Fresh-faced and full of life, North Carolina-based singer Lamont “Young” Fletcher is on the rise on the R & B/Soul circuit. Beginning in a church choir and taking inspiration from Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, and Luther Vandross, you can literally feel the soul when he sings. We discussed his beginnings, a few lessons learned, and what he hopes to accomplish.
YF: Hey, how you doin’?
IV: Good, how are you?
YF: I’m great, I am great (adjusts camera) – perfect, there we go!
IV: Good, perfect! Well I’m Jessica with Infinite Volume – nice to meet you!
YF: Nice to meet you as well!
IV: So, you were born in the Long Beach area…
IV: …and then you moved across the country to the Carolinas.
YF: My mom is from North Carolina and my dad is from North Carolina, and so when my mom got pregnant my grandma said, “Oh, hell no!” So she sent her to her dad in California, and I was born there, came back to North Carolina when I was like, 4 or 5, maybe 6 – I don’t remember the exact age but I was around that age – I started Kindergarten there. Came back to California when I was about 13 … I was out of pocket with everything ’cause I mean I was a Carolina baby at that point, you know what I’m sayin’? I was completely country, everything had a ‘twang’ to it … so I was kinda uncomfortable. I was like, “I’m not doin’ high school here.” Shipped me back to North Carolina and that’s what happened and now I’m a Carolinian!
IV: Alright, alright, cool! So, I have to ask – you’re the son of a minister: What do your parents think of your music?
YF: I mean … it was the Devil’s Music at first.
YF: Now, you know what I’m sayin’, the checks are rollin’ in and that always … God is good so you know … *laughing*
IV: *laughing* Totally get that.
YF: That’s how it happens, you know? *laughing* That’s how it happens. And the crazy part is my mother, she’s a Christian and my step-father, he’s a Muslim so the dynamics in the home were day and night. One thing I learned about Islam and Muslims – they’re very disciplined people so – we got up every morning and we prayed at 6:00. Whether he was praying to Allah and we were praying to God, we still got up at 6:00, we didn’t wear any shoes in the house, we couldn’t eat anything that had gelatin in it – which was Doritos, Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispie Treats, all of those type of things, Crest toothpaste – we didn’t eat pork in the house but on Sunday when grandmother fixed dinner we were definitely eating pork chops and ham and all of that good stuff so…
IV: Yeah. That’s really cool…
IV: That’s really cool that you guys adapted.
YF: And it’s cool, I mean, it was hard trying to adjust and stuff but my mom and her husband had been married so long. Like when he first went into Islam we were probably 8 or 9 years old, so we kind of adapted early on and when we got older it was cool but in the beginning … why we can’t have Doritos? I love Pop-Tarts!
IV: *laughing* So, how did you fall into music?
YF: So, my family – everybody’s somewhat musically inclined – whether they play instruments, whether they sing – everybody has something to do with music. But, how I was really forced into it? My mother said, ‘You was gonna do somethin’ in the church.’
IV: *laughing” Okay.
YF: “So you gonna be an Usher, you gonna be on the Step Team…” It was just somethin’. I was like, ‘You know what? The easiest thing to do is to sit on the choir.’ And I thought sittin’ on the choir was gonna be just like a chill job, and then I realized there was like a lot more work – like you had to learn the three parts and all of that. My grandmother was the director of the choir, so she already knew that I could sing from hummin’ around the house and singin’ in the shower. And it was, “We gonna get you a solo.” I kinda liked the feeling of, ‘Go ahead, sing! Take your time!’ You know? All of that kinda felt good to me at the moment. I learned later on that it was a gift and it’s called Anointing. So, once I realized what the anointing was and how it flowed, I thought it was the coolest thing to be able to make people scream, cry, shout – all from the tone of my voice, you know what I’m sayin’? I could’ve had the most horrible morning in the world, but I could go sing a song and everybody in the church is crying. Or I could sing and everybody in the church is in a full worship, or exalting.
