The Return of Karyn White: The UB EXCLUSIVE Interview
In the years since her last CD was released in 1994 “Make Him Do Right” (Warner Bros.) the lovely, soulful vocalist has focused her energy on family, raising and nurturing her daughter Ashley (her daughter with ex-husband, producer/songwriter Terry Lewis). White’s priorities to family are largely responsible for her absence from the music scene. Her daughter Ashley is now a freshman at Howard University but for the last 18 years – Karyn saw to it that Ashley received the love and care of a mother invested in her child – which the nomadic lifestyle of a professional musician could not afford.
Karyn’s considerable talents extend well beyond music. She’s been successfully honing her skills in recent years as an interior designer, and making moves in real estate. However, she didn’t turn her back on music, still paying close attention to the industry.”Music is in me. You may be temporarily detached from the business side of it – but the music, the melodies, the rhythms – never leave you,” said White.
White’s new CD entitled “Carpe Diem“, scheduled for release in 2012, offers a heartfelt Retro Acoustic soulful flare. She delivers every note, every inflection, with the flow of a woman who knows what each nuance means to the song. The CD contains another anthem for the ladies – a female bonding and empowerment tune with an acoustic grit, called “Sista Sista.” With this future classic, the ladies will hear that they have their champion back on the scene. Karyn also performs her own version of the Cyndi Lauper classic, True Colors, on the new CD.
[Listen To The New Single: "Sista, Sista" ]
Karyn is fearless, and when we first started talking about her releasing new music in the marketplace, the first thing she said was – ‘
Karyn is fearless, and when we first started talking about her releasing new music in the marketplace, the first thing she said was – ‘I don’t want to do it like I’ve done it before—I want it to be new, I want to push the envelope on all of the new social media, internet and website platforms, I want to be the edge not on it……..I want to be a difference maker‘, that’s why I call Karyn a renaissance woman, said Jay King, the independent music, multi-media mogul of Club Nouveau fame who is working with White on her new music. White’s project includes embracing multi-media formats, to broaden the scope of Karyn and her ideas, with her “Karyn’s World Website” (www.karynsworld.me). Plans for the web site include a reality show, and the opportunity for fans to purchase Karyn White branded merchandise.
Lest we forget, the Los Angeles native who has literally been singing her entire life was nominated twice for Grammy Awards (Best Female R&B Vocal Performance), and earned a trio of Soul Train Award nominations, along with a coveted NAACP Image Award for Best New Artist in 1989. She also added to her musical legacy by co-writing, co-producing and co-executive producing the Billboard HOT 100 Pop Chart #1 single, Romantic, in November 1991. Karyn’s monster hits include The Way You Love Me, Secret Rendezvous and Love Saw It, a duet with Babyface. She is an international sensation, with Gold and Platinum albums in Japan, the UK and in Canada.
The songwriting prowess of Karyn White includes her work with industry icons Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager, as well as her co-writing the hit Til You Come Back To Me in 1992, a popular song originally performed by Rachelle Ferrell. Her first credit in the industry, even prior to hitting as a vocalist, was that of co-writing the Stephanie Mills hit Automatic Passion in 1985, along with the late great industry musician Robert Brookins and lyrical mastermind Tony Haynes. The mid-80′s saw White working with a veritable Who’s Who of musical talent, from Supertramp and O’Bryan to Richard Marx and Ray Parker Jr.
In 1986, Karyn was featured as a vocalist on a Jeff Lorber album called Facts Of Love —that began a buzz that led to her inevitable solo success. So, in 1988, her self-titled debut LP established her as a leading female voice in contemporary R&B music. That album was certified Platinum and reached #1 on the Billboard R&B charts. She enjoyed another Gold album in 1991, with Ritual Of Love. A dream come true is just a tough little wish that would not take NO for an answer. This is a truth for me…. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me this time around!!!! 1994’s critically acclaimed Make Him Do Right may have been the last full length recording by Karyn White – but her voice never left. Expect Karyn to conquer music all over again because true artistry is timeless.
UrbanBridgez.com: What have you been up to since the last album release, “Make Him Do Right?”
