B. Slade: It’s like I don’t really fit into mainstream. I don’t really fit into gospel.
Wed. July 27, 2011 by Windy City Times
It’s like I don’t really fit into mainstream. I don’t really fit into gospel.
B. Slade reflects on being an out gospel artist
With parents who were pastors and entertainers, B. Slade has navigated through his passion, sexuality and even his brand to develop a career that reflects who he is as a person. As a kid, the 36-year-old music artist and actor remembered his father, the late Dr. Anthony Williams, playing saxophone for James Brown and Jackie Wilson while his mother, the late Dr. E.B. Williams, sang in various girl groups. Following in his parent's footsteps, B. Slade has led a musical career that includes 24 albums, producing both gospel and mainstream albums, six Stellar Awards, a GMA Award. Htwo Grammy nominations—one for Best Soul Gospel Album for his 2004 gold album, Out The Box, and a second one in 2009 for Best Urban/Soul Alternative Performance for his single, "Blend," from his album, Unspoken.
Even with his success, B.Slade's fluid sexuality contradicted his church upbringing—causing him to question the church as an institution and even straining his relationship with his family; B.Slade is the youngest of six brothers. Formerly known as "Tonex," B.Slade came into his new name and brand as a way of acceptance and realization. Under his new brand, B.Slade has a new album out titled Diesel—an album "dedicated to the forerunners and strong Black men in the civil right entertainment and hip-hop culture. Diesel runs in our blood," according to B.Slade. B.Slade has also delved into theatre portraying the lead role in director Sam Woodhouse's The Who's Tommy, a rock opera designed for the 21st century that will run through Aug. 14 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. B.Slade's coming-of-age story is one about his personal acceptance of himself, his new relationship with God and his coming into himself.
WCT: (Windy City Times) You're playing the lead role in the play The Who's Tommy. Tell us more about the project.
B. Slade: I was given the lead role for The Who's Tommy; it was a conceptual album by The Who. It became a Broadway and Tony award winning musical. I had to wait until I earned the right to play such a role as Tommy.
Secondly, I worked with a dialect coach, since the whole play is set in London. I wanted to make sure that my accent was true to form. People will see me in a way they have never seen me before on the acting side, which is truly where I started. Music came after acting.
WCT: How was the transition of going from acting to music, or vice versa?
B. Slade: I made a record in my bedroom back in the day when it was still under the Tonex brand. The record got a life of its own and a couple people heard it and the word of mouth got out. So, I had to stay on plan with that [music] while it was happening. Subsequently, my acting took the backburner but it was never forgotten. People may not believe it, but I'm more apt to delve into acting then solely as a recording artist.
WCT: Are you more passionate about acting than music?
B. Slade: I'm more passionate about acting then I am about music. The music that I record does help me to deal with life's challenges and transitions from a carthodic level, which then in return gives me great substance to work as an actor. I'm able to now pull from a very emotional or layered place. So, they support each other. But my passion is honestly acting. I'm a lot more of a focused and in-depth person when I'm in acting mode.
WCT: Will we see more of you on the theatre stage?
B. Slade: My goal this year is to be involved with a number of independent films. Hopefully, by doing Tommy, people will see that's really where my niche is and upgrade me to an acting state.
WCT: Who inspires you as an actor?
B. Slade: For theatre, definitely Chester Gregory. For film and television, I'd have to say Sidney Poitier, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep.
WCT: You also have a new album out, titled Diesel. Could you share more with us about your new album?
B. Slade: I've finally fully accepted myself and it only happened with the release of this album—Diesel. I was listening to this album and thought that this was a different guy—a more grounded and evolved individual. I can hear the growth. I can hear the self-acceptance. It's a very non-assuming record. I don't assume anything. I'm just in that moment. That is the epitome of sexy to me. That is the epitome of success, of making it. It's not when you become popular, but when you are your number one fan.
WCT: Do you feel like you're looking for acceptance from anywhere?
B. Slade: Yes. Absolutely. It's like I don't really fit into mainstream. I don't really fit into gospel. I don't really fit into the black community yet I don't really fit into the white community. I don't really fit in the gay community either. There's so many people with different belief structures you kind of feel like an orphan.
WCT: So, where do you think you fit in?
B. Slade: I found a home in love. When I started loving myself and accepted the God in me and the whole person and even though I didn't have a physical place to feel accepted, I found that strength in love. I'm sure what doesn't exist, I will create.
WCT: Are you working on any other project outside of acting and music?
B. Slade: Yes. I'm in the process of putting together a foundation called The Faces of Love. It will be a transitional house for LGBT youth to stay at until they get back on their feet and give them job skills. If they have a particular affinity for the arts, then we will provide mentorship in that area. I'm not just here to be a spokesperson, but to be a servant and to help.
WCT: Recently, you have rebranded yourself in your music career by changing your stage name. What is different about B. Slade than Tonex?
B. Slade: I believe Tonex represented the most expressive form of one's state through the arts as far as I could push it. B. Slade represents global access as well as intellectual, emotional and sexual liberation. Tonex was a recording artist. B. Slade's brand is more recording activist.
WCT: So, who is B. Slade?
B. Slade: With B. Slade there is a certain type of confidence that comes with learning of what people think about me is none of my business. So, there is a different type of audacity and liberation with B. Slade. There's no chip on my shoulders. There's no defense mechanism. There's just is, in the now.
WCT: Was it difficult to navigate through your sexuality while being a gospel recording artist—especially one who was raised in the church?
B. Slade: Absolutely. It was unfortunate that people felt a need to attack me initially because they were afraid of the fact that someone was walking truth. My job is not to overturn their religion or to get them to see it my way. It's a losing battle. Some people actually enjoy that duality of that life. I'm speaking about people who operate in that genre but still have the sexual orientation. They hide it even though it's still a reality. Everyone is not ready to deal with that issue. Black people in general have not dealt with sexuality in the best way.
WCT: How is your relationship with the church now?
B. Slade: I had to pull back. That was a personal choice I made for myself. I haven't been to church in over a year. I needed to detox not from God or not from true saints. I needed to detox from the church institutional mindset, and I'm still recovering from a lot of the damage [from] evangelicals, fundamentals and Pentecostals that I experienced. For the first time, I'm truly discovering what a personal relationship with Christ really means because he's the only church I have right now.
WCT: With the recent rebranding and your break from the church, how have you grown?
B. Slade: I'm less emotionally unstable. I've come to understand that the Devil has nothing to do with the consequences for the choices I make. I've stop passing the blame on philosophical entities. I've started taking personal responsibility for myself. I've even grown in my discipline. I'm on time a lot more, so I respect people's time a lot more. If I want to accomplish something in life, I don't pray to God for things, but I acknowledge God for being thankful and for just being grateful. I actually like God now, not just love him out of fear of what he'll do to me. I'm also a lot less judgmental, less arrogant and more open.
WCT: Do you feel fulfilled now?
B. Slade: Yes, because I've learned to live in the now. Purchase B. Slade's new album, Diesel, at bslade.bandcamp.com/album/diesel. To learn about B. Slade, visit www.bsladenow.com.
Interviewed by Windy City Times
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