Ask Yolanda Adams what she loves about her music and ministry. The answer is as warm, embracing, and reflective as her songs. ‘The music brings joy. I truly believe that my songs bring the answers and the solutions, as opposed to just talking about the problems. My music at its core is joyful.’
Joyful, uplifting, inspiring, affirmative, exuberant, playful, and universal in its appeal and intention – that is the music of Yolanda Adams. The message and ministry of this Grammy-winning Gospel/Adult Contemporary superstar is abundant with love, faith, rhythm, and wisdom. It is delivered by one of the most persuasive and popular voices in contemporary Gospel. Working with some of the biggest names in pop, R&B, hip-hop, and Gospel, Yolanda Adams‘s career has been marked by a string of hugely successful albums, sold-out tours, stand-out TV appearances, and a desire to incorporate into her music a multitude of genres and influences.
A lifelong resident of Houston, Texas, Yolanda grew up in a household filled with spirit, soul, and songs. Her mother studied music, and Yolanda and her five younger siblings heard everything from jazz to classical to rhythm and blues. She soaked up the sounds of Gospel legends James Cleveland and the Edwin Hawkins Singers, jazz icon Nancy Wilson, and pop/R&B great Stevie Wonder. That wide swath of sonic textures, combined with years in the church choir, would guide Yolanda – both as a performer and a person.
We’re proud to kick off our Black Music Month Interview Series with the legendary Yolanda Adams. Aries spoke with Yolanda about her upcoming album she’s currently working on, as well as her brand new beauty line Simply Yolanda. Yolanda also speaks about the best part of doing Sunday Best and her excitement for her popular radio show and much more!
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us a little about the new album you’re currently working on, and what can we expect from it?
Yolanda Adams: The new album will be coming out in 2014. It’s a collaboration, actually I should call it and friends. Everyone involved happens to be real near and dear to my heart. Of course we have Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Big Jim. We’re very excited about them as well as Israel Houghton who has a beautiful song called Symphony of One. V. Michael McKay who wrote The Battle and other great hits and we’ve been talking to Diane Warren for suggestions and some things she wants to do. So this project in 2014 will be amazing!
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s the process for you when you start working on new music, like do you reach out to people you want to work with, leave it up to the label, what exactly?
Yolanda Adams: When I get ready to record an album, usually because it’s a 1000 songs that have been written (laughs). So I get with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and we fine tune them. We just really try to bring out the best project that we can and because I’m so busy I have to make time on my schedule. Like this is when you’re going to go into the studio, this is when you’re going to write, and then do whatever else. As you can see I’m very busy.
UrbanBridgez.com: Growing up in Houston did you know what you wanted to do as a child or did you realize as you got older that you wanted to be in entertainment?
Yolanda Adams: I think what happens when you grow up in the Church singing, you think everybody in the world can sing. Because everybody around us can sing. So it wasn’t like this conscience decision that I’m going to go in gospel music industry and I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that. No, you do what you love and then have somebody recognize it. In my case Ms Shirley Joyner, Carl Preacher and Brenda Waters. They recognized my talent when I was younger so I got in the Southeastern Inspirational Choir. From there that’s when I met Thomas Whitfield and whole bunch of awesome gospel singers. Like Richard Smallwood, The Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Shirley Ceaser, just a whole lot of the music industry. Really because everybody knew our mentors, so it was like wow this is so cool. It wasn’t until I saw Tramaine perform solo, that I said man I want to be like her. That went into my head but at the same time, my family was all about education. There was no graduating and running into the music industry thinking you’re going to be a star, no you’re going to get your degree first and whatever you want to do after that, that’s your business. But you’re going to get that degree first (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: You used that degree well, you’ve done literally everything in this business from being a recording artist, actress, TV host, Radio Host, Author, you name it. What outside of singing has given you the most joy?
Yolanda Adams: Outside of music, it would have to be parenting. I have the best daughter in the whole wide world. She’s cool, she’s goofy, she’s crazy, she has an amazing sense of humor, her timing is so right. She has me in stitches half of the time. But she’s a joy to parent. Because it’s difficult when you’re the child of a parent that’s traveling a lot and in the media. I’ve tried to make her life as normal as possible. With all of her activities, she cheers on the national level. She competes, she’s in the national honors society, so she gets a chance to do things with them. So what I try to do as a parent that I give her enough room to be herself. But with that caring parenting leash, that you have to have (laughs). That little protection you have to have but she’s growing up to be a fine young lady!
