Sometimes life gets in the way. For Will Downing, The Prince of Sophisticated Soul, more than two decades of critical and commercial success as a singer was suddenly at risk-along with his life. There's a long, rich tradition in the Black church of testifying, sharing "testimony" about a point of great adversity in life, when the power of God and prayer turn everything around against all odds-that "low point" marking a test, God's test of faith.
In late 2007, in the very prime of his life, Will Downing faced an almost unimaginable test. A sudden onset of the auto-immune disease polymyositis threatened everything he held dear: his health, his ability to provide for his family, his musical gifts, and life itself. Weak, frail and nearly paralyzed, he did not curse God, but instead said a prayer: "Lord you see me through this and I promise I will give you all the honor, all the praise...wherever I go."
He didn't turn away from God and God didn't turn away from him. Twelve years later, Will Downing is a walking, singing testimony of the power of faith and prayer. And he delivers on his promise with his new CD, THE PROMISE, an inspirational album-actually his first gospel album -- to be released November 9, 2018 by Shanachie Entertainment.
Q: Thank you Will for doing this interview with us. You have had such a lengthy career and you have also been very consistent in releasing new music over the years. What's the key to your longevity?
Well I'm not 100% sure of what the answer is but this is what I believe - I try to be consistent musically and I try not to follow the trends. I also think being lyrically honest and sincere doesn't hurt. I speak about real issues in my life, whether its talking about relationships, love,spirituality etc....
Q: What are a couple of highlights for you throughout these years?
There are so many. Obviously all my firsts in music. Also the first time I heard myself on the radio. Then there is first time I performed as a solo artist and the first time my record came out and I held it in my hand for the first time. I would also include performing at the Princess Trust for Princess Diana. I also have to say waking up this
Q: You were physically ill too. How were you sick?
In 2007 I came down with something called POLYMYOSITIS. It's an autoimmune disorder. It is basically when your cells start attacking each other. No one can explain why it happened to me or why it happens to anyone. For me, it affected my muscles so much so I lost my ability to walk for a year and a half as well as the ability to use of my
singing voice. I could speak but there was no real tone to my voice. I took a solid year before I was able to even start relearning how to walk again and a year to get back to the ability to fully walk and sing again.
Q: And how did you find hope and strength during this ordeal?
Well, when you're laying in a hospital bed and wheelchair for that length of time you have plenty of time to think, Pray and everything else. My hope came from a great support base my parents, sisters, brother, wife and children gave me. They were there through it all. God and I had many a conversation and he'd show me glimpse of what could be and that was my inspiration to keep going. Also the doctors, nurses and therapists helped in a mighty way.
Q: How did all of this lead you to record your new record, a Gospel album?
My mom had been asking me for years when I was going to do a Gospel/Inspirational album. When I got sick, I promised God that I would sing his praises if he got me back to me to my whole self again. So I am doing what I Promised I would do. Hence the album title "THE PROMISE."
Q: Did you approach the making of this album any differently from your own albums?
This is my 21st Record over a 30 year span. This record without a doubt is my most fulfilling. I had to dig deep lyrically and be truthful in my writing. This record has a lot of live instrumentation on it and is looser in its production - if it felt good then it stayed. A lot of records I recorded previously were more crafted than this recording with this CD, it was definitely more spirit based.
Q: What were some of the highlights when you were making this new album?
Everyday recording was incredible. In addition,recording Regina Belle on a duet was a dream come true. Having my friends and family sing on the album was fantastic as well. The most memorable for me was remaking 'God Is So Amazing." I remember doing the original from a hospital bed in my home and barely having enough strength to sing it, believing in my heart that this was going to be the last time the world heard from me. Then remaking it for this album is a testament to God's good grace and favor.
Q: After all you have been through, what does Jesus mean to you?
Wow...He is real!! Not that I've ever doubted it but I'm living proof that with God anything is possible.