/  03.18.2022
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In a Session Series Preview

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Multifaceted creative Neesin Williams has been in enough studio sessions to know that’s where you find out who an artist truly is. As the host of the new REVOLT series “In a Session,” he has honest conversations that reveal a lot about some of the world’s most captivating stars.

“Amber Riley said Fox had a chance to have her for ‘American Idol,’ and they denied her. Then, they had to turn around and cut her that big ol’ check for ‘Glee.’ It was one of those things where you couldn’t deny this woman,” Williams told REVOLT in an exclusive chat.

In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the gifted artist discusses creating the new REVOLT series, what he learned from Kevin McCall, and letting God in when he makes music. Download the REVOLT app to binge “In a Session” today (March 18) at 5 p.m. ET, and get into our conversation with Neesin Williams below.

Tell us about “In a Session.” Why did you want to do this series?

‘In a Session’ is a discovery show. I know we’re using the term ‘studio,’ but I’d focus more on the ‘sessions’ part because I grew up in the music industry and spent a lot of time in these sessions. One thing about artists, we’re only giving a certain side to the public. We’re only showing them what we decide we want to show them. When you’re in sessions, it’s the most vulnerable place you can be. One, because you have to open up to show that side. A lot of these other sides seep out. It lends itself to having these conversations at 4 o’clock in the morning while eating some pizza or Bossa Nova — these free and open conversations. It’s something about those hallow walls of the recording studio that I always love because of that. So, I was like, ‘Man, I wish people saw this side of you. You’re more than just a rapper. You’re more than just a singer. You’re more than just X-Y-Z. You’re more than just an engineer. I wish people saw that.’ I happened to work on this project in London and then ended up going to Cannes. I brought my partner to Cannes, and I mentioned the project to her. I said, ‘I think I want to do this thing where I interview more than just rappers and singers. I want to interview artists from all walks of life. She was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Cool, cool.’

I ended up writing this short film she directed that brought us to Rome, Italy. Right before picture day at 2 o’clock in the morning, I told her, ‘I think I have it. Our project afterward should be called ‘In a Session.’’ I broke down the vision of the show as Sway-meets-old school ‘Rap City’-meets-David Letterman’s conversations with the two-chair setup — where it’s just him and another person sitting in chairs and having a conversation. After that, I went to Japan and remember being on Shibuya Square feeling like a fish out of water. There are a bunch of Japanese boy bands out there that are huge, but we don’t know about them in the States. That’s when I realized ‘In A Session’ needs to be that thing that shines a light on the hottest person on the block that has enough buzz but needs a little more light — so a person in Japan could end up watching that show and come here like, ‘Yo, I know you.’ They know who Adrian Javon is. They know who Enimeezy is. They know who Ryck Jane is. It was strategically done to be a discovery show.

What is something surprising you learned while filming the show?

Every episode you’ll hear me go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that’ because we were genuinely having a conversation. I wasn’t going in with bullet points. Of course I’d research the artist, but I’d go in as if we were having a naturally flowing conversation. Amber Riley said Fox had a chance to have her for ‘American Idol,’ and they denied her. Then, they had to turn around and cut her that big ol’ check for ‘Glee.’ It was one of those things where you couldn’t deny this woman

What are some of your most memorable sessions?

Some of those you named. I was in a studio with The Movement. They got No. 1 records with Justin Bieber. They got rap records, pop records. Our home studio used to be Will Smith’s studio, and we used to always be in Studio C. The Movement used to always be in Studio B. Everyone from Meek Mill to Rick Ross and any major rapper went through this studio. Studio A was the big one. They had just finished the last Michael Jackson album they had to piece together, [Xscape]. They did it in Studio A. There was crazy security around that. They were finishing up in there, and we would play music with the door open and walk to the kitchen. Corron was like, ‘They’re finishing up the Michael Jackson album.’ I heard it because they were doing the Justin Timberlake vocals on there. He was like, ‘What were you doing back there?’ I told him I was doing this record I wanted to give to Chris Brown, but they denied it. He was like, ‘Let me hear it.’ Then Corron’s going crazy like, ‘Oh my God. This record is nuts.’ 

Then, we started talking about life. I was like, ‘I want people to see the struggle. We’re always making these fun party records, but I want people to see the struggle side of being an artist. I want to ground us more.’ He was like, ‘Cool, but you can’t deny your hits.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess.’ That song ‘A.T.M. (I’m Livin’)’ went on to become our biggest song. It ended up going on ‘Insecure.’ That was the most life-changing story

I’ve also seen photos of you with Mila J, Marsha Ambrosius, Janelle Monáe and more. What are some memorable moments you’ve shared with other artists?

Telling that wild story, I thought about having a session with Kevin McCall at BBR. I remember he came in with a Dell laptop and I was like, ‘What he’s about to play here?’ Then, we started to talk about how T-Pain was making records off the PC as well. Fruity Loops got a bad rap, but real producers, musicians and sound crafters know how to really manipulate Fruity Loops. That’s why he had that PC. I also remember being in the studio with Goapele and Omari Hardwick when Omari did a poet album. I happened to be blessed enough to engineer that record. That was a life-changing session. We talked about everything but the music we were cutting. 

What do you need when you go into the studio?

The first thing I do when I come to a studio is cut off all of the lights. I try to feel the energy in the studio. If it’s not there, it’s not there. I sit there for 10 seconds, and then I go inside the booth. If it’s a huge or small space, I will walk that space just to get a feel. It’s like if I had wings and they were coming out of my back, and I’m stretching out to see how much working space I have with these words. It’s a performance. You’re giving all of that energy. I don’t smoke. I can’t create or record while I’m high or drinking. I literally have to let God in, be present and be open.

What do you hope fans take away from “In a Session”?

I hope they take away a lot of stuff. They could take away how Rachel Eubanks is about to get her doctorate. She’s an activist and actively gives back in any way she can. She’s from right outside of Detroit. You have these people who show you can’t judge a book by its cover. They’re so multifaceted. These people are actually successful and didn’t stick to one thing — and you don’t have to either. 

What do you have coming up in 2022?

My producing partner Brianna Devons and I have a film out right now that she directed and wrote, which I produced and did the scoring for. I also made an original song for it. It’s called On The Line. It deals with mental issues in Black culture. It deals with suicidal thoughts. It dives in pretty deep and it’s based on a true story. That’s hitting the film circuits now. It’s already winning awards in scoring, acting and ‘Best Film.’ I’m also directing and starring in another film we’re gearing up for in 2022 called Friendsgiving, which is a film about a proposal and finding the right way to propose to your girlfriend. It’s about revealing who we really are to each other. I just shot a single-cam pilot that’s being shopped around now about a Reggaeton group, and it’s really funny. If you like Abbott Elementary,’ think of that show with a B-list Cardi B, Pitbull and Latin Puff.

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