Interview: Fantasia Is ‘The Definition Of’ Strength

If anyone knows a thing or two about life, it’s Fantasia. The 32-year-old singer has experienced many obstacles in her life, including rape at age 14 and a suicide attempt in 2010, that has made her a survivor. Her new album, The Definition Of, is the soundtrack for anyone who’s going through tough times.

The Definition Of represents strength,” Fantasia reveals to Rated R&B. “I’ve been through some things that people may have not been able to bounce back from. I am fighter and I will continue to fight. My reason for fighting is to encourage other women to accept the storms and the tests because they only come to make you strong.”

Fantasia worked closely with music exec and producer Ron Fair to create The Definition Of. It wasn’t easy, especially since the album steps outside of her R&B box to explore different sounds and genres of music. “Rock soul” is how she describes the album’s sonic mix.

In an interview with Rated R&B, Fantasia discusses the challenges of making her new album, finally gaining creative control, bringing back passion to the music industry, returning to Broadway and much more.

RATED R&B: What was the most challenging part of creating/recording the album?

FANTASIA: The most challenging thing is when you hear a sound and you want something so bad and you need certain things for it. Thank God for the relationships because there were a lot of times when we needed certain things or we wanted to bring in a live band. When you call the label and you tell them that, it’s like, “We don’t have the money for this…we don’t have the money for that.” That bothers you when you’re in the studio and somebody tells you, “We don’t have the budget for it” or “we don’t believe in it.” That can be frustrating.

What does The Definition Of represent?

It represents real music. When I say that I’m not just talking about the singing, I’m talking about the horns that you hear, the guitar, the strings, the drum, the arrangement, the vocals. Ron Fair really brought something out of me I didn’t even know I could do. There were times when I would be in the booth and he would play [music] on the piano and would be like this is the note I want you to sing. I’m like, “Ron, I don’t quite hear that in that.” He’s like, “Just do it, just do it.”

We wanted the album to represent the definition of music — the definition of the strength of a fighter. He and I both fought for this record. We don’t have timeless records like we did back then. You can still put in a Luther Vandross CD or Anita Baker or Elton John or Queen or Stevie Wonder, and those were timeless records. It seems like they were just recorded yesterday. That’s what we wanted.

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Although you wanted to bring back real music on this album. Did you ever feel the pressure to cater to radio and what’s being played on there now?

Nope! I think that’s what everybody else on the other end was thinking. Right now on the radio, it’s really not a lot of singing. It’s mainly hip-hop. Right now there’s no good messages in the songs. There’s no motivation in the songs. Nobody hears good love music anymore. So I just wanted to know when the radio stations would stand up and say, “Let’s bring back music.” Let’s do both. People are saying singers are dying off. They’re not. It’s just that we aren’t getting the support we need to continue to keep that type of music alive.

With you being in the music industry over the last 12 years, do you believe creative control is something that should be given to artists early on, or is it something that should be earned over time?

Early on. If you are an artist and you are a writer and you know what the sound is and you know what you want it to be arranged, I feel like it’s something you have to fight for in the beginning because it’s harder when you put people in control of everything and allow them to do what they want to do. You kinda get stuck in a box, which can hurt you in the long run because you are allowing them to make you what they want you to be and if it doesn’t go far, then you find yourself fighting harder to get back to that place where you know you should have been. For me it was a lot harder because I was coming from a show and they had everything all planned out. Your deal is already there, so you’re walking into a ready-made situation and it’s kind of harder for you to call the shots.

That’s why it was such a fight, but I finally got to that place where I just knew what I wanted, and if I couldn’t do it, then I just couldn’t do it anymore. Twelve years is a long time and I plan on doing it for as long as I can. But when you’re getting up on that stage and you’re away from your family and the sacrifices you make when you’re out here, you want to do what your heart is telling you to do. You want to create music and be in that space you’re in and share that with the audience. I’m at that place right now where I just couldn’t do what they wanted me to do or record a song just because it was sent to me. That’s where the fight came in for me on this album.

