The thirty-two year old Terry's career was kick started in the late eighties when he had the audacity to suggest to a band that they replace their lead singer with him. "My recording career started when I was pretty much at a crossroads. I had moved to New York to do a musical, The Black Nativity. When the show was over I decided to stay in the city pound the pavement just like every other starving actor. I wasn't having a lot of success in getting work. I was just about to give up and go home the next day. A friend of mine suggested we go see this band at a club in the city called Danceteria. The band was okay but the lead singer wasn't very good. As a matter of fact he was terrible. I thought it was the perfect opportunity if I was on stage to get involved in something that might be good. I told the band after their set that the only thing they were missing was me," he says recalling the incident for me. "They said, 'Oh really, well here's your chance son, hit it. I did a Luther Van Dross song a cappella." A producer from a record label overheard Terry's audition and, "Within six weeks I was signed to Capitol Records," says Terry.
Terry has since recorded five CDs; Tony Terry (1990), Forever Yours (1990), Heart of a Man (1994), My Best (2001) and earlier this year he released a Gospel album entitled Changed. He also released five Billboard top ten hits including "Lovey Dovey" which peaked at number four, "Everlasting Love" (6th) and "With You" which also ranked sixth on the Hot R&B charts for 1991. "With You" also made number fourteen on the Billboard Hot 100.
Despite the success of "With You" Terry can't help but poke fun at the song. "To the average Joe the song is really corny," he says. Terry then quotes the words, "When I'm with you I hear a song that makes me laugh and smile and sing to you." In mock disbelief he then says, "I mean come on imagine walking up to some woman and saying that. They would look at you like "Please!"
In the mid nineties "When A Man Cries" (32) and "Heart of a Man" (86) didn't fare as well as his earlier singles. His 2006 release "Praise Him" however has been embraced by radio stations across America and could spark a return to the spotlight for Terry.
Terry retains a fondness for the Heart of a Man album. "I think The Heart of a Man album was underrated. There were some powerful songs on (the CD). The song "I'm Sorry" talked about communication in relationships which can often be a major issue. That song is really about taking the high road and being the first to apologize. The song speaks about being sorry for creating confusion and drama," he says.
Terry then turns his attention to another song from Heart of a Man "When A Man Cries". The song talks to men about not being afraid to be emotional," he explains. Terry says the song tries to explode the male myth that tenderness is an undesirable trait. "Our society says we (men) can't be gentle we have to be hard. We have to be macho. We have to be thorough. Sometimes the situation requires tenderness. Sometimes it is okay to be, dare I say soft," he says. Terry wants to be known as someone who championed a man's right to express emotion openly.
Terry has proved that he is more than just a pretty face and a voice to be heard over the airwaves. In addition to the aforementioned Prince Charming role Terry appeared in the national touring production of The Wiz (late 1990's) which starred Grace Jones and Peabo Bryson. Terry's powerful solo performance of "What Would I Do If I Could Feel" brought the audiences to their feet as they applauded his effort.
As the male lead in David E Talbert's play His Woman His Wife Terry acted opposite Stephanie Mills. He had assumed the role when Malik Yoba left the cast.
Terry believes whether he struts his stuff in a musical or in a concert the key is being authentic. In discussing the similarities and differences between being an actor and a singer he says, "We are charged as actors to bring the same intensity into our character night after night. We have to say the same lines and sing the same songs nightly. If you find yourself in a scene where you have to cry some people may be able to cry on cue and some people may not be able to. It may involve you having to do some memory recall. You may have to take yourself to a place mentally that makes you sad so that you can cry. That can be really exhausting," he says.
Terry notes the biggest difference between actor and singer is, "I have a lot more freedom when I am doing Tony Terry stuff (in concert). It's not so regimented. When you are doing theater you can't (improvise). You can't change Shakespeare's words. If you change the words you aren't doing Shakespeare."
My challenge is to be truthful with (my performance) every night, to be truthful every time I sing. (When you do) people respond truthfully," says Terry.
In addition to his own gigs this year Terry is touring with Roberta Flack.