The Lava Lizard Interviews Tamia


    Tamia promo TheLavaLizard
    Tamia poses for a ‘Beautiful Surprise’ promo pic.

    The Lava Lizard is on a roll! Following our recent press conference call with Mariah Carey, we were able to nab interview time with another R&B diva – Tamia! However, this time the session was a candid one on one chat that covered a range of topics from music to charity and even industry politics.

    On August 28th, Tamia will release her ‘Beautiful Surprise’ album and she was happy to discuss several details of the project, such as the songwriters and producers who contributed to the record, and its noticeable lack of featured performers. Additionally, Tamia explained why she decided to recreate ‘Still’ and the unexpected influence of Country music on her album.

    Tamia also addressed the struggling state of R&B and how artists have played a roll in the genre’s downfall. I would tell you more of what to expect from our interview but what fun would that be for you? Read the full session below:

    Hey Tamia, how are you? Having a great day so far?

    I’m doing really well. How are you?

    I’m fantastic! Without wasting any time, let’s get straight to the fun stuff. Your new album is entitled ‘Beautiful Surprise’. What exactly inspired the name of the record?

    Well, I co-executive produced the project with Claude Kelly and the song ‘Beautiful Surprise’, which was co-written by Claude and myself, and produced by Salaam Remi.  We were in the studio talking about the music and the industry while having a really good time when Salaam started playing music. Claude went into the booth while he was playing and the song ‘Beautiful Surprise’ was created.

    Who doesn’t love a beautiful surprise? That’s really how that song was written; we were just in the studio and I love it when that happens. I love the song and I love beautiful surprises so I wanted to call the album that.

    I love that it sounds so natural and organic as though it just developed from a fun situation.

    Right! That’s how the entire project was put together. I didn’t set out thinking, “I’m about to go into the studio and it’s been five years.” Firstly, I didn’t plan to be away for five years. Time just really flies and I’m a mother of two as well as a wife. We do a lot of things with our charity and things like that. So, we’ve been busy doing those things and when I looked up, five years had passed.

    It was really just time to go back into the studio. I really didn’t have a wish list of people with whom I wanted to work; everything came about organically, even while working with all the producers. It was like, “I met that person and I bet they’d be cool so let’s see what happens.” There were no real expectations except to go in, have a good time and see what happens.

    The entire album was a beautiful surprise, even the friendships that I made while working on this project. Claude and I have become very good friends, and I just love those beautiful surprises so that’s why I called the album ‘Beautiful Surprise’.

    That’s so incredible! Now, a preview of the entire album has already been released online and from what we heard, there are several standout songs but which track is your favourite?

    First of all, can we talk about why a snippet is now a minute and thirty seconds? That’s a long time! {laughs} In my mind, a snippet is thirty seconds, not a minute and thirty seconds! You can really judge a song in a minute and thirty seconds so I’m glad that people like what they’ve heard. However, I like certain songs for different reasons.

    Most of it comes down to performing certain songs. I love singing ‘Beautiful Surprise’ because it makes people happy. It’s one of those songs where the crowd starts rocking and they just start smiling. I love to perform ‘Me’ because it makes people think and that’s when I look out into the audience to see the girl with her eyes closed with tears rolling down her face. I just love performing that because there is such a heart to heart connection with people.

    There are songs on this project that I just can’t wait to perform, such as ‘Sill Love You’. I also love performing a song that I remade called ‘Still’ because it makes people very happy. That’s for the people in the audience who are in relationships.

    I can’t wait to perform a song from the project called ‘It’s Not Fair’. That’s another one of those ‘Stranger In My House’/makes you think songs. Those are the songs to which I’m drawn and I really can’t wait to perform them.

    You just mentioned ‘Stranger In My House’ and that was a monster hit. Do you ever feel pressured to top that song or probably match that success?

    No, I really just try to sing songs that come from the heart. When we were in the studio and we did ‘Stranger In My House’, I knew right away that there was something special about it. Sometimes that just happens and I feel that way about many songs.

    Some songs, like ‘Still’, may not have had commercial success but I felt very connected to that song as well. I don’t really feel the pressure but I enjoy the fact that after all these years, I still love singing all of those songs.

    Back to the ‘Beautiful Surprise’ album. You noted that worked with several major writers and producers in the industry. Who exactly was your favourite person with whom you worked on this record?

    I worked with Shep Crawford and we’ve been friends for a long time. It was great getting to know The Runners because they are so creative. Obviously, I knew of Salaam’s repertoire from him doing work with Amy Winehouse.

    I really enjoyed working with everyone but I would say that I really developed a friendship with Claude; we really connected on this project. Even though we just started out writing together, we eventually did the entire project together. It was like, “let’s go in and do one song,” and then we looked up and we were twelve songs into it. So, I connected with Claude the most on this one.

    You said you wrote with Claude and we all know that you’re a very talented songwriter yourself. Did you co-write every song on the album?

    I didn’t co-write every song but I did co-write about half the songs on the album.

