Singer-songwriter Vincint Cannady may now be known as VINCINT with the lustrous falsetto voice, and may now feel and be a fully-fledged Angelino. But, ViNCINT – still fresh from a recently-released, Valentine Day’s EP, “The Feeling,” finishing up a debut album, and promoting a new song and video, “Be Me,” recorded exclusively for the Philly-shot fifth season of “Queer Eye” – is a dyed-in the-wool Philadelphian with deep roots in the church song of North Philly, long before getting to the worldwide attention of competitive singing on network television with “The Four,” as a finalist during its first season.
Having just moved from one area of Los Angeles to another for further adventures in light and sun, VINCINT spoke to me on the occasion of the debut of the video for “Be Me” on June 17, a week-or-so since “Queer Eye” Season 5 commenced.
A.D. Amorosi: How are you feeling considering that it is three months into the pandemic, and we’re caught in yet another round of social injustices where Black America is concerned?
VINCINT: Life in a pandemic sucks, as we all can agree. It’s not the best. But masks and social distance are what we have to do and we’ll make the most of it. I’ve been drinking a lot of wine, eating a lot of food, not working out – that’s my favorite part. Speaking to the social aspect of all this, it is exciting as it is the first time in a long time that we’re being heard.
A.D. Amorosi: A horrible circumstance in which to be heard.
VINCINT: Definitely. And we’re not just being heard on a local platform but, a global one. I think it’s about time. Sadly it took place the way it did for the world to see, and we were all stuck inside glued to our phones, our computers, our TVs – watching this injustice unfold. All we have is the news. It’s a real-time of growth, and hopefully, with a positive outcome.
A.D. Amorosi: Can any possible wind of change there will blow through the LGBTQ and other minority communities?
VINCNT: I think that is the point of all movements, to hopefully incite a fire under other injustice. We can’t take away from Black Lives Matter now, but, the hope is to provoke change and cure injustice in the LGBTQ community, the Latin community, the Asian community. We have to make it so injustice of any kind is not tolerated anywhere anytime.
A.D. Amorosi: Talk about life growing up in North Philly, 33rd and Diamond.
VINCINT: My father was a big gospel singer. Everyone assumes I am a church person, though. The music, definitely. I went to Catholic School from kindergarten until the 12th grade. My parents had the common sense to know or believe that I was going to be exactly who or what I was going to be – let him figure that out for himself, instead of giving him/me lines to forcibly stick inside of. Let me go and discover. They accepted me for exactly who I am… I’d love to be all that for my kids someday.
A.D. Amorosi: Would I be correct in assuming that you’re talking religiously, aesthetically and in terms of sexuality?
VINCINT: Yes. I knew who and what exactly I was from a young age Even who I was going to be. I was always very sure of myself. Go after it. My mother was so great and understood all of that. She wasn’t going to tell me who I was or wanted to be was wrong – just raise me and help me.
A.D. Amorosi: How did you get from 33rd and Diamond to Berklee College of Music?
VINCINT: At age 7, I joined the Keystone State Boys Choir. Through that choir, I traveled to every continent on the globe until I was 16 years old. They opened my eyes up as to what music had to offer and where and what I could do with it. I looked into schools I thought would fit me, and Berklee fit me. Did I love Boston? No. But it was still sort-of close to home. And I loved school. Imagine going to school with a bunch of Spielbergs and Scorseses, virtuosos all. That was Berklee – being drowned in beautiful music and diverse cultures, 24/7.
A.D. Amorosi: How did you slide from Berklee into professional singing?
VINCINT: I was doing gigs in New York and Boston, but kept hearing about these great opportunities in Los Angeles. They were always like “See you here tomorrow,” and I was like “But, I’m on the East Coast. I can get there by next week, though.” Enough of those, as I knew I had to move to LA to be closer to the business, be in the place where I should be. I bought a ticket from Newark Airport to LAX, four days before Christmas, for $200, and moved with a guitar and a suitcase. It sounds movie-esque, but, that’s what happened.
