Will DOWNING By: C. NaTasha Richburg
There may come a time in everyone’s life when meeting an individual for the first time yields a connection that feels like meeting a fondly remembered long-lost friend. This type of friendship holds tender memories in the back of our mind that bring forth a smile, gliding into a chuckle that ultimately turns into a full belly laugh during a gleeful conversation. Will Downing, 57-year-old husband to his wife Audrey and father of three, is a singer/songwriter and is deemed the Prince of Sophisticated Soul. With 21 albums in 31 years, Downing’s music spans R&B, hip-hop, dance, pop, soul; and most recently reached gospel audiences with the 2019 song “God Is So Amazing.” With fan favorite songs such as “I Try,” “ I Go Crazy,” and many more, Downing’ s voice coupled with his persona offer the inspirational hope needed during these difficult times. Downing sat for a communiqué Magazine interview in which he offered a window of hope through the fog of hard times, reminding us that whatever trials knock us down also develops enough character in us to see the reality of our triumphant experiences.
Photography is my passion. When I’m not in the studio, I use photography to relax. I have a coffee table book about photography called Unveiled. Photography is just something I like to do. I take pride in learning photography as a craft.
What have you done since we are in a COVID-19 world? I still go to the recording studio and work on my music almost daily. I do what I do in these uncertain times, which are not much different than what I did when I first started out in the music business when there was a lot of uncertainty early in my career. I had to push forward then, and I push forward now. Look, Broadway is closed down. That is the new normal. A lot of people are going online to perform. At one point performing online was good because it was new. Going online is no longer new or different and doesn’t have the same effect as it once had. We do the things we do as musicians— we record, promote, and tour. Nonetheless, for now the tour is gone. And so the manner in which I make my money is now gone so I continue to make and promote my music. I’ve completed a new song called “Only the Good Die Young.” This is my favorite of all the songs we’ve written to date because the song was inspired by the passing of Chadwick Boseman. I was impacted by Boseman’s loss and anguished by how young he was when he passed. Just the though of how hard he worked to maintain normalcy while making movies inspired us to do a song for other people who also died young. Though sad, a song of this nature has long legs that can inspire us to remember our loved ones for years to come.
I am impressed by the reality of the difficulty Downing endured due to his previous health challenges. It became clear during the interview that Downing’s gratitude includes the occasion to take a late-night walk with a full bladder threading carefully through the maze of darkness, avoiding furniture posing as obstacles to successfully reach the bathroom. I appreciated learning about Downing cherishing movements in life such that he no longer needs the assistance of others. We all can appreciate that we all have reason to be grateful and to consider the ability of independent movement as a “good day.”
How does your photography fit into your music-making?
What is a good day? A good day is a day when I enjoy the luxury of getting up to engage in activities without depending on others to assist me. In 2008, I had some health issues and was not able to move freely. I depended on others to help me move around. You see, there was a time where I wasn’t feeling well. I went to the doctor’s office and ended up being hospitalized for three straight months. I was incapacitated for almost a year when I was wheelchair-bound and could not use my vocal cords to the fullness of my singing voice. Now having the capacity to simply be able to take out the garbage is a good day for me. Just being able to do what I do, using energy from within me is what keeps me hopeful. That is a good day.
What romantic things do you do for your wife? We’re not the romantic type. We do things that are fun. We have a lot of great memories and a lot of good laughs. We’ve known each other since 1985. We still laugh about things that happened when we met years ago. When we look back in history at our best time on a date, it happened when we went to the movies one evening. While out on the date my wife was gorgeous and walking in a casual and cool manner. Her cool stance and stride outside of the movie theater resulted in an elegant stumble that makes us both collectively laugh when we reminisce about the occasion. We simply enjoy having fun with one another. Now we have three grown children, and we’re home together in a different phase of our reality. We understand
that our reality is different than some couples, but our collective fun-loving experience is our romance. How do you define love? I don’t want to define love. To me love is not a definition. Love is a lived experience for every person. Providing a definition of the word love is not what I do because I can’t explain love. What keeps you smiling? Waking up and being able to use my limbs freely without the assistance of others keeps me smiling. Being in good health helps me realize how wonderfully glorious life is. Having the ability to sing my songs, going to the studio to work, and being with my family make me smile. Life gives me hope. Never losing the memory of being incapacitated helps me enjoy the freedom of movement regardless of what it is. I love to take out the garbage because I have the use of my limbs to do so. So I realize that you’re part of the Divine Nine as a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Oh, yeah, I am a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and I’m grateful for the role the Divine Nine has played in supporting the Vice President nomination of Kamala Harris. I’m proud to be a part of the brotherhood. Downing hosts the “WIND-DOWN”, a premier soul music online radio show available at: https://soundcloud.com/wdchocolate . What music adorns your listening ear? Wow, I like classic R&B. I really like H.E.R., she’s a standout artist who sings R&B that I like
to hear. So what would you consider your best song ever? I have so many good songs like “God Is So Amazing”, and the official video premiered January 2019 https://youtu.be/8jrA6L13Ees along with the 1991 classic “I Try.” I really do believe the November 2o2o release “Only the Good Die Young” is the song that is really important to me. My music is based on reality. The reality of my latest and favorite song is based on the death of another person who died so young. So that’s what I talk about in my songs—what’s going on now. Ultimately these are classics the audience likes and I really enjoyed them too. What would you tell your college-age self? I would tell that young man to slow down and have more variety in your life. Money isn’t as important as you think. You need to enjoy life. In this time when entertainers are required to adapt their music career due to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 restrictions that have kept Broadway theaters closed, artists like Will Downing continue to make music, even with ongoing touring schedules remaining in a holding pattern. The upside of the touring restrictions is the quality time afforded Downing to make new music. He is especially attuned to the reality of the times, and his new music is spot-on in that regard. The rich full low register of Downing’s voice simply “feels good” to the ear at a time when we all are looking for something to feel good about.
NaTasha, Ericka & Erielle