Karyn White: It’s been such a long time, I’m glad to be back! Well first and foremost while I’ve been away I was raising my daughter Ashley Lewis, who I just sent off to college. I’m very proud of her, she’s doing broadcasting and journalism. I was also trying to be the next Donald Trump, kind of got into real estate investing. I moved to Sacramento, it was such a growing area. So I started buying homes and fixing them up and selling them. So I became a realtor and started branching out into commercial. It was great because I got to see how money works from another side. Of course the money I made from the music industry I was able to use it in a way with real estate, which is very common. The interior design part of it is where I just love to be creative. When you’re building a home from like Victorian style or Tudor style. It’s like writing a song, I got to see something from dirt to finish and then sell it (laughs). And with that I got to see my daughter and be involved. With my personality and her dads which is Terry Lewis, we’re both extremely go getters and at the time I left the industry we were both at the top of our game. It was just really hard for me to split myself and be a mother..for me! I mean some people do it, but this industry requires so much from you. I was at that point where they wanted me to go to that next level, so it was a bit of a sacrifice for me. I didn’t realize this would all help me in the end. Because in today’s world being a brand is everything like with the reality shows! The more you do, the way your life is, it’s just not about music anymore. I’m hoping that will work to my benefit.
UrbanBridgez.com: I think it definitely will! “Superwoman” was such a huge song for you, til this day it’s considered an R&B classic! Take us back to when you recorded it, what were your thoughts and did you think it would be as huge as it is?
Karyn White: Oh my God, let me first say this! The incredible L.A. Reid, Babyface and Darryl Simmons presented me with the song. It was an honor, people have to understand L.A. was married to Pebbles and there was alot of competition in that era. I mean there was Anita Baker, Vanessa Williams, Jody Watley, Janet Jackson, so this song really separated me from all of those artists. So looking back now, I’m really happy they thought that I could pull it off. They were so hot, everybody wanted to work with them. I don’t feel special but I do feel special, because they could have given the song to someone else. So in hindsight I’m glad they saw the strength in me that I could pull it off. To be able to deliver the song, for me I pulled from my mother. Because I was so young, I didn’t really understand what saying I’m not your Superwoman really meant. I was just a baby Superwoman, I had not had children or really lived. I had not gone through the heartaches and tough times. So now when I sing that song, it’s so funny because it’s so dramatic for me because I always find myself going to church (laughs). I’ll be like can I sing Love Saw It or Secret Rendezvous (all laugh).
UrbanBridgez.com: “Sista, Sista” kind of picks up where “Superwoman” left off, what inspired that song and what do you want people to take away from it?
Karyn White: You are so right, that’s another song like oh God here we go again with me and my big mouth (laughs). I just think now that I’ve grown into this woman, I’m very confident and I know who I am. One thing I love about women and let me just say black women because I’m a black woman. It’s like we grow into everything, we get better, more beautiful. You look at people like Diane Carol and Tina Turner and you just want to evolve. We just blossom as we get older and I think that’s what I did. I was very fortunate in my relationship, I had a wonderful husband in Terry Lewis and I messed that up. So I find every since that relationship it’s kind of like I’ve been on a mission. Because I feel like I’ve been blessed so much and I took it for granted. So with Sista, Sista, whenever I talk to young girls or women, I always find myself asking them to look at themselves. Because at that time I couldn’t really see myself. It’s so scary to be off and really believe your own crap and be like I have it together, it’s not me, it’s you. It’s really a sad thing when you have a lost that devastating, you can’t help but look in the mirror and say man I better shine this light on me. Something in my heart isn’t right, because I’m hurting people, I’m hurting myself. For women we have to love ourselves, I find alot of us don’t. You look in the mirror and you’re always trying to change something or it’s not good enough. We just play alot of roles, I mean I’m always speaking to my sisters of course, that’s just something natural and organic; it’s who I am! So to put out a song about strength and unity and to pick up where Superwoman left off. Superwoman was really about a man and Sista, Sista is really about the women and this is for the Sistas (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: Now you have to tell us about the new album, it’s been way too long! So what do you have in store for us that have been waiting?
