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Intersection of Life and Faith

One Day at a Time

  • Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 9 Jan
One Day at a Time
Life has been a blur for Yolanda Adams the past couple of years. After releasing the now gospel classic Mountain High … Valley Low, the gospel luminary shot to stardom in both the secular and sacred circuits. Her crossover gained some critics from conservative circles, but the former schoolteacher forged on, releasing a Christmas collection, a live anthology, and another gospel-pop album in 2001. But that was over four years ago. In August, she unveiled Day by Day, a record borne out of an intense period of turmoil, professionally and personally: her record label, Elektra, folded into its parent company, and her marriage to former NFL player Timothy Crawford fell apart. In this conversation with Christian Music Today, Adams discusses this season of change, how she takes everything one day at a time, and her desire to give back to the community not through music but through her very first passion—teaching.You're a former schoolteacher. What made you pursue gospel music?Yolanda Adams I was already involved in gospel music as a teen. This wasn't like a career change or anything. I was recording albums, and I already had two solo albums out my last year of teaching. I was so busy that I had to resign from teaching and go into ministry full-time. It was a hard decision. I love young kids. I love pouring knowledge and wisdom into them. I loved teaching them to respect their neighbors and to love one another. I was able to do that without beating them over the head. I did this with the parents knowing exactly who I was and what I did. They knew I wouldn't impress my views of salvation upon them, that I would take care of them, that I would respect them.Mountain High … Valley Low came in 1999. Believe came two years later. Why did it take so long to make Day by Day?Adams It didn't take that long to make. We were in the studio in 2003. Elektra Records was being folded into Atlantic Records and the Warner Music Group, and we had to wait until all the people working there were in their positions. That process took a long time. You don't really want to get caught with an album out with all of that [transitioning] going on. You want to make sure that your album is being played on the radio, that it's being marketed. And for that you want for everybody at the label to be in place.Because of the corporate restructuring, many people you once worked with are no longer there. From a professional standpoint, was that a tough position to be in?Adams The turnover rate in the music business is tremendous. You really can't get emotionally attached to people as you would in, say, education. In that field, people stay there for years. I found this out early on in my career. Previously, I had been a part of two buyouts, and that taught me that you can't get attached to people. It's business. The people at Elektra were wonderful, but the people at Atlantic are wonderful, too.You were the first modern gospel artist to be officially affiliated with a mainstream label. As a result, more conservative gospel listeners tend to refer to you as being on the "secular" edge of gospel music. How do you feel about that? Does it bother you in any way?Adams Well, no. I've never been a traditional singer. What's new to a lot of people seems odd. But what God has given me is my ministry—of reaching out to people who need hope and healing, people who need to know that the blood of Jesus can work for them. It's good to know that not only people in the church embrace my music, but that also people outside the church do. It reaches everyone, so I'm very, very grateful. Some say, "She's the only one that's doing so and so." But there are people like myself, Donnie McClurkin, and Mary Mary who are venturing out there. Just because we're doing something different doesn't mean it's not legitimate ministry.Do you feel gospel music is generally afraid of venturing out of its comfort zone?Adams Oh, definitely. So many people have been afraid to step out of the box. Ever since BeBe & CeCe [Winans] did their thing in the '80s, church folk starting criticizing them. How can you judge someone's ministry when people are coming to Christ in droves? Young people have been afraid to step out because they're eventually ostracized by the community they grew up in. The thing is, criticism will come, whether it's something traditional or something out of the ordinary. You'll never ever satisfy everybody. Someone will always have something negative to say. It's unfortunate. But we're all called to a unique ministry. We're called to be salt and light in our own way.How do you retain your composure and focus in the face of opposition?Adams I encourage young people all the time, from Tonéx to Dietrick Haddon and those who are just getting into [gospel music]. I tell them, "This is your ministry, your purpose, what you've been called to. Nobody is going to 'get' your ministry but you. If it's upsetting some, maybe you're doing something right." Not everybody will agree and love it and think it's the best thing since sliced bread. Look at Jesus' ministry. But