, or his overall vision for the group?

TW: You know, I am always going to be honest with my people and let them know that this was not supposed to be what it is. This was something … “Well, let Tre do that while we work on his solo project. Go ahead and let him jump into that; we will put that out, and he will go ahead and go back over that way.” This was a one-off.

As you can see, he recognized, I recognized, the band recognized that this was incredible, this feeling--you couldn’t beat it, and that’s what the best music is: you feel it inside, and you know it’s right. What Bob saw was a band that can light a fire back into Soul music. There's not many bands or artists, period, that are actually doing what we are doing.

To be able to go to Jackson, Mississippi, and do a show with two or three thousand people, all black people, and then to turn around to go up to Philadelphia and do a NPR show on a roster that’s twenty five hundred people, three thousand, all white people, and they are all singing these songs together. And to be on AAA radio, and Rock radio, R&B, and Soul, and Blues stations--it’s not many people can say that they can jump through all those genres--and that was his vision. His vision was to not be in a box, to be able to say we make good music; we hope you enjoy good music, and that’s what we are going to give you. If you want to say it’s Blues, call it that. If you want to say it’s Soul, call it that. In Milwaukee, they call us a Contemporary Rock group--call us that. And in DC, they call us a R&B Soul group. Call us that, because it's all generated from the same base, good music.

AB: Good music.

TW: So that was his vision. His vision was to actually do that, and I think he pulled it off.

AB: Yeah totally think so, too, and it definitely fills that void that’s out there on the market, because nobody else is doing it that way.

TW: Yeah, and not trying to--we never said that we was going to be a old school band or retro band; we never said that. We just said that this is the music we make. This is the music we write, and we just hope you feel where we are trying to go with it, and because, Lord knows, this music should have never ever fell backwards, because this is the way everything comes from; how could you not like good old-fashioned Soul music … anybody.

AB: Everybody loves it. Everybody. Let’s get into the album a little bit here. One of the things that I thought was interesting, of course, you included three bonus tracks form the previous, the debut album, THE BLEEDING EDGE, the bonus tracks being "Everybody Knows", "Let’s Straighten It Out," "I Don’t Want To Know," and then there are two brand new songs, and what I thought was interesting about the new songs is you have a couple of covers that may not be so recognizable to most people, but then, you also have a couple new songs that have titles of old songs that people would definitely recognize, which I thought was an interesting twist. Was that intentional?

TW: Yeah, you know what it was … we went with "Trouble Man," a song I wrote based on me. And there was no other words that I wanted to use … that’s a Marvin Gaye song. I said, well, I'm the new “Trouble Man.” Because you can never take away from what he did, but it just showed that in this day and age, I am your new trouble man. I'm him, and there was no other way, and so I just, basically, borrowed the title, and "Gotta Have It" was a song that Dick Allen wrote which was a shake-off of that Bobby Womack song, and when he wrote it I just really liked the way he went with it, and the direction that he went, and it did make people say “Wow!” Although it’s a spin-off of Bobby Womack's song, it’s still a nicely written performed song, and that’s where we went with it.

And the covers, man, the two covers that we did -- they blow me away. Literally, it was timeless, from the word go. "Don’t Wait" was, like, when I heard the melody with that [Sings] "No one ever said, its your fault." I was like, “Wow! I got to do that song; I have to remake that song. I don’t want to take it away from where it is. I just want to sing it how I would sing it, but I don’t want to deviate too much from where the song is, because it’s a great song.” And that’s why I think, sometimes, when people do covers, they are so into trying to put it in their own version and that they kill …

AB: … the original vibe of it.

TW: … the original vibe of the song. And I felt like people would hear it, and they would say, "We know it’s a Johnny Taylor song, but Tre sung the song good. We definitely want to give some correlations, and that’s what it is. We pay a lot of homage to Soul music in what we do.

AB: I definitely hear that, and then, in addition to the covers and the more so original songs of "Trouble Man" and "I Got To Have It," you have another track here that kind of steps out of the usual topic of Soul songs, nowadays, and it's called "Behind these Bars." Can you just tell the Soul music community what that song is about?

