Peabo Bryson sat on the front porch of his Buckhead, Georgia home, watching a family of deer pass by as the southern sky turned dark because of an impending storm.
Having recently completed his 21st studio album with the legendary production duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Bryson lit up as he talked about his career. He says he is as excited as ever about his new music and accompanying tour that will have him travel all over the United States and to Japan.
First, however, he wanted to talk about his son.
“I have such a beautiful family and my little man— I can tell you it’s like watching a mini version of myself. Almost every single aspect of him reminds me of me,” the proud father said.
One of the premiere vocalists in music over the past 40 years, Bryson has earned two Grammy Awards and two Academy Awards. He is also responsible for a memorable 1992 Oscar night performance with Angela Lansbury and Celine Dion as they earned rave reviews for their performance of the title track from the movie, “Beauty and the Best,” which won Best Original Song.
With hits that include duets with Natalie Cole, Roberta Flack and Regina Belle, Bryson has the distinction of being the first artist in music history to have separate records topping four different charts.
He believes his new album, “Stand for Love,” has even more hits, particularly because of the added touch of Jam and Lewis.
“Excited doesn’t begin to describe what it’s like working with them. The first thing you notice is the absence of ego and self-importance,” Bryson said about the producers who have worked with Prince, Michael Jackson and many others.
Together, Jam and Lewis made Janet Jackson an international icon.
“My challenge to them was, ‘Can you make me current without destroying what has taken me a lifetime to accomplish?’” Bryson said. “I asked them if they could put me in today’s conversation about music— to make me valid to be in a conversation. I couldn’t think of anyone else.”
Even prior to its release, the new album has caught on.
The lead single, “Love Like Yours and Mine,” has rocketed to No. 3 on Billboard’s Adult R&B list and the second single, “All She Wants to Do is Me,” has already been featured on the Showtime hit series, “The Chi.”
Part of Bryson says his success can be credited to him being able to say no in a world where everybody is accustomed to hearing the opposite. “I was saying no to drugs long ago. Some might have called me a ‘goody-two-shoes’ and a bunch of other things but I tend to look at it as being young and pragmatic, as opposed to young and restless,” Bryson said.
The singer, whose career has yielded such hits as “Feel the Fire,” “Tonight I Celebrate My Love,” and “Can You Stop the Rain,” has also kept the proper perspective on celebrity and real life.
“There are two things you have to understand about celebrity and success,” Bryson said.
“One is, fame is not real. You have to accept that. Fame really for an artist is everybody else’s perception of you, but you. Everybody else’s perception is valid except for yours if you adapt that. In terms of success, everything that you have can be taken a way from you in the next five seconds.
“[Celebrities] become invulnerable and that’s what they think success is but the hardest thing to navigate for a human being is not adversity— it’s success itself. Every single virtue you’ve ever had or everything you’ve ever hoped to achieve. Look, I treat every human being that I come in contact with the way I want to be treated and look— I buy my own toilet paper.”
For Bryson, the new album is just one more thing that he is grateful for.
“At this stage of my life, I appreciate things more completely and it’s not just regular gratitude,” he said. “I’m starting to appreciate the concept of second-hand grace, and I’m not sitting around waiting for that big grace. To have this kind of success and a seven-month-old to carry my name and to marry my best friend— yes, I’m grateful,” he said.