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LE Newsletter - February 15, 2007



Between Friends Interview With Tamia

(Feb. 9, 2007) Tamia, Canadaís Own Wonder.  Not only is she a mother and wife, but sheís got an amazing sense of self and substance.  What a pleasure to interview one of Canadaís shining artists!  Tamiaís a Grammy-nominated artist and married to NBAer Grant Hill, and her latest offering Between Friends is one extraordinary and iPod friendly CD filled with tracks of real R&B that will move you and interludes that will amuse you.  Tamia chose her long-standing producer Shep Crawford and added Rodney Jerkins on three tracks as well.  This CD gets 5 out of 5 in my books!

For a little background, Tamia was bon and raised in Windsor, Ontario.  She still remains one of the only artists to have received Grammy nominations before even releasing an album, all at the tender age of 19.  She is best known for her 2001 solo hit Stranger In My House and for Into You, her 2003 duet with rapper Fabolous. After three successful albums, she left Atlantic Records and released her new album Between Friends independently.  Tamia only aspired to be a vocal coach, but a chance trip brought her to Los Angeles where she caught the attention of super-producer Quincy Jones at a 1994 awards show after party.

Tamia speaks to us about life, family, the music business and her battle with MS. 

Welcome back home!   Do you get a chance to visit us here in Canada often? 

Yes I actually do.  My family still lives in Windsor (LaSalle).  We go there all the time, at least every two months.  In the winter, they come and visit me since I live in Florida now.  Especially with my daughter, itís important that she go there.  She always tells everyone, ďIím half Canadian and half American.Ē  She knows the Canadian anthem, she doesnít know the American anthem.  She hears me singing it (the Canadian anthem).  I sang it for one of the All Star games that Grant (Hill) was playing in.  The Canadian anthem is a beautiful song. 

Your CD is so great Ė it reminds me of old skool days.  Iíve found something in every track especially Too Grown and When a Woman Ė there isnít one I donít like and unfortunately, I donít get to say that often. 

Oh thanks.  Itís classic R&B.  I wanted to do a classic R&B album and not be about the producers and have so much music over the vocals.  Just really about the melodies and the songs and the emotion.  And making an entire album that you can listen to from top to bottom.  And not to take you on these big waves and dips Ė but very consistent.  Now weíre finding in picking second and third singles, itís difficult because I didnít want to do an album that had fillers.  I wanted to do an album that all songs were all good enough to be singles.  Luckily for me, when we went to work in the studio with Shep Crawford (who executive-produced the project). We have a connection Ė heís a great writer and he writes for how I sing.  We write together very well.  It just kept flowing. 

Who was the male voice on the CD? 

The guy voice on the album was Grant, the male voice singing was Eric Benet. 

Vocally itís really superior and I canít say that enough.  Whatís been the highlight around this project for you?

The highlight is going out there and singing live.  Thatís been the highlight of the project.  The songs take on a different personality when you sing them live.  You love them in the studio and itís great but when you get the live instruments and you get the vibe in the room Ė you can just feel the energy in the room, they take on a whole new energy.  I loved ďMeĒ when we recorded it but I love it even more when I sing it live.  It comes alive and you could drop a pin in the room.  When you hear the piano and the guitar going Ö Thatís the best part Ö loving songs you record on an album and loving to do them live.  And also being able to do them justice live because we use live instruments.  People actually leave saying ďI liked it better live.Ē 

What are your thoughts about the music industry and whatís been the biggest challenge?

The industry has become very disposable for artists.  Iíve been in it for a while now (almost 11 years) and Iíve seen a lot of artists come and go and itís not because they werenít talented.  Itís because if the record doesnít hit right away, then they (labels) want to move on to the next person and itís become very disposable.  Itís important for artists to get a hold of their career.  For example, and I know you canít always do this when youíre starting out, I put this album out independently.  I created my own record company, Plus One Music Group.  I do distribution through Universal in Canada.  I think that the only way you can make sure that youíre around is to make sure that you control the product and obviously that you have a good stage show Ė that sustains you. 

Itís called the music business, and thereís a lot of business that goes on.  Getting on stage and singing is such a small part Ė thatís why youíre so excited to get out there and you canít wait.  Thatís your release moment.  Thereís a lot of things that go on behind the scenes to make that stage performance even happen.  I think we have to be in control more of our own destinies and not just give up our lives.  Just because someone says that youíre not good enough doesnít mean that thatís the end.  You have to keep moving and try to have as much control over your product as possible. 