TW: You know that song … I spoke to my brother--came up from Florida. We are originally from Daytona Beach, Florida. He came up, and we were sitting there talking, and what he does back home -- he works with the city. He goes, gets prisoners from the county jail, and he takes them out to work release, and to do different jobs around the city. So in doing that, he has a lot of conversations with a lot of guys, and he said to me, "Bro, if you could listen to some of the things that some of these guys say, you would really, really make a good song.” And he started telling me about the guy who was in tears, telling him that, "Man, I hate that my girl has to come--I can't even touch her. I can't even hold her. The only thing I can do is smell her perfume; it’s like I’m losing her. I’m watching her fade away, and this would be the only love I’ve ever known in my life, and I’m never going to be able to be with her again the way we were." When he said that to me the wheels went to turning, and I just felt like there’s so many stories like that. There are so many stories on the inside that’s never being told. You always tell them on the outside, but not from the inside, and I felt like I was going to be that voice to say that. It’s hard for a dude that’s in jail to love somebody that’s out, because you know you are eventually going to lose them. So I felt like I could tell that story, and if I put enough passion into it, and told it how it should be told, it will be received nicely.

AB: Think you pulled it off, too, homie.

TW: Thank you, man.

AB: No problem. So to kind of dig into your own personal background a little bit here--You said you are originally from Daytona Beach, Florida, where you were raised. When did you officially move to New York?

TW: I left to come to New York in the ‘90s, and I just felt like I needed a bigger bowl. I was in the small bowl, and I was growing, and I just felt like maybe I need to try to look different places to release what I wanted to do. And I met a guy, and he said, "Well, Tre, you really ought to come to New York; I'm getting ready to go back soon." Because he lived in New York--he lived in Queens, and a couple of visits with the guy before he left, and I realized maybe this was what God had in store for me, and maybe this is what I need to do--just to go ahead and make this happen. And I told my mother … I went to my mother … she was at work, and I said, "Mom I'm leaving." She said, "Where you going?" "I'm moving to New York." She said, “When you leaving?" I said "Now." She said, "Baby all I got is … I haven’t had a chance to cash my check; all I have is five dollars." I said, "Well, give me that." She gave me the five dollars--I had them five dollars, and my bag of dirty clothes, and I said, "When I get to New York, I am going to wash these clothes with these five dollars, and then I am going to be off and running." I had no family, no friends, I didn’t know nobody so everything I had to do, I had to build from ground up.

AB: Wow. That's major.

TW: Just having faith in what you can do, and the faith that the good Lord ain't going to take you nowhere to leave you.

AB: Yeah, And then, once you got to New York, it led to a bunch of opportunities, Hip- Hop opportunities, working with a number of Hip-Hop artists, from Nas to RZA, like you mentioned earlier, and things like that.

TW: Always gotta throw in Styles P. --Styles P was really … Petey Pablo was the one that gave me my first opportunity to record on a major project. With Styles, he constantly kept working with me, kept giving me … doing things for me, and letting me do things on his stuff that really opened up a lot of ears. And signing to Nas’ label, really, if it wasn’t for Styles doing that with me, I wouldn’t have been heard enough to get the deal with Nas, and to get on the label with Nas, and to get on the HIP-HOP IS DEAD, and the album, pretty much, opened up a major door for me, and I thank all those guys for that, because it instilled the hunger in me that I wanted to keep going, and wanted more.

AB: Exactly. And as you mentioned, you were signed to Nas’ Ill Will record label. Was he able to ever release any albums off that label, that imprint?

TW: That was one of the things that kind of pushed me to go to where I was going, because I just felt like, as good as the material was that I laid over there at III Will, for some reason, God didn’t want that material to come out that way, and that right there led me … I think that had that material been released, I don’t think I am here now, I don’t think I am doing this, and I actually believe that, probably, it would … I feel, most R&B guys, back then came and went; you came and went. Whatever was new came and got you. A couple of guys had major runs like Kells [R. Kelly], but most of the time, you came in and you left like that. I think that this allowed me to go into the light that’s suited for me, and I’m so happy that it happened that way, because I am happy here. I am happy being on SoulMusic.com. I am happy with any type of … this lane that I am in, to me, is special, and, at the end of the day, I look at it as soon, one day, with a lot of hard work, it will be my lane to own.