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So, The Definition Of is the album where you felt you had some creative control and was very hands on?

Yes, with the help with Ron Fair. He fought with me because he believed. With Ron I was almost at that place where I was like, “I would rather not do it at all if this is what you’re telling me I have to do as an artist.” This is what you’re telling me is hot right now, and musically what it should sound like. If you’re telling me that, I would rather stay home and be with my family. When I met him, we were in the same place of, “Somebody out there wants to hear good music, timeless records.”

That’s something I can respect about you. It’s so easy to just do what people tell you to do to collect a paycheck. For the simple fact that you’re willing to make sacrifices and fight for music that you actually believe, I think that’s a quality that more artists should kind of take up. I feel like that’s something that will keep you in the industry longer because if you know your worth as an artist and as a person, you’re not going to settle for anything less than that.

The thing about it is — and I think record labels have forgotten this, radio stations, artists have forgotten this — when it all started for all of us, it started as passion. The A&R’s that had that passion to go out and find great artists and then after finding them, go out and build relationships with the radio stations and get them where they could see them going when they first heard them. I think that the passion is gone. It’s not about the money and that’s what me and Ron were talking about. There were days we would come out of the booth and just have conversations where we wouldn’t record. And I always said this is perfect.

I think when you record, everyone feels like they put a time limit on it, and they feel like every day you should go into the studio and do something. Sometimes it don’t work like that and that’s how you be creative. We would go in the studio and just have deep conversations and we talked about this album and the direction we’re going. Some might not like it, some will, but we were so passionate about it. We talked about the sales and what if, what if. We were both at the place where it’s gonna do what it needs to do. I’m not focused on if it’s going to go number one.

That passion I had since I was a little girl, just getting up and singing, it’s my therapy. It blesses me. I remember when we used to stand on the side of street and sing for free. I remember when we would go to different places and it wasn’t about the money, it was about the passion. I think that the whole industry, everybody needs to get back to the passion about it…about singing and writing and deejaying and A&R’ing. We are losing the passion.

That’s what I like about your new album. I feel like you did not put yourself in a box. You didn’t stick to that R&B lane. There are elements of country, pop and gospel. You really kind of just stuck to the music and went whichever way felt more comfortable. I like how you show your versatility as an artist and a singer.

Thank you and that’s rock soul. People say to me, “what’s rock soul?” I tell them rock soul is every genre of music and that’s what I wanted to do on this album. “Ugly,” my country song, people were so blown away by it. When you love music, you love it all. When rock soul came to me, it was that lane of me doing everything. You can invite me to your jazz concert if you’d like, I got a little something for you. You can invite me to your country concert, I got little something for you. You should be able to step into any arena and be able to adapt to whatever is going on. I know I can because I grew up on it.

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Let’s talk about acting — because you’ve been in two Broadway musicals and a movie. Do you foresee yourself returning to Broadway?

Yes. Back then, when I first did The Color Purple, I probably would’ve said “hell no” because Broadway is no joke (laughs). Every time I go see a show, I’m always impressed and proud because I know how much it takes to do that every day and to step into that character’s shoes everyday as if it is a new show. I’m always awed and proud of them because doing The Color Purple was no joke. The role I played, Miss Celie, she was tough, and it was all new for me and I didn’t know how to come out of the character. I didn’t know how to let it go. So, I woke up Celie, went to bed Celie. When I look back at it, I couldn’t have played the part if I did not step fully into her shoes. After doing it here in New York for a year, I went on the road with it.

After that, I came back and did After Midnight. I enjoyed the challenge, and I enjoy being able to step away from Fantasia and go into being another character and live that life so well. I get a kick out of stuff like that. I want to do it again. I want a totally different role this time. I want people to say, “I never expected her to do that.” I think from playing Celie and doing my Lifetime movie, everybody knows I can tap into the woman that’s been beaten and been down. I don’t want to do that anymore. Whatever I do, I would want it to be a challenge in a role I’ve never done and something nobody would ever expect.

What’s next for you?

