Before one can pose the question, Fantasia makes clear the essence of her sound, saying with pride and without hesitation, “I’m a soul singer.”
And it’s this confidence that’s evident on her latest CD, “The Definition of …,” which bridges the past with the present, showcasing several songs that the Grammy Award-winning artist wrote herself.
“I had to fight to get to this place in my career,” said the North Carolina native who began singing at the age of 5. “I’ve been blessed to be with RCA since I was 19 but because I was so young, I was told what to sing, where to go to sing it — eventually it felt like I was in a box. I began to feel like a caged bird.
“This CD and the work I’m doing on my next production have allowed me to fly — I’m coming out of my cage,” she said.
Fantasia Monique Barrino, now 32, married and a mother, says writing her own music has allowed her to let her own voice be heard — a feeling that resonates with her spirit.
“Everywhere I go, I try to always be myself and to be humble,” she said. “I’ve been blessed to work with so many amazing singers who represent so many different genres: opera, jazz, blues, R&B and gospel. And I love touring too, for a while. Then I want to get back home. The nice thing is when we’re on tour, we are like a family.”
Fantasia, who last year hit the stage in the District with Anthony Hamilton, will be back in February — this time with Charlie Wilson, affectionately known as “Uncle Charlie.”
“[Wilson] makes me work hard and after each show he comes to my room and gives me words of encouragement — he has been a true blessing in my life,” she said.
Dubbed “Baby Patti LaBelle” by the R&B diva herself, the “American Idol” winner (and the youngest to claim the title at the age of 19 until Jordin Sparks’ victory at 17) comes from a family of singers, including several uncles who performed as part of a 1970s R&B band and first cousins K-Ci and Jo-Jo, formerly of Jodeci.
Listening to her, it’s evident that she’s been influenced by a wide variety of singers.
“I have a heart like my grandmother and so I try to inspire and encourage everyone I meet who says they want to sing too,” she said. “We never know who the next breakout artist will be. And singers tell stories.
“Real singers don’t get into this microwave music that we often hear today,” Fantasia said. “I call what I do ‘rock soul’ — that’s reminiscent of folks like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Elton John and my grandfather’s favorite, B.B. King.
“That’s the kind of music and sound that I want to keep alive,” she said. “People are hungry and itching for it.”
Despite being back on the road again, in those quiet moments Fantasia said she’s already hard at work on her next album, writing lyrics and putting together harmonies.
“I’m going to bring together the sounds of James Brown, Tina Turner and Prince because they’ve each been so inspirational in my life,” she said. “This is going to be something totally different from anything I’ve ever done before. Music should make you feel alive — it’s ‘rock soul’ and yes, it’s going to rock.”