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Gospel Singer Yolanda Adams, 'Day by Day'

ED GORDON, host:

Yolanda Adams has enjoyed years of success as a gospel singer. The Houston native has a Grammy, an American Music Award and multiplatinum CDs to her credit. Scores of fans relate to the music she describes as joyful.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. YOLANDA ADAMS: (Singing) I've come through many hard trials, through temptations on every hand...

GORDON: Adams joined us recently to discuss her career from singing in the choir to her latest CD, "Day By Day."

Yolanda Adams, always good to see you and talk to you. Welcome.

Ms. ADAMS: Thank you so much for having me.

GORDON: Let's talk a little bit about--before we get into the project, I want to talk about the growth of gospel music. When you walked on the stage for the first time, and I mean the stage of gospel music...

Ms. ADAMS: Right.

GORDON: ...could you have even imagined where it would be today?

Ms. ADAMS: Not at all. Because I was a kid, 16 years old, singing in a choir that was already recording and traveling all over the world. And I did it just because I loved to sing, and I loved gospel music, and I loved God with all my heart, even at a young age. But to know today what gospel music has done for my life and just for the world, in general, I never could have imagined it.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) Jesus is all the world to me.

GORDON: You know what's fascinating to me? And this is going to sound strange in one sense, because religion to black folk has been so special...

Ms. ADAMS: Right.

GORDON: ...but there was also a time that if you were a churchgoer or listened to gospel music, that you almost kept that in the house and you didn't praise it as we see growing praise today.

Ms. ADAMS: Right.

GORDON: It's a banner vs. something that you keep hidden away. What do you think has changed?

Ms. ADAMS: I think more people in the mainstream, folks like Nancy Wilson and Luther Vandross, they have openly expressed their love for God, and when mainstream artists start expressing their love for God openly in their concerts and including gospel songs in their concert, and, you know, people started embracing it. `Well, wait a minute, Luther's cool. And he can love God? OK, yeah. Then that's cool for me, too.'

GORDON: How difficult has it been for you to now deal with the celebrity that you have? And when you first attain it, obviously, it's something that you want when you start a career, but it can be intrusive. How do you deal with that?

Ms. ADAMS: One day at a time. That's all I can say or that's the only way that I can naturally explain it. Of course, my faith has a lot to do with being able to be public without being a public nuisance. I guess, you know, that's a great way to say it. I was brought up by great parents and great grandparents who told me, `Never, ever think that you're better than anyone else or that what you do is so important that the world won't miss you once you're gone,' and I kind of translate that into the stardom thing. How would I want someone who I would approach in a mall or at a restaurant? How would I want them to respond to me? A lot of times they just see you and they're like (gasps) `Yolanda Adams, oh, my goodness. Can I take a picture with you?' You know? And I probably had just stepped out of the gym, you know, sweating and going on, but, you know, the truth is, that person may not ever get a chance to see me up close and personal again, so go on and oblige, you know.

GORDON: How much do you bring, in getting into the new project "Day By Day," what Yolanda Adams is feeling at the particular time in her life, to your songs?

Ms. ADAMS: Once again, my fans trust me, and they trust that what I say is true. And they also know that I'm going to be open and honest with them about the highs, the lows, the joys, the sorrows, but they also know that it all ends in praise, and that at the end of the day I have to go through this, we have to go through this in order to make us better, and in order to get to the next level.

GORDON: You work, once again, with two buddies of mine, and two legends in this business, truly, Jimmy Jam...

Ms. ADAMS: Yes. Yes.

GORDON: ...and Terry Lewis, who you have certainly given us classic music through and with. Talk to me, A, about the relationship with the two of them, and talk about some of the new music that they're bringing to you.

Ms. ADAMS: Great guys. You know them. Loving fathers, loving husbands and great producers. They know how to bring the best out in you. And they strive for excellence every single time we're in the studio.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) I can look at my life and see all the things that he's done to set me free, protecting me from harm.

