Tank is one of the most recognizable names in modern R&B, known for vivid storytelling and sensual love songs. He’s an icon in the making, with five albums and eight Grammy nominations under his belt. He’s also a singer who carries the torch of masters like Marvin Gaye and Al Green, while redefining R&B for a new decade. For singer/songwriter/producer Tank—about to release his new album This Is How I Feel, and the one he describes as his most confident yet—the secret is simple. He remains true to who he is, as a man and an artist.
“My music is the real me,” says Tank. “I’ll either live by that or I’ll die by that in this business, but I’ve got to be me.”
He’s famous for sexy yet relatable love songs that are at once thoroughly modern and yet steeped in the sounds of classic soul. Though fans know and love Tank for smash hits like “Maybe I Deserve” and “Please Don’t Go,” they may be surprised to learn that he is also behind such chart-toppers as Rubben Studdard’s “Change Me” and Omarion’s “O.” What’s more, Tank served as an associate member of the hit-making production team, The Underdogs, with further credits including the smash soundtrack to the 2006 musical film adaptation of Dreamgirls (in which he also made a cameo).
Furthermore, Tank formed the Los Angeles-based production company Song Dynasty, and began shaping the sound of modern R&B with songs for a diverse roster of artists including Keyshia Cole, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Chris Brown, and Keri Hilson. Though he has enjoyed crafting hits for these artists, Tank is ready to step into the spotlight yet again, and returns with an incredibly personal collection.
Poised to release his fifth studio album This Is How I Feel, Tank is ready to share the intensely intimate themes his fans have come to love, even as he prepares to show an entirely new side of himself. His first single, “Next Breath,” picks up right where he left off with the classic R&B cuts he’s given his fans over the years like “Maybe I Deserve” and “Please Don’t Go.” On it he tells the love interest in his life that he needs her like the air he breathes, a line even a man struck by Cupid’s arrow might stammer through.
As a songwriter, Tank’s pen is potent. But This Is How I Feel features lyrics scribed by others as well. “I’ve opened my arms to other writers and ideas to just grow. I’m inspired by what’s out there. There are 100 slots on that Billboard chart and I don’t have all of them. So obviously some other people are doing some good things,” Tank says with a laugh. Kevin McCall, who assisted on Chris Brown’s 2011 smash “Deuces,” helped write “Next Breath.” Eric Hudson (Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Trey Songz) works his magic on “Better Than Me.”
It’s more than just words with Tank, though. It’s his special mix of style and virility that allows him to be a favorite amongst men that may consider R&B too soft for their liking.
These timeless songs of love, lust, and loss take cinematic tone in the hands of Tank, as he crafts imagery that is uniquely tangible and real. Perhaps it’s his love of acting that has deepened his storytelling. Tank recently graced the screen in The Preacher’s Kid, and he has been studying acting, though he promises that music will continue to be his first love. “We have to take this stand now because R&B is slowly becoming a lost art,” explains Tank. “R&B music is the thing that connects people.” Though he loves a fantasy party scene as much as any man, Tank writes about the real, everyday emotions and situations that people relate to because, as he says, “we’re meant to move people with this music, and I want to be part of that movement.”
It’s been an incredible journey since Tank was an undiscovered artist with a dream, penning “Maybe I Deserve” in the basement of his mother’s Maryland home, on “an MPC and two keyboards.” The single would go on to dominate urban radio in 2001, when Tank released his gold-certified debut album Force of Nature.
“I still can’t believe it,” he says. “To be here at this point now with This Is How I Feel, it’s nothing short of God’s work and what he’ll do if you stay true to what he’s given you. The good thing about music for me right now is that I’m just doing it for me, how I want to do it, when I want to do it. As long as I can do stress-free music, I’ll do it forever.”