Before the release of her debut album, the songstress is celebrating her Grammy Nomination for her first single, “Hold Up Wait A Minute (Woo Woo)”. The East Orange, New Jersey native discusses the concept behind the hit song, her
decision to be an independent artist and what she’s learned about the business aspects of the entertainment industry.
LAS: Prior to being a Grammy Nominated artist, you starred in several plays, films and television shows. Most notably you played Faith Evans in the film Notorious and Mimi in Rent on Broadway. Can you give some insight on the behind the scenes aspects of the industry and some common misconceptions of being a celebrity?
AS: People think you have the best life but what they don’t understand is what they’re seeing is the hand full of ‘yeses’ that you’ve gotten out of the thousands of ‘no’s’ that you’ve also received. I have a village around me that have pushed and pulled me along in the times where I was too weak to keep going because it’s especially hard to survive in this particular industry. Perseverance is literally what separates those who are successful from those that aren’t. I honestly thought I would be where I am now when I was a teenager. You couldn’t tell me that at sixteen-years-old, I wasn’t going to have a Grammy Nomination but God has His own plans. There were things that He had to prepare me for. Things that He had to change in me before these doors could open and I could be ready for it. I’m grateful that things happened the way they have. I’ve matured a lot and my message that I’m sharing with the world is far different than it would have been when I was sixteen. I didn’t really know anything back then. Now that I’ve been given a platform, I really have something to say and I’m grateful for that.
LAS: How did your hit song Hold up Wait a Minute (Woo Woo) come into fruition?
AS: The song is a brainchild of my manager, producer and owner of my label, Darryl Farmer. We were on a plane and he heard the track in his head. He tried to describe it to me by saying ‘it’s like young Aretha [Franklin], church, a little bit of James Brown, Ray Charles but with today’s 808s’ and I said, ‘Okay, sounds good’ but I couldn’t hear it the way he heard it. A couple weeks later he had a chance to make the track and I loved it. He started asking me about my “hold up wait a minute” moments. My biggest one was with a guy I was dating; he was using my money to date another girl. And that’s where the line ‘see your wining her after dining me but what’s crazy is my names on both receipts’ came from because it’s real. At the end of the day we wanted it to be a liberation song for people to be able to take their power back from whatever your moment is. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your boyfriend or girlfriend even though that ends up being a lot of your “hold up wait a minute” moments. With all of the things going on in society and the media, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin are all “hold up wait a minute” moments. The Nigerian girls who were kidnapped because people didn’t want them to be educated is “hold up wait a minute”. Abuse, bullying, racism, all “hold up wait a minute” situations. The song is where you can acknowledge whatever is wrong and then you take your power back.
LAS: You’re signed to Darryl Farmer’s 9:23 Music Group. Did you have any reservations about working with an indie label?
AS: I had several different options but I believed in Darryl’s vision. 9:23 comes from a bible verse, Mark 9:23, “All things are possible for he who believes.” When Darryl told me that, it sealed the deal. I already knew him as a producer; I thought his music was incredible. He understood me, believed in me and I had a feeling that this is who I should be working with.
LAS: How has the Grammy nomination impacted your career thus far? When are you planning to release your debut album?
AS: When I saw that I was nominated at the end of 2014, I was totally shocked, I absolutely wasn’t expecting this; it’s changed everything. At the very least, for the rest of my life I’ll be known as ‘the Grammy Nominated artist, Antonique Smith’, that’s pretty incredible. It’s given me more exposure and more doors have been opening. It’s crazy because it’s just my first single, my album isn’t even finished yet! We haven’t set a date yet, it will hopefully be released in the second quarter. The album is called “Love Is Everything”. It’s about all of the different facets of love. “Hold Up Wait a Minute (Woo Woo) is about self-love and taking your power back from injustice and disrespect; knowing your worth and that you deserve better than whatever you’ve been given. The second single will probably be about guys who are nervous to commit to a relationship and oftentimes women say things to make them even more apprehensive. However, there are things that we can say to make a man more interested so I’m trying to drop some jewels and share some of my life experiences. Innately, our entire lives, we’re all searching to be loved. If there was more love in the world, I believe many of the issues that plague the world wouldn’t exist. I’m hoping people are moved by my record. I’m hoping that they hear something in my message that inspires them.
LAS: Based on your trials, errors and successes, what advice would you relay to aspiring artists?
AS: The industry is extremely different now than it was when I first started. When I was sixteen it was just about getting a record deal. The label did everything and you just had to show up and sing. It wasn’t necessarily about connecting with anyone; there was no social media. I would tell aspiring singers if this is what you breathe, sleep, eat and there’s nothing else in the entire world that you want to do but sing then you have to push through. It helps to have a village of love around you. Know that if this is what you’re called to do in your life, do not stop. Figure out who your fan base is, connect with your supporters on social media and build your following. To get a record deal these days you already have to have a following, which is why I think you might as well be independent. They call us ‘the little indies that could’ but you can do well doing it the grass roots way. Know what your audience wants to hear from you, let them get close to you, let them into your life because as soon as you drop your single or your album, you want your fans to buy it immediately, you want people to watch your videos. That comes from having a personal connection that makes that person feel like their supporting a family member or close friend.
LAS: What experience has reiterated and confirmed that pursuing music is what you’re supposed to do?
AS: When I think about all of the other artists and all of the resources that they have at their disposal from the major labels to the big budgets, the Grammy Nomination really took me by surprise and it was confirmation that I’m doing the right thing and that I’m on the right path.
To learn more visit: antonique.com. Social Media: @AntoniqueSmith