I remember the first time I witnessed the brilliant talent that is Vincint Cannady, now known simply as Vincint. It was through a 2018 video by one of my favourite YouTubers, Terrell Grice of The Terrell Show, in which he reacted to all of Vincint’s performances from the first season of the singing competition show The Four. From the very first song, a vibey, soulful rendition of Coldplay’s “Magic,” I was hooked. I found myself saying aloud to no one, in that special way Black people give a singer kudos, “Coldplay don’t sound like that!”
Vincint’s second performance was of Brandy’s late ’90s hit “Sittin’ Up In My Room.” Now, as someone who’s long been a fan of singing competitions—I stuck around for American Idol well after it had gone to shit and, to this day, purposefully fall into YouTube rabbit holes of audition videos from The Voice, The X Factor and more—I feel like Brandy’s catalogue isn’t often broached. Folks tend to stay away from her because it’s too hard to perform a track by a woman known as “The Vocal Bible.” But Vincint knocked it out of the park, with ease!
Then he performed Radiohead’s “Creep.” I could write a whole dissertation about this singular performance, but all you need to know is that I made a stank face and threw the remote at my TV—it was just that good. It’s this performance that truly showed Vincint as more than a great singer. I remember thinking, “This child is a fucking star!”
Three years later, the artist, born and raised in Philadelphia, continues to spellbind, this time with an album titled There Will Be Tears, out today (June 11). The 11-track experience is the perfect soundtrack for both Pride month and post-pandemic life. Ahead of its release, I spoke with Vincint via Zoom about the project, how gospel music influences his sound and his desire to make people feel alive again.
How did you decide on the title There Will Be Tears?
It was the last thing I did, and it took me two and a half weeks to figure it out. I’m sure my best friends were probably tired of seeing text messages from me asking “Do you think this makes sense? Do you like this?” I just wanted to find a way to properly title the album. And I had this vision of everyone at this massive festival, after all this stuff we’ve been through, and this street that goes on for infinity under a beautiful L.A. pink and blue sky. Everyone’s drinking. They’re dancing. They’re seeing the people that they lost. They’re seeing the people they love that they haven’t seen in a year. And we’re all just together.
I remember sitting in the car, seeing all of this in my head and looking at the sky and I started crying. That’s the sentiment of the entire moment. It’s like, even through all the bullshit and all the craziness, of course there’s going to be crying. There will be tears, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that it has to be a mournful moment. It can be a sense of relief and rebirth, too.
If you had to choose three things that you are trying to convey with this album, what would they be?
Humanity, joy and nostalgia.
Joy is a little self explanatory. But what do you mean when you say humanity and nostalgia?
I started writing these songs in January [of last year], but then June rolled around and we all know what happened. I felt myself losing my sense of community. I was always on my phone, I was always on my computer. And every time I was on any device, there was always something about us being killed. It was always something about us being hurt or beaten down. I was losing my sense of joy and my sense of humanity. I needed to find that really fast or things were going to get bad for me.
So, I called my manager and figured out somewhere to go. I needed to be there by myself and turn my phone off and figure out how to feel like myself again. All of the songs came from a need to feel alive again, to feel like a person again, to feel joy and to feel some sense of togetherness, even though I couldn’t touch or be near anyone. I secluded myself in this weird little room that I had and I called my therapist and I wrote out everything on the walls, all the shit that I needed to confront. And I wrote [songs] about them.
What about the album conveys nostalgia to you?
[When I was younger,] I remember being in cars with my best friend and late nights going to get ice cream, that feeling of “I’ve got to get out with my friends tonight” or “I got to be with a boy that I like.” That warm feeling of excitement and newness, the feel of something fresh and new for the very first time. I went back to that place in my head. I was like, I want people to feel that again, because I feel like that’s not there anymore, it’s gotten lost in translation.
The album is decidedly pop in sound and approach. You obviously can sing just about anything, but talk to me about fully situating it in the pop landscape, especially as a Black gay artist.
