Dave Hollister: the Music, the Man, the Manuscript
By: Mary L. Datcher–Arts & Entertainment Editor
A voice that has graced the R&B charts since the early 1990s, Dave Hollister began his singing career in his hometown of Chicago, in the best bootcamp for vocalists — the church choir. Over the last two decades, he has released 10 albums, been featured on multiple collaborations with artists from Erick Sermon to Fred Hammond, and starred in theatrical plays such as his recent role in Love Jones, The Musical.
This time, he treats fans with his most recent album, The Manuscript.
Transitioning from eOne Music Group to Shanachie Ent., he admits feeling more comfortable with the indie distributor that has helped spawn national distribution for similar Soul artists such as Avery Sunshine, Will Downing and Kindred the Family Soul.
“I did that record in five days from top to bottom. I did two songs a day. Being where the industry is, if you think about it when Real Talk and Things in the Game came out, the music industry started declining at this point in 2003,” he said.
Since the debut of his first major solo release Ghetto Hymns in 1999, the 48-year-old has built a loyal fan base. He remembers his friendship with fellow Soul singer, the late Gerald Levert.
“Gerald and I were best friends and neither one of us were big platinum-selling artists. We just consistently stayed at gold and we were both happy with that. That meant we had a core audience. They were going to follow anything we did,” he said.
“I’d rather I had a consistent little bit than a fickle lot a bit. Those faithful few are what keeps me going. The small amount of people who buy the records are always commenting and keeping me going as far as encouragement. I’ve been in this business for almost 30 years and sometimes I want to put it down.”
Growing up on the South Side, he was known around the local Gospel music circuit, eventually connecting with music producers — singing on demos, gradually making a name among the secular circles. Hollister says the competition in church with other singers led him to pursue other opportunities beyond the holy walls.
“I don’t want to say no names. It was pretty much the heads of the church that were creating the competition. I could never go up and sing on a Sunday by myself without them throwing this other person up there. It kind of drew me away from the church as I got older.”
In 1993, Hollister found himself in a unique situation, joining the newly formed male group, Blackstreet — headed up by platinum-selling producer Teddy Riley.
“It was Teddy that kept me wanting to be in that situation. He was an icon and legend. Since Guy came out with the very first album, I’ve always wanted to be connected. I was upset because I was wondering how in the heck did Aaron Hall end up with this man,” he laughs. “I mean Aaron Hall is OK. At that time, I was being a jerk. He had come out of one of the churches that I was going to — Hezekiah Walker’s church at the time.”
He admired Hall’s vocal style and how he brought a unique Gospel vibe to R&B. “I was a closet fan,” he admits.
The success of Blackstreet spread nationwide, and Hollister’s voice could be heard on radio airwaves around the country on the hit single, “Before I Let You Go.” His time with the group will be short-lived, soon leaving after three years.
“If we didn’t have the problems with jealousy in that group. I’m going to call names — Chauncey. If he had not shown forth his jealousy, we would probably be together today like New Edition.” Along with Riley, Chauncey Hannibal were the founders of Blackstreet as well as active members.
“When jealousy and pride rears its head, those are two hard demons to fight and to stick with. I don’t deal with them well. That thing reared its head and it divided the group.”
Hollister’s musical catalog is rich in cultural norms from Soul, Hip Hop and his Gospel roots — collaborating on the critically acclaimed project United Tenors. Out of the 10 albums Hollister has under his belt, Chicago ’85 . . .The Movie was one of the turning points in his career.
“It started out with the very first song that was recorded, ‘I Don’t Want to Be a Hustler’. It was actually going in another direction because ’85 was the year that I found out that my father was not my biological father. That drove me into doing things,” he said.
He recalls his earlier years of the devastating news and at 15, the young singer fell into the wrong crowd — joining a gang and selling drugs. He channeled it into his music.
“When I recorded the record at that time, I was going through something with my ex-wife and it made another turn. Me, being from Chicago, I’m a thinker. We think a lot.”
Released on DreamWorks, Chicago ’85 . . . The Movie would go on to selling over 500,000 copies, with “One Woman Man” peaking at No. 44 on the Billboard 200 and on R&B album charts at No. 10.
Currently, Hollister is on the Love In the 90s tour with former bandmate Teddy Riley, along with En Vogue, Jagged Edge, Adina Howard and Blackstreet — performing in front of old and new followers.
As a husband, father and minister, Hollister has risen above the various changes in the music business while continuing his signature brand of music on his new album, The Manuscript as a singer, producer and songwriter.
“I’m a cinematic writer. When I approach songs, I approach songs as movies. I want you to be able to close your eyes and look and see what I’m saying.”