My music got me fired…

Antonio Neal | Contributor

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I really thought I was done recording music as a professional. I had my moment during my 12 years in Nashville and one recorded project here in Memphis. Then something started happening..I started seeing the world around me fall apart. Video by Video…Headline by Headline. So much violence, So much pain, So much death here In Memphis and across our country.

I was looking for a way to respond. A way to get this weight off of my shoulders and mind. My guitar was in it’s case in the corner of my bedroom, but one day I was inspired to pick it up and dust it off. I needed a way to release the tension so I just started playing a few familiar chords. I had no idea that 8 songs and a few sleepless nights later I would be offering more songs for the world to hear.

I had turned my focus to real estate and building something for my family. I told myself that I was retired and had moved on. No more dog and pony shows for me:) Maybe God has other plans. I must admit, I am very nervous. Not because I’m worried who likes or dislikes my musings, but I’m nervous about me. I’m not the same guy that donned the cover of an EMI Gospel project. I decided to let my platinum facial hair show. It’s my way of honoring those who will never get the honor to see their own transformation like I have.

Antonio Neal is the CEO at The Phelon Company

The Phelon Company:
We provide quality video shooting, editing,voice overs and more for all of your business and vision needs!

Maybe I’m nervous because what I have to say isn’t a well thought out and packaged commercial release. The songs just happened. It was given to me to give back to you in hopes that maybe in some way it will bring some understanding or be a conversation starter that leads to empathy. I don’t know, maybe It’s because I feel a great responsibility to share truth over my established genre; Life over fantasy. Maybe I’m nervous because I just don’t know where I am going and what’s around the corner for me and my platinum whiskers….and that’s ok with me.

“I AM America”

A few of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been getting since the release of my new project are: “What’s your inspiration for your music?” Or “what was your thought process while writing it?” Those are two great questions, and I now realize that I don’t have time to write an exhaustive answer, but it wasn’t inspiration or thinking only that got me here. It is my entire experience as a human being. Early memories of my late grandparents, awesome holidays and family meals, as well as experiencing my little brother being called a “nigger” by some teens speeding by our home in a pickup truck as we worked in our yard in Spanish Lake, Missouri are a few of the things that made me who I am today.

Over the next few months I will begin to share some of what has shaped me as a man, husband, father, son, brother and U.S. citizen. The memories won’t always be in chronological order because some things will trigger other memories, causing dates and times to jumble together. They won’t always be beautiful, either, but I promise to share my life as I’ve lived it. Are you ready? Here we go…

I am a blessed man—blessed to grow up with a mom and dad that loved my brothers, sister and I. As a kid, I admired the strength of my dad, his willingness to never quit on his family. I enjoyed when I was able to steal some alone time with him as we rode around doing errands in his Ford F150. From my mom I learned the importance of spirituality and prayer. She was also tough as nails. I don’t know how she kept 5 sons in line who physically towered over her:)

My parents were young adults during the struggle of the 60’s, and I’m sure they endured much. But I don’t recall them sharing those experiences with us. I’ve often wondered why they chose not to. Mom and dad never said much at all about “White people”except a brief comment here or there, yet there was always a tangible uneasiness when we found ourselves sharing a grocery aisle, the line at the bank or browsing through a crowded department store. The feeling of performing for some invisible, yet, superior audience always plagued me. As a child I felt as if there was a conversation that the older “black” and “white” people may have started, that, somehow, was cut short and no one really knew how to get it started again. Again, no one ever said anything, but it was there, and that silence was very loud.

I have dreams and I must be prepared for those moments before they happen.

Mom and dad wanted us to know that we weren’t second class citizens. Sometimes they gave us the inside scoop on how they believed the larger society truly felt about us as “Black people”. To be honest, I don’t know if that helped or hurt me. I was more concerned with how they felt about me than a few strangers that I rarely had interaction with outside of school and shopping trips. As a kid I couldn’t understand what experience had yet to teach me. The only history I knew was that which was taught to me at church and drilled into us at school, which always seemed to be at odds with each other. My mom and dad wanted to be respected and they showed us that we should expect that even from those who thought otherwise. They taught us to have pride in ourselves. They taught us that we could do most anything we set our minds to accomplish.

The older I get the more I realize that I didn’t need an opinion outside of my home. I didn’t need to be liked to be successful. I didn’t need to be accepted to feel accepted in the world, which is why I’ve never bought into the idea that I was 2nd class to anyone. I’ve always believed I belonged. I’ve always believed that I was good enough no matter how highly educated, decorated, wealthy and privileged others were around me. No one on earth could ever change my mind. Some call it pride, and I would agree with them. God didn’t give me two legs to bend over. I believe that He gave me two legs to stand as tall as the pine trees that lined our families land in south Alabama. #IAmAmerica

My music got me fired…

I haven’t really shared this with many people, but earlier this year my music got me fired.

As I stated on one of my earlier blogs, I thought that I was done with music. I had decided to set my mind on doing what was needed to create capital for my real estate dreams. In other words, it was time for me to get a job to make some investable money. The company that gave me an opportunity was in a downtown skyscraper here in Memphis, overlooking the Mississippi River. The founder and staff were some of the smartest people I had ever meet. Even though the task before me would stretch me beyond my comfort zone I wasn’t going to shy away from the challenge. I really liked this company, because it was all about technology and helping people with creative ways to find jobs via a revolutionary app.

While working for this particular company I started to get to know some of my co-workers and one day my identity was discovered. One of the fellow staff members asked me if I was the Antonio that sung the chorus of a hip hop song called “Love Child” by Grits. I confessed before everyone and was thankful for the adulation, but somehow I knew that that was the beginning of the end. lol Would my boss be able to correct me now if I was wrong? Would my co-workers treat me differently after finding out this information? Truthfully, I don’t know if anyone really cared, because I was just a guy walking around with my platinum whiskers editing away at videos to promote our product. I didn’t really look the part anyway.

Antonio Neal

Antonio Neal

CEO at The Phelon Company

As a Grammy-nominated Producer, a 4-time Dove award winner, and a 4-time Stellar award nominated writer/producer, Antonio Neal has been inspiring listeners through his thoughtful approach in his music. Musically, Antonio paints on a canvass that can truly be called his own, from a palette of musical colors as vast and arresting as his own seemingly boundless imagination. Understanding that this is an artist whose singularly unique vision is as influenced by the sweet sounds of legendary ’70s soul crooner, Al Green, as it is modern, cutting-edge hip-hop, one gets at least an inkling that this is something altogether new, created by an artist clearly guided by nothing but his own inner visions.

During that time I was working on a song(We Remember) for the National Parks Service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Memphis Massacre of 1866. I decided to let the founder of the company hear one of our mixes and she promptly called a meeting to play it for the entire staff. I was totally caught off guard, almost embarrassed, yet I was thankful. As I looked around the room it seemed like the message in everyone’s eyes was “What the heck are you doing here?” Maybe it was my Jonah moment (again). I really don’t know, but less than (3) weeks later I found myself overboard and unemployed. I’ve wondered several times since then that if I wasn’t called out for my past Nashville life would I still have that wonderful opportunity, or was I actually set up by that song so I can write more music which would eventually become the ‘I AM America” EP? Or maybe I was simply a lousy employee getting in the way of another deserving person? Well…..I’ll stick with my music got me fired…kinda has a ring to it. Who knows, it may end up as a song on iTunes someday:)

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