    One thing I did notice while listening to the previews and looking at the track list of this album is that there aren’t any featured artists! Did I miss something? Why aren’t there any featured artists on the record? 

    I’m not against featured artists but I don’t always do them; I’m not someone who always has a guest on every project. I’ve done two songs with Eric [Benet] and maybe on my first project I had a rapper so I’m not against it but everything just came about organically. If it didn’t feel right to me then it just didn’t happen.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that on a remix or another version of a song that I would be against having a featured artist. It wasn’t really a conscious effort. It just happened that way.

    Of all your collaborations that you did prior to this album, which was your favourite?

    I really liked working with Eric. We have really good vocal chemistry and we still perform ‘Spend My Life’ together and our chemistry on stage comes right back.

    On the topic of people with whom you’ve worked, I have to ask about The Queen Project, which involved you, Kelly Price and Deborah Cox. Many of us were actually excited to hear three amazing singers on the same record but it fell apart. What exactly happened to that?

    We had a good time working on the songs together and getting into the studio but it got to be overwhelming. I don’t think we understood how much time, effort and money that it would take to create our vision. That takes a real commitment and we’re three women with three different lives as well as kids and all those different moving parts. It would have taken a real commitment from all of us to get that done.

    I would never say never because I think we had great vocal chemistry together and I enjoyed working with them but I think it’s all about timing. It wasn’t the right time for all of us at that point but you never know.

    Tamia promo TheLavaLizard
    Tamia poses for a ‘Beautiful Surprise’ promo pic.

    You’re a terrific singer who can basically do anything with your voice. Have you ever considered branching out into other genres?

    Thank you! On this project I did a Country remake called ‘Is it Over Yet’ and I actually recorded that with a producer named Luke Laird, who worked with Carrie Underwood. We went into the studio and we recorded the song live with the band and live by myself. I sang it about four times and we kept the best performance.

    That was fun and we don’t really get the chance to do that anymore. Certainly, there was a lot of pressure on the musicians and myself but we had a great time. When we were finished were like, “okay, now what?” So, that’s when we decided to remake ‘Still’ and that was another organic moment.

    I really just love trying different things vocally like doing that Country record. However, when you listen to it you may not think it’s a Country song. I’m a Wynonna Judd fan and I love a songs with good lyrics as well as a good melody so I do like trying different things, vocally.

    Still, we’ve seen several great R&B artists, such as Usher, venture into Dance music. Do you ever feel pressured to do the same?

    I don’t feel pressured not to [branch out]. I like to dance as much as the next person but it would have to be the right song for me. At this point, it’s all about R&B for me.

    Still on the topic of R&B, the genre has been stagnant lately and many artists have struggling to score hit. Why do you think that has been happening?

    I think radio has been going in a more Dance direction. You rarely hear slow songs on the radio so it has definitely been difficult for R&B. Yet, I think a good song with strong lyrics and a good melody never really goes out of style. R&B is what speaks to me and that’s why I sing it.

    Do you think that R&B music is in a good place right now? Are the artists releasing good material?

    Not at all! R&B has seen better days and I hope that we can keep this thing going. Some would argue that it’s on life support but it’s a genre of music that has been around for a long time and it’s going to take a conscious effort to make sure that it stays around.

    How can the artists, labels and basically everyone involved get R&B music back to its glory days of ten years ago? 

    I don’t know…I have no idea. Claude and I sit around for hours while talking about things like that. I don’t know where we would begin. {laughs} Does it begin with radio? Does it begin with the artists? Does it begin with the music? I don’t know where it would begin.

    Who are your top three favourite R&B artists out today?

    Top three? Well, I just saw Anita Baker and I can’t get enough of her. Somebody else who has been around for a long time is Charlie Wilson. I saw him at the Essence [Music] Festival, and that was inspiring to see someone who has been in the R&B game for a long time and still doing it. The same goes for Frankie Beverly & Maze.

    I really like Jazmine Sullivan. I think she has a beautiful, strong voice. Those would be the three but there are many of great singers out there.

    Back to you, again. In addition to your music career, you’re a successful wife, mother and musician. How do you find the time to balance everything?

    I try my best. {laughs} It’s not easy when my husband is as busy as I am but we try our best to communicate with each other because we have many moving parts; it’s a juggling act. Similar to all the world’s moms, I try to do my best. Sometimes we drop the ball but we pick it up and keep it moving.

    You mentioned at the start of our chat that you’ve done charity work and Russell Simmons recently honoured you for your efforts. Do you think that other artists are doing enough as far as their contributions to charity?

    I think artists are definitely involved in giving back. Grant [Hill] and I do many things through our charity but some things people don’t see. I know that is the case with many people, both famous and not famous. It’s not about who was there to see the ribbon being cut. It’s about knowing that you made it possible for that ribbon to get cut.

    This world has become so small and it has become much easier to lend a hand. I know Grant and I are not just trying to run different foundations, and we have different interests. Much of my focus has been on health, wellness, housing, education and the arts.

    Why try to do out best in helping in whichever way we can and sometimes that’s with our own two hands hammering nails into walls for Habit for Humanity and other times it’s about opening our wallets. It’s not always about what you see when it comes to helping out. So, never judge someone because you don’t see them in a newspaper article cutting ribbons.

    Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring artists hoping to make it in the music industry? 

    The great thing about the Internet is that there is so much information there. They should definitely learn as much as they can about the music business before you get into it. There is a reason why it’s called the “music business” and it’s not always about the music side of it. The business side what trips people up so they should learn as much as they can about the business aspect. It’s also about timing and making sure that they’re ready when it’s their time.

    People watch shows like ‘American Idol’ and think that things happen over night. The industry has become much more volatile for up-and-coming artists. When I first came out, labels gave five album deals because they understood that it would take time for artists to grow. Now, you’re lucky to get a single! People have become much more disposable so it’s important that people learn as much as you can about the business because it is a very volatile business. It isn’t for the meek, that’s for sure.

    I am so thankful for your time Tamia! Good luck with your new album and I can’t wait to hear it! 

    No problem! {laughs} Thank you!

    Pre-order your copy of Tamia’s ‘Beautiful Surprise’ album here! Also, watch the video for the title track below:

    What do you think of the interview?

    • Sober Drunk

      Absolutely great interview Trent!!!!! I am so excited for you. She comes across very sweet and very kind.

    • Sober Drunk

      approachable* rather.

    • LOVE THIS INTERVIEW TRENT! Great questions about her work and the music industry as a whole. You get approval from the BIGGEST Tamia stan. lol…

    • Crys

      Great interview!

    • The interview was good. You asked good questions that could have lead to interesting answers but she didn’t really give much. She seems excited by her music but not really the job. I was bored. Maybe it’s her image, she seems a bit mumsy. She’s not mature and classic like a Toni Braxton or Whitney, yet she’s not young and fun like a Janelle or Brandy. She almost seems like a more mature version of Monica, beautiful, classy but not very interesting. In actual fact, such blandness is what stunted Lionel Richie’s career in the late 80’s to early 90’s. He couldn’t dance like Michael, wasn’t as creative as Stevie, couldn’t groove like Luther and wasn’t as good looking as say a Bobby Brown so he just fitted nicely in and everyone kind of looked elsewhere for more stimulating entertainment.

      She had some good points though, RnB has seen far better days but if she as an artist can’t come up with ideas that would regenerate interest in the genre how does she expect to generate interest in her OWN project. No featured artists? Ok, it wasn’t natural for her and she mentioned remixes but albums with no one else featuring can get boring just listening to ONE person’s vocals again and again (See “4”, “Back to Basics” and “The Fame”)

      She should use her looks to front a more youthful, fun image that will get young people’s attention and alternate between the Pop and Adult Contemp audiences.

      I’ll also add that although she had a point about not criticising artists for charity work we can’t see, it’s also up to said artists to do more than stand pretty next to the ribbon. Artists like James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Harry Belafonte had a lot to say about the social ills we face as a world. Artists today such as Annie Lennox, Bono and even MJ (who gave millions to charity) did alot. These other artists just want to “raise” money when they could easily give and they don’t address anything. They are so bland they want to just sell records, they don’t care about the masses BUYING their music, cue the Britney/Beyonce 3 million teeth smile but nothing to say on people suffering or bad government decisions. Others, like Mariah Carey (who I believe has given to charity…The Fresh Air Fund) are very good at smiling and waving for their fans, accepting the worship and being a diva but how is this making the world a better place? Respect to Madonna and Gaga, they say what’s in their heads and seem less vapid.

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    • anthony

      im so happy u asked about the queen project because i was so excited for it. With deborah’s strong voice, tamia’s high soprano, and kelly just had this amazing growl and so much soul. I actually listened to them yesterday perform mirror, i hope they can get it together. but I love tamia and she is one of the best vocalists of our time and i loveeeeee put a move on my heart!! lets not forget how she killed giving u the best that i got at the anita tribute!

    • X

      She seems sweet. I’m really feeling that Beautiful Surprise song. It has the ability to cross over into top 40, but it’s really lacking some promo because I’ve never heard of it until today. I hope she doesn’t promote solely to the 106 & Park audience because this song deserves much more.

    • ty

      Tamia does “DANCE” music also all her songs are remixed for the gay clubs or white people pop versions. i find her talented but boring

    • C the Error of Your Ways

      Why would an artist “need” to have a bunch of guests on their songs? Maybe it’s just me, but when I buy a certain artist’s album, I want to hear THAT person on the songs, not someone else. If I wanted to hear other folks, I’ll just buy their albums.

    • Julien

      People are always yelling that certain artists are “boring.” I guess she needs to create videos with fetuses coming along or some of that strange shit that Gaga does. Kudos to you Tamia for that beautiful voice and consistent good R&B music that you release. R&B isn’t dead.

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    • Ms JJ (@MsAfroCAN)

      Matthew Charlery-Smith your observations are spot on.

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