Interview With Yolanda Adams
The Elektrafying Experience
In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy goes through a sort of metamorphosis while on her journey away from home. In the end, with the help of her fairy godmother, she finds that in fact she had always possessed what she needed to get where she wanted to go.
— interview by Melanie Clark —
Well, Yolanda Adams after years of steadfastness seems to have arrived at that proverbial place.
With the aura around her unmistakable, it might seem to many like her own fairy godmother, Elektra Records labelhead Sylvia Rhone, touched her and all things were made new. But make no mistake, Adams has paid her dues, worked hard and persevered against the odds to rise to her current place of reigning sweetheart of Gospel and mainstream audiences alike.
Though many may think it’s the five of Stellar Awards, or the Grammy award Mountain High...Valley Low has garnered, there is a much greater prize that has more so been salvaged than it has been won. Adams has preserved herself in all the hooplah, and managed to gain the earthly rewards without compromising her heavenly one.
"It is awesome! It is solely a testimony to what we have believed all along. Everyone on my staff and everyone who has ever been close to me at all, [knows] that I have said for years, and years and years that Gospel artists don’t have to change what they do. All they have to do is be presented in a very professional way and of course that takes money. [And from there] God draws people that He wants to draw!"
"All it takes is someone with the heart of God doing it. And that’s how I can explain the success of myself, Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond and now Donnie McClurkin that are getting that mainstream airplay. The thing is people have to know you’re out there. And if nobody but the Gospel community knows that you’re out there, that’s who you sell your records to."
But don’t confuse it. She has a great appreciation and faith in her Gospel constituency. Of those who have followed and supported her since she was a young woman singing with The Southeast Inspirational Choir she says, "I don’t think my Gospel audience is going anywhere, because I make it plain and simple [to the record label] that without my base, I would not be where I am today. No one would know who I am had it not been for the [Gospel community]."
However, with that support comes some toughness. The Gospel community can be quite judgmental, and well, downright fearful of someone 'leaving' us as they expand their territory for the Kingdom. For some reason, the shedding of a church suit, in exchange of a ballgown is threatening to some. Accusers admonish that we are to be separate and peculiar.
To this Adams says, "Oh, and we are supposed to be all of those things! Jesus was talking about your actions at home and in your private life. You know, not going out to the clubs and not drinking and being loose. That’s what He was talking about. He wasn’t talking about not witnessing, because if that’s the case it negates what He said to all of His disciples to go into the highways and hedges."
And Adams has put in her mileage in on the highways and the airways, and Rhone is pushing forward, riding the wave. With the numbers barely in for the release of Mountain High...Valley Low, Rhone decided it was time to give the people more of what they wanted. Once again inspired by Adams performance at the Beacon Theatre in New York, Rhone decided to try and capture the experience of a live performance for the next project. With help from manager Shiba Haley and promoter Al Wash, the recording was pulled together in two weeks! From this The Experience was yielded, and what an experience it is.
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Featuring some of our favorite tunes, including some song variations from Mountain High...Valley Low this release has been burning it’s way up the charts. The first single, "I Believe I Can Fly" with Gerald Levert was another Rhone brainstorm. As Adams explains, "Gerald Levert and I did a song called ‘Brighter Day’ for another project that never got picked up. He and I worked so well in the studio, Sylvia wanted us to work together again. Gerald had done his album already, but I told him, ‘When I do my album I want you to work with me.’ When the time, came we couldn’t find anything [so quickly] and we came up with ‘I Believe I Can Fly’."
Generally classified as an inspirational song, Adams says of the song choice, "We try to give our audience different perspectives on what people feel Gospel is. ‘Open My Heart’ could be inspirational as opposed to Gospel, but because I’m a Gospel artist, it’s a Gospel song. I think what we try to do is make sure we get the best song and creativity so that it gets to the heart of people. That’s why we did it."
As for what’s next, Adams is doing some touring this summer, including some theme parks, and she’s also taking the Gospel to Nice in France and to Switzerland to play the famed Montreaux Jazz Festival.
Additionally, she is working with Haley to further her management company, Mahogany Entertainment. "Our goal is to bring mentorship to young people in Gospel music. To try to get them aligned with great record companies, great representation so that they won’t have to go through some of the things I had to go through in the industry. Virtue is the first group [we're representing] and we are very proud of them. Their album is due out in June 2001, and they’ll be working with Tonéx and some other great producers. We're trying to make sure we invest back into the Gospel community. God has really blessed us, and we are just trying to make sure Gospel stays at a level it can be respected."
And of course Adams has a new area of responsibility in being a new mother. "Motherhood is totally awesome!" she says, "It changes your perspective on life, on God, on mankind, on love everything! It changes your perspective on life because now you look at life through a little pair of eyes. You have more respect for mothers; for your own mother and what she went through, the sacrifices she made and everything. You also have a deeper respect for yourself, being able to look toward her future and prepare her for life well, you know, as much as possible. And definitely in awe of God because you are part of the creation process of how 9½ months of gestation on the inside of you bonding with this child you feel closer to God. It’s deep!"
One of the complexities associated with motherhood is that once you finish marveling at the wonder of it all, there’s work to do! Lots of it. Adams says she is getting along with the responsibility part of it just fine.
"Very easily, as a matter of fact! I have a great staff Shiba Haley who’s my manager, Reginald Stephens who’s my booking agent, and an excellent, wonderful label who has gone above and beyond what any record company would probably have done for a Gospel artist. So I have great system going. I have a great husband, and great family members who help out and stuff, so I’m a blessed woman!"
And it’s a good thing, because when all is said and done, after the experience is over and the rides through the mountains and valleys cease.....there's still no place like home.
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