Iíve seen people who have had hits actually and you never hear of them again.  Even on the business side of it, in the major record companies, even those jobs are turning over very quickly.  I think my first contract was like a four album deal because they realized that it was going to take at least the first album to get to know you and to be drawn to you.  Now if they donít know you after the first single Ö itís very difficult to sell an album now. 

And people have way more access to music now.  But I donít think the quality is there.  People that were in the top 10 five years ago wouldnít have been in the top 30 if you look at album sales alone.  For people to go out and buy an album, which you can pretty much download for free.  If you donít believe as an artist in what youíre selling, then youíre selling yourself short and the fans as well.  Theyíre not so forgiving and youíve got to get it right. 

Itís become homogenized.  Itís the same olí thing.  Once they find a formula, letís get a girl with blonde hair and letís put her with this producer, this producerís hot right now, and thatís the formula so letís do it over and over again.  Then theyíre over that formula.  Then whoeverís the next hot person, letís get 10 other person to look like that hot person.  The only person that wins at that is the person that did it first. 

Who are some of your influences Ėmusically or personally.  Whatís the formula  that makes up your sound?

I grew up listening to a lot of gospel.  The first concert I ever went to was a Winans/Clark Sisters concert and so I grew up listening to them.  I love a lot of female singers as well, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston of course.  I love those classic female voices.

Who are some of your favourite Canadian artists?  Favourite overall artists?

Deborah Cox!  Deborah has an amazing voice and sheís really really nice.  I like Nelly Furtado too.

If you could work with any artist, living or past, who would it be?

Oh goodness.  Iíd love to do a song with Ella Fitzgerald.  That would be fun. 

What do you want people to remember you for?

I want to be remembered for things that I do musically but also I do outside of music in maintaining my family, my career and finding that balance.  My husband and I do charity work too.  I think itís about finding a balance.  I could be the best singer in the world but if my daughter doesnít know me and if she doesnít think Iím the bomb, then what was it all for?

Iíve met a lot of singers who are really great and Iíve met their kids and I was like woooow.  You sacrificed all of that for your own greatness. Thereís a sadness to me about that.  Iíd like you to meet my daughter and say ĎYouíve done a good jobí.  And then you would think even more of me as a singer!  (laughs)

How have you found your balance?

I think itís what you want out of your life.  Iíve been fortunate to see the good and the bad and the ugly in having money.  Even before I was an entertainer, I got to realize that itís not all about that.  I know lots of people who are very wealthy and very sad.  But I lots of people who are very wealthy and very happy as well.  Thereís one common thing Ė theyíre happy with their family and happy in their own skin.  So you have to have that happiness within yourself in order to be happy.  I think those are the important things.  If I didnít think that daughter and my husband were cool at home, I wouldnít be able to sit here and be calm, talking with you.  Iíd be like, I gotta get home! 

But theyíre fine.  Sheís not brushing her teeth or combing her hair, but sheís fine!  (laughs)

How has having MS made you approach your career/life differently? 

When I was in the hospital and they were trying to figure out what it was, I wasnít thinking Ďoh my careerí, I was thinking Ďoh my familyí.  I have to get better for them.  It really puts things into perspective.  At the end of the day, what are the things that are most important to you?  Thatís the people and the love that you have from the people around you.  And those same people are the ones that rallied behind me.  They saidí letís go, letís get it going.  Youíre not feeling sorry for yourself.í  My husband said ĎYou should put this album out on  your own label, you should own it.í  So I thought I can do this!  And you need those people around you. 

What it changed about me is that it put everything into perspective.  I feel very fortunate and blessed that I have a job that I love to do.  And I have such a great family and they support me in what I do.  My parents both worked in factory and they both hated their jobs and I got to see that.  So, I feel very blessed.  I mean, there are days when I feel like Ďahhh, this business!í  I have a job that I love and that I get to affect and touch people.  Music is such a powerful thing.  It speaks to the heart.  No matter where you are, no matter what country it is, it speaks to the heart.  Itís a powerful gift. 

I think God puts an anointing on certain voices and that anointing is what speaks to the heart.  You can feel it and when its in a room and youíre singing and you can feel the whole atmosphere like Ďwhoa!í  Sometimes the atmosphere changes and you can feel it so heavy.  Itís an extremely powerful gift.  I just feel honoured to be able to share it with everyone. 


Special thanks to Daphne Gray of Universal Music Canada for hooking up the interview in the beautiful pink room of the Park Hyatt.  For more updates on Tamia, go to www.tamiaworld.com.