Tuesday, April 23

THE POWER OF FAITH; Grammy Award Winning Faith Evans on Balancing Family, Fame, Fortune and Lessons of Life

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By Marsha Gilbert, SmoothJazzTimes.com

Making great music isn’t all Grammy-Award winning singer Faith Renée Evans is up to these days. The multi-talented performer is spreading her entertainment wings into acting, television show creation and modeling all while promoting her independently produced sixth CD Something about Faith.

 

When Evans was asked to star in the biopic Blondie ˗ The Florence Ballard Story about one of the founding members of the Supremes, she recognized parallels in her own life’s struggles with that of the tragic singer. Evans agreed to not only act and sing in the motion picture, but to perform A&R duties scouting out talent. The movie that is being filmed in Detroit, MI and Atlanta, GA is due for release this summer.

 

“I never thought we favored a lot,” Evans said in an exclusive interview with SmoothJazzTimes.com. “But in looking at old personal photos, I can see it now.” Evans was hand picked for the role because of her looks and experiences by Ballard’s daughters, Michelle, Nicole and Lisa. “She was no nonsense and provided comic relief with her friends – a lot like me,” Evans said. 

 

Ballard had her share of issues with the music industry like Evans. Being a Motown artist in the 1960s, Ballard was a salaried employee and did not earn royalties no matter how well records sold, according to the book “The Lost Supreme” by former Detroit Free Press reporter Peter Benjaminson. The book written from hours of interviews is the basis for this movie. In 1967, Ballard left Motown after she was displaced as lead singer by Diana Ross. The former Supreme later struggled as a solo artist battling poverty and alcoholism. She died of cardiac arrest at age 32.

 

Likewise, Evans wrote with Aliya S. King in her 2008 best-selling “A Memoir – Keep the Faith,” that she left Bad Boy Entertainment because she too was not fairly compensated for all her work singing background and writing for other artists. It wasn’t an easy break from Bad Boy where she recorded three platinum albums and was known as “The First Lady of Bad Boy” being the first female artist signed to the label. She later left Capitol Records, as well, after creating two gold albums, when she reportedly didn’t get the recognition she felt she deserved. Evans now records on her own imprint, Prolific Music Group, distributed by eOne Music. Evans’ other recent financial problems allegedly are being ordered to pay the IRS more than $360,000 in back taxes since 2008.

 

Substance usage, if not abuse, is also a part of Evans’ life like it was with Ballard. Evans wrote in her memoir about regularly smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. She stated that she smoked marijuana throughout her pregnancy with oldest son CJ, the son of her first husband rapper Christopher Wallace also known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie. Evans wrote she was smoking weed at the Vibe after party while Biggie, who had just left the same party, was being shot and later died. But she denies having a drug problem or being guilty of the DUI charges brought against her and her current husband and manager, Todd Russaw, in the past few years

 

The 37-year-old who started her career as a background singer for Al B. Sure! and Christopher Williams and as a writer for Usher and Mary J. Blige is used to producing her own vocal arrangements. Now, she said it is more work being the boss, but more rewarding owning her own masters with her new imprint. “I’m my own CEO,” said Evans, executive producer of her CD Something about Faith. “It’s a whole different feeling in the studio.”

 

Her latest CD showcases a mixture of the music she grew up listening to in Newark, NJ. Whether you like R&B, jazz, gospel or rap, this multi-talented artist offers something for your listening pleasure. The CD features duets with several friends. And because she’s independent the artists are paid by splitting royalties because there is no budget to pay them up front, said Evans, who also finds time to model as the face of Glass Hair, an upscale hair care product line.

 

Several songs on Something about Faith have a crossover appeal and can find a home on smooth jazz stations including the intro to the CD of the same title Something about Faith, I Still and Real Things.

 

There also is a strong rap influence on the CD. Rappers Snoop Dogg is featured on the playful Way You Move, Redman is on the up tempo jam Party, while Raekwon lends his talent to Everyday Struggle.

 

 

Powerhouses Kelly Price and Jessica Reedy (from BET’s Sunday’s Best) take listeners to church on Troubled World. Keyshia Cole belts out her pledge of devotion on Can’t Stay Away. The song  also uses lyrics and melody reminiscent of Biggie’s hit Hypnotize.

 

In Biggie’s rap the lyrics were “Biggie Biggie Biggie can’t you see, sometimes your words just hypnotize me. And I just love your flashy ways. Guess that’s why they’re broke and you’re so paid.”  In Can’t Stay Away Faith sings, “Baby Baby Baby can’t you see, somehow your love has hypnotized me. I just love your sexy ways. I’ll be fantasizing everyday.”

 

In the same way, Sunshine is a love song, but the chorus shares the melody with the gospel song You Brought the Sunshine by The Clark Sisters, one of Evans’ favorite groups. She wrote in her memoirs, “I love the Clark Sisters. …they even crossed gospel music to a pop audience with their song You Brought the Sunshine. It was played in churches and on the dance floor at nightclubs.”

 

The single Gone Already garnered Evans a Grammy nomination this year for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. The mother of four won a Grammy in 1998 for I’ll be Missing You, (a tribute to her late husband, Biggie.)

 

Evans is getting a lot of radio and television air time not only for her CD, but also for sharing the spotlight with her childhood idol, El DeBarge, with the hit Lay with You on his CD Second Chance. Their single is currently No. 23 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip Hop Songs list.

 

When Evans isn’t performing, modeling or producing she’s developing television shows. She shot a reality show pilot with longtime friend, Misa Hylton-Brim, celebrity stylist and mother of rap mogul P. Diddy’s oldest son, Justin. The show slated to be called First Ladies shows how the two women juggle motherhood and careers. At the same time, Evans is in talks for a sitcom she started developing three years ago that is loosely based on her life. If the sitcom is anything like Evans’ real life it’ll show how she’s a real renaissance woman who sings, acts, writes, produces, runs her own record label, models, and manages to balance marriage and raising four children.

 

 Something about Faith is available in the SmoothJazzTimes.com Music Store.  Also be sure to visit the SmoothJazzTimes.com video vault for the Something about Faith video.

 

 

Something about Faith Track Listing:

 

1.       Something about Faith (Intro)

2.       I Still

3.       Way You Move ft. Snoop Doog

4.       Real Things

5.       Worth It

6.       Gone Already

7.       Party ft. Redman

8.       Right Here

9.       Your Lover

10.    Can’t Stay Away ft. Keyshia Cole

11.    Sunshine

12.    Everyday Struggle ft. Raekwon

13.    The Love in Me

14.    Change

15.    Troubled World ft. Kelly Price & Jessica Reedy

16.    Baby Lay (Bonus Ballad)

 

 

 

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About Author

Kim Betton is the founder and editorial director of SmoothJazzTimes.com. The award winning television anchor/reporter and producer has worked in markets across the U.S.. including NBC4 & USA Sky Radio in Washington, DC, WBKW-TV Buffalo, New York, FOX 13 News Memphis and KARK4 / FOX 16 News in Little Rock,. Kim has a true love for good music! She is also a jazz and off-Broadway musical vocalist. Her love for music and the arts inspired her to launch this magazine. If you have a story idea email her at kim@smoothjazztimes.com. Thanks for checking us out! Enjoy!

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