Karyn White: God is so good! There are alot of women that when you start getting in your late 30′s and 40′s it’s a tough time for women. Because you have to deal with am I still beautiful, if I’m not married am I going to get married, because you’re looking at this clock ticking. Just like with life period like with jobs and kids going off to college and I think it’s really sad because I have alot of my friends…I like being around younger people because I felt like they dream more. Their swag is more like I’m about to get it, I’m gonna open a business, I’m going back to school, etc. I felt like Carpe Diem which is the name of the album, which is a Latin word that means seize the day! That’s really what I did and what I’m doing because I’m in an industry where you just can’t leave as long as I did. Honestly I love music, I never didn’t want to sing, I just felt like I’ve done it and now I’m doing something else. But now I have that buzz again so to have that confidence to be like okay I’m going to release this record and I’m going to release it on my own label. I’m going to hire my team, we’re going to challenge media in different ways, we’re going to try to think outside the box. We’re not Warner Bros. we don’t have millions of dollars that they had to market me. I’m going to believe in myself and trust this new social media and push the edge. So I’m really living what I want women and men to do. Like just don’t think because you’re 40…it’s like I have a life to still live! So I want to show people that Karyn White is doing it and don’t think just because I’m Karyn White that I’m going to get radio and get it all, I’m starting over too! I say this to my daughter, I said you’re going off to Howard and I’m going back to my career, so we both have to get it you better come on (laughs). So I’m reinventing, you got to live your life. I’m not worried about tomorrow, I’m just living my life to the fullest. That’s what the record is about, it’s fun and it’s hot! I mean I’m not like a dated women, I mean I’ve been away but I feel like I’ve been preserved for this time, I feel like I’m better! I feel like I’m here for a purpose and I think it shows in the music. I’m doing serious stuff and giving you something to think about but it’s fun too! I want us to live it up, I’m not saying go steal someone’s husband or wife or anything but live it up in the right way. I’m just putting out some good vibrations out to the world, we got enough negativity.
UrbanBridgez.com: Really good, so looking forward to it!
Karyn White: Thank you!
UrbanBridgez.com: Who are some of the people you’re working with or plan on working with for this album?
Karyn White: I’m still developing and I hope to work with Raphael Saadiq, I’m going to keep saying that because I love him. Being that I live in Sacramento and we’ve both kind of ran in the same circles and I love what he’s doing with the whole Motown vibe and retro thing. That’s kind of what I’m doing like with Sista it has kind of a real retro feel to it. So I want to work with him and my producer Derek Allen who’s worked with Smokie Norful, Tyrese, Angie Stone, etc. He’s my dream, I’m so excited about putting him on the map in that way. He’s had alot of songs with alot of people, but he’s doing my whole album. He’s the truth!
UrbanBridgez.com: Excited! Who are like some female artists out right now that you are fans of and like listening to?
Karyn White: Let me tell you my little secret, because I’ve always been like this. I don’t like to listen to female artists too much because vocally you can start picking up someones runs and such. To me a real artist has their own identity. Like when you hear a Karyn White record, you know my voice. That’s for a reason because I don’t really get down like that. But I love Beyonce’, who wouldn’t because she’s incredible, off the chain. I love what Alicia Keys is doing because I feel like she’s still putting a message out there that’s positive but it’s musical. With males I love Frank Ocean, I love alot of Hip-Hop. Kanye because he’s crazy, I love Usher, he’s really my kat! He’s incredible, vocally he’s sick as an entertainer and in songs he reaches. I like him, four year olds like Usher he just has incredible songs. I mean right now he’s kind of doing the Pop thing but it’s good and of course I like Raphael Saadiq.
UrbanBridgez.com: I have to ask this because I want to know myself, what are your top 3-5 favorite songs from your catalog?
Karyn White: There are some, I would have to say ones that wasn’t released I get sick of some of the commercial ones. Ones that mean something to me, like from the first album I would say well of course Love Saw It, because Face just killed it! That’s one of them duets where it’s just like whew, y’all got down (laughs). That was fun and I love Slow Down. Second album, I would have to say Tears of Joy, I sang that at Eddie Murphy and Nicole’s wedding!
UrbanBridgez.com: That’s my favorite song on there, I swear!
Karyn White: (screams) Really!
UrbanBridgez.com: And Hard to Say Goodbye, but go ahead (laughs).
