Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Damita Interview: On Music, Ministry, Faith & Overcoming Adversity

My interview with Gospel recording artist and ordained minister Damita who burst on the music scene in 2000 with her self-titled solo debut release via Atlantic Records followed by two more albums No Looking Back and Anticipation. After five years Damita is back to share new music, ministry and testament.

Terrance: Talk about your background and what it was like growing up in Detroit.

Damita: Well I’m a Preacher’s kid both my mom and dad were ministers so I have a religious background and music was very prominent in my home and in my life. Music was natural because both sides of my family were musical and growing up music was just a way of life and it wasn’t really something I considered doing professionally until I was maybe 16 or 17. Growing up I thought I would be an actress or a lawyer (laughs) but music became real serious for me when I became a teenager and so from there after I graduated out of High school I went on the road and started doing theater touring with plays where it was both music and acting at the same time and I just felt like that would be a great career for me. I had actually had a scholarship for Jackson State University but I turned it down because I chose music and it worked out for me, so that’s a little of my background. I mean Detroit is made up of all the Gospel stars as well as the Motown stars so I was able to be around that circuit and to be able to be around people like Commissioned, The Winans and I even toured a little with Aretha Franklin singing background for her, so growing up in Detroit had it’s benefits.

Terrance: You mention having musical family were there any outside influences?

Damita: Of course and I’m not just talking about Gospel but anyone who has grown up in the Church especially kids, I mean the more you try to keep us away from something that’s what we draw to so of course you couldn’t play R&B in your home but I had influences like Whitney Houston who was one of my favorite influences. Michael Jackson and of course The Clark Sisters, Vanessa Bell-Armstrong, The Winans and even Pop and Alternative music like Phil Collins, Hall & Oates. I was just a musical person, Country music like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. I was into all styles except Heavy Metal (laughs) now that was my limit. Music was just in my bones.

Terrance: How did you get your first break in the music industry?

Damita: I had a female a capella group called Adoration ‘N Prayze and our first break was when we got discovered after singing at a birthday party. We didn’t realize who birthday party it was at first and later we found out it was a Gospel record label Exec. birthday party and he asked us if we would sign and that was our very, very first deal with “Time Is Running Out”. It was nominated for Stellar and Dove awards so that was my very first break in Gospel and the Gospel music industry.  

Terrance: Have you ever thought about recording any other musical genre besides Gospel?

Damita: Absolutely. Just a transition of who I am, my sound and even just my life experiences. Some of the songs on my solo stuff is really crossover. I have a song called, “No Looking Back”.

Terrance: I remember that one.

Damita: Yeah that was a crossover song. It was a huge song for me sonically and visually and on YouTube the numbers are still going up and that song was done organically. I don’t try to write Gospel music I just try to write songs that I feel would touch people and that are transparent about real life experiences of what we go through hoping that it would inspire somebody or touch them emotionally. If I had not had the mindset of being brought up in such a religious background at that time I probably would have done it a long time ago but because of my upbringing we were taught if you sing R&B you’re going to hell and that’s the devil music (laughs) but as time went on and as I got older to know God for myself I come to find out that not all R&B is damnable, not all R&B is horrible or of sexual content. You have amazing great songs that talk about love and life, breakups and talk about realistically real stuff so I plan on doing some music that may not necessarily be categorized as Gospel music. At this phase in my life I feel I’m at a point where I know the differences and I know my boundaries and just know better.

Terrance: Which leads to the question, how do you deal when you’re told what you can and can’t do as a gospel artist?

Damita: Well I’m older now (laughs). Back in the day it used to be like, oh you know be careful this, be careful that. I’m older now and I don’t let Churches dictate what I can and can’t do. I have to live my life according to what I believe. I think I’ve grown and become mature enough now to understand who God is for myself and stick by my boundaries and my morals and my standards and I suggest everyone else to do the same. I don’t judge people how they live their life and I hope people don’t judge how I live mine. I do believe in the Bible, I do believe in God, but I do believe he teaches those of us who really, really live our lives by the book then he’ll lead and guide us on what to do and let us know what our boundaries and perimeters are. So I don’t let other people affect what I do and what I wear. If you look on my social media I got on shorts, bikini, I don’t care what anybody say. God still loves me and people are still being blessed by my music. It’s so trivial now and honey I don’t let that bother me no more (laughs).

Terrance: Talk about the new music you’re working on and when can we expect it.

Damita: On next week as a matter of fact I’m beginning to work on a single. Right now I just want to put out some music for my fans, for my supporters and even to create a buzz for new people as well as putting together some videos so there are a couple singles dropping and I then plan on dropping a new project in 2018.

