Introducing Anthony Feimster, Flint Artist in Residence
UMS is pleased to welcome Anthony Feimster, better known by his stage name Feimstro, as this season’s UM-Flint Artist in Residence. Feimster is a Flint-based pianist, vocalist, and composer who hopes to use his residency to collaborate with musicians and other artists to create new work. On Friday, November 3, Feimster will release an acoustic version of his 2022 album, Nina, recorded in live performance in early October, that takes inspiration from legendary singer/songwriter Nina Simone.
UMS Learning and Engagement student staff member Schnadè Saintïl recently interviewed Feimster about his influences, his community, and his artistry:
How would you describe your musical sound and its influences? How has the city of Flint influenced you?
It originated from gospel roots coming from the blues and growing up in church. And Ray Charles is my greatest inspiration for a plethora of reasons. He comes from hard knocks, is a pianist, sings and plays at the same time — very soulful, very bluesy, very churchy. The musicians in my city definitely inspired me growing up. On the album cover of Nina are the names of Sidney Oliver, Rufus Ferguson, Sam Doans, Adam Bearyman, and Mike Mobley. They had a huge impact on me because they introduced me to artists outside of gospel industries.
Sydney Oliver is more of a father figure to me. He’s the one who cultivated this idea of who James Taylor is and who Steely Dan is. When I was growing up, I said, “Man, what is this stuff he got me listening to?” And now that I’m older, I just can’t get away from it. So he’s the largest influence all my life, hands down.
Why have you chosen Nina Simone for the spotlight on this project?
Listening to a lot of Nina Simone, I came across a lot of videos that inspired me. She had me thinking, “I want to speak boldly. I want to speak my mind.” I wanted to say things on this project that were really dear to me at the time. She was clever. She was a statement artist. I want to exemplify that in my writing like Nina. She was so much of herself that it makes you think about who you are. I want to be a statement writer. I want to be clever in my writings, like Nina, and it was a way to pay homage to her.
Why are you recording a live version of the album when you have a polished studio recording?
Live performance touches the soul. There are things that you can capture in live performances that you can’t capture in the studio. That’s why a lot more people are trying to get more people in the studio so they can record that moment. Having piano and vocals leaves room for more creativity — for example in not having bass, I have to create a rhythm myself, figuring out an alternative to the bassline.
Ultimately, the piano album was an effort to create an intimate space with my fans and those who have been supporting me nonstop since I’ve started this journey. This is my way of saying thank you, by inviting a small group into this process. I’m going to create something for you. I’m going to live in this moment for you.
Who do you make music for?
I make music for myself and for the listener who enjoys live music, who enjoys a good show. I know it sounds weird, but I make music for the world, man. If I had everybody’s attention in the world right now, I would probably sing a song. And my goal is to reach the hearts of those who will accept being true to myself and seeing what I grasp from that area. I know a lot of times we spend a lot of time on who’s your fan base, what’s the age limit, who are you going after? Anywhere from the age of eight and 80; if you like raw beautiful soul music, that’s who I am going for.
Could you make a five-song playlist for someone to ease into your music?
“Roll with My Baby” – Ray Charles
“I’m Black And I’m Proud” – James Brown
“Shine” – Robert Glasper
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” – PJ Morton
“Shower the People” – James Taylor
How did you hear about UMS and this residency? How is it advancing you and your work?
I heard about UMS through my bassist, John Hammons. I applied and ever since then UMS has been a great help, bringing awareness to some of the things that are happening in the community. They’ve been a great help financially to solidify some of the things to make possible, such as this piano album. I am looking forward to having creative conversations with students and artists in an upcoming event called Piano Paint. It began as something I did on Instagram during quarantine, where I took online art and I created music from scratch based upon the art. So, I’m excited about the artist dialogues that we’re going to be having with the students. Personally, there’s a lot of different things that I’m looking forward to, especially in the new year, with me coming out with my album, them playing a huge role in helping me and assisting me with space and conversation and funding. This residency couldn’t have come at a greater time. And for that, I plan on helping the programs that are attached to UMS with education, artists, information, knowledge, performance, composition, wherever it may be. I’m excited to give back as well to that. UMS has been more than a blessing to me.
You’re releasing this new album on Bandcamp, an untraditional route. Not being signed to a label, is being an independent artist a status you want to keep?
I think staying independent is the goal right now. The way business is working, in 3 years of streams I’ve made around $160. With that knowledge, I do notice that I can make more money doing live shows. I can make more money by releasing my album on platforms such as Bandcamp.
I do believe that being independent is a harder role, don’t get me wrong. It’s a lot more work because you don’t have the backing of the labels and the things that they provide, A&R rep marketing, etc., but you can build yourself a team, and do things your own way. Over time, if the numbers are right, if everything lines up and the contracts are right, I wouldn’t mind signing to a label after I’ve already established myself independently, maybe, but I think independence is my current goal for the sake of freedom.
If you were a Nina song right now, what would you be?
“Seasons,” because I’m in a season of my life where things are happening that I didn’t expect to happen. Some of those things are horrible and are absolutely great. I’m taking time to balance out life, marriage, ministry, and a lot of different avenues. I’m reminded that seasons may not come, and the leaves may not fall at all. Some of the leaves in certain seasons just don’t, may not fall, who knows.
Is there anything upcoming you have coming up?
If the people could follow me on Bandcamp, as we are releasing the Nina Piano album there on November 3, 2023. I’ll also be releasing some visuals from that live recording every week. If you want to get to know me, check out my linktree.com; it has everything from new music to what I’m doing now, to events coming up, my calendar, and ways we can connect. In May, I’ll be releasing a new album entitled This Ain’t No Joke. And that whole concept is amazing in itself. But, for now, follow me everywhere at Feimstro on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat.