What'z Up Wit Cha? Felton Pilate

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"Baby, I'm Hooked!" was all I could think of when I heard the tracks from the long anticipated album of Felton Pilate. I need not go into a long introduction about this man because his name, work, and voice speak for itself. He has blessed us with amazing musical contributions since 1972 and although many years has passed, his voice is just as strong now as it was then…maybe even better!

Felton and I got a chance to talk recently (after playing phone - tag a couple of times) about his new project "Nothing But Love Spoken Here". I caught him one day after he returned from Sweden where he shot a video with Janice-Marie Johnson (A Taste Of Honey).

Sheila: Felton, first of all, let me thank you for taking the time out to interview with me. I know you are very busy so I appreciate it so much.

Felton: Definitely. It's my pleasure.

Sheila: I'm so glad to finally see your long awaited CD. This is very exciting as I know that there were a ton of fans looking out for it. Is this your first solo project?

Felton: Thanks. Yeah, this is my first solo project.

Sheila: What took you so long?

Felton: During the recording of the Burnin' Love CD, I quit Con Funk Shun with the intentions of doing a solo project with Polygram Records, and then they said "No" and dropped the group as result of my leaving. Following that, I hooked up with M.C. Hammer and produced records for him. Every time I'd get ready to start on my solo project, Hammer would say that he's working on another album. After that, I did a lot of studio work and what not so finally, I got a chance to work on my project and I just stepped out on faith that someone would take it.

Sheila: Well, I wasn't going to mention Hammer because I remember hearing that there were some issues there.

Felton: Yeah, they were but all that stuff is public knowledge.

Sheila: It's on the internet.

Felton: I'm not surprised

Sheila: Care to comment?

Felton: Working with Hammer was a blessing and a hindrance to my career. I'd come in contact with people who felt that what I did with him was all I was capable of doing. There were some people that issues with him and basically didn't want to work with me just because I worked with him. The music I created with Hammer is a hard record to beat.

Sheila: Who'd you work with on this CD?

Felton: I played, sang and engineered myself. Gary Sangrinetti did some co-writing. The remix (title track) was done by James Ealy. Janice Marie sang on Only For You and co-wrote Be My Baby.

Sheila: I love the remix. It's on fire!

Felton: Yeah, I'm really happy with the way everything came out.

Sheila: The cover art is gorgeous. It's very romantic.

Felton: I was going for a "love theme".

Sheila: What was the inspiration behind project?

Felton: I'm an old fashioned romantic guy at heart. I love happy endings. When I was younger, I read a book by Walter Benton called This Is My Beloved. It's a book of poetry, not poems. That book set the tone for me and I memorized a poem out of it.

Felton recites the poetry to me.

Sheila: That is really beautiful. I can see how you were taken by it.

Felton: Some years later I came across an album where this dude got clearance to put the words to music. It was beautiful.

Sheila: We are quickly approaching Valentine's Day. What is your personal recipe for Love?

Felton: Listening and being able to see the situation from your partner's eyes. Learning to step outside of yourself and knowing what the other person wants to feel. I'm still learning how to apply this even though I know it.

Sheila. LOL

Sheila: Is this career what you always wanted?

Felton: Music has been a part of my life since 1972. It's a huge blessing that I didn't expect. I'm happy that a hobby turned out to be my love. To date I have sold some 30 million copies of individual projects that I've contributed too.

Sheila: Who has been your greatest influence as a singer/musician?

Felton: As a musician, I'd have to say Tom Bell. He worked with us (Con Funk Shun) a lot in our early days. I picked up a lot of his style. In terms of singing, I'd have to say Phillip Bailey (falsetto), Maurice White and the Stylistics. Believe it or not, I'm also a Count Basie and Beatles fan. In the beginning I wasn't the biggest James Brown fan but once I saw the affect he had on other people, I began to really appreciate him. I wanted to be able to empower people the way he does through music.

Sheila: So far, what has been the proudest moment of your career?

Felton: Well, it would be a tie. The Grammy© nomination I got was the ultimate acknowledgement.

Sheila: Is that what every singer/musician lives for, a Grammy© nomination?

Felton: The Grammy© symbolizes acknowledgement from your peers and it is very humbling just as receiving…say a People's Choice Award which is acknowledgement from your fans.

Sheila: You are a major force in the Bay Area and you have worked just about every year since 1973. You've won major awards and accolades. What's your advice for other up and coming artist on staying in the game as long as you have?

Felton: This is a business. They need to learn the rules and perfect their craft. Write your own songs and learn what people want to hear. You can't just skip right into fame & fortune without paying your dues. It won't be handed to you. The people that already had longevity, is who I learned that from.

Sheila: Great advice. Especially about writing songs.

Felton: Well, there have been a couple who were very successful and never wrote any of their songs. Johnnie Mathis is an example.

Sheila: He has a very distinctive voice. He didn't need to write!

Felton: Yes, his is distinctive.

Sheila: What kinds of touring and promotional plans do you have?

Felton: I have a solo concert in Cleveland on Feb 18th. Readers can visit my calendar at http://www.feltonpilate.com and hit shows to see my complete schedule. Feb. 11th, I'm doing a show called the Littlest Hero's on the WB in Houston, Dallas and other surrounding areas. Out of that show I've met some young performers that I'm producing. I'm producing an alternative rock musician named Mark Craven. I've written some music for him and that's cool. That genre is new for me but things are going great.

Sheila: So you are just busy as ever.

Felton: Yes, I try to stay that way. I just hope that this CD will take me where I want to be musically.

Sheila: Give me one word to describe Felton.

Felton: Driven.


Visit Felton's website at http://www.feltonpilate.com


© 2006 Sheila Chadwick for Word On The Street

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