By MATT WILLIAMSON, Enterprise-Journal
MCCOMB, Miss. (AP) – Working from his small studio in McComb, Antonio “Tony T.” Turner is the mastermind behind the music of some of the hottest southern soul artists who fill theaters by thousands and collect downloads and audio streams by the millions.
Turner runs Vigor Records, which has a production studio, recording studio, and offices inside the historic former Kellwood Textile Factory.
“As a producer, I have built a network of DJs, promoters, record companies that I am in contact with,” he said. “Radio (disc) jockeys, they respect the music and most of the time they’ll play it just because my name is on it. “
He has worked with artists from here and elsewhere, including Arthur Young, a Summit trucker whose song “Funky 40” has been viewed over 1.5 million times on YouTube in six months.
Others in Turner’s production discography may not be household names, but they are most definitely a big deal for fans of southern soul, a genre of music that mixes old-fashioned blues and production. of modern synthesized music.
Turner composed and recorded music for Omar Cunningham – “he’s a legend of southern blues-slash-soul,” says Turner – Bigg Polkey – “he’s one of the best artists in this genre now” – and DJ Trucker – “He streams millions and millions and he has millions of subscribers,” to name a few.
“And countless others, man. There are so many more I’m working with right now,” Turner said. “We do all the rap artists in the area. We do most of the gospel artists in the area. region.
Turner, 35, grew up in Woodville and dabbled in music at the age of 13.
He began playing guitar before being recruited to play keyboard with Gloster-based gospel band The Veal Brothers.
“They had the opportunity to have a keyboardist, so I learned to play the keyboard on my own,” said Turner.
He toured with them and joined the Castro Coleman & Highly Favored gospel group in 2006. Turner then played bass and keyboards for Coleman’s foray into the blues, an opportunity that led to worldwide exposure.
“We have traveled the world together,” said Turner.
He also appeared alongside Coleman for a small role in James Brown’s biopic “Get On Up,” starring the late Chadwick Boseman as Brown. In it, Turner played the role of Brown’s bassist Bernard Odum.
Turner has worked in the old Kellwood building – now known as the McComb Business Mill – for about a year now. He is not alone in his job, however. Gloria Thompson is the manager of Vigor Records, Reginald Magee is the head of its gospel division, Stacy Beal is in charge of marketing and Lisa Wright is the publicist.
And over the past year, his work has received a lot of praise. He won the Golden Triangle Producer of the Year 2020 and the King Russell Underground Southern Soul Award, which he proudly displays above his 32-track mixer.
It was also nominated last year for the ZBT Awards, Jackson Music Awards, Premier Gospel Awards and Gulf Coast Gospel Music Awards.
Turner’s approach to music production, much like the Southern soul genre itself, is a blend of old and new traditions.
A song begins when the musician sings or hums an idea for a melody.
“Usually, artists come up with an idea for a song. They present the idea to me and I start playing it from scratch, ”he said.
After the singer sings a few bars, Turner plays a melody on his keyboard.
“A lot of times artists can come up with just a chorus or they can just have a melody,” he said. “If I don’t like it, I won’t even record it.” I have developed a listening ear for what most people like.
“I have to try to bring their vision to life because they only have one melody.”
Turner produces the instrumentation on the synthesizer and his five-string bass, and sometimes he uses live musicians to shape the song.
“I layer all the tracks myself,” he said. “Sometimes, depending on the production, I have other musicians who come in and play songs as well.”
He is currently working with around forty artists.
“We have artists who fly into Mississippi to record,” Turner said.
Most of them publish their songs on the Internet, and Turner also helps with the video production aspect.
“I do everything from making sure the photoshoots look good, making sure the album cover looks presentable,” he said. “It doesn’t just stop in the studio. “
YouTube and Facebook are the two biggest platforms used by its artists.
“It’s buzzing faster because of the fan base that’s already there,” Turner said.
The revenue comes in the form of digital advertising based on the number of streams, he said.
In addition to running the recording studio, Turner is also the musical director of four different churches – Take Dominion, Union Missionary Baptist, New Dimension, and God’s Tabernacle in Pine Grove, Louisiana, which occupies its Sundays.
“And after that I’m back in the studio on Sunday night,” he said.
While working the faders in the production booth is a different role from his past life as a touring musician, Turner feels like he’s hit his musical beat.
He’s been where other artists want to be, and now he’s working to get them there.
Turner said southwest Mississippi is full of largely untapped talent that is sure to save it for a long time.
People like Summit trucker singer Young have what it takes to be successful, Turner said.
“He should be doing this for a living,” he said. “I think it’s difficult, but I think those who really want it, you have to hit the road.”
A producer friend from Alabama recently invited him to the Grammy Awards presentation, and Turner said he was definitely going. It is his life’s mission to return, not as a guest but as a candidate – at worst.
There’s a lot of talent here to bring him there, he believes.
“This neighborhood, there are talented people. I really believe in the musical talent of these artists in this area, ”he said.
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