Pastor DONNIE McCLURKIN: (Singing) Can't begin to show how I feel. His presence in my soul, yeah. Can tell he's guiding me, I'll be safe because...

Ms. ADAMS: We did "Lift Him Up," which features Pastor Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary, and that was way too much fun. We just had way too much fun.

(Soundbite of "Lift Him Up")

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) I'll give him praise.

MARY MARY: (Singing) Lift him up! Each and every day.

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) Whoa, whoa, yeah, yeah.

MARY MARY: (Singing) We celebrate that day.

Pastor McCLURKIN: (Singing) Lift him up!

MARY MARY: (Singing) In a song of praise, thanking him for everything.

Ms. ADAMS: And also "Be Blessed," which has been one of the number-one radio hits.

(Soundbite of "Be Blessed")

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) ...said he would be there for you. I want you to be blessed; don't live life in fear.

GORDON: How much does the title of the CD speak to, as you just used this language, `day by day,' what you've been living the last few years of your life? Is that part of why you picked that song?

Ms. ADAMS: That's exactly why we picked the song, and exactly why we picked the title. I let my listener know that it's a process, that once you decide, `Look, God, I want you to lead my life, I want you to, you know, get me around the hard stuff and take me through the hard stuff'--once you do that, it doesn't just start automatically, and you don't just leap like Superman to the next spiritual level. It doesn't work like that. It's a day-by-day journey.

GORDON: You have had a part in so many modern-day gospel classics now as you look through your career.

Ms. ADAMS: Yeah.

GORDON: Do you have a favorite?

Ms. ADAMS: I would have to say that "Open My Heart" was the one that really, for me, signifies, you know, I'm a great writer.

(Soundbite of "Open My Heart")

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) Alone in a world, it's just me and you. I feel so lost because I don't know what to do.

GORDON: When you think about songs that have gone beyond just chart-topping--I think about, you know, "O Happy Day."

Ms. ADAMS: "O Happy Day," yeah.

GORDON: Or some of the Winans' classics, "Tomorrow," "The Question Is."

Ms. ADAMS: Definitely. "The Question Is." Yes.

GORDON: Now that you know that that song will be placed in that list, that has to be gratifying.

Ms. ADAMS: Oh, definitely. I mean, I'd be, you know, remiss to say that `Oh, no, it's just--you know, God bless you.' No. That feels good. It feels good to know that what that song did--out of my pain came a song that changed the world of gospel.

(Soundbite of "Open My Heart")

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) I open my heart.

GORDON: For the fans of Yolanda Adams, you don't need to know much of anything other than it's in stores and you want to go get it.

Ms. ADAMS: Yea.

GORDON: The CD is "Day By Day."

Ms. ADAMS: "Day By Day."

GORDON: And we should note that you'll be going on tour.

Ms. ADAMS: I'll be going on tour. It's called the Yolanda Today tour. The twist to this particular tour is that I'm inviting some of my friends from the R&B and pop world to come and sing with me and share a couple of songs, you know. So we're going to have a lot of fun. And I just want people to understand that you don't have to take it so seriously. You know? God is love. He loves everybody. He loves you.

GORDON: And just enjoy life...

Ms. ADAMS: And just enjoy it.

GORDON: ...and you will do so by picking up this CD, I promise you, and also do yourself a favor. When Yolanda Today, the tour, comes to your town, go see her.

Ms. ADAMS: Yeah.

GORDON: Yolanda, good to see you.

Ms. ADAMS: Oh, good to see you, too, Ed.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) Think I'll let it show, never let it go, take everywhere I go. Take my hand. I'm gonna give you spirit in my heart. I'm going to give you spirit in my heart.

GORDON: That does it for the program today. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. If you'd like to comment, call us at (202) 408-3330. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. ADAMS: (Singing) Sometimes I feel so inspired and other times I just want to give up, give up. Oh, that's when I feel your presence, giving me confidence and trust, and I know that it came from above. Think I'll let it show, never let it go...

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.