I don’t know to be honest. Everything that I’ve done has come to me. Of course, the tour is next. We are going to do a tour with Charlie Wilson coming up soon and I love him. The man puts on an amazing show. I feel like I’m just getting started, even though I’ve been in the game for 12 years. I have the right team of people around me. I’m working on the rock soul label. I want to bring artists out and actually take good care of artists — we’ll have to have another conversation about that. I want to take care of artists and let them be artists and support and love on them.

Get Fantasia’s new album The Definition Of on iTunes here. Follow her on Instagram/Twitter @TasiasWord.

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Janet Jackson and Mary J. Blige Will Headline Essence Festival 2018

Essence Festival keeps getting better. The lineup for the 2018 festival has been revealed. Music legends Janet Jackson and Mary J. Blige will headline the event, which will take place July 5-8 in New Orleans.

Other artists announced in the first round of performers include Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Miguel, Kelly Price, Ro James, Marsha Ambrosius, Dave Hollister, Xscape and 112. Emerging singers H.E.R., Daniel Caesar, Kelela, Kevin Ross, MAJOR. and DVSN have also been added to the bill. More performers will be revealed at a later date.

Tickets for the Essence Festival are available now.

 

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Interview: Tamar Braxton Talks Happiness, Lesson Learned This Year and Holiday Favorites

Tamar Braxton is an open book, especially in her music. From songs like “Raise the Bar” and “White Candle” to “Broken Record” and “King,” the Grammy-nominated singer knows how to pen the ups and downs of love.

In late September, the Maryland native released her fourth and last album, Bluebird of Happiness. The 11-track set unfolded the private love stories with her estranged husband and former manager, Vincent Herbert.

As a special guest on The Great Xscape Tour, Braxton soothes her wounded love scars by addressing her true feelings on stage. With profound performances of “Blind” and “My Man,” her fans get to witness her being vulnerable, yet buoyant during her healing process.

Rated R&B caught up with Braxton backstage after her 45-minute set at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC to talk about her last album, happiness, her holiday favorites and more.

Check out the interview below.

RATED R&B: You’re currently on The Great Xscape Tour. What’s been your favorite or most memorable moment so far?

TAMAR: I think the most memorable moment was when Kandi and Tiny were in my dressing room in North Carolina while the Alabama game was going on. Of course everyone in the city was gone to that game but we managed to still sell out. We were like, “Oh my God, can you believe that we are here? We really made it. We really did it.” Tiny and I always said we wanted to do this since we were younger. We just didn’t know it would be like this.

RATED R&B: “Blind” is moving up on the urban AC radio chart. Can we expect a visual for the song in the near future?

TAMAR: Well, that’s a long story but I’m going to say yes. There were a lot of obstacles when we put out Bluebird of Happiness that we didn’t expect to happen, but they did and we had to put it out anyway. There was a movie attached to this album but it got detoured. We’re trying to fix it now. We’re playing the waiting game.

RATED R&B: Is there another single choice in mind if the video for “Blind” doesn’t come out?

TAMAR: I don’t know. I always wanted either the Yo Gotti record “Hol’ Up” or “The Makings of You” to be singles. We’ll see.

RATED R&B: Speaking of “The Makings of You,” that record along with “Pick Me Up,” are just some of the many songs on Bluebird of Happiness with incredible samples or interpolations of timeless R&B records. Which record took the longest to get cleared?

TAMAR: I honestly did not have any pushback at all. In the past it does take a long time. I think producers went into this record prepared themselves for it [laughs]. It’s so funny the Gladys Knight record came up though. I’ve been knowing her for a very long time. Her son wanted to take me to the prom back in the day [laughs]. I explained to her what the song meant to me and how Claudine is one of my favorite movies. She was like “Of course, darling.” Curtis Mayfield’s estate was so generous too.

RATED R&B: What makes Tamar Braxton happy?

TAMAR: What makes me happy is being around good people, laughing and smiling — not having any drama because I don’t have time for it. During our show prayer today, I was saying, “God thank you so much for such a great group people” because we have absolutely no drama. Also, being a good mother to my son Logan. I believe co-parenting with Vince and getting along with him to make sure Logan has a stable family environment is important in making me happy.

