Tarralyn Ramsey is here in Los Angeles this week for the BET Experience and the BET Awards, being held at the LA Live center in downtown Los Angeles. She will joining stars like Niki Minaj, Tamar Braxton, Chris Brown, Jason Derulo and many others in a national celebration of black music and stars.
But the road to BET was not easy for Tarralyn. Despite early success with her gospel and R&B albums, she learned that her tremendous voice – one of the best in music today – is not always enough to spell success. It took years of hard work and a strong faith tempered with an understanding of the music business to put her on the stage in Los Angeles this Sunday.
When you meet her, as I did yesterday, what comes across is not her undeniable talent, or her striking beauty, but a friendly, accessible, positive person – an woman surrounded by an aura of warmth and welcoming, a genuine person. What you see is what you get, and what you get is song of love and hope sung with a voice unparalleled in pop music today. I had the opportunity sit down with Tarralyn face to face and then to interview her on my radio show. Here is an edited version of the interview.
Patrick. Welcome to Music Friday Live!
Tarralyn. Hello, so nice to be talking to you again. I had such a good time talking with you yesterday.
Patrick. Me too. As much as I love talking with you on the radio, it was a delight to meet you yesterday. You are performing this weekend at the BET experience. Are you excited?
Tarralyn. I am excited! It’s one of those things you dream for , you wait for – Kelly Clarkson said it best in her first song “Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this”. That’s the best way to describe it – a moment like this.
Patrick. You have been on big stages before and sung with big stars.
Tarralyn. But never the BET stage before. Think about it. I have been singing since I was thirteen – I have done gospel concerts, VH1, the X-factor, but never the BET Experience or the BET awards. Never.
Patrick. You will be performing at 2:30 pm this Sunday on the Flava stage - what can we expect to hear from you this weekend on Flava stage?
Tarralyn. Well I have already debuted my single, “Champion”, which I will sing, but this is the first time I will be singing another new song called “Better”. And “Fly” - I think we have some performances online with “Fly”. And I have dancers and backup singers so this is a brand new set of new unreleased music and I have dancers and backup singers so this is a brand new experience for me.
Patrick. tell about “Champions”…what prompted you to write it, and what do you mean by a champion?
Tarralyn. I feel like everyone has a struggle, and “Champion” is a song I wrote after amazing highs in my career and my life and amazing lows as well. But no matter what happens you have to figure out that you are a champion, because if you try, you are a champion. One of the lyrics is that I’ve one and I have lost /and I have paid the cost. I am stronger now/but I have been weak. It is about how you overcome those things.
Patrick. So you are a champion?
Tarralyn. I try every day to be a champion, If I can make it through a day, I am a champion for sure.
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Patrick. Your song “Believe” has some pretty powerful lyrics in it. What do you want us to believe in in that song?
Tarralyn. I want people to believe that everything and anything is possible, that you can make it despite the circumstances, despite where you come from, from the lack of having everything you need. That can apply to college student who needs a loan, to people with problems in their marriage – to different scenarios. Everybody- I just want them to believe that anything is possible. You have the power on the inside of you to produce what you have to.
Patrick. You have been criticized for jumping around genres, not quite knowing who you are – a criticism I might add that is not made about most artists who are evolving and settling into their style. Are you still experimenting or are you solid… you know your style, your audience and yourself now?
Tarralyn. I have gotten a lot criticism from doing gospel and then secular music, but I think I am doing an extension of what I have done before, which is I always sing life music but I am expanding on it. I bring music to people who don’t go to church, who will never be in a church. My gift is to for the world; the miracles I write about are more than about church on a Sunday morning. It is about real life issues, relationships, having a broken heart. As an artist I am ever changing and growing, but I am comfortable singing what we call pop inspirational music. It has a message – it is not about clubs and shaking your booty - it’s about giving people hope and giving them something from a musical perspective and a lyrical perspective to hope for.
Patrick. There is a song, “Unconditional Love” from your 2000 album Tarralyn Ramsay. That was 15 years ago, but it has stood the test of time. I love the way you bring in the backup singers gospel style for a very R&B theme and lyrics: you love me right/you hold me tight. But I have to ask you, 15 years later, do you think that there is such a thing as unconditional love – that us humans are capable of unconditional love?
Tarralyn. I believe in love, yes, but we live in a society where people are self-centered, that people love you with conditions, for sure. But I would like you to believe that there are some people who can love you unconditionally. That was actually a song written for me by a great songwriter and gospel producer Carnell Murrel. I was young and I didn’t understand it’s extent, I recorded it because I liked the song a lot. But now when I hear it and the comments people make about it, I understand, but I feel there are people who can love you unconditionally but there is something there from a higher power.
Patrick. Speaking of gospel, you have said that your heart is in gospel, but gospel is a niche audience. “unconditional love” is a song that keeps one foot in gospel musically, but reaches lyrically into pop territory. Will we hear more of this fusion music from you?
Tarralyn. Yes! From an artist perspective and a lyrical perspective, that is what I do. You get a gospel feel but the lyrics are about life. I sing popular music for sure, but I am introducing you to my world.
Patrick. We talked yesterday about the music industry and faith. Your music springs from faith, although it is not necessarily religious music. But you are in an industry that for the most part sees faith as irrelevant to the priorities of entertaining folks and making money – in fact many in the industry are uncomfortable talking about faith. Have you found this and has it affected your place in the industry.
Tarralyn. I can’t say I have been affected by it, or if I have, I don’t know. But I can say that I feel that the same people who want to be entertained, also want hope. What happens if your favorite artists gets up and sings and changes your life? There’s hope. When you leave my show, I want to entertain you for sure, but the end of the day when people leave a Tarralyn show or listen to a Tarralyn record, I want them to have hope. They realize they can make a change for the better.
Patrick. We talked yesterday about singing in church, something you have done since you were a child – choir has been the starting point for many singers. You still sing in churches throughout the country, and especially in the South. Last week a young man walked into the Emanuel Church in Charlotte, worshiped and sang with the congregation and then killed 9 of them. You could have been one of the victims. What went through your mind when you heard the news?
Tarralyn. I felt really sad. I come from a Baptist Pentecostal background; we are taught to pay attention to what our spirit tells us – like when your gut tells you something is wrong. We are so used to being open to people that nobody had the spirit to feel something was wrong when he walked into church and asked to see the pastor. I feel it is so sad that he allowed whatever happened in life affect him so that his only resort was to take revenge on innocent people. On the flip side, although he did something very bad, as Christians we have to pray for him, get him help, talk to him; we can only judge so much – we are not his final judge, he will get judged in his time. It is a very sad situation.
Patrick. That is very generous of you and you have been very generous with your time. Thank you.
Tarralyn. Thank you Patrick.
Patrick O’Heffernan. Hoist, Music FridayLive!