Yolanda Adams -- Voice, Vision and Vacation, Part 2
- Matthew Turner Music and Entertainment Editor
- 2001 28 Mar
You received some criticism when you signed with Elektra. But it seems obvious with the success of Open My Heart and Mountain High...Valley Low that it was an excellent move for your career. I'm sure you agree.
Yolanda: Oh yes, definitely. Well, you know what happens is when people are not used to the name of a secular company out there in the forefront, a label, they tend to prejudge your motive. My motive was to get my music out further than where it was. Of course, it's great for me to encourage those that already have God, but my true mission in life is to get folks that don't know God to hear about God through my music, to learn about His love through my music. The truth is, most of the gospel labels that are out there are owned by secular companies. You know you have a few folks who say "you know you need to be with a real gospel company." Well, the problem there is that there is no real true gospel company. Most of the gospel companies are owned by big secular companies. For example, Verity is owned by Jive/Zomba. B-Rite and Gospo Centric are owned by Interscope. There are no true, legitimate gospel companies out there. EMI Gospel is owned by EMI. There are other companies that have gospel divisions, so there really is no true gospel company. I think the only one that has major distribution is Blackberry Records, owned by Malaco. Malaco has a division of gospel music. Malaco owns a lot of R&B and blues tracks. There really is no genuine gospel company, so people need to look into the scope of what they're talking about. Just like they say, "Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams are going too far with this gospel music thing." But when you think about it, folks like Mahalia Jackson got flack back then, Thomas Dorsey got flack back then, so that's a part of the tradition of gospel.
With the success of gospel artists like yourself, Mary Mary and Kirk Franklin, gospel music has finally been taken into the mainstream. Are you encouraged by the changes in the industry?
Yolanda: Oh yeah, because it's a part of the legacy. I tell people this all the time. All we're doing is taking the torch and carrying a little further than people like Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker, Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson [did]. I was talking to the girls in Mary Mary the other day, and I was saying, "You know Mahalia Jackson had her own gospel show on CBS. They're not doing gospel shows on CBS right now. They're doing the Survivor thing and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. We have a lot to do." And they started laughing. But I am so grateful that God is allowing us to be a part of the mainstream. People need to hear good music. Right now, with all of this stuff, you know, Shake It Fast and Thong Song, people need real music. There's no kind of music like the Temptations used to sing . People like Carl Thomas and Jesse Powell, they get caught in the mix. They don't sell as much as the folks who are talking that nasty stuff. They sell 6 million records; it's sad because you need that balance. This is what is wrong with America today. We haven't kept it balanced. We go to one extreme or the other. I believe that's why these kids are losing their minds and taking guns to school and firing, because they don't have that balance. They're playing these video games that are so violent and there's not a balance of teaching in the home. There's nothing wrong with video games. We had Pacman and Ms. Pacman when I was growing up, but there was a balance in the home. We went to church, we talked about prayer; we talked to one another. We just didn't come into the house and wave our hands and speak and go into our rooms and shut off. We talked to one another, and I believe that's what gospel music is going to do in these last days that we have on this earth. I believe that gospel music is going to bring people together. And like you said, with the success of Open My Heart, it's going to get people thinking. They'll think Open My Heart ... what is that talking about?" And then the lyrics will come back to them "show me how to do things Your way. Don't let me make the same mistakes over and over again. Your will be done". Then all of the sudden, it will change their lives, but until we can get some folks singing some good quality gospel music, we'll be that filler.
How do you feel about artists known for their contributions in mainstream music (like hip-hip and R&B) collaborating with gospel artists? I know you have collaborated with mainstream artists.
Yolanda: Yes, I have worked with Kelly Price and Gerald Levert. I think it's great because people tend to think, "Oh, everybody singing R&B or pop or whatever, they're going to hell." But most of these kids love God and they come from the church. It gives people another perspective on where these people come from. In the future we will be doing something with Monica. People need to know that these kids came straight out of church and they love God. As long as they're not singing something like "jump in the bed with me" and all that kind of stuff, I think you'll see more of it. People in that arena, in the R&B and pop, they really want to get into gospel music.
When did you know that you were called and anointed to sing?
Yolanda: I didn't really realize it until I was in my 20s. You know, I had been singing all along, but I knew that there was a difference in the way that I sang and the way that other folks sang. But people were making such a big deal about the way that the other people were singing, so I was like, "Well, good. This is just something for me to do. I love God and this is just a way for me to minister to other people." But I didn't realize it until I was about 21. This woman came up to me crying in Minneapolis, and she said that she had suffered a stroke. The last cassette that was in her cassette player was my Just As I Am [cassette]. She kept playing it over and over and over and over again. She said one day her feet started moving. Then all of the sudden she started to feel movement in her legs and then she could move her hands. She was paralyzed from the neck down. She said she kept feeling something, and she said "Oh, Lord, You're blessing me, You're blessing me. Heal me, heal me." Every time the song Deliverance Will Come came on, she kept saying "deliverance will come" until one day she sat up in the bed, and her daughter came in and said, "Momma, what are you doing?". She said, "I'm healed". I was like, "Oh my God." That is when I knew that what God had given me was special and I needed to guard and I needed to be protective of it and I had a big responsibility. I didn't have time to get the big head, because God could surely give it to someone else.
What suggestions would you give to those who are interested in getting into the gospel music industry?
Yolanda: Sing, sing, sing, everywhere you can. Get on Bobby Jones, get on your gospel shows in your city. The more people see you, of course, the more notoriety you get, the more of a fan base you get, and you'll already have folks that will buy your records when your record comes out. Then, make sure that there's something special about what you do. You don't have to turn cartwheels and flips and stuff like that, but make sure that you have your own sound. There's no need for another Yolanda or another Cece or another Mary Mary, we already have those people. Create your own sound, create something that's different about you, that stands out from everybody else. Make sure that you love God with all your heart. Make sure you know the Word of God, 'cause you cannot sing gospel music without knowing the Word of God. As the Scripture says, it's only sounding brass and tinkling cymbals when you just sound pretty because there's no life coming out of your mouth. That's what the gospel is. It's life. It's good news. Then, be the best at what you do. Know the gospel industry and know your business. At the end of the day, it's about the dollars that come out of your recording. Know how much you are going to get for your royalty rate. Get a good entertainment lawyer who has an emphasis on music. It's one thing to get an entertainment lawyer who has an emphasis on actors, but it's another thing to get an entertainment lawyer who has been in the business and has gotten contracts for people in the music industry, not just film or theater. So those are the things that I would suggest.
What's next on the horizon for Yolanda Adams?
Yolanda: After The Experience album comes out, of course, I have to make sure we do enough promoting of it, so that will be the first thing, the promotion. After that we'll do the different theme parks for the summer. We'll also be doing different festivals, including the Essence Festival. Then, we'll be in Nice, France. We'll also do a few things in the Islands, so we'll have a bunch of concerts to do and we'll start touring in September.
Interview by Andrea R. Williams