Norman Whiteside never gave up hope in the 31 years he spent in prison, preferring instead to focus on the greater plan he believed God had in store for him.

Norman Whiteside never gave up hope in the 31 years he spent in prison, preferring instead to focus on the greater plan he believed God had in store for him.

"It was like God said to me, 'Even though there are circumstances you may not like, there are things that you will have. You will have a better mattress than the homeless have. You will eat better than many of the homeless women and children who have done nothing [wrong],'" said Whiteside, seated outside during an early November interview at a Downtown coffee shop. "Each time I looked at the good in my life compared to the catastrophes in everybody else's life, I knew I was protected by the embedded promise of the Most High. My spirit let me know, 'Your time is going to come.'"

And now, finally, it has.

On Sept. 1, Whiteside received his parole from the Warren Correctional Institution, where he served the final years of a sentence tied to various crimes, including forgery and conspiracy to commit aggravated murder. And on Saturday, Nov. 19, the singer, songwriter and keyboardist will make a long-overdue return to the public stage when he headlines what he termed "a resurrection concert" at the Live Entertainment Center. (Whiteside maintained an active music schedule behind bars, performing at inmate talent shows, during church services, at private events hosted by prison officials and alone in his cell on a Yamaha PSR-520 purchased by his mother.)

Upon his release, Whiteside attended services at Hebrew Missionary Baptist Church, which he said was built, in part, by his grandfather, and dined on Kentucky Fried Chicken in honor of his late-cousin, a KFC employee who died in a 2014 drowning accident. Whiteside resumed work shortly thereafter, entering into hotel recording sessions for Die Jim Crow, a crowdfunded album written and recorded by current and former black inmates and informed by issues of race within the United States prison system.

Whiteside, now in his early 60s, has a more intimate knowledge of that system than most, having served 31 years of his initial 37-year sentence, which stemmed largely from the 1982 gang-related shooting death of 18-year-old Laura Carter, a Denison University student who was a passenger in a car traveling on East Broad Street when she was struck and killed by a stray bullet. Though Whiteside didn't fire the weapon, and wasn't present at the time of the shooting, he was convicted as the mastermind after police contested he oversaw the purchase of the murder weapon, a charge Whiteside disputes.

Reflecting on himself as a younger man, Whiteside said, "I was said to be in 'the [street] life,' but the life wasn't in me."

"Some people come up in the life. They come up gambling, selling drugs, smoking weed," he continued. "But I was as square as a pool table and twice as green."

That all changed, Whiteside said, after he was kidnapped at gunpoint by a prostitute named Jacquie, who eventually became an acquaintance, introducing him to an underworld that proved at least temporarily alluring. "It turned out some of her resources were responsible for buying music equipment for me, and I said, 'Hey, this isn't half bad,'" Whiteside said, and laughed. "I'd always been fascinated with those movies like 'Super Fly' and 'The Mack' … but until you saw it from the inside, you didn't know that was all hype. You didn't know that's not how it really was."

Growing up, Whiteside, who was raised by a waitress mother and a stepfather who worked as a janitor, would regularly curl up on the floor next to the transistor radio in the family's apartment at 445 W. Rich St. "I would always be fascinated when I heard sounds come out of there. 'Hang down your head, Tom Dooley/ Hang down your head and cry,'" he said, temporarily breaking into song. "How is that sound coming out of this box?" On weekends he would attend church and watch his mother, Mary Whiteside, sing in the choir; as a grown man, he would copy her unique vocal runs and employ them in his own music.

Soon enough he was academically breaking down albums by Al Green (Back Up Train), Isaac Hayes (Hot Buttered Soul) and the Beatles (Revolver), incorporating various elements of each into the genre-bending soul music he recorded with his band Wee, which received a significant PR jolt in 2008 when Chicago-based label Numero Group reissued the band's 1977 album, You Can Fly on My Aeroplane. Rapper Kanye West would later sample the album's title track for "Bound 2," a song off his 2013 album Yeezus, netting Whiteside a songwriting credit and his share in a pair of Grammy nominations.

"I recognized [my chord progression] from the jump," said Whiteside, who first heard the track behind bars in prison when West debuted the video for the song on "Ellen."

Regardless, Whiteside isn't hung up on reliving or retrying the past. He's already recorded a pair of new songs, including the hopeful "Wish," and he's motivated to continue plowing onward rather than slowing down to allow bitterness or regret to accumulate.

"Time is the most precious commodity we have in life. Once it's gone, it's gone. Once the opportunities are gone, they're gone," he said. "I can't waste time on something that's not going to make a difference. Whatever I do in my life, and whatever I touch, if it does not confer a benefit and it violates the aspects of time, I get rid of it. In terms of making up for lost time, it's gone. That can't be done. So here's what we do: We take today and go forward."