When one thinks of timeless love songs, R&B crooner Tony Terry’s discography comes to mind. The singer topped the charts in the late 1980s and early 1990s with hits such as “With You” that can still be heard over 20 after its debut at weddings today.
Tony Terry isn’t just a singer, he’s also an actor. He’s been keeping busy flexing his acting chops on urban theater stages across the country and being the spokesperson for the National Fibromyalgia Association alongside his wife, Ronnie. After five albums, the acclaimed singer is back in the studio working on new music.
SoulTrain.com: So what have you been working on, Mr. Terry?
Tony Terry: Well, I’m working on the new Tony Terry album which I’m really excited about. I’m doing a couple of national [theatrical] tours–one is called Behind the Pulpit, and it has Bernadette Stanis Good Times in it. I also have a few things in the fire.
SoulTrain.com: You have done quite a few plays. How did you get into acting?
Tony Terry: I got into acting because of the show Fame. I was in high school in 1980 in Maryland and I was a huge Fame fan at the time. I found out there was a performing arts school that was sort of like the one in Fame and I asked my mother if I could go and she said no. I would have had to move into the city and live with relatives. But the following year, my junior year, I got the chance to do that. I got the chance to go to the performing arts school and that’s where I got bitten by the acting bug. I started formal training there.
SoulTrain.com: You released a gospel album a few years ago. What made you crossover into that genre, and do you plan to release another one?
Tony Terry: It’s not really a crossover at all. I grew up in the church, so it was only natural that I would sing gospel music. I think the music is appropriate at certain times of your life; there’s a time to have fun and party, there’s a time to cry. Every time and every season of your life, there’s music. I don’t know why we restrict artists to one genre or even put labels on music that he or she might be passionate about. I do plan to do another gospel album.
SoulTrain.com: You have also released some songs on your Reverbnation.com page. Can you just talk about some of the songs on there? What about the song “Should a Man Cry?”
Tony Terry: It was written by two friends of mine in New York, and they write stories. The song is a story that asks the question of just how vulnerable should men be–within reason. Society teaches us that men should not be emotional but in reality those that keep those emotions bottled up tend to cause more damage than those that are more expressive. The song is really just to provoke some dialogue, questioning exactly how should a man display his emotions.
SoulTrain.com: What about “Bedroom Banger?”
Tony Terry: Now that one should be self-explanatory! This song is what it is; you know what I’m talking about (laughs)! The song actually consists of a scenario, like a role-playing thing, so if you listen to the song you’ll hear that the man wants to get a job as his woman’s bedroom banger.
SoulTrain.com: How about “Closest Thing to Perfect?”
Tony Terry: It’s a beautiful song–“I never thought I’d be the man to have the closest thing to perfect.” Come on now, that’s that thing! What woman wouldn’t want to hear something like that?
SoulTrain.com: Do you agree with the sentiment that R&B is dying or that it’s already dead?
Tony Terry: I think that what we have been calling R&B has changed. I believe that a good song is a good song. If the right song comes along that connects with the audience then it’s going to work. The definition of R&B has changed–like calling Drake R&B or neo-soul, so it has really become something else. In my mind R&B was called Rhythm and Blues and so if the music lacks soul, then it’s not R&B. I believe that it has evolved, but I don’t want to believe that it has died.
SoulTrain.com: Do you think that artists have to change who they are to make an impact in today’s industry, or can they stick to the type of music they are known and loved for?
Tony Terry: Now that’s a really good question because the sounds have changed, the way the instrumentation sounds. So again I say, a song is a song. Now the song “With You” still has its 80s and 90s feel to it, which is when I recorded it. But I think it would still be a hit today because it tells a story, it’s a beautiful honest story. John Legend is working and he hasn’t had to dumb it down. It’s working for him. Sometimes we would think that because radio doesn’t play us–and I say us, because at one point I was a part of the core artists that radio stations played our music all day–but that doesn’t happen anymore. So I think the only difference is the sound and technique, but a song is a song. A good song will break through every single time.
SoulTrain.com: What do you think is missing these days in music?
Tony Terry: Soul, heart, romance, truth, and the list goes on. I think that we are a multi- faceted people and if you’re only getting songs that talk about partying, being out in the club shaking it up, popping bottles, you know I like to sing about real life. Sometimes it’s not about popping bottles; it can be a story about something that happened today that inspired a song. I think a lot of times today we focus on a lot of material things and not matters of the heart–not enough soul, romance, or honesty. A lot of artists talking about bling and this and that, and don’t even own that stuff. It’s okay to write about fantasy sometimes, but let’s keep it grounded in reality, too. Adele broke through because her song “Rolling in the Deep” was a story of real pain and heartbreak for her. The intent was honest and it crossed all genres of music. The melody and the story broke all barriers, and that’s real.
SoulTrain.com: Do you get people requesting you to sing “With You” a lot?
Tony Terry: Oh yes! Being in the urban theater circuit, no matter what the play is about, the director always wants me to sing it, whether it fits or not because they say I can’t not sing that song. I don’t think I’ll ever get away from singing that song, but then again I don’t want to. It has taken me around the world, and put me into some interesting situations having to sing that song. “With You” hands down is one of my favorite songs. One time I was in concert and a huge fan went into labor with twins. She named her boys, Tony and Terry, I told her don’t come at me for no child support (laughs).
SoulTrain.com: Let’s switch gears and discuss the National Fibromyalgia Association. How did you get involved and what can people do to help?
Tony Terry: Well, I got involved because my wife has fibromyalgia. It popped up not too long after she gave birth to our son. It is a hypersensitive feeling in your nerves, so when you’re having a flare up pretty much your whole body aches. It can be a local kind of pain or full body pain. It’s very real, but shows up negative in most tests. I became connected with the NFA because I reached out to them and wanted to know more and use my platform to help them get the word out to our community. We don’t go to the doctor. If we have a pain we just never really know what it is, and we don’t take care of ourselves and it needs to be dealt with. A lot of people are affected by the disease–all ages, body types, it doesn’t matter. Men and woman get the disease. It used to be considered something that middle-aged white women would develop. I think honestly it came from the fact that we don’t go to the doctor so it would seem as if the middle-aged white women were the only ones with the condition. Now that more are getting tested it’s revealing that people of all colors get the disease. People can check out www.fmaware.org to find out more about the disease and how they can help.
Follow Tony Terry on Twitter @MrTonyTerry and check out his website for more information www.mrtonyterry.com.
Shameika Rene’ is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and writing for various websites such as Charlotte Vibe, Creative Loafing, or her own site, www.themofochronicles.com. She’s also a special guest contributor on The Social Hour on Urban Soul Radio. Follow her on Twitter @mofochronicles.