AB: I think that’s definitely in the cards for you, and so you definitely have some strong Hip-Hop roots. How do you get them to kind of coincide, or just involved into what you are doing with the Revelations? Do you get a chance to use your Hip-Hop roots when it comes to the Revelations material?

TW: Definitely. The thing is that a lot of people say, “Well, Tre was in the Hip-Hop side, and he left, and he went on the Soul music side.” But in all actuality, I never left, because like now, I got two songs on the new DJ Kay Slay album that’s coming out soon, and the thing about it … what allows me to use it is that I’m always me--that sound that I give is the sound that they look … when they call me for a Hip-Hop song, they’re calling Tre Williams. They don’t want Tre Williams to be somebody else. They don’t call me and say, “We got a song, but I want you to sound like this dude.” They call me because they say that “This is what I want, so I need you to do this, and sound like this,” and that, right there, is how I correlate the Revelations into … even if you listen to what Jay-Z and Kanye did with the Otis Redding song--that could have easily been something we did.


And when people hear that … when people hear what they did, it’s easier for them to say, “You know what--Tre could’ve done this. Tre could’ve done this song like that, the Revelations could’ve done a song like that, right now.” So most Hip-Hop artists say, “Why we didn’t do a song with them like that?” And so what we do, and what's happening in Hip-Hop, right now, and they are really moving toward the Soul. You can hear it. Eventually, the calls are going to come, even more, for us to come on that side, and do that, and because I think that Hip-Hop needs Soul, too.

AB: Yeah. Goes hand-in-hand. It does. So thank you, Tre, for taking this moment to speak with us here at SoulMusic.com…

TW: I appreciate it man.

AB: You've had a great journey, so far. I hope it continues to bless you, and you get everything that you deserve.

TW: The gas tank’s still full.

AB: I love it. Keep pumping on.

TW: For anybody that wants to get CONCRETE BLUES, or they want to get THE BLEEDING EDGE, they can come over to TheRevelations.net, and they can order from there, and a lot of places. Best Buy has it; In New York, we have it in J&R Music World. All we ask you to do--to take time out, and listen to what it is we are trying to do, and find something about it that fits you. It's guaranteed that there's just no way you are going to listen to the whole thing and say, “None of this music is for me.”

If you say that, you are probably not human. You're probably an alien or something. I always ask people to come out and support it. We are not industry driven. We are the people-driven group--that word-of-mouth--we probably got more word-of-mouth than we do with industry props. We’re going to keep doing that, and, thanks to you and everybody over there at SoulMusic.com. We appreciate you finding us, liking us, and pushing us.

AB: Definitely, it’s our pleasure. That’s one of our goals here, is to expose more people to the Soul music that's out there, especially the stuff that’s on the come-up.

TW: Yes, yes.

AB: Are you on Twitter or Facebook?

TW: Yeah, definitely. You can find me on both as Tre Williams, so you can find both. You can Google me, and, probably, the easiest way is just Google me--Tre Williams, and you will find the Twitter page, the Facebook page, and come through; especially on Facebook, I actually take time out and talk to the people that come out and support me, and want to ask me questions, or whatever the case may be, and it’s a good thing. I want to bring them closer into the world we are in.

AB: Definitely. Alright, thanks again, Tre. The album, CONCRETE BLUES is in stores today. Pick it up; buy it online if you need to. Definitely check out the Revelations Featuring Tre Williams, whenever they’re in your town, because it’s a great live show. You’ll get exactly the same experience that you find on the album--you’ll get it in a live show. So that’s it for us here at SoulMusic.com. Thanks again, Tre.

TW: Thank you for having me.

AB: Alright, take care.

About the Writer
With nearly a decade of experience in programming content for Music Choice (24/7 music channels, cable-on-demand shows, website and cell), Akim Bryant has just begun to scratch the surface of journalism having already written for GIANT and The Source magazines as well as a number of start-up publications. This self-professed R&B junkie also has a strong knack for the art of interviewing. Be on the lookout for his semi-autobiographical debut novel coming out in 2012.
  
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