A.D. Amorosi: Were you basing what it was you wanted to do or be, on your singing or your songwriting craft?
VINCINT: Oh, my singing. No no. Fully my singing. At that time, I was still so nervous about my songwriting that no one heard that for some time. But, I did know that I could take someone else’s song and make it my own.
A.D. Amorosi: Influences?
VINCINT: My dad was my biggest and first influence. He was with the Christ United Gospel Singers. I would listen to them harmonize with each other in the living room while I saw sitting at the top of the stairs. That was mecca for me, My mother loved a good diva night so she played records by Celine Dion and Whitney Houston – they became big focal points for me early on. I fell in love with Destiny’s Child and Beyonce on MTV, Bjork too. Mostly women. I found a freedom of expression in women singers that I couldn’t find in most men. They did it in a way that upstaged most men too, and I always loved that.
A.D. Amorosi: Do you know who Moses Sumney is?
VINCINT: I do.
A.D. Amorosi: Your voice has some of the same nuances, strengths, and dynamics and of course, that falsetto. Ok, so how does competitive singing and “The Four” come about?
VINCINT: I always had a huge disdain for singing competitions, It’s strange to me. But, the show had reached out to my manager, I wasn’t interested at first, because I was doing ok. I was selling out shows in Los Angeles. My manager however though that “The Four” would only help, would put me on a bigger stage. So, maybe, then no. Then yes – get off my high horse. But, I wanted them to change the contract – I wanted to just sing. Not appear with any silliness or rinky-dink music behind me. So they agreed. I auditioned in Pasadena and two hours later, I was on.
A.D. Amorosi: Why did you do “Creep” by Radiohead as your big finale?
VINCINT: No one has ever actually bothered to ask me that. The original song they wanted me to sing was “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson. I was kind of concerned, because of the way that it was set up, you could hear what the other contestants were practicing from the green room. I was up against three girls. I was the only boy, against three powerhouse girls, and I needed to do something that I knew I could sing well, and make me stand out even further. Something special to me. “Human Nature” just wasn’t cutting it for me. So, I went to the producers, told them I loved Radiohead, they looked at me as if I had three heads, but relented. I wanted that moment. I brought the sheet music and sang it to them and they loved it. They knew, like I knew that it stood out. I wanted, too, to show how I stood out during the show – I always felt as if I didn’t belong there. I wanted to put that message across while being sincere. I couldn’t shake that feeling and I didn’t want to seem insincere.
A.D. Amorosi: Between 2018 and 2020, when do the “Queer Eye” people get in touch with you? I know they filmed in Philly in 2019, because they were all over my neighborhood.
VINCINT: They only got in touch with me this year – the day after I had my EP release party at the Troubadour in LA. They had no idea I was from Philadelphia. Their people called my manager, said it was the first time that they brought in an LGBTQ artist to do a song especially for them, did I have any songs that would fit the season. I didn’t, but, I told them that if they gave me one day, that I would write something for them. Which I did. My manager thought I was crazy, but I had an idea. In six hours I sent in a rough demo. They wanted a few changes, we made them immediately and there it is. I was shocked because I was not totally sure I was going to pull that off. Then again I did have an inkling that if I had a chance I could make something happen,
A.D. Amorosi: People already know you. Now that the song is out there are you feeling the “Queer Eye” affect a new level of acceptance even after just a few days?
VINCINT: Before the show, I had 8,000 followers. In the course of four days, I have gained 60,000 followers. That’s a bump. A real catapult. Their trailers alone, which is where the song first was featured, they get 17 million views. Since then, everyone from CNN and more have reached out there. There is an outpouring of love from the “Queer Eye” family because they love to support their own. And I made sure that I included each and every one of them in the song because they have each built this brand this family. It’s been a pretty great, pretty unique experience so far, and I have a few surprises coming in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.