Youthful Praise

Interview with Michelle Williams
From Her Heart to Yours

The genre are increasingly becoming blurred as more and more popular mainstream artists are boldly declaring their faith, and consequently, embracing Gospel music.

Add Michelle Williams to that ever-growing list.

The newest member of Destiny's Child is also the first to release a solo project. Titled Heart To Yours, it’s unabashedly Gospel.

The transition for Williams, however, is not as difficult as one might think. Michelle WilliamsLike many R&B artists, Williams began singing in the church. She explained to Gospelflava.com:

"I grew up in Rockford, Illinois. St. Paul Church Of God In Christ was and still is my home church," says Williams. "I sang my first solo at the age of seven. I directed the choir, I was an usher. I was a straight-up church girl. I did a lot of stuff in the community such as singing in various choirs and at my school."

The road from St. Paul COGIC to Destiny's Child had an interesting stop or two on the way. "I used to sing background for Monica for about six months. Then I got a call about possibly singing with Destiny's Child, through my choreographer," states Williams.

"I had a chance to sing for Beyonce and Kelly and a few weeks later, we were filming the video for 'Say My Name'. From then on, things have been going on good."

The choice to join Destiny's Child was not difficult for Williams. "I liked their style and the fact that they could really, really sing," she says.

The success that the group has had since Williams' arrival has been remarkable —several chart-topping hits, outstanding visibility, and a Grammy-winning release.

With that, Destiny's Child decided to have each member release a solo project before embarking on their next combined effort. This immediately opened the door for Williams to make her first solo project a Gospel effort.

On the surface, one might think that the decision to go that route would pull Williams away from the multi-platinum ensemble. However, she admits that move in this direction wasn't difficult for her.

Heart To Yours
CD While not flooding the project with big name guest artists, Michelle Williams does connect with a judicious few, each of them truly providing support rather than stealing thunder. Throughout, Williams shows....

See full album review.

"For me, it wasn't a hard transition at all. This is something that has been in my heart to do, so I had to do it. I thought that it would be a perfect time. Choosing to do this at the height of my career rather than doing it when Destiny's Child is at a downfall, you know? Most people do that. They go Gospel when they don't have anything else to do anymore, you know? I chose to do this while I can reach people."

While the decision to do the Gospel project was in Williams' heart, she was initially uncertain about boldly referencing Jesus on the project.

"At first I was like, 'should I say Jesus', but before I knew it, I couldn't help but to [say His name]," she states. "I wasn't going to let anybody stop me from doing that...not that anybody really was, you know?"

Influenced by artists such as CeCe Winans, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, The Clark Sisters, and Donnie McClurkin, it seemed only right that Williams would enlist the help of Gospel's elite. On the project she collaborates with artists such as Mary Mary, Shirley Caesar, and Men of Standard. For Williams, it was easy to connect with these artists.

"Oh it was no problem. A phone call was made and we were already cool with one another. It kinda wasn't even a business thing. It was like 'that's my girl', you know, and I personally asked them myself. So that's how that went."

Many believe that Christians don't have the option to sing any other genre but Gospel. While Williams does not fully support that view, she does believe that there is a fine line to cross.

"There is good secular music and then you have bad secular music. I know some people do come out of Gospel to sing R&B, and sing crazy R&B. It's about cursing and sex all the Michelle Williamstime. Why would you come out and do that? I can't question that or judge people about that. Let's just hope and pray that they return to God."

Williams openly admits to not understanding the thinking that Gospel is the only option for singers who are Christians.

"It's got to do with how you are brought up and people not understanding how you've got to go outside the church to reach people. You're not any better than anyone else," declares Williams.

"What's the difference between you being a hairstylist but in your salon, everyone is gossiping and you're right there with them. But you're talking about me and I might be living a better life than you. It's not even about that. I'm just trying to reach people, inspire, encourage, and help lead people to Christ and get folks to get to know Him in this last day."

In addition, Williams believes that it is possible for Christians to be able to effectively sing both R&B as well as Gospel.

"It totally depends on the type of music that you're singing. Say the music that you're singing is positive. They can market you as R&B, you know. Then you can do Gospel. It has to do with the marketing thing and how you present yourself," says Williams.

Williams’ Heart To Mine solo release debuted at #2 on the Billboard's Gospel charts, #18 on the R&B charts and #57 on the Billboard Top 200 charts. The project has been received well amongst her industry peers both in the secular and Gospel arenas.

"They're like 'Wow, you're doing your thing.' They are very supportive. You know, there are some people in R&B music who work in the front or in the back who are saved and really love the Lord. They are really excited about the release," admits Williams.

The singers readily embraces the challenge of maintaining her relationship with God as part of Destiny's Child.

Michelle Williams"I already had a relationship with God before I got in the group. I maintained that and I even grew closer [to Him]. I had to stay who I was and not change because I got in the industry. I'm sure it's not easy to do that but everybody knows who I am in God. Even the group has great relationships with God and people know that they can't do just anything around us. They know not to come around us with certain things. They even know not to ask us to do certain songs or to do duets with certain people. We still have standards."

She also doesn't fear those who think that there may be a conflicting message sent by her singing a song like "Bootylicious" and then following that with a Gospel release.

"Well, that's all that people have to say. They have nothing else to say. They have nothing to say about my character. You know, they don't really know me. What's done in Destiny's Child really doesn't represent everything about me and who I am," admits Williams.

"I can't worry about these 'church folks' because we've got some of us in here that are judging people but can't keep their marriages together. Get yourself together first. Once I see that you'll bust heaven wide open, then I'm with you. But until then, I can't let people judge me or even bring that to me."

Williams is looking for the project to reach and touch a variety of listeners.

"I want to reach everyone but I definitely hope that a small percentage of Destiny's Child's fanbase can get it and be reached and that they will hear a different message. Also, I want to definitely reach those in the Gospel base. I want to try to get to everybody."

As an artist, Williams feels a sense of responsibility to those around her and cares for her image as a public figure.

"I don't consider myself as a sex symbol. I never have and I never will. I don't want to be looked at as that. The group doesn't want to be looked at as that. We want to be looked at as far as our intelligence and our talent," says Williams.

"Now that you've been in the limelight, you've got to be careful of what you do and what you say. Just make sure that you can help somebody when you need to. I don't feel that role models should help raise someone else's kids. I do think that it all starts in the home. You have some people that don't have anyone to do that and I understand that situation. But it all starts in the home."

Williams is not surprised by the recent migration of many artists to Gospel music.

Michelle Williams"I think now more people are just starting to realize that it shouldn't be about the money anymore or the fame and the limelight. It's like 'where are you in Christ'? It's not a risk anymore. So many groups are coming out in R&B and it's just a lot going on. I think people in R&B can possibly come back and help put Gospel music on the map and be a support to Gospel music.”

“Gospel music is blowing up right now but I hope it just blows folks out the water to where secular labels will now sign more Gospel artists and push and support them financially as they would do an R&B artist."

Williams received tremendous support from her record label Music World Music to do this project.

"In fact, they came to me. There wasn't a question as to what type of music I was going to do. Music World has a Gospel division and I'm the first artist to come out on Music World and in the Gospel division. I'd love to do more and more Gspel projects," states Williams.

Indeed, Williams' heart and mission is in the right place. "Right now, all I can do is to ask for God's will to be done and where ever He wants to take me after this, I'll do it. I'll go," says Williams.

You can't argue with that.

interview by Gerard Bonner

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