The resounding soul and funk of Flint's own Feimstro

FLINT, Michigan — “I’m going to be bold about who I am,” says Anthony Feimster, known musically as Feimstro and one-half of the soul-funk jazz R&B band, Feimstro & The Farts, days before their opening night at Blackstone's Smokehouse in downtown Flint. At this point in his blossoming music career, it’s hard for him to imagine a life where he isn’t authentic. 

On the day of the show, seated on stage, Feimstro serenades the packed venue with a barrage of soulful melodies and groovy tunes. Through various covers of olden hits, his talent is undeniable. It’s a moment that requires him to “unleash who I am” and bring “what the world has been waiting on,” forth. 

The band performs Feimstro’s hit single, Yako, a song that “[encourages] people to be yourself no matter what race, gender, sex,” and songs from his album, NINA, that brought the opportunity to perform for India Arie. Yet, the culmination of Feimstro’s life, “growing up in one of the toughest areas in Flint,” takes center stage. 

As he sings, the remnants of our conversation – his tumultuous upbringing on 666 East Baltimore Avenue, the effects of growing up in a “very religious background,” and how dreams of being on television took root – remind me that Feimstro is a man who enjoys the process of self-excavation and whose life journey has given him wisdom far beyond his years.

“Music is a message, and as musicians, we are the messengers,” he explains when reflecting on those big dreams. Feimstro’s message, through a voice as smooth as 2000’s R&B singer Jaheim and soulful as one his greatest inspiration, PJ Morton, aims to “bring joy to different spaces.” 

Flintside caught up with the composer, pianist, singer, and minister to talk about his band Feimstro & The Farts, his spiritual journey, and his vision for the band’s downtown tour.

Fellow bandmates (left to right) Dominique Mitchell, Natasha Griffin, Feimstro, and Jarielle Nettles pose outside Blackstone's Smokehouse after the opening night of their downtown tour on June 10, 2023. (Bryce Mata | Flintside)Flintside: Your press kit says you’re “from the roughest area of Flint.” Talk to me about how growing up in Flint was rough.

Feimstro: “I grew up fighting fiends off my front yard, having to lock the door from the inside. My mom couldn’t afford a babysitter, [so] I watched my younger sisters, [and] I missed a lot of school. It was very challenging, especially if you got big dreams. I think that your environment always shapes who you are. And if we’re not careful, if you don’t want that environment to [represent] who you are, you have to work that much harder to work against the grain. But I’m grateful for my mother and the strong support system.” 

Flintside: You talk about having “big dreams.” What did you envision for yourself?

Feimstro: “One of the big things was being on TV, winning Grammy’s, and performing and creating music for the world. The overall message is I want the world to see who I am, and hopefully, it touches people. [But] I grew up in church. In the religious sector, a lot of things are not allowed. You can’t do this. You can’t go here. You can’t be around this. Having dreams in that box was challenging because now you’re dealing with self-identity. I can’t be myself because of what I’m allowing to dictate who I am.”

Flintside: But amid this, your family was very musical, and you found yourself inspired by Esperanza Spalding, James Taylor, Ray Charles, and Nina Simone. What was it that drew you to these particular artists?

Feimstro: “Some of those things came from my personal taste and how I want to move into my sound and culture. [These] were people that I felt conquered that. Just amazing artistry, what they talked about in their music, and the way things sound sonically. The actual music representation I resonated with, tried to make my own stew, and emulate that sound back to the universe.” 

Feimstro (center) photographed with fellow bandmates Ethan Martin (left), Caleb Robinson (back), and Jonathan Hammonds (right). (Courtesy photo)Flintside: You perform live with a band, Femistro & The Farts, with whom you’ve embarked on a downtown tour. What was the intentionality behind this, and what are you hoping this manifests?

Feimstro: “I’m excited because I have an opportunity to perform in front of different fanbases and audiences that are not so familiar with Feimstro. Eventually, I want to get into Churchill's and Soggy Bottom. My goal is to practice touring, bring joy to my people and have fun. It’s nothing like coming out, enjoying good food, drinks, music, and having a good time. That’s what Feimstro provides.”

Flintside: How is it performing with a live band compared to a digital playback?

Feimstro: “It’s a lot of different things that a live show does. At the core, it’s about the music, and that’s what I love about live music. It touches the heart for me. Shout out to Jarielle Nettles, Natasha Griffin, Ethan Martin, John Hammonds, Caleb Robinson, [and] Dominique Mitchell. As one who understands the power of music, music doesn’t happen alone. I couldn’t be where I am right now without them. They’ve been with me through thick and thin. They mean a lot to me.”

Flintside: Will we hear any new music during this downtown tour?

Feimstro: “You come to the show, you may have the opportunity to hear some sneak peeks of music that I am coming out with this Fall. I’m going to be releasing music super duper soon. I’m coming up with some things for an album. So stay tuned.”

Flintside: Finally, when you think about your life thus far, what do you take away from it?

Feimstro: “It’s important for me spiritually, in Christendom, to have an idea of reverence to something greater than I. I’m thankful for everything that [will] be given to me today. I believe that you win some and you learn some. As I got centered in my relationship with God and my rituals and meditation, it was like a switch at one point. It was like I have to be myself at all times to have peace of mind. That journey has been very strenuous, and sometimes yet is because I’m constantly evolving.”

To learn more about Feimstro, visit his website. Feimstro & The Farts will continue their downtown tour Friday, June 16 at Reclaimed by Whaley, and on June 17 and June 30 at Comma Bookstore & Social Hub. Tickets are on sale now.
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Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.