So knowing that I had that power in my voice … now keep in mind I wasn’t the brightest child – I was gettin’ kicked outta school, I wanted to be with the cool kids, the cool kids stole cars, the cool kids were just stealing – and one of the things that switched that off for me was when I went to American Idol.
YF: I made it all the way to the Hollywood round. They asked me to sing a pop song and I didn’t know what a pop song was. To me, I thought Pop was like, Britney Spears, but I didn’t know ‘pop’ meant ‘popular music’ – somethin’ that everybody would know. They didn’t send me home, they sent me to the back of the line to learn what a pop song was. I was just like, “I don’t wanna do this, it’s too tense, all these people can really sing, Grandma – let’s pack it up and go home.” So I didn’t finish, but what happened was the news crew followed me. I had developed the reputation that this kid in this town can really sing, but along with that reputation was, ‘he off the chain – he’s terrible!’ Once I got wind of that, I cleaned it up a lot. And that’s how I started!
IV: And then you were discovered by…?
YF: How was I discovered? That’s a good question. Well, singin’ in the church really opened a lot of doors for me. I didn’t start singin’ R & B until I was 17 years old, so between the ages of maybe 12 to 16 I was singin’ for the mayor, I was singin’ at weddings, funerals, I was singin’ on projects, I started working with Fantasia Barrino, they were recording gospel projects and I was on it … I had just kind of gotten this reputation ’cause I can sing so high and do riffs and stuff, you know what I’m sayin’? So, I kind of built a reputation and got discovered doing Gospel music. One of my good friends was like, ‘I wanna introduce you to someone who I feel like can help and take you to a whole other level.’ At that time, I had a lot of people trying to present contracts to me and my mom, since she had to sign it at that time, so she was kinda always like, ‘The Lord said…’
IV: *laughing and nodding*
YF: So, I met up with this guy, Jerry Gilmore. He booked me to sing at a club, and I remember sneaking out. I was 17 so I could hang out, but this particular Friday I remember sneaking out and I did like, two cover songs. I was like, “Whatever happens, as long as my mama don’t find out.” So, I went and I sung at the club and he loved it. I went in the studio the next week, I recorded some songs, and one of the songs I recorded landed on the radio and went #17 on the Billboard.
YF: It kinda took on a mind of its own. At that time, I didn’t know what ‘charting on the Billboards’ meant. For three years, I was introduced to the R & B world, around 17 years old, and then it kinda went off from there. I started singin’ backup for Ne-Yo. I went from singin’ backup for Ne-Yo to singin’ with Fantasia and Anthony Hamilton. Although I kind of shied away from my rebellious stage, I kinda started to want to do my own thing a little bit … I felt like I was bigger than North Carolina and a lot of people were tryin’ to confine me to North Carolina. I moved to Atlanta and that’s when it really popped off. I seen a whole other world. That’s when I really feel like I was exposed to the real music business. I mean, I didn’t know what “snakes” meant – I mean snakes to me was crawling on the ground but I didn’t know what human snakes were –
IV: *nodding* Yeah!
YF: At that point I was so desperate to get discovered I was working with anybody, I signed a few death certificates (contracts) in my life … took me a while to figure out. It wasn’t easy, but I learned I lot. I was most appreciative, you know what I’m sayin’? Because I learned so much in that stage by myself. My manager at that time, Jerry Gilmore, he was like, “Hey, you’re too much, Imma take my hands off of ‘ya”. They couldn’t do nothin’ with me because I thought I was that dude. I learned the hard way, I’m appreciative of it, I wouldn’t change anything. I learned a lot about life.
IV: You learned to like, be careful, read through everything, you can’t trust everybody…
YF: Psh. Aw man. Aw man. I had no idea how grimy people could be in the music business.
IV: *nodding* Yes.
