By Janice Malone
Nashville Symphony is excited to host iconic singer and star of film, television, and theatre Vanessa Williams for three nights at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Williams will make her Schermerhorn Symphony Center debut October 20 through 22 alongside the Nashville Symphony. This concert will open with the Nashville Symphony performing a selection of beloved Broadway overtures and more.
Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in the entertainment industry today. Having sold millions of records worldwide, Vanessa has also achieved numerous #1 and Top 10 hits on various Billboard Album and Singles charts: Pop, Dance, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Holiday, Latin, Gospel, and Jazz.
Her critically acclaimed work in film, television, recordings, and the Broadway stage has been recognized by every major industry award affiliate including 4 Emmy nominations, 11 GRAMMY® nominations, a Tony nomination, and others. Vanessa is a strong advocate for equal rights, especially concerning the gay community and minorities.
Most recently, Vanessa starred in the World Premiere of the new Broadway comedy, POTUS, featuring an all-female cast. Her other Broadway credits include Kiss of the Spider Woman, St. Louis Woman, Into the Woods, Sondheim on Sondheim, and After Midnight. She co-starred with Cicely Tyson in The Trip to Bountiful (the #1 play of the 2013 season), starred in the revival of City of Angels in London’s The West End, and a special performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle at Carnegie Hall.
TRIBUNE: You’re performing with the Nashville Symphony, October 20, 21, and 22 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Have you performed in Nashville quite often in your career?
VANESSA: “Not recently. But back in the day, which would’ve been during my first world tour, with Luther Vandross, I’m sure we swung by Nashville during that time. I do love symphony dates. I’m lucky to have had a number of hits that have been so well known. Many of these young folks nowadays don’t even realize that it’s me singing the songs ‘Save The Best For the Last’ ‘Sweetest Days’ and ‘Colors of the Wind,’ because they only know me from the tv shows Ugly Betty or Desperate Housewives or some other programs. So, it’s nice to be able to sing with an amazing symphony and do my hits that still stand the test of time.”
TRIBUNE:. You’ve been successful in so many genres of music. Have you ever done country music?
VANESSA: “No, I haven’t done any country music. The last time I was in Nashville, was around 2010. I was doing a show (“Who Do You Think You Are?’), that traces family lineages. I visited the Tennessee State Government House. They sent me down the hallway and showed me a bust of a prominent black figure and asked me to look at the list of members of the representatives from the 1800s. And my great-great grandfather’s name was there–William A. Fields. He is one of the first black representatives from Shelby County that made it to the Tennessee State government as a Representative after the end of the Civil War (served from 1885 -1886). So, it was wonderful to be able to visit the State Capitol. They also took me into the chambers, where I got a chance to read some of my great-great grandfather’s bills that he was trying to get passed. They were written in his own handwriting, which was incredible! So, I would have to say, the last time that I was in Nashville, it was a very heartwarming, and moving experience for me.”
TRIBUNE: Vanessa, you have such a large repertoire of songs in so many different music genres that you do so well. What are some of the songs that we can look forward to hearing when you perform with the Nashville Symphony?
VANESSA: “Well, I’ll do the hits, of course. I’ll do ‘Save the Best For Last.’ I’ll do ‘Colors of the Wind’ from the Disney film ‘Pocahontas.’ I will also do ‘Dreamin’ which was my first big ballad hit from my first album back in 1988 called ‘The Right Stuff.’ So basically, we have string arrangements for the big, lush, gorgeous pieces, and then we’ll do some songs with my smaller band without any orchestration. The band is for when we do songs such as my hit single ‘Work To Do’ and some of the other favorites that I’m known for.”
TRIBUNE: We’re now in the holiday season and people love playing your holiday songs. Do you sometimes sing or perform your own holiday songs with friends and family?
VANESSA: “The holiday season is definitely the time of year that I’m busy performing my holiday songs and concerts. I perform these songs a lot each year and don’t really need to do them at home with my family because that’s kind of my gig. So, when I’m off the stage, I’m home being a mom and a grandma, enjoying the holiday season just being myself.”
TRIBUNE: What are some upcoming projects that we can expect from you in 2023-2024?
VANESSA: “I’ve got a few projects that are ready, waiting for production. There are theatrical things that I’m going to be involved with in acting, but basically also producing. This is quite an exciting time in my career when I get the chance to actually make things, as opposed to just being a part of productions and acting. But it’s nice when you can actually create some of the projects as a producer. So, I’m working on that, working on the music, and then continuing to create and sing all over the world. I just finished Season 2 of ‘Queen of the Universe,’ which is on Paramount. Plus, I’m a judge in a drag queen singing competition that’s worldwide. That was a lot of fun. I think that comes out around the holiday time. Season one was amazing and Season two will be equally as exciting. I also just finished doing a Broadway show POTUS, which was hilarious. There’s some talk about taking that show to London. So, we’ll see what happens. But the work always shows up.”
NOTE: Listen to this exclusive interview in its entirety, as Janice Malone chats with Vanessa Williams below: