This week brought with it the release of Tamia‘s fifth studio album ‘Beautiful Surprise’.
The hotly anticipated LP is the petite powerhouse’s first traditional effort in over six years; yet as the age old adage goes – good things (in this case, great things) come to those who wait.
In our first interview with the Canadian songbird since 2007, she dishes readily on the delicious new album, the up’s and down’s of being an Independent artist, celebrity marriages, Basketball Wives, and more!
Check it out below…
Tamia Shouts Out That Grape Juice
That Grape Juice (QR. Taylor) ‘Between Friends’ was the last time we heard from you with new music. Where have you been? How did you know now was the right time to return?
Tamia: It’s hard to believe that it’s been 5 years. Time really flies. When I did ‘Between Friends’, I was pregnant with my daughter. One day she was like, “Mommy what do you do?” That’s when I knew it was time (laughs). When you have children, you become very connected and I certainly enjoy bonding time and all of those things. There just comes a time when you feel a bit more comfortable leaving them and comfortable that you know everything’s ok when you’re not there. Musically, I just felt like I was in a really good spot creatively. But, I never said “I’m going to take 5 years off”. Life just happens.
Tell us about the album ‘Beautiful Surprise’? More specifically, why the title ‘Beautiful Surprise’?
Well, when we were in the studio (with Claude Kelly & Salaam Remi – who co-produced this album with me), we were writing and talking when Salaam started playing. I really love when you connect with people and the work feels like you are just having a good time. We just really connected and he started to play what would become the hook for ‘Beautiful Surprise’. I felt like, who doesn’t love the beautiful surprises in life? This project was certainly that for me. I loved the song and felt like the project should be titled that as well.
Shep Crawford, we have a long history. I worked with Chuck Harmony, Jay Phoenix, The Runners, Carvin & Ivan, and I worked with a country producer that works with Carrie Underwood as well for two songs on this project. It sounds like a lot of producers, but the sound is very cohesive.
What separates this from your previous projects?
I would say ‘Beautiful Surprise’ and “Between Friends” both happened very organically. There was no pressure to go in the studio and get this project done. Claude and I started one song at a time and before we knew it we’d collaborated on all of these songs. We just had a connection. I just think that’s how this project came about. The great thing about being independent is that you can really put songs you connect with on the project. Obviously, everyone wants to put out a project that sells well (so I wouldn’t put out anything I wouldn’t believe in). But, it wasn’t about sending it to people here and there and finding out who liked what. If it felt good, it was on the project.
We’re seeing so many turn to Independent labels? What are the benefits of doing so for you? Drawbacks?
The benefits are obviously that all of the work you put into it, you can get back from it. The blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a lot of work. One of the drawbacks is, you can no longer be the artist. You know the ins and outs of what it takes. Like, when I go do a show for example. Instead of thinking “Oh, I’m going to do this show and it’s going to be so much fun”, I’m thinking about how much the show is going to cost me, how much I’ll make at the end of the day, and who gets paid what. So, sometimes I wish I didn’t know that. But, it’s important to know because I wanted to know how much things cost and how much I was going to make on the back end.
The biggest plus though is creative control. And, I’m not just one woman alone. I have other people I work with. I have several people who work within the company. It’s a collaborative effort. The people I work with are people I really trust. So the best part of it is I get to say yes and I get to say no.
For a person who has always stayed true to a certain sound, we’re curious to get your thoughts on current state of R&B?
I think Claude will tell you, we have these conversations all the time. A real song, a real melody, and great lyrics will always be wanted. It’s a little difficult on the radio because everything is really going toward a different sound and moving away from R&B. I think there will always be a market for quality music though, and that’s what R&B represents.
Over the course of your career, any pressure to go a more POP direction?
I feel like I can sing anything. I’m just really drawn toward R&B though, that’s where my heart is.
As a noted vocalist, do you ever feel dejected when you see models who can’t but talk over a track topping charts?
I don’t’ really get into that game of focusing on what other people do. I just don’t think it gets you anywhere. I think you have to focus on yourself. In this business, it’s not about who is the most talented. A lot of it is timing, having the big machine behind you, and having money. I think I’m smart enough to know it isn’t just about talent. There are a lot of other things that go into it that make it flow.
Switching gears a bit, we know Quincy Jones was one of the pivotal forces that brought you into the industry, what is your relationship like with him now?
We exchange Christmas card and if ever they need me to sing at anything he’s being honored at, I’m definitely always there. Do I go over for dinner? No. But, Quincy is a living legend and the older I get the more I appreciate the time I got to spend with him. I learned so much from that experience.
And what about The Queen Project? What’s the latest on your joint venture with Deborah Cox and Kelly Price?
The latest on that project is.. I don’t know. I will leave that as a question mark. For a couple of years we tried to make it work, but sometimes things are all about timing and the timing just wasn’t right. Would I say it will never happen? No. At this time though, considering that an album and touring together is a commitment, its just something we can’t do. But, I always say never say never.
You’ve been quoted to say that you have no interest in participating in Basketball Wives because you don’t want to be placed in a “box”. What are your thoughts on other reality shows that some would suit you for such as ‘R&B Divas’?
Well, it’s not for me. It’s something that I think is definitely taking over. If it works for them, I’m not going to judge. I think for certain people it makes sense. It’s not for me. I would never say never, but at this time, it’s just not something I’m interested in.
And finally, bringing it home (literally)….How are the kids? Having two famous parents, do they look like they’re set to follow in either of your footsteps?
They’re kind of young, so as their mother I think they’re talented in everything they want to do.
How would you feel if they wanted to pursue sports or entertainment?
It’s up to them but I think they’re talented in both sports and music though.
And we recently saw your husband (NBA’s Grant Hill) make an appearance in your video for ‘Beautiful Surprise’. You two have seen 15 years together in the spotlight. When so few do, how do you maintain a healthy celebrity marriage?
Communication! Not just a celebrity marriage, but any relationship. Mother/daughter, sister/brother, whatever! We come from two different places and two different worlds, so it takes communication to make any relationship work.
And fans have long known of your relationship with R&B legend Anita Baker (who introduced you to Grant). How has your relationship been with her as of late? Have you heard her comeback single ‘Lately’?
Yes! Love it! And, I was just at Russell Simmons’ ‘Art For Life’ gala where Grant and I were being honored. She was a performer there. It was nice to see her there performing and her voice was in tip top shape. Not that it ever isn’t, but it’s just something to see that her voice is still amazing.
What is Tamia’s favorite song of Tamia’s?
It depends. I can’t even go there because it depends. There are some songs I like because I like to perform them, but then it’s not like I listen to my own music all the time though. I certainly heard my fair share of ‘Beautiful Surprise’. I love performing ‘Me’ and ‘Stranger In My House’. When I think of songs that I like, I like them because I like performing them. But it’s not like I listen to my own stuff all the time, I’m too busy listening to other people.
Really? Like who? Who are you listening to?
Cece Winans, Anita Baker (laughs), Jazmine Sullivan. Just a variety of music. I even listen to Barney. I listen to a lot of radio disney with my girls (laughs)!
And finally, how does Tamia want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a woman who tried to follow her passion. Who loved to sing. Whose children love her. Who’s a kind and open person to her family and friends. And, at the end of the day, who loved to sing.
Interview by: Q.R. Taylor (That Grape Juice, US)