Virginia-born R&B crooner Gio Washington discusses why he'd never wear Levi's, a racy job in a possible past life, and, of course, a new soul album on the horizon.
His career has been a series of stops and starts but his talent has always been a constant. Gio Washington has rubbed elbows with hip-hop and R&B's elite, recording with the likes of rappers 50 Cent, T.I. and neo-soulster Raphael Saadiq. Various setbacks meant that the singer never truly gained a firm footing on the marketing front, leaving him lost in the shuffle of his more prolific contemporaries.
Following an indie album, Another State of Mind, released in 2000, Washington later crossed paths with 50 Cent and his team, resulting in his sophomore effort, Son of Pain (2006). Released on 50 Cent's Grand Hustle label, (and recorded under his given name, Governor), Son of Pain was pegged as a sure success, his profile considerably raised by his extensive touring with the Grand Hustle crew. Indeed, the album's mix of hip-hop grinds, sensuous soul and stone-hard blues beguiled critics and a cult of listeners alike. But industry politics kept it from being the larger success it was slated to be.
After all negotiations fell through and the eventual dissolutions of contracts, Washington continued writing and recording independently. The artist has gone on to explore a wider range of influences, casting his net toward the European reaches of soul and pop to produce such electrifying club jams like "All Night Long" (Depeche Mode-meets-Maxwell funk) and the high-as-a-kite doo-wop of "Let's Get Stoned".
Washington's latest musical endeavour is an upcoming back-to-basics soul album, which recalls the grittier R&B of artists like Otis Redding and the sophisticated suave of Sam Cooke. While he normally favours a bottom-end hip-hop heaviness in his R&B, Washington strips away that influence for a leaner, blusier sound. His latest single, "I Give You Me", is a bare-faced confessional that layers chiming piano licks and spares guitar riffs over a slow, smouldering swing.
"This song is about the one-on-one interaction of a couple," the singer says. "No cars, no jewels, no distractions or hidden agendas – just two people making each other's heart beat a little faster! The song was mission to create something with a timeless feel with the sound of today..."
In the spirit of his latest single, we give you Gio; the Virginia-born crooner answers PopMatters' 20 Questions.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I read information-based, history-related books, kind of a nerd in that way! Still, the last movie that made me cry was Django Unchained. Just to know that people, especially my people really lived like that in one of the absolute worst era's of American history!
2. The fictional character most like you?
Now that's a hard one to answer! I think the fictional character of Superman is relatable to me. I grew up feeling outside of my family, like I landed in a place I called home but found out so much pain there. I feel like music has been my kryptonite. I was around some of the strongest forces in the industry but I came to learn that I was planets away in how I felt or what I was willing to sacrifice for the success. I'm not negative, I don't live to feud, I don't live to divide my people so that I can conquer a bank account! Still, I will be remembered and I will win with my positivity.
3. The greatest album, ever?
I don't think there could ever be a greatest album. There have been so many talented artists that touched the world with their art! The world is so relative, just as truth, success or any other "bar" people like to use to measure each other or their thoughts and beliefs by. Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" to MJG's "Comin' Out Hard" to Commission's "Commissioned" have been forever favorites of mine though! I like all types of music.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I wasn't a fan of either!
5. Your ideal brain food?
My ideal brain food is reading. I love to read all types of books with different types of subject matter. I love history, conspiratorial types of writings like Behold a Pale Horse by Milton William Cooper to books like The Early Years by John Henrik Clark. See, I'm not with mindless entertainment or creating comradery out of ignorance!
6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I'm proud of all my relative accomplishments but they're not what will make my soul happy. Until I have built a shelter for the homeless, a home for children with no parents and housing for the elderly, I won't be truly "happy" or feel "accomplished."
7. You want to be remembered for…?
I'd like to be remembered as a man that stood for what he believed in, a man that never left his children, a man that took pride in being a blessing to others and an artist that was instrumental in bringing "love" back to an industry that use to touch millions with positivity and hope.
8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?
The messenger will always be flawed but the positive message will always be pure. With that being said, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Lenny Williams, Tupac Shakur, Babyface, Malcolm X, MLK Jr., and last but certainly not least...The Most High, which is most inspirational to me of all.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
"What's Going On", a timeless masterpiece is one song I wish I could have written! My wish is to touch the world with peace and positivity, not material things like cars, money and jewels. Yes, I like those things like anyone else but they don't define me.
10. Your hidden talents ...?
I really don't have any hidden talents. I think that maybe in one of my past lives I may have been a porn star, but that's about it...
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
There's an old saying that says, "A smart man will learn from the mistakes of others but a fool will only learn from his own." I'm kind of paraphrasing the cliché, but I think I made my point. I've learned to listen.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
The best thing I ever bought was my very own Neumann U87 microphone. It's been the gift that kept on giving!
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Definitely, Armani if I had to choose between the two. The Levi's logo bothers me a bit. It kind of depicts the vision of taking the meanest slave, stripping him of his clothes, tying each leg to a different horse in opposite directions and beating both horses to pull him apart in front of the remaining slaves. I grew up in a slave town called Charles City, Virginia, so I'm kind of sensitive to images like the Levi's logo.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
My dinner guest at the Ritz would be my mother if I could bring her back but I can't. So, I'll choose to invite my daughter.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
If I could travel in time, I'd choose the time when this world was free of racism, no religion, no separatism, no wars, no evil hierarchies, no man-made diseases. I can't even tell you what time frame that would be. My reasoning, just to see what world peace really looked like.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
As far as stress management goes, I'd choose the spa vacation every time. I think hit men should be for the protection against an evil force and Prozac should be for people with OCD, bulimia, and depression, not an escapism method that ultimately allows no real freedom or cure.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or ...?
Essential to life for me...WATER!
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
My ideal location of choice is any place with beaches, plenty of beautiful women in bikinis and a moderate climate. I love California, a few places in Florida, the Canary Islands and Brazil.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
I don't believe the leader of my country is one person, I believe Trump is just the face of a movement. I'd like to say to all of the elites, one thing: FUCK YOU TOO!
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I'm currently working on my last CD which I pray is my best CD. It will be called, When Greater Comes Later.