YF: That’s the advice that I tell a lot of people trying to start out: You really wanna make sure that you’re basically working with someone like an attorney or somebody who can look over contracts and guide you, because even though you may not be at the stage of signing a contract, most music attorneys can guide you, in a way. I didn’t have none of that. I didn’t get a music attorney until I was probably 23 years old, and it was Sylvia Rhone from … I think she was at Universal at that time. So I got a music attorney and it was only because of her. I sung for her, I sung for all these A & R, she had a little dog, everybody loved it, I even sung Stevie Wonder a song. I’ve heard about these big meetings my whole entire life, even as a child – you know, getting in front of the labels and singin’ – but I had never had that experience until I had flown out to New York. I remember just sweatin’ – because I had heard about them my whole life and they had beefed it up so much, to the point where you was going to meet Jesus almost! *laughing*
YF: So I got to this meeting, I sung for her, the A & Rs, the whole team, they loved it. At that point, they were like, “We gotta sign you, we gotta figure out where we gonna get this money from. We just signed Drake – Drake just took our whole budget.” So going back to Jerry Gilmore. He had given me a signed Release Letter. In the music industry, whether or not something needs to be signed and notarized or just signed is determined by each state. In New York, you can sign a piece of paper and that’s what it is, you know? In the State of North Carolina, it has to be signed and notarized for it to be legit.
IV: I gotcha.
YF: So, me not thinking, me not knowing the business, when I signed the contract, I had to have it notarized. When I got the contract back, he gave me the paper and it wasn’t notarized, I was so excited to have my damn papers, I was like, *singing* ready to sign the papers! You know? I said, ‘I got it, I’m movin’ forward with my life and my career.’ What happened was Jerry Gilmore got wind that I was in the process of signing a deal with Universal, and sent a Cease and Desist to stop everything, and that Cease and Desist basically put a hold on everything saying, ‘Hey, you can’t do any business with him without my consent.’ So, that pretty much put a stop on everything. Now granted, I had a Release Letter, and it needed to be notarized. I remember the day it happened – Sylvia Rhone had called me, she was one of the biggest executives up there, you know, with L.A. Reid and all the others – so when she called me I seen her number pop up and was all excited like, “Hey, Miss Sylvia! How you doin’?” She’s blankin’! She’s goin’ off like, “I can’t believe I got a Cease and Desist! I wanna know what is going on?! I’ve gotten all this money up to get you signed and-” you know she blankin’ just bleep! bleep! bleep!
IV: Oh no!
YF: I sent her the Release Letter and she looked at it. We ended up getting an attorney – Vinny Kumar, which is still my attorney to this day – and thank God I was able to get out of that contract. I mean, it was a lot to get out of the contract, but we ended up getting out of the contract. It just goes back to why artists need attorneys and why it’s important to have someone in your corner to look over things.
IV: Wow, that’s a lot. *laughing*. But yeah, I mean … you learned.
YF: Right. It was a learning experience.
IV: Yeah. So, are you based in Atlanta then or are you still in North Carolina?
YF: I’m in North Carolina. So, I moved from Atlanta to Baltimore to New York…
YF: Right, I mean, I was all over the place. Music kinda took… is all mine and I didn’t have kids or anything so it was like, ‘I’m hittin’ the road – you call me to do a hook – I mean it can be somethin’ simple – I’m on the way!’ But yeah I’m based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. I was raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is about an hour away from Charlotte. I love Charlotte.
IV: Perfect. I’ve heard the Carolinas are nice. I’ve never been there but I have friends who live there and they love it.
YF: Aw man. Ya gotta come out here. You’ll love it.
IV: Let’s talk a little bit about Carolina Blue.
YF: Carolina Blue. Carolina Blue is a record I did with the intent of showing people who are not from Carolina basically what we are. For many years we struggle trying to find our sound and our identity, you know what I’m sayin’? I don’t wanna say we just found a sound or just got an identity because we’ve been here, but it wasn’t exposed yet.