he himself said, "Don't worry, for I have overcome this world." You have to go by faith. That's how you have to live.You have been quoted as saying that your new album, Day by Day, takes you into your private life. What aspects of it, specifically?Adams My praise, my worship, my contemplation in making decisions. The "joy" part of me. The silly part of me that jumps up and down and dances. My listeners deserve to know how I worship, how I praise, what I do when I find myself questioning my own decisions. I wanted to show them how I make it through, how I go about it.Songs like "Be Blessed," "Someone Watching Over You," and "This Too Shall Pass" sound like you're exhorting someone, that you're intent on giving hope. Was that intentional?Adams It was definitely intentional. In our society, there are many things that come as a result of tragedy, emotional things. I feel like we don't address depression, grief, and loss in gospel music. We should because we have the answer to those questions. Whenever I'm directing a lyric to a person, it is to get them to overcome, to get them out of their position. I'm speaking directly to them. The only reason that I can sing that is because I've lived through it.You have endured some difficult circumstances. Not long ago you went through a divorce. How has the gospel community responded to this difficult time in your life? Adams The gospel community has been absolutely fabulous. My pastor and first lady have walked through it with me without divulging my private life. They know the deal that led up to that. It was not a haphazard, quick decision. This was not a decision I hastily made. By the time I started doing media again, the divorce was already over. As a result of my relationship with prominent first ladies and prominent bishops and pastors I was able to find strength. People were praying for me and praying for my daughter. I've had such an embracing from the Christian community.There were those who said, "You should have stayed married, blah blah blah." But they only see the outside. They don't see what went on on the inside. Unfortunately, you can't make anybody love you. You'd hope that folks will love you for the rest of your life, but it doesn't always happen that way. [Without getting specific], the only thing I can do is explain to people what God has done and what he can do.What has God done?Adams The anointing has gotten stronger and heavier. It's like we're at another level of God's anointing. When you experience a concert, it's no longer a musical service, but a deliverance service. We've experienced such tremendous miracles, and such tremendous things have happened as a result of the ministry. There's another level of power that we're experiencing. Everything's at a higher level.You're a sought-after singer who's heavily involved in ministry. Would you say your ministry in some way contributed to the downfall of your marriage?Adams Ministry is never the cause of somebody's attitude or the demise of a marriage. It's just that two people can't make it. It has nothing to do with the spiritual side of a person, unless someone is jealous of that. It's really unfair because you're committed for life, but the other person says, "I don't want it." You've done all the counseling you can do, all the praying you can do. When somebody's wheel is turned against you, there's absolutely nothing you can do.Switching gears a bit, tell me about your Voice of an Angel Foundation.Adams It's a foundation we started that will service and mentor young people into the field of education. I want to see if we can get more young men into the field. We're trying to get kids of middle-school age and have them mentored by people already in education, mentor them through college, and get them scholarships. Then for the next four or five years they have to teach in the educational system. We're also developing a program called The Complex where we encourage young people to get into the arts, whether it's music, dancing, painting, [or other activities]. The Complex will have two dance studios, three music studios, and an all-around arts development program that will provide different types of classes. We're trying to put all of that in place and eventually have something ready to launch in 2006.Why the emphasis on education, mentorship and the arts?Adams Because they look at sports and entertainment stars and they say, "I can be like them and make quick money." When I was growing up, young ladies wanted to be teachers. Now they just want to model and sing and all that. But those fields are only open between the ages of 18 and 25. The market is really fickle to hold them for any longer than that. [In those fields], you don't get the true meaning of longevity in a career. What we're trying to show them is that teaching is a viable career. And with The Complex and the Voice of an Angel Foundation, we want them to see that you can do all those other things on the side and make an impact on other people's lives at the same time.For more about Yolanda Adams, visit our site's artist page and check out our review of her latest, Day by Day. To listen to sound clips and buy her music, please visit© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.