Solomon Witherspoon and TEN17 Expand Sound Nationwide
DULUTH - Hillside raised singer/musician Solomon Witherspoon has jammed across Minnesota. He even, at one point, opened for Prince. But now he says he has signed his own a radio contract that will boost his band’s status nationally.
There's tenderness to how Solomon Witherspoon plays his music that shows years of training a wild excitement inside of him.
He said he did it by the credo of his father: a Duluth reverend.
In fact, he has it tattooed on his right forearm.
"It says 'One to task has once begun, never leave it until it's done, be it labor great or small, do it well or don't do it at all,'" Witherspoon recites quickly by memory.
“So that's what we've done our whole life, you know?" Witherspoon said. "My family, there were eleven of us. We had what was called the Witherspoon choir. So I’ve been singing since I was walking pretty much.”
Now, decades later, the crisp sound with gospel roots coming from his band TEN17 has earned Solomon a radio deal spanning 300 stations - all to carry a message coming from the hillside neighborhood.
On Duluth's East 6th Street there's house 1021 and house 1019, but where 1017 used to stand is now an empty lot.
That's where Witherspoon grew up, and the namesake for his band.
But it's not the first thing that went missing from the singer’s life.
"My brother was shot in the head. He was shot right here,” he said, pointing at his face, “with an old .44 gun, this close to his face, and it blew his brains out. And it was his 21st birthday. Him and his two best friends were murdered too. And I was with him actually two hours before that happened,” Solomon said.
"You know, you see your brother just lying there, you know what I mean? And that's when it's real. And he's not moving. And that's when it's like 'Oh my goodness,'" Solomon said.
Solomon used the struggle to push himself, the band’s music director Russ King said.
“No matter what time it is or what day it is, he'll do whatever. It's crazy to me. Like, that's what I mean, be consistent,” King said.
Solomon also says he channeled his father who has since passed away.
"But one thing he always taught us was this body is only a living shell. The day's going to come where we're just not going to wake up but we're going to wake up in our 100 percent purest form,” Solomon said.
“And that's going to be heaven, you know what I mean? So, that's my understanding in life. I'm prepared for it all,” he said.
He calls his method "prosperity affirmations”: living everyday like he could lose it all or win it all.
"A lot of people haven't been through a fraction of what I’ve been through and it's absolutely destructed them and destroyed them. I refuse to let the devil dictate who I am,” Solomon said.
The family man now looks to the future of his career - trying to reach maximum exposure.
He says, now, it's not only about the music, but also what it means.
"When people walk in church, they leave differently. People always feel there's a message for them. I feel that, when people come to a TEN17 show, I want the church effect. I want people to receive a message that I have to say,” Solomon said.
Solomon Witherspoon and TEN17 will perform at Grandma's Sports Garden on Friday June 1 for their CD release party.
Doors open at 9 p.m.
Admission is $15.
The album, titled “Kingdom”, is available at local record stores.