YF: Again, Fantastia’s from here, Anthony Hamilton’s from here, you have DaBaby who’s from here … you have a lot of artists who are ‘well off’ from here, and the blessing was bein’ able to rub elbows with all of them. I know them all, I spoke to DaBaby a couple of days ago – you know what I’m sayin’? To be able to rub elbows with these type of people kinda lets me know I’m in the right lane, on the right path. But one thing that I felt was missin’ was people really knowing exactly what Carolina was. I think when people think of Carolina, the first thing they think of is “country bumpkin,” pigs, cows…
YF: …trees, you know what I’m sayin’? I think it comes off as ‘boring.’ So when I wrote Carolina Blue, I wanted to show a whole other side. So that’s what I did. I went in the studio, and I remember wanting to have this like, out-of-body experience so I lit all these candles and wanted to be super weird, you know what I’m sayin’? “Artistry.” *laughing*. I was just Googling like, a lot of landmarks in North Carolina that I know and thinking, you know, ‘How can I implement this in a song?’ That’s what I did – I just took it, bottled it, and put it into one, and came out with Carolina Blue, and people love it so far.
IV: Just showing the whole other side and beauty of the Carolinas.
YF: Just a whole other side of the Carolinas that people can really get an ideal of who we are. We ain’t Indians in the woods, ‘ya know? *laughing*
YF: Tryin’ to figure it out. Charlotte is really …like … it’s a big city! And it’s fast, you know? It’s really fast! You got a lot of stuff goin’ on. There’s a campus here, a lot of great things goin’ on right now and you have a lot of celebrities movin’ in – Samuel L. Jackson, Oprah Winfrey – there’s a lot of people that live out here and it’s not boring, you know what I’m sayin’? It’s not cows and … And don’t get it twisted! There are some areas that are cows, pigs … but you can go to California and there’s certain areas like that so I mean pretty much everywhere, but I think we identify with it so much because Carolina at one point was just a place where people came and put factories, and tobacco, you know what I’m sayin’? So now it’s like, we turned into a city, again we’ve got NFL, just a lot of dope stuff that’s goin’ on.
IV: I get it, I get it. I’m in Michigan …
YF: Okay, cool!
IV: … and people think we’re all woods, or all farm. But I mean, we have Grand Rapids, we have Detroit. You know? So, I get it.
YF: I actually had to sing a couple months back at a place called … Kalamazoo?
IV: Okay, that’s where I live! Kalamazoo!
YF: Wow! Wow, wow, wow!
YF: So, there’s a lot of churches out there.
YF: What I know about Michigan, it has some of the greatest singers, from like the Clark Sisters … I have some pow-wows and the Clark Sisters alone…and then Barry Gordy…Motown?
YF: Yeah, so y’all the Land of the Living out there, the music is great, at least for my sound, that’s where I pull from. Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson … y’all got some powerhouses out there!
IV: Oh yeah! Yeah, we do. That’s cool that you sang in Kalamazoo, though! That’s pretty legit.
YF: Yeah. It was an experience. I liked it though, it was cool.
IV: Yeah, it’s a little smaller than Charlotte.
YF: It’s definitely smaller. The churches out there…there’s a lot of churches.
IV: There’s a lot, yeah.
YF: A lot of churches. I was like, ‘Wait, why’s there so many churches in this one town?’ Crazy, but that’s what’s up.
IV: Yeah, there really are a lot of churches. And I never really thought about it until you just mentioned it, actually.
YF: A lot of churches. I mean it was like every time I turned a corner it was like ‘there’s a church right there…’ ‘…church right there…’ There’s a lot of churches in Kalamazoo. Maybe I’m trippin’ though. A lot of churches.
IV: What’s funny though is it’s a college town because we have Western Michigan University here so there’s a lot of bars. *laughing*
YF: Oh wow! That’s how it is in Winston! That’s how it is in Winston-Salem – there’s a lot of churches, but there’s a lot of bars because it’s a college town, so I get it. Similar!