RATED R&B: On each album, your sound matures and your writing abilities continue to become more superb. How has your evolution as an artist helped you evolve personally and professionally?

TAMAR: I’ve always been a stickler on professionalism [laughs]. But personally, I think I am more honest about my feelings and how I truly feel. I have no problem telling you how I truly feel. It’s something about telling the truth that is liberating. I know now that there’s a way to deliver it [laughs]. The only time you find the truth to be offensive is when you’re not ready for it. You have to be ready for it. You have to be ready for evolving. Honesty is what helps us evolve. That’s what works for me.

RATED R&B: You are very active on social media. With you having such a huge following, how do you deal with any negativity that comes your way?

TAMAR: I take it as an opinion. I don’t know you, so I’m not going to feed into you. The only time that you have real negativity is when you feed into it. Most of the time these people don’t know what they’re talking about. But like I said on stage tonight, “People are always going to have something to say. You just might as well live your best life to the way you want to live it because everyone is going to have a comment.” So however you feel, God bless you but this is what works for me [laughs].

RATED R&B: With 2017 coming to an end, what’s one lesson you’ve learned this year?

TAMAR: For me, not to put yourself down. Don’t beat up on yourself. I remember when I use to beat up on myself constantly. Instead of looking at the things that I did achieve, I looked at the things I didn’t. It took away from the overall pure happiness that I wanted to achieve. I couldn’t get there if I constantly beat myself up. It’s almost like I was my own hater [laughs]. I already have people on social media saying negative things about me, why do I need to add to it? So you have to be your biggest cheerleader and believe in yourself. You have to get to a point where you don’t care and just do you.

RATED R&B: So the holidays are here. I know that you’re a foodie. What’s your favorite holiday dish?

TAMAR: Chitlins [laughs]. My mom pulls the membrane out so the house isn’t stinking. I haven’t had it this year because I haven’t had a Thanksgiving dinner yet.

RATED R&B: Favorite holiday song?

TAMAR: I would have to say “The Christmas Song.” It doesn’t get any better than Nat King Cole, my sister [Toni Braxton’s], Mariah [Carey’s] and Whitney [Houston’s] versions.

RATED R&B: Favorite holiday movie?

TAMAR: Right now it’s Caillou’s Holiday Movie. I’ve seen it a 150,000 times thanks to Logan [laughs].

RATED R&B: Favorite childhood Christmas gift?

TAMAR: The Nintendo Power Pad. It was when Nintendo first came out and they had these little blocks that you could run on and jump over. It was the bomb [laughs]. Everybody is missing out now [laughs].

Make Tamar Braxton’s final album, Bluebird of Happiness, a holiday stocking stuffer this season. The new album is available everywhere.

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Demetria McKinney Joins Fantasia on ‘Christmas After Midnight Tour’

Fantasia Demetria McKinney Christmas After Midnight Tour

‘Tis the season to go on tour. Rising R&B star Demetria McKinney has just joined Fantasia’s Christmas After Midnight Tour.

Fantasia originally announced the tour on October 9 with just 12 dates and cities. As of November 29, there are 16 dates that run through December 14 in Philadelphia, PA. McKinney officially joined the tour on November 27.

This has been a very busy fourth quarter for the soulful singers. For McKinney, this tour is coming on the heels of her debut album Officially Yours, which was released on October 6. For Fantasia, the Christmas After Midnight Tour is in support of her holiday album of the same name.

Both singers were performers at this year’s Soul Train Awards, which aired Sunday, Nov. 26 on BET. Fantasia was part of the “Soul Cypher” alongside Mali Music, Bilal, Faith Evans, Robert Glasper and host Erykah Badu. Meanwhile, McKinney did a short-lived version of hit single “Easy” on the Coca-Cola Stage.

Check below for the dates of the Christmas After Midnight Tour. Tickets are available now at FantasiaOfficial.com or Ticketmaster.com.

 

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