NEW YORK (AP) -- Tonex's genre-defying music draws comparisons to Prince. His multi-octave vocal range, prolific song writing and dance moves have garnered him a cult-like following in and out of the gospel world.

But it was his personal life that took center stage in the five years since "Out The Box," his last major-label release. Tonex got a divorce from his wife and was sued by former label Verity Records after his claims that he was being mistreated and declaration that he was retiring from the music industry began appearing all over the internet. (Verity's parent label, Sony Music, declined to comment on the legal action, simply saying there was no lawsuit ongoing against Tonex).

During his time away from music, Tonex started pastoring at his late father's church, released independent music and read books by the Dalai Lama. He also worked on his new major album release, "Unspoken" which Tonex describes as "soothing cool ocean blue" and features a somewhat humbler Tonex, with a new spelling of his name, Ton3x ("it just means triple threat," he explains). The singer talked about his metamorphosis in a recent interview.


AP: What was the moment when you realized you've healed enough to record on a major label again?

Tonex: Actually it came from a suggestion from the label, the former label. Which was ironic because ... it can be pretty crazy trying to get out of a deal. ... We were like "OK, you've spent a lot of money on me, I've spent a lot of time dealing with you all, how do we not loose the time we've put into three records that we now couldn't see eye to eye on?" And to salvage it they said "Well, there's another label, it's not like us, but we think you'll fit good there." I felt confident that they (Battery Records) were going to let me do what I wanted to do, and want to develop Tonex and re-present him for the first time in a mainstream context. That excited me.

AP: Tell me about Battery Records?

Tonex: They let me have a voice, and my voice is more than money for me right now. That's the only reason why I released another commercial record.

AP: They're hard-core urban over there?

Tonex: Yes, and hip-hop.

AP: Is that a direction you're going in now?

Tonex: Yes, and actually rock. I think I'm a white rock star trapped in a black body. I feel most musically eloquent with jazz, but as far as the power and like, window-shattering, yoke-destroying, mind-altering kind of energy — yeah, that rock album — can't wait to do that.

AP: Who listens to Tonex?

Tonex: I think it's the outcast, it's the eclectic, it's the unsung heroes, the musical connoisseurs that miss the content of conceptual albums, artists. I have a strong gay and lesbian following, and I think this is because, there's no judgment here. Usually gospel is gay bashed. With me it's just, "God loves everybody." It's the "P.K.," the pastor's kid who believes in God, but is disillusioned by the church. The hip-hop head which you would think maybe (would) not get into some of the eclecticism that I have, but feels the rawness and truth of my soul and connects with that.

AP: How do you address those who felt you misrepresented your faith by swearing at those who angered you?

Tonex: If expletives are the deciding factor between someone's faith feast or famine then I believe a lot of people will be out of salvation because of what they think in their minds. To me cursing someone is not just a curse word, it's an ill feeling of harm towards another person. I've been cussed out by a look before. ... I had to face my own personal truth and demons and fears and obstacles. And I decided to do it openly.


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