Hamilton open to diverse audiences

Photo by ADRIAN SIDNEY -- Anthony Hamilton -- R&B singer Anthony Hamilton performs Saturday at Southern University's Felton G. Clark Activity Center.
Photo by ADRIAN SIDNEY -- Anthony Hamilton -- R&B singer Anthony Hamilton performs Saturday at Southern University's Felton G. Clark Activity Center.

Rhythm and blues star Anthony Hamilton recently received his 11th and 12th Grammy nominations. The 2013 nominations came for his No. 1 song, “Pray for Me,” and his 2011 album, Back to Love.

North Carolina native Hamilton won a Grammy award in 2009 for “You’ve Got the Love I Need,” a duet with Al Green.

Collaborations with an array of artists have been a big part of Hamilton’s career. “So in Love,” for instance, his duet with Jill Scott, spent 18 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Urban Adult Contemporary chart.

Through the years he’s also worked with Keri Hilson (“Never Let Go”), Nappy Roots (the Grammy-nominated “Po’ Folks”), Dr. Dre, Young Jeezy, Keyshia Cole, Santana and country singer John Rich.

“I never want to see any doors close,” Hamilton said from Charlotte of his collaborations. “Yeah, we stay diverse. I feel like it opens a lot of audiences up to us and gives us a wider experience.”

Unlike many studio collaborations these days, Hamilton and classic Memphis soul man Green recorded “You’ve Got the Love I Need” simultaneously in the same studio.

“We didn’t want the gigabytes to do it, we wanted to do it ourselves,” Hamilton said. “The only thing technology could do for us was capture it.”

Working with Green was an especially heady milestone for Hamilton.

“It meant a lot to me and it was cool for my mom and dad and all the people who were able to see that, ‘Wow, this guy’s really in it. He’s doing something with Al Green.’ And I worked with Carlos Santana and all these amazing people from back in the good old heyday of making music.”

Hamilton’s latest high-profile collaboration, “Freedom,” a duet with singer-songwriter Elayna Boynton, is featured on the Django Unchained soundtrack.

Django Unchained’s writer-director, Quentin Tarantino, has been a Hamilton fan since the release of the singer’s million-selling 2002 album, Comin’ From Where I’m From.

“It was one of Quentin’s favorite albums,” Hamilton said. “And he let me know that in his own animated and raw and real way.”

Kelvin Wooten, Hamilton’s longtime producer, and Boynton played an early version of “Freedom” for him, before his own involvement with the song.

“I told them, ‘Man, this is great stuff,’ ” the singer recalled. “Next thing you know they wanted me on the song. So I wrote my verse and recorded my part. After that I heard noise of it being a part of this movie. And it’s an awesome movie. It’s got entertainment, enlightenment, education, everything in one movie.”

Growing up in Charlotte, Hamilton sang in a church choir but, at the time, rarely took the lead.

“Tearing down the church was never my thing,” he said. “I liked to go and listen and take it all in. I studied gospel singers, I studied R&B singers. I found something in all music, whether it be jazz, country, anything. Everything I heard I absorbed.”

Hamilton is finishing a Christmas album to be released this year and working on a new secular album for 2014. He’s also touring, his performances including a Friday concert at the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre; a Wednesday, April 3, show at the House of Blues in New Orleans; and a Saturday, April 13, show at the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette.

“People sing along a lot,” he said of his audiences. “They call out names of songs that they want to hear. I get to learn about my fans and what they truly love. We always have this beautiful interaction.”