Hit-making, Philly-born Pink Sweat$ comes home

Pink Sweat$ is performing Saturday at the Theater of the Living Arts.
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Creamy, dreamy nu-soul singing and songwriting mega-sensation Pink Sweat$ may travel the world, change living quarters and top the charts with his welcome, positivist vibe and dramatic musicality.

But Valentine’s Day-born David Bowden (his real name) is West Philly-bred and local church inspired. The mix of Philly gospel and harmonic Gamble & Huff-influenced R&B is part and parcel of everything does, including his debut album, 2021’s “Pink Planet,” and his latest single and video, “Nothing Feels Better.” Before Pink Sweat$ returns home (Nov. 27 at South Street’s Theatre of Living Arts) he spoke to Metro Philadelphia about all things gospel, good and positive in his world.

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You hadn’t performed a show since the start of the pandemic, but leapt back in a big way with the Governors’ Ball Fest. How was that?

Man, it was special. Felt like a dream, like starting my career over again. Starting from scratch. Like everybody, I’ve been home the whole time, reimagining what everything would be like again.

You finished up and released your debut album, Pink Planet, during the pandemic. In terms of production techniques, arrangements and melody, it already busts through all genres. Did being home give you extra time to widen its breadth?

In a way, yes, because I had a chance to go back, and refine it. Coming from a church background, one thing I’ve learned is that there is a love for the essence of music. The purity. You are competing with the best of the best of local musicians in that community. You want to be the best there. Plus, in church, we play a variety of music. There is no genre. Think of Kirk Franklin, Tye Tribett and now Kanye West. Most people think of gospel music, and think “God,” but as a kid, I heard and played every style of music. I never had a grasp on any single genre of music.

Great point. What churches in the Philly area did you come out of, specifically?

The first church that I remember going to, as a kid, was a small storefront church, New House of Prayer, my aunt’s church. Then I started to play in my grandpop’s church, Christian Tabernacle in North Philly, which is noted as one of the east coast’s BIG churches. That was a big deal – all the NBA players used to go there. The last Philly church I played at was Higher Ground.

You moved from Philly to Los Angeles and now Nashville. Do you still get the opportunity to get to church?

It’s like a nostalgia thing for me now. The repetition has been part of my life for so long now. I enjoy being around people who believe in something, people trying to be better. Is that religious? The world is filled with broken people. Perhaps having people come to this place, church, helps them decide to be better… I know that people who might not know my music can hear the positivity in it. I never want to lose my message of love, and the ability to touch people.

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Tell me please about the challenge of maintaining positivity in your lyrics at a time when braggadocio, misogyny and negativity is the norm. Are you ever tempted to break your own rule for greater fortune?

A label might push you to try certain styles for greater radio frequencies. As a creative, I understand that. There’s a consistent wavelength of music that’s more playable, the goal being to get into that rotation, of artists within that realm. I’ve felt that pressure on occasion, but, no: people let me do my thing and I am grateful for that.

You dropped many a single and an EP before “Pink Planet” dropped. You’ll release another new EP after this tour. What did you need the full album to be as opposed to the other tracks?

I needed my debut album to be human. So much of our lives, especially now, is predicated on what we don’t have despite having so such access to each other that we lose the softness of humanity. I wanted people to experience that again, poetically. I talk about my struggles, because I want people to see their own struggles in my music. Like on “Pink City” where I build a new world. Maybe you can’t change the whole world at once, but you can build your own world – your mind, your friends circle, curate your Instagrams. We have all the negative stuff.

We can get the bad news everywhere else.

And that’s overwhelming sometimes. That’s why I just want to present you with the positive. When you wake up somedays, it is as if life is on some loop where everyone is sad. Everybody is getting their heartbroken. You want to have hope. Is it possible that I can ever be happy or content? I think so.

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