Anthony Hamilton’s passion about music is so strong that it’s nearly palpable.
The R&B star was bitten by the music bug as a teen, performing in his church’s choir in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fast forward and he’s netted numerous Grammy nominations, a 2003 platinum debut with Comin’ from Where I’m From, a 2009 Grammy for his collaboration on Al Green’s “You Got the Love I Need,” and a soul-stirring Babyface-produced track from his fourth studio album, Back to Love.
His latest collection, What I’m Feelin’, is what he’s really feeling. For the album, he reunited with longtime collaborator Mark Batson, the man responsible for the 2005 song “Charlene.” The HamilTones, the singer’s background vocalists, appear as well, ahead of their debut album.
What I’m Feelin’ was inspired by the recording locale: Nashville.
“Doing it in Nashville was incredible,” says Hamilton, who returns to the Celebrity Theatre on Friday, July 14. “I did the whole thing there, except two songs, which I did with Salaam Remi in Miami. To be around Nashville music and to create down there among so much greatness was amazing.”
Batson has had a longtime effect on Hamilton. The two cowrote “Charlene” for Comin’ from Where I’m From.
“When I first heard it in the studio, it was a different thing,” Hamilton says, pausing before sharing his answer.
“I thought, ‘This sounds like a real record.’ It wasn’t a song. It was a record. A true record. When I heard it on the radio, that’s when it really sunk in. It had that feeling around it; sort of like Motown records I’ve heard before. It came on, the music played, the claps, I thought I had something there.”
Feb. 24, 2016, was a career-defining day for Hamilton, however. He performed at the last “In Performance at the White House” hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as part of a tribute to Ray Charles.
“Oh man, it was a big moment,” says Hamilton, a cameo actor on Fox Television’s Empire.
“It was a big moment in history for our president, as he was the first African-American president. It was bigger than just performing in the White House. I’m connected to that history.”
He and one of his six sons, who range in age from 5 to 28, returned to the White House for Obama’s birthday.
“That was really huge,” he says. “I brought my son to celebrate with me. Obama came over and talked to him. He talked to my son and shook hands. He’ll never forget that.”
Hamilton’s youngest sons are grasping their father’s impact on music. At first, they found the constant attention daunting, but as they’re getting into music, they understand.
“The kids are like, ‘Wow. They really love you,’” Hamilton says. “The little ones love Michael Jackson—Off the Wall and the Thriller albums. They have to hear it a couple times a week. They watch videos and see people screaming for Michael Jackson. Then they see people screaming for me. They looked at me and said, ‘Dad, you’re famous.’”
Anthony Hamilton, Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, 602.276.1600, celebritytheatre.com, 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 14, $41-$61.