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Meet the West Orange Resident Who Almost Won a Grammy

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Carl Brister

Meet the West Orange Resident Who Almost Got a Grammy
By Parker “Park” Hawley

WEST ORANGE, NJ – West Orange’s most famous resident is Thomas Edison. The inventor of the lightbulb famously set up his laboratory and home in West Orange and has become a figurehead of the town. However, Edison might not be the most famous West Orange citizen for long as Carl Brister resident of West Orange was in contention for a Grammy this fall.

The Grammy is the most prestigious award in music. Stars of the music industry such as Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and so many more gather every year to try to take home the famous golden gramophone (funny enough, it was also invented by Thomas Edison). Carl Brister was close to joining musical celebrities attending the 65th Grammy Awards and potentially hearing his name called for Best Traditional R&B Performance and/or Best Music Video.

All of this started when Carl Brister got a first-ballot Grammy nomination which essentially means that his song was submitted by a Recording Academy member to be voted on by Grammy voting members for an official nomination. Although the members denied Brister’s nomination the road to getting close to the Grammys for Brister is a special one.

To learn about Brister’s musical journey one must look back to his birth. “I was born into it,” said Carl Brister when discussing how he found his passion in music, “My dad had a soul-funk band, and they practiced…in the basement of my house since I can remember. And I’d go to sleep with them rehearsing. And I’d wake up to rehearsal recordings with my dad listening to them. I would harmonize with them until they chased me up the stairs to go to bed because it was a school night.”

From this point on, Brister would love music and eventually go on to find some success in it later in life, signing to a gospel recording group in 1996, releasing his first single in 1998, releasing his first album in 2000, and never looking back.

Brister would continue to release songs throughout his entire life amassing a library of over 40 songs on Spotify alone and having dozens more released which he worked on with other groups (including gospel groups). These songs would garner him some popularity in both the US and internationally. His music would find its way to radio stations in Nigeria and the United Kingdom and his songs would appear on specific charts in Dominica, Germany, and France. Although he attributes his international success to “digital distribution through social media” it is also because his music has been well received, especially the song that got him his first-ballot Grammy nomination.

The song that made it onto the ballot was his song “Let’s Wait Awhile” featuring LaChardon, a cover of Janet Jackson’s song. Brister’s song “Let’s Wait Awhile” featuring LaChardon was released in February of 2023 and became so popular due to the unique spin on Jackson’s song where Brister changed the perspective of the song away from the woman’s perspective (which was originally done in Jackson’s version) and changed it to the couple as a whole’s perspective. Brister said, “In this time, when it’s really not the culture to wait, everything about the music and the culture and art today there’s not a lot that supports waiting. So that’s how I arrived at seeing it differently. And I wanted to tell the story from a different perspective.”

Brister then took his song and made it into a music video directed by Andre “Crazy One” Griffith which also got a first-ballot Grammy nomination. Brister said that his music video “took inspiration from [the movie] Malcolm & Marie and [its] black and white [style] showing a couple working out [a] conversation.”

Now Brister’s fantastic singing and creative music video alone didn’t get him his first-ballot Grammy nomination. Brister had “to be nominated by a current [Recording Academy] member” and although it was “like finding a needle in a haystack” Brister did find someone. As he stated, “I was reconnected with some of the executives that [I interned at a record label with] and they actually remembered me and…one of them actually happened to be a member of the [Recording Academy]. And that was how I was nominated.”

Now, although Brister didn’t get the official nomination he is still holding his head high refusing to “base [his] peace and happiness on the results of a vote” and instead being “proud about…[his] artistic vision, and [how he] stuck to it. And…had the courage to share [his] art and release it to the world.” Brister also doesn’t want to focus on his missed Grammy nomination and instead “completing [his] next full project” which he “co-wrote two songs for…with [his son] Jordan”. Also, he’s looking forward to “hopefully touring”, his 2nd annual week of Love+Unity and his 9th annual festival the Love+Unity festival.

Brister wants everyone “to find their passion and follow it” and he will continue to follow his passion as he sets his sights on another first-ballot nomination for the 66th annual Grammys next year. “If I get that that Grammy and I get that platform, man it’s got to be love all day every day.”

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