Heather Headley Speaker
Heather Headley Speaker Profile
Acclaimed by Billboard as one of the great entertainers of the day, Tony award winner and multiple Grammy nominee Heather Headley makes her triumphant debut on the EMI Gospel label with the most personal album of her multi-faceted career, AUDIENCE OF ONE, recorded with Grammy award winning producer Keith Thomas. Following critically acclaimed performances on her certified gold debut CD This Is Who I Am (2002) and her second album In My Mind (2006), Headley now returns to the gospel roots that became the foundation of her career singing as a child in her fathers church in Barataria, Trinidad.
My dad was a preacher, and my mother once told me that I should do a gospel album, Heather recalls. I told her it would be amazing to do it one day. Now she is displaying her wonderful voice with a powerful collection of inspirational songs, including the first single Jesus is Love, a cover version of the classic 1980 tune by Lionel Richie and the Commodores featuring fellow EMI Gospel artist Smokie Norful.
I grew up singing that song in Trinidad. EMI Gospel President Ken Pennell suggested that I record it as a duet, and when he mentioned Smokies name, I immediately said yes. Hes an amazing singer and a great pastor, Heather says with admiration. It was a joy to work with him, his choir, and musicians and observe the great respect and love they have for him.
The CDs title also takes Heather back to her fathers one room church in Trinidad. That is where I learned to sing, she fondly remembers. I would close the windows and practice singing and playing the piano for hours pretending I was performing for a crowd of people, using a hairbrush as a microphone. I was singing to an empty church, and God was my audience, an audience of one.
Explaining the album title, AUDIENCE OF ONE, the Trinidad-born, Indiana-raised, and Northwestern University educated star gives credit to her husband Brian Musso. He reminded her one day about the little church back home, the joy that I found singing in that empty church to my audience of one. And so that is what this album is... a girl singing to the only audience that really matters... the One Audience who is truly worthy.
I grew up in the church, actually above the church, and this album not only grants me a way to sing music Ive always wanted to, but it also gives me a chance to give God some overdue praise for everything He has done, and continues to do for me. I really dont deserve all that He has given me. I cant help but be grateful; so, well take the voice He gave and thank Him with it... This is My gift to God. My relationship with Him is paramount.
Recording a gospel album is a natural transition for Heather who admits that as a Christian, she was uncomfortable with