Homage to Her Musical Heroes on Shanachie Debut Distant Lover -
Vocalist Reinvents Timeless R&B Songs Sung By Marvin Gaye, The
Spinners, Smokey Robinson, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Deniece Williams
& Other R&B Icons
defines the word 'classic' as 'being of the highest, rank or class'
or 'serving as an outstanding representation of a kind.' Vesta's
new CD Distant Lover exemplifies the word 'classic' on a number
of levels. Not only is her Shanachie debut a sampling of some of
the greatest R&B 'classics' but it is a sublime example of how
a singer can rework a song when they posses an innate ability to
personalize and take chances with a composition. Distant Lover is
a refreshing exploration of R&B gems that reveal Vesta's personal
connection to each song. Her intensely rich, earthy and soulful
voice combined with her intelligent, thoughtful and often playful
phrasing drive home the lyrics of any song she sings. The upbeat
and charming singer shares, "I don't think people will expect
to hear me sing all the different styles featured on Distant Lover.
I hope to shock people when they learn that these are not only songs
that I love but also ones that I can actually sing and capture the
essence of all the incredible artists who sang them."
Distant Lover is a thrilling glimpse into the singer's personality
and creative genius as a song stylist. Her renditions of Baby Face's
"Whip Appeal" and Sly Stone's anthem "If You Want
Me To Stay," show off her playful and comedic side. Vesta states,
"I had a lot of fun with Sly's song and got to show off my
more stank funky side!" Vesta equally enjoyed recording the
Bill Withers hit "Use Me," a song she frequently performs
in concert. "This song has a lot to do with some of the experiences
I have had," says Vesta. "I have run into a lot of severe
vultures in the business and in relationships." Vesta also
calls upon songs from her youth on Distant Lover, like the Spinners
staple "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" and the title
track, which was a hit for Marvin Gaye. Vesta recalls "In my
youth, I remember sitting in my living room and listening to 'Distant
Lover' over and over again. Growing up it was one of my favorite
songs. I guess I was lonely and the song just spoke to me."
Other highlights on Distant Lover include "Ooh Baby Baby,"
popularized by Smokey Robinson who Vesta calls "the coolest
of the cool." The ballad is the perfect vehicle for Vesta to
display her range of emotion as she delivers a stunning performance.
The singer explains, "If you do not really pay attention to
the words of this song, it can sound happier than it is. I tried
to get to the real pain of the lyrics and convey what I felt Smokey
was trying to say." Vesta also took great joy in recording
Steve Wonder's "Knock Me Off My Feet." She confesses,
"Stevie's songs are deceptively difficult. His genius is such
that his songs sound easier to sing then they are. 'Knock Me Off
My Feet' is so beautifully romantic and I am a romantic!"
While most of the tracks on Distant Lover are classics recorded
by men, Vesta highlights three songs sung by women for whom she
holds deep admiration: Deniece Williams, Sade and Syreeta Wright.
Vesta remakes Deniece Williams' smash hit "Free" and says
"Deniece Williams is an amazing vocalist and person. She happens
to be someone who is as sweet as she sounds!" Sade's "No
Ordinary Love" is a song that Vesta fell in love with the first
time she heard it. She shares, "There is a wonderful mood to
Sade's writing. She stands alone in her genre." Vesta and singer
Issac Clemon, perform a memorable version of "Born Again,"
which was sung by Syreeta and the late Billy Preston. The singer
confides, "I had the pleasure of spending time with Syreeta
at her home and she was such wonderful person. When the idea of
a duet came up, I knew 'Born Again' was the right song. With the
passing of Billy Preston, it was heavy on my heart. He was a sweetheart
and a killer piano player and you could almost forget how well he
sang until you heard him singing. I called upon Syreeta in my minds
eye when we were recording this song. Hopefully she came and visited.
Maybe that beautiful smile from heaven blessed us with her essence."
