Through Sanctuary Urban Records, on September 28th, 2004 The O'Jays released their latest venture "Imagination."
MVRemix: A lot of people nowadays and throughout your career have looked up to you as an influence and inspiration. Who did you look up to when you were starting off?
Walter Williams: When I was starting off I looked up to James Brown, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, The Drifters... I think what really got me going was Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers came to town at the Canton Memorial Auditorium. I think after he came and performed, it seemed like twenty-five or thirty groups sprang up all around that area. Canton, Massland, Alliance, Ohio, Warren, Ohio, Akran, Ohio, the groups just started coming from everywhere singing at the YMCA, at the Urban league. It stayed with us. One of those groups was Rudy and The Romantics. That's what inspired me.
MVRemix: Which of your counterparts inspired your work ethic to be what it became?
Walter Williams: I really liked the group, The Drifters. They had several different lead singers and of course they had a lot of hits during those days. I like Jackie Wilson... and James Brown. I thought he (Jackie Wilson) was a phenomenal performer of excellence. James Brown was the opposite, he was a hard worker but with excellence as well. I thought I got a chance to see two sides of the coin watching both of them and actually getting an opportunity to do shows with the both of them.
MVRemix: How do you keep your content diverse while remaining on the subject of love and romance?
Walter Williams: I just think if you get a great response from the audience, and we usually do when we're up to par, and we try to stay up to par. I just think the love that
they give. You have to give it back. Does that answer your question?
Eric Grant: And also, you have to, when you learn this craft - you have to go out there and project. You have to go out there and get it across to the people. That's not always easy. Because, I learned from Eddie and Walter that you have to feel people. You can't just go out there and think everything's gonna go as planned or as you rehearsed it at your rehearsal studio. Sometimes you go out there and something might not work that worked in DC, it just won't work in LA. You have to be quick enough and have a love for those people and feel those people to say "That's not gonna work. I need to go over "here" and try this," because I know this is what they like. Everyone can't do that. You gotta have a plan, you've got to have a game plan. But sometimes you can't run that running back up the middle. So he might have to flank out to the right, and we may have to improvise.
MVRemix: Is there anything about the industry now that you would have liked more of in your earlier years?
Walter Williams: The industry has changed quite a bit. I think the big plus of the changing industry is the technology. The way we record today isn't as taxing as it was fifteen or twenty years ago. You can sing one hook and get it perfect, or as close to perfect as you can and then you can vie it in [chuckles] for the rest of the song. That's a plus. Of course we're making more money today and necessarily so because things are so inflated and out of proportion that you've gotta make more money today. We're experiencing larger crowds today because the venues are much larger and nicer. You might be too young to remember the "Chitlin circuit" - small clubs throughout the South and part of the North. If in fact they [still] exist, they're not being worked as much as they were twenty years ago. Maybe someone should do that again because those are grass roots people and it's a more interesting setting, in my opinion.
MVRemix: Tell me about "Imagination."
Walter Williams: "Imagination" is just what the title says. Eddie explained it really good earlier today. If you wanna sit and you've got a problem and you want to talk it out with your woman, that song is on there for you. If you want to get up and dance with her or anyone else, that song is on there for you. Or if you're just in a great happy mood and wanna kick it, that song is on there for you too. So use your "Imagination."
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