IV: So your next single is ‘Testimony’ with Lil Baby and Lucky Nick. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
YF: One of my close friends, Lucky Nick, got into a situation and he had paid Lil Baby for this feature and before he could put it out, he ended up getting incarcerated and he’s doing some time now. He reached out to me because he’s like, “Hey, you’re the only person I could think of that can bring it to life – whatever you wanna do with it, I’m trusting you because I can’t do anything with it in here.” I remember listening to Lil Baby’s verse and got inspired by what he was sayin’ and I went in and did the hook – after they had already did everything that they had done. The beauty of the situation was Lucky Nick, who’s incarcerated, still had connections with Lil Baby so when I got done with the record, he was able to get it to Lil Baby and them and they fell in love with it like, ‘This is it.’ I thought it was gonna be hard gettin’ someone to sign off on it with the release forms and all of that but it was all love, they signed off on it, now we’re in the process of gettin’ the video done. Lil Baby being one of the top urban artists out right now – #1 streaming artist on the urban charts – I just feel like this record is gonna take off. I mean, I really feel like this is the one.
IV: And your Testimony EP is coming out in October, correct?
YF: My EP is gonna drop on October 10, 2020, and I picked that date because I’m a kinesthetic person – I’m all about … I’m hands-on and also what I can see – and I just thought that was a cool date: 10/10/2020.
YF: Which is like, vision, you know what I’m sayin’? 20-20-20. It gave me enough time to really just zone out and make sure I wasn’t just picking records to throw on a project – it’s like I’m carefully putting it together, making it make sense. One thing I’ve also discovered with figuring out who I am and what my purpose is – I make music for struggling souls. And I stand on that because I’ve experienced so much in my little time of being here, and what I wanted people to understand was the music biz ain’t always about glitz and glams but it’s about reality. I feel like my testimony of what I’ve been through could help other people. I’ve been a victim before. I’ve had a car repossessed before. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been shot before. Fletcher ain’t no saint, you know what I’m sayin’? He comes from a sanctified family but thank God for them because they were the ones I feel like were keeping me in their prayers.
YF: I’m a spiritual person, I don’t even think that I’m a religious person. I’m very spiritual, you know what I’m sayin’? So, I feel like this project that I’m presentin’ to the world is gonna be something that touches people in a whole other way, I feel like something – like when Tupac put music out it touched people in a certain way. Whether he was sayin’ … F The Police or whether he was sayin’ Brenda Had A Baby…
IV: *nodding* Yes!
IV: …he touched you in some type of way. I want my music to have that effect on people. When I’m dead and gone or whatever, I wanna be able to have my music as a legacy that you can go back and listen to and it gives you that feeling. Like we can go back and listen to Sam Cooke’s I Was Born By The River because it gave us that feeling, regardless of people trying to sing it – it was the feeling he possessed – like he possessed the song and put it out into the world and into the atmosphere. That’s what I’m about. I wanna possess people’s minds in the right way to help them overcome situations. I’ve had it all, I’ve lost it all. Because I’ve been there before, I wanna let people know that it’s okay – you gonna go through these things, it’s life. No, I’m not a gospel singer – YET – which I know that’s my calling at some point, I had to figure out a way to spread the good news in a way that was relatable for my peers. That’s what I feel like I’m doing right now with this new project, Testimony. We’ve got “Truth Be Told” with Yo Gotti, we’ve got Lil Mo out of Baltimore, so I mean we’ve got quite a few artists on it, but it’s all talkin’ about the struggle. Overcoming the obstacle. And some of the songs are nasty but we gonna overcome that obstacle. *laughing* It still has a message in it.
IV: It’s real.
YF: It’s real. It’s real. We ain’t in the clubs no more. We in quarantine so we ain’t in clubs right now.
YF: We can’t go to concerts so I don’t even wanna sell that type of reality where I’m doin’ videos and we in the club and there’s a bunch of … like that’s not even our moment, like I feel like we’ve seen so much of that to where it’s lame. We don’t wanna see that no more, like let’s make the videos where we can show the cars gettin’ repossessed and …like that’s what I’m talkin’ about. That’s one thing I love about Country music – because it tells a story. I’ve been finding myself just listening to a lot more country music. It takes you on a journey. And that’s what I’m about.
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