I think everything I’ve ever put out has been pop. I’ve loved pop since I was a little boy, because of the writing and the beat and the joy in it. I got to lose myself when I was younger in pop songs. I listened to Björk, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child. Even though some of those people are African American, it was still pop music. And there’s this really weird thing in the media where it’s as if Black people don’t make pop music. But we are popular music! I tend to get a lot of backlash or feedback like, “How come you don’t make music for people like you?” And I always respond, “What is music for people like me? Because if we’re getting into music for people like me, the people like me made the music for people like you, too. Country and blues and jazz and pop, we made it. So I am making music for people like me. I just happen to be really good at it, and you are new to it.”
How did being on The Four inform, if at all, your approach to the music you’ve put out since?
While I had done big things before [the show], nothing prior was anything like it, because I was put into a position of being the only boy, the only Black boy, they only gay Black boy. It was, “Either you can come in here and do exactly what you’re told or we’ll find someone new.” But I knew my worth and I also went into it with the mindset of, “I know what I sound like, I know what I want to sing about and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do to change that, because my mind is pretty made up.”
I learned to stand my ground, because sometimes I think artists are told what to do, or that we can be replaced. And that may be true in some circumstances, but in most, it’s not. You hold the power because you are the talent. There would be no show without you. And that’s what I realized going into a lot of other business interests afterwards: I’m the table. I’m not being invited to it. You’re sitting with me.
I read somewhere that your father was in a gospel group. I’d love to know how that kind of musical upbringing informs what you do today and the types of sounds you’re interested in bringing to your music?
I use my dad as an influence every time I go into any session or any booth. My dad was the first voice I ever heard sing. He was in a gospel group called the Christ United Gospel Singers with four other friends. They would come to our house every Thursday and sit in the living room for maybe three hours and practice their songs. It was some of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard, these five men harmonizing so beautifully, singing old Southern church hymns. I was like, that sounds like heaven. If that’s what religion is supposed to sound like and feel like, then I want that.
So, I do that with my background [vocals] and I make sure that there’s always some sort of five-part harmony happening in every song that I do, because it reminds me of why I started. It reminds me of that feeling I had sitting on the top of my stairs, looking down at my dad and my uncles and just being so enthralled by how great it sounded. That’s one of the reason’s I’m such a big Brandy fan; she’s the queen of stacks. Her backgrounds are built off of a similar model of harmonies that carry a song. It’s in everything I do.
I feel like we’re in a music moment where Black queer artists seem to be accessing new levels of success and notoriety. Obviously this is all led, in some ways, by Lil Nas X’s rise but I’m also thinking of folks like Saucy Santana or Kehlani or Alex Newell, who’s on your album. Is massive success something you think about or wish for?
We’re still pigeonholing Black people like we have to be the biggest and greatest thing. Though that’s a great goal to have, and I definitely want to be the biggest and greatest thing for me, but I want to make sure that I’m living a fulfilling life. I want to make sure that I’m living a purposeful life and, in turn, that inspires someone else to do the same, hopefully a little Black or gay or trans or non-binary child who looks like me to do the same thing and not worry so much about having to prove that you’re good enough because of the colour of your skin. You’ll never appease someone who thinks about the colour of your skin, because they already have a mental problem. You can’t fix that.
They were all friends and I had been fans of them for a very long time, and I had never collaborated before. Before I did this album, I was like, “I need to put out singles and it needs to just be me. I need to make sure that people know that I can hold my own without the help of someone else.” Also, I hate asking for favours.
But this time I wrote these songs, and the whole idea was for it to feel like we all were together and closer with others. So I wrote the songs and I just sent a text message. I was like, “Hey bitch, do’’t know if you’re busy. If you want to hear this, let me know.” Everybody said “yes” within minutes. I was truly flabbergasted. Everyone’s busy and for them to say “yes” to me is mind blowing, and I’m forever grateful.
Considering the moment in which the album comes out—hopefully we’re coming out of this pandemic, it’s the middle of Pride—what do you hope is the thing that connects most with fans?
I hope the takeaway is that they fucking love it, first of all [laughs]. The second takeaway is that it makes them feel alive. I think this last year has really taken the piss out of all of us and really, really put us through the ringer. I want them to listen to this album and at the end be like, “Wow, I’m going to go do something that I didn’t think I would do. I’m going to venture outside of my comfort zone and really say the things that I need to say because I understand that there may be a point where I don’t get to say them to that person, or do this thing.” I want them to take a risk. Stream the album, and take a risk!