UrbanBridgez.com: Open My Heart is and will always be one of my all time favorite songs.
Yolanda Adams: Thank you, I really appreciate that!
UrbanBridgez.com: No problem at all, did you realize how special that song was when you first recorded it?
Yolanda Adams: I think we had a special moment. Because one of the things is Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had recorded everybody! They have a 100 million records to their repertoire. That have gone platinum and gold. So when you’re in the studio with them, they already know what they want. You already have a sense of what you want but when it comes together, it’s just like wow. There’s this huge pause after we recorded Open My Heart. I’m like guys, is everything okay? Now they’ll never admit it, they’ll never admit, but I thought I saw a little mist in their eyes.
UrbanBridgez.com: Awww. (both laugh).
Yolanda Adams: Because they couldn’t see, they studio was dark but I was crying. It was just so beautiful because when you write something, that came at a period of time where I was going through an issue that could have really affected negatively all of the people around me. The people that I hire for, certain projects, my family, my band members and singers I call my family. It could of hurt me businesswise. Not just that but everything that we do has a spiritual confutation to it. You can’t separate that, it connects your spirit, your soul and mind and your body. All of those things work together, so the reason we think mistakes and failures and things like that are so horrible. Is because everything is connected, you can’t take your brain out and say this is the part I wish I really, really had not have done. Let me empty this out, no no no. It effects the way you live, it effects the way you respond. It effects the way you smile or don’t smile. So you to have to be aware that everything works in concert. So when I was I was alone in a room, I didn’t tell people that I was on the floor! Crying, asking God saying hey I need your help. You got to help me with this because if I made the wrong decision, man this will be like the 40th time (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: With so many accolades and awards you’ve received is there any other goal you have yet to reach that you plan to before you retire?
Yolanda Adams: I think I would probably like to do maybe some Broadway. And or movies, where I’m the essential character. But pretty much as you stated those are probably the only two things that I have not done and a world tour!
UrbanBridgez.com: And we need that soon!
Yolanda Adams: Aww, you’re so precious thank you.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s the best part for you being a part of Sunday Best, I love watching you, you’re entertaining?
Yolanda Adams: I know, everybody is like she is so funny (laughs). I think the best part for me is realizing that gospel music is so rich. Not only in our heritage but in our future. Here are people who auditioning and they could be anywhere, they could be on The Voice or American Idol. But they’re auditioning for Sunday Best. That makes me feel so good.
UrbanBridgez.com: Your radio show is very popular, when did you realize that was something you wanted to?
Yolanda Adams: Well it was an answer to a prayer. I asked God, you know I’m a single mom so I asked God to give me a platform or something
to do where I would be home most of the week with my daughter. I am so blessed and I don’t take it for granted. I could be somewhere every day of the year if I would allow my schedule to get that full. But I don’t want to do it at the expense of my baby. So I asked God to give me something that would keep me home more days than I was out. Then my lawyer called a couple of days later and said hey we have this business opportunity, would you be interested. I was like yeah what is it, he said they’re bringing a pray station to Houston. They wanted me to be a part of it and I said yes! We started, myself and Brother Larry and it just snowballed from there into this huge phenomenon of morning radio and people wanted it. They wanted the inspiration, they wanted the laughter from Marquis, the bible study from me and they just wanted an alternative to what was out there. And I’m friends with everybody that has a morning show, as a matter of fact I just finished Rickey Smiley’s TV show the other day. But there are some things that kids can’t listen to. So you have to be mindful of that. So that makes us perfect for that demographic, we’re just excited about it.
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us about your new beauty line?