Terrance: What do you think need to happen for the youth to get more involved in Gospel today?

Damita: You know what? In order for the youth to become more involved and intrigued by Gospel music now is artists got to get back to being more exciting. Like you asked, I’m working on my music but the reason it’s taking so long is because I’m thinking live, I’m thinking visual. I came from the era where we believed in ministry and performing. I know a lot of Churches and religious people feel it don’t take all of that but I believe that when you’re bringing a tour in town and you’re asking people to pay money I believe you ought to give them their money’s worth. They can get Church for free on Sunday morning you know what I’m saying? We can get the hand clapping, foot stomping, rolling over the floor and speaking in tongues for free but when you’re asking people to pay $50 to $75 to $100, I believe you ought to have a production, you ought to have surprise guests and you ought to give the audience gift bags when they come in the door. It’s like right now Gospel music isn’t offering enough when it come to that side. I think we’re just concentrating on ministry and that thing has to have a balance. Give them a show. The white christian artists do it all the time. You had artists back in the day like Carman who packed out 30,000 seating stadiums by himself because he gave them character, he gave them props, he gave them a show and he gave them God so I believe that once black people realize that God isn’t intimidated by our creativity and artistry then you’re gonna get these young people. There’s no way you can compete with Nicki Minaj or Diddy and the Bad Boy tour if all you bring into town is a microphone, organ, keyboard and background singers. It's not going to work and I'm not even going (laughs).

Terrance: After the controversy that surrounded a former marriage from Gospel artist Deitrick Haddon what step did it take that led you to where you are today?

Damita: Man, well anyone who has been through a divorce know that it’s a horrible situation. All I can say is and I know this to be true is it took God. It took nothing but God to help me through that situation emotionally and psychologically. It was draining because I had lost not only my husband but my best friend because we’ve been together for over 20 years of our lives and that’s a long time to be with someone and it really took God. Things are different now it’s been 5 years. He’s moved on and is successful and I’ve successfully moved on and remarried and I believe we’ve been able to talk since then because you can’t hold onto stuff. I can’t judge him for what he did and how he chose to do things, at the end of the day we can come to the table and say at that time this is where we were in our minds and this is how we reacted to the pressures of what was going on at that moment. We’ve moved on and we wish each other the best and you never know what may happen in the future concerning music but it was nothing but God and for me in my heart it was not in me to lash out or to try to get a vengeance or show my side or show people what I thought was right. It was more for me like God just let me keep my mind, let me not lose it and act a fool and tear down everything I built up from telling people in the past about my music. How can I tell you what God gone bring you through and in the midst I’m not allowing God to bring me through? I just asked God to help me and make me a better person and that’s what he did.

Terrance: How would you best want your music and ministry to represent you as a Woman of God?

Damita: Man I want my music and ministry to represent me as just being real you know what I’m saying? I always try to come from a transparent place from my heart. A lot of ministers it’s almost like they pre-package their messages or pre-package what they are going to say and I’m all for that, but for me I find it more effective when it’s genuine and more organic and from the heart and then I find out someone is dealing with exactly what I’ve been dealing with. I always want whatever I do whether it be music or acting or speaking and motivating people I want it to come sincerely from the heart. I always want to be that person that stays relevant to where I’m not this big person and I’m too high and don’t know anything. I want to be right there, I ain’t left my people. Whenever I go home I still go to my old neighborhood, I go to my old street, my old house, I speak to my old neighbors and go to my old Church. I want to remain humbled because I realize I’m not the only person who got his blessing, I’m not the first and won’t be the last and so I try to maintain that so my ministry will remain effective and relevant to people and know that it’s not fake. It’s like the more God blesses me, the more I want to be reachable. Even at my Church I offer my services to serve and not for a paycheck but for free to show people that this is how I’m giving back to let them know I’m not too high and mighty. I want people to still respect me but I’m not looking for a special treatment. I just want my ministry to come from the heart and people say, oh she’s a real sister.

Terrance: In closing is there anything not discussed you would like to leave with the readers?

Damita: For the readers out there, go after your dreams. This is the season and time I call to take a leap of faith. You know a lot of people are scared to live their dreams and scared to fulfill the visions they have because they feel they don’t have enough support where you have people around who don’t believe in you, man believe in yourself. Believe in yourself so much to the point you’re willing to do it all by yourself.

Terrance: I can definitely attest to that.

Damita: Yes do it all by yourself. I don’t care if it starts off on a low budget level. Man, make that thing happen. There’s somebody out there waiting to see creativity so I say wake up from your dream and make it a reality right now. Not next month, not next year but right now and I’m encouraging everyone and all of your readers to take a leap of faith and live your dreams today.

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