Yolanda Adams: “Becoming” in Sound and Style

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

Yolanda Adams is one of gospel music’s most effective multitaskers.  She’s a singer, songwriter, author, mother, syndicated radio host and recording artist. Now — and it makes sense — one of the best dressed gospel singers has become a clothes designer.

The four-time GRAMMY-winning artist spent time with TBGB to discuss her new CD, Becoming, and Yolanda Adams Collection.

TBGB: When you were singing with the Southeast Inspirational Choir, did you harbor a hope that someday you would be where you are today, or was it a “never in my wildest dreams” kind of thing?

YA: This is definitely a “never in my wildest dreams” kind of thing! I sang in the choir as a result of just loving gospel music. I never thought I would make a career out of it. I was going to be a TV journalist. But I am so glad God had other plans for me.

TBGB: Let’s talk about Becoming, the new album [released May 3]. Who are some of the people you worked with in creating the album?

YA: I worked with a young man named Donald Adkins, but his work name is Drathoven. He is a fantastic young producer and a great musician. He is the one behind “Be Still.” I also worked with Marcus Ecby. He has an ear for great music and great timing.

I wanted to write songs that expressed where I had been – what people called my “interim” – but I was very busy working! I needed the right songs with the right type of beat to them, because I wanted this to be an album of joy and reflection, thanksgiving and encouragement.

TBGB: “Be Still” is the first single. What inspired you to write it?

YA: “Be Still” is the answer to a prayer. I was asking God to hurry up and let this trial pass because it was getting on my nerves! Not that I couldn’t take it, it was getting on my nerves! And you know how it is, we get to the point where we want to know how much longer. But God says if you don’t finish this part of the journey, you’ll have to repeat the lesson, because there is something you learn in every single hour of the day that makes you a better person. I’m so glad I listened and I’m so glad that God gave me a lesson in humility and in quietness. Because here we are, with a song that everybody is gravitating to, and I’m so proud of it.

TBGB: Describe the kind of songs you are drawn to writing and singing?

YA: It goes back to being the oldest of six kids. I am a natural nurturer and an encourager. The songs that I’m drawn to, both writing and performing, are songs that will help people along their way. They’re not so deep that people can’t get them on the first go around. They are very simplistic and give you the message of why you are here, why it is important to observe everything and take heed to everything.

TBGB: Of all the songs in your catalog, what is your favorite?

YA: Oh man, that’s hard! Because, of course, you have to say that your favorites are the ones you wrote! But definitely songs like “The Battle is the Lord’s,” which I cannot not sing if I am doing concerts, because people know me from that song. Of course I am definitely enjoying the celebrity of “Open My Heart,” and songs like “In the Midst of It all” and “Be Blessed,” the kind of songs people really get encouragement from.

Since I am a writer, I actually get a chance to perform songs that I absolutely love. I have never recorded a song that I did not absolutely love and think would be a blessing to people.

TBGB: What is your process of writing?

YA: I’m a runner so there are times when I will put on some instrumental music and I’ll run however many miles I have slated for that day, or whatever time limit I have, and sometimes I will get a chorus first, sometimes I will get a verse first, and then I have to step away from it for a while. Each time it’s different. There are times when I start writing a song and then I have to jump on a business call, and then I won’t get back to it for awhile. But if the theme and message are there, it’s really easy to get back to it.

TBGB: What inspired you to start your own clothing line, Yolanda Adams Collection?

YA: I have been designing my clothes since I was a kid, being the tallest thing in the house and the oldest thing in the house! Being tall and thin was not a match for the clothes in the store. So what I would do is make my clothes, extend the length of the arms and legs. My grandmother and my mom taught me how to sew. I never knew at the time that I would be using this skill, but when I was looking for a specific dress that didn’t show too much, or make you wonder where you are going to wear it, I thought there has to be a lot of ladies like me who need the perfect dress for the right occasion and they can’t find it. So I thought, “let me put this to work.”

TBGB: The outfits are quite lovely, something Jackie Onassis would wear if she were a professional businesswoman today.

YA: That’s what we’re trying to get to: the young lady who is the classic mom, the classic first lady, the classic businesswoman who wants something really elegant to wear but it doesn’t have to be for an after-five kind of situation.

TBGB: Were you involved in the design of the outfits?

YA: Oh yes! I told them that I wanted jackets that buttoned a certain way. I wanted coats, I wanted capes, because being a gospel artist and a businesswoman, there are certain places I go where I want to look appropriate. I’m a clothes horse and I wanted something that could go from the boardroom to a banquet to a church service or revival.

TBGB: When do the clothes go on sale?

YA: In September.

TBGB: Where will individuals be able to purchase the clothes?

YA: They will be able to go to http://www.yolandaadamslive.com/ to check out where we’ll be, because we’re doing the trunk show circuit first. I love the fact that we’re doing trunk shows because I’ll get a one-on-one experience with the person who has been a fan, loves the music and the way I dress. We’ll get a chance to not just show them the clothes but also give them some tips, the etiquette, of how to dress for whatever occasion.

TBGB: With your morning show, the new album, touring and now the clothing line, how do you do it all?

YA: One of the things I say all the time is that every person can’t do it all. You’ve got to have help. That’s why God sends you great people. In my case, I have a 95 year-old grandmother who lives with me.  She is very alert and very aware, and when I tell you she’s a firecracker, she’s a firecracker! She keeps me balanced. My daughter also has great support. She’s never without her nanny and people who make sure she gets her schoolwork done. I have a lot of great help around me at all times.

For more information on Becoming and Yolanda Adams Collection, visit http://www.yolandaadamslive.com/.

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.