Yolanda Adams: Yay! It’s called Simply Yolanda and I’m so excited about it because it is almost a two and a half, three year labor of love. I have family members who have extreme dry skin and skin issues. So I wanted to find a product that can be used on people who have certain sensitivities. Like I have nieces and nephews who have eczema. I wanted to make sure we created a project that had a line just for eczema for kids and adults, that’s coming later. But right now we have taken some of the greatest ingredients, almond oil, safflower oil, shea butter and all of the nurturing butters because we have to nurture our skin. Skin is our biggest organ and we mistreat it so bad. Sometimes we get too much sun or we get too much wind, get too much of this or don’t put enough of this on. We neglect it and we have to make sure that we take care of it because everything that’s absorbed into the skin goes directly into the body. There’s no middle passage, no way for it to drop off, you can try to wash it off but you have to wash it off with the right thing. That’s why we have the body wash, we have the soufflé and the body oil. We’re also working on a men’s line because there isn’t one out there. Nivea has been working with Dewayne Wade but again because I have experience with family members again, that have certain types of skin issues. Our men’s line is going to be, when I say the bomb for real! I’m sorry Ms Tamar, not bomb.com but bombforreal.net (both laugh).
UrbanBridgez.com: Being that June is black music month and you have amazing catalog of music, if someone was new to Yolanda Adams music, out of your catalog what would you suggest they listen to first and why?
Yolanda Adams: There are two albums that I would suggest that they get. Mountain High…Valley Low and Becoming. Because that is a broad spectrum of who I am. People who don’t know me or have never experienced me who may have just seen my name somewhere. Those are the two that I would suggest that they get a hold of. There’s traditional, contemporary, urban and all of it comes from the heart.
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us some R&B artists that you enjoy to listen to?
Yolanda Adams: I love and absolutely adore and who’s number one on my list is Mary J Blige. Tamia Grant, Angie Stone, Monica is my baby I absolutely adore her. She is a sweetie pie, that is another person who’s gone through a lot of things. But she’s managed to triumph in every situation and I am so, so so proud of her! As far as guys are concerned, I love Musiq, I love Ne-Yo and I think for me, right now as far as singers are concerned. I like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (feat T.I. and Pharrell). Because I’m a music person and I have to listen to the music part of a song. I just can’t be some jumbled up stuff, it has to be something that is well thought out. That’s why I like Janelle Monae, because her music and her lyrics are well thought out. She’s very conquince, I like that about her. So there’s several people that I’m listening to. Emeli Sande, I like her. There’s a kid name Falu, who is of African descent. He’s amazing, he has this beautiful beautiful spirit. I expect for people to really catch a hold of him www.twitter.com/faluphalu He has this beautiful song that I convinced him we should do together, it’s on his CD. But I really want for him to get the American audience. He’s really good, has a great heart and sense of humor. I think that’s necessary in the world in the life we live. You can’t always take yourself so serious all of the time.
UrbanBridgez.com: Any plans to write anymore books in the near future?
Yolanda Adams: Yes, as a matter of fact I’m working on a book called Happy. This is how it came about and I have to give all credit to my pastor Dr. Ed Montgomery & Bishop Carlson Pearson. My pastor told me, I have dealt with a lot of people over the course of my ministry. You are one of the biggest fighters I have ever seen. You always make it through and never look like you’re going through anything. He said you always look so happy! I said because I am pastor, I know that life is going to deal you something’s. You’re going to have to deal with something’s on different levels. It’s all about the way you take it in. I don’t take offense to everything that happens to me. Because for me I believe that it’s a lesson. When you look at life like that, I believe that god can really bless you and trust you with things. And then Carlson Pearson who I absolutely dearly love, I saw him in Chicago at a presentation. And he was like you are the epitome of what gospel music should be. You always talk about overcoming, you always victory, he said every time I see you, you look so happy. So I’m like wow this running theme with everyone when they think of me is happy. So I need to tell people my secrets to being happy. That’s what we’re working on right now.
UrbanBridgez.com: Do you have any last words for your fans before we wrap up?
Yolanda Adams: Wow, that I appreciate them so much! I can’t do what I do without people. So amazingly people keep coming back for more. They listen to the show, they get inspiration and for me that’s the best use of my life. When I can encourage somebody and lift them up and make them laugh, make them think and let them know that god is cool and he’s for you. He’s not against you. Come on now, that’s the best part of my life.
UrbanBridgez.com: My pleasure to speak with you.
Yolanda Adams: My pleasure to speak with you Aries and again I appreciate everything you do on a daily basis to keep your viewers informed of what we’re doing and how we’re doing. Without you, this could be harder but you make a big difference in what we do!