As much as Vesta enjoyed recording the repertoire on Distant Lover,
she equally enjoyed collaborating with the personnel on the CD which
includes saxophonists Kim Waters and Marty Q, guitarists Derrick
"HotSauce" Cummings, Randy Bowland, Rhon Lawrence and
Wayne Bruce. Producer Chris "Big Dog" Davis, who Vesta
affectionately refers to as "Muscle," plays all the additional
instruments heard on the CD. "Recording this music with 'Muscle'
was just magical," says Vesta. "Creative energies are
powerful and sometime stubborn but this was such a beautiful experience."
in Coshocton, Ohio (outside of Columbus) Vesta Williams moved to
Los Angeles as a child. Music, the arts and media have always been
a part of the singers life. Her father, Hugh Williams, was one of
the first African American TV anchormen in the country, while her
grandmother, Vivian Williams, was a visual artist whose work has
been exhibited at museums throughout the country. As a child, Vesta
formed a singing group with her three sisters. "It was more
like a hostage situation," laughs the vocalist whose grandmother
said she began singing as soon as she could talk. "I planned
it so I could get them to sing with me." Although music was
a part of Vesta's daily life, she was twelve when she knew it was
her destiny. She shares, "My cousins had a band called Flash
out of Dayton, OH and they invited me to sing with them because
I bugged the hell out of them telling them I was a singer. So they
were playing this festival and handed me the microphone and when
I began singing they never took it back! For me that was the beginning.
I knew that singing was all I was going to do…that this was
my thing, my passion and who I was."
Vesta has had the privilege of collaborating with such diverse artists
as Anita Baker ("Rapture"), Jermaine Jackson ("Precious
Moments"), Jeffrey Osborne ("Emotional"), Stephanie
Mills ("If I Were Your Woman"), Gladys Knight ("Good
Woman"), Najee ("I'll Be Good To You") and Sting
("Nothing Like The Sun") among many others. She also toured
as the lead vocalist with the Crusaders and as a backup singer with
Chaka Khan. In addition to using her voice as a singer, Vesta has
worked extensively as a voice-over artist doing jingles in commercials
for such notable products as McDonald's, Diet Coke, Honda and Revlon
In 1986, Vesta signed with A&M Records and released her self-titled
debut which spawned the popular singles "Once Bitten Twice
Shy' (which reached #9 on the R&B charts), "Don't Blow
A Good Thing" and "Something About You." The same
year her version of "'Suddenly It's Magic" appeared on
the soundtrack for the film Soul Man. In 1988 she released the gold
selling CD Vesta 4 U that included the top five singles "Sweet,
Sweet Love" and "Congratulations." The same year,
Vesta contributed to the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning movie
Mississippi Burning starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe. She
sang a riveting Mahalia Jackson-like performance of the song "Try
Jesus." In 1991 Vesta released Special, which included the
dance track "Do Ya", and the title track, which peaked
at #2 on Billboard's R&B Singles Chart. In 1993 she released
Everything-n-More, which featured several producers including Brian
McKnight and Chuckii Booker. The album featured Vesta's song "Tell
Me." Around this time Vesta made her acting debut in the major
motion picture Posse directed by Mario Van Peebles. She portrayed
the Mae West-like saloon singer, Vera, in the film. Her songs "Tell
Me" and Ride of Your Life" were highlighted in the film's
soundtrack. To add to Vesta's credits, she has also appeared on
the TV sitcom Sister Sister, playing the reoccurring role of "Monica."
The vocalist parted ways with A&M after Everything-n-More and
kept busy working alongside such artists as Gerald Albright, George
Duke, Howard Hewett and Christian McBride. In the mid-90s, she signed
with MCA and recorded an abum that was never released. Following
a 1997 tour with Fourplay, guitarist Lee Ritenour invited Vesta
to join his new imprint, I.E., at Polygram, where she released the
recording Relationships. In 2005 producers Duke Jones & Norman
Connors invited Vesta to contribute as a featured vocalist on their
The Café Soul All-Stars CD, which joined Vesta with Peabo
Bryson, George Benson, Glenn Jones, Christopher Williams, Roy Ayers,
Kenny Garrett, and others.
With the release of Distant Lover, Vesta is sure to delight and
surprise old fans and garner new ones with her refreshing takes
on timeless classics. Vesta concludes, "I hope that my love
for this music and the musicians and composers who wrote and sang
them comes through."