So it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. Obviously, I’ve been dealing with the great loss of my mother, and all the change that comes with going through something so profound. This has and continues to be a year of transition for me. The key, as always, is to try and find the joy through the pain, and see all the gifts through the hardships.
My mother gave me the gift of life, the gift of unconditional love, and the sense of safety knowing that no matter what, everything would be okay. That’s something that I can give to myself, because she gave it to me. She was the sweetest person I know, and I’m so grateful to have had her as my mom. Now one thing she didn’t give me was my gift of song and music. She loved music, but just didn’t have the ability to sing…well, in a way that was easy on the ears. I got that from her mother (my grandma), and from my father.
Over the years, I’ve released two full albums, and numerous singles and videos, and have finally come to the release of my third full album, The Way I Am, last week. It’s been a couple of years in the making, for a number of reasons, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. The process can take time depending on what you’re trying to do, what you need in order to do it, and negotiating many different schedules to get it done. Money always factors in. Building relationships, creative exploration, etc., all take time.
As you may or may not know, I have been singing and performing all of my life, and pursuing a career in music all of my adult life. When I graduated from high school I went to college for a bit, but ended up booking a gig as a singer in a dinner theater called Baxter Street. Six singers a night, three guys and three girls, doing musical numbers with choreography, and performing solos where each of us got to represent our style and vocal abilities. It was really cool to have a regularly paying gig six nights a week, and be able to sing and perform consistently, especially at such a young age. Out of that experience came some commercial jingle work, and a Jazz Quartet that I was a part of called High Society.
High Society had a very Manhattan Transfer kind of a vibe, with four singers doing ‘30s-‘40s swing music. It was right around the time that Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New album was out and doing really well, and there was a renewed interest in that musical genre. A great jazz scene started happening in L.A. because of it, and we got into it and had blast! We did the whole jazz club circuit, big events, performed in Las Vegas, and opened for people like Whalen and Madame and David Brenner.
Around 1988 I decided to pursue a solo career, and signed a deal with Jon St. James, who produced Stacie Q, Louie Louie, and Bardeax. He was looking for a male vocalist to release a track that was capitalizing on the whole Stevie B and Noel freestyle sound that was happening in the late ‘80s. The track was called “Hardline” and was hardly my style, but I saw it as an opportunity to get started and get out there, and so I took it. Jon wanted to continue having me record and release music in that same style moving forward, and that just wasn’t what I wanted, so I got out of the deal and moved on.
In the early ‘90s I was signed to acclaimed songwriter Denise Rich’s production company, and got hired to be Frankie Knuckles’ singer for his second full album. I thought that I was on my way! We started working on tracks for the record, discussed a summer tour, talked about a duet that he wanted to do for the album where they were considering either Janet Jackson, Lisa Stansfield, Chante Moore, or Tina Turner as my singing partner. I was in absolute heaven.
Unfortunately, there was a struggle with the label, Virgin Records, who decided that having a white boy be the front person for the Godfather of House wasn’t what they ultimately wanted. The struggle for me between Frankie and his people and Virgin went on for over a month, and I eventually I got replaced by Adeva. I found myself out of a deal and temping at a bank to make ends meet.
Two years later I had a deal on the table with Third Stone/Atlantic Records, but as things started to move forward the company folded. Two years after that, I had another deal in the works. The producer I had been working with throughout the ‘90s, Laythan Armor, called me up and said, “You’ll never guess who’s making us an offer? Virgin!” I started working on my album that was straight-out R&B, which is where my roots are. In addition to Laythan, I was working with Christopher Troy and Zach Harmon, and Derrick Bramble. All amazing and talented, and each of them had an awesome reputation in the biz. The album was coming together and it was fly as fuck! Then the holidays came and so did some bad news shortly thereafter. There was a major upheaval at the label and I got the boot. Not unusual, but boy did it sting!
So I was back at the bank, managing their volunteer program for five states and thinking my label days were over. After several years I found myself bored with my day job and wanted something more creative. I was dating a big porn star, Blake Harper, and had an opportunity to do a scene with him for one of his films. I was going through a period of real liberation at the time, having adventures and trying new things. After thinking about it for a minute, I decided to give myself permission to have the experience. I went into it with no expectation or desire to really pursue a career doing porn, but things just clicked and I found myself punching through as “Colton Ford” and working.
After ten months of doing movies and appearances, the novelty of the experience wore off. I had an opportunity to release a couple of singles and shoot a documentary, Naked Fame, which I took advantage of. I recorded a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” with Pepper MaShay, and had a Billboard Top 10 hit. Then came my albums, Tug of War and Under the Covers, a bunch of singles and videos from both of those records, and here we are!
As is the case with most success in the entertainment world, it takes a long time, if ever, for things to click. And talent doesn’t mean that it’s going to necessarily happen. With The Way I Am, I’ve collaborated with some amazingly gifted artists who have had extreme success in the music business in their own right. NERVO, Razor & Guido, Chris Willis, Ultra Nate, Fagault & Marina, Count De Money, WAWA, RedTop, Chris Castagno, Ron Schrader, and Ray Isaac have contributed their talents and helped to make this album the biggest one of my career. Whatever comes of it, I can honestly say that I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve done with this release. I may not be where I had envisioned I’d be at this stage of my life, but my dreams are different than they were 30 years ago.
I’ve done a lot and have reached and affected people all over the world. I’ve traveled the globe being paid to do what I love to do, have received so much love and support from people, and some hate (which, of course, comes with the territory), but with all the challenges and difficulty, I can say that I have no regrets. I’m very proud of this record, and hope that as many people as possible can hear The Way I Am, and feel me and my inspiration in a way that inspires them.