Karyn White: Noooooo, that’s what I was about to say! You are too funny, that is exactly what I was about to say. Let me tell you something, I had Stokley from Mint Condition on there, I was so stupid I had him doing some adlibs and stuff. Because one of the guys in Mint Condition wrote it and gave me the track. I’m kind of mad at myself because I was around all of these artists at Flyte Tyme and I could of had all of them on my records. I was like what was I thinking, where was my head at.
UrbanBridgez.com: That’s so funny because I was just with them this past week, they did a show and I interviewed them for the site.
Karyn White: They were my band too! They use to play for me and call me Baby Luther (Vandross) because on that second album I was in love with Luther. Of course, who’s not Luther is just sick! You can’t sing a song like Luther. So Stokley use to call me baby Lu (laughs). That’s alright though, I’ll take that compliment (all laugh).
UrbanBridgez.com: What about the third album as far as favs?
Karyn White: Let me think..(sings part of I’m Your Woman) I’m Your Woman, I like that one. What else…man I can’t even remember that one too much (laughs). That was kind of a tough time for me, emotionally. Oh I like Nobody But My Baby and Simple Pleasures.
UrbanBridgez.com: What else are you working on that you want to share with your fans?
Karyn White: Well Karyn White is being a true renaissance woman. I have a team, my manager who is Jay King who’s been in the industry. His success with Club Nouveau and he’s also a radio host. So we’re constantly working, I have an artist named J Ali that’s like the best of both words. He’s vocally like Lyfe Jennings, Anthony Hamilton and he’s sick! And rap wise he’s like Rick Ross, he’s just sick! Actually alot of my songs, he’s going to be featured on for the album. And I’m working with The Sylvers second generation (sings hook to Boogie Fever), remember that song?
UrbanBridgez.com: Yeah, I know it!
Karyn White: Yeah, back in the day they had these big afros and I’m working with the kids from the second generation. We have a reality show and they’re talented, gorgeous, just amazing. So I’m doing that as executive producer. I’m doing music for other artists, with my interior design I have a line. I feel like the girl in the Eddie Murphy movie “I’m an actress, singer, model” (all laugh) from Coming to America. I felt like her, after saying all that. But yeah I have alot going on. Like I said earlier, I’m just ceasing the day baby (laughs)!
UrbanBridgez.com: You mentioned Jay King, I wanted to ask you what made you guys decide to partner up?
Karyn White: Man, so many things. With Jay King he uses blog talk radio as a platform and has a radio show about the music industry on Tuesdays. So one day someone texted me about the show, don’t remember if it was Bobby Brown or whoever but anyways I listened to the show several times and was like wow I really love it. First of all he’s really sick with his knowledge. And very understanding about how this whole independent thing works. Because I would talk to people like Terry Lewis and just people who have been in the industry like managers and such and they were like we don’t even know what’s going on with it. And Jay seemed to know and was really excited and was like this is the best time and was like people in the 60′s would have loved to be able to own their stuff. As an artist if you have a work ethic and a name there is no reason why you shouldn’t be releasing your own records. I was listening and I’ve been a business woman so I could relate to that and it made sense. I’m like I can’t do the real estate thing anymore because the market tanked on me (all laugh). So yeah, I just really loved his whole vision of everything of where we are and he just seemed to get it! He’s like an inventor like an Albert Einstein, I’m more like the Japanese I like to improve on something already working. Him and Angelo came up with the whole Karyn White Out to download the single Sista, Sista and that was just genius. I was like are you guys sure, because I’m just use to being with a big label, so I’ve never done stuff like this. It’s a different day and it’s working, I’ve been getting tons of interviews and things without me having to go to radio and have to spend $500,000. So it’s actually just testing the new media and even with Jay’s show, I’m just loving how everything is just different today. It’s like if you have the drive and work ethic, you can be what you want to be!
UrbanBridgez.com: You can make it happen, that’s right!
Karyn White: Exactly, I like that, you can make it happen!
Any last words for the fans
Karyn White: Let your success be measured by the happiness in your heart. Don’t be afraid your life will end, be afraid that it may never begin….
Thank you Aries, it was really fun talking to you. You crack me up!
UrbanBridgez.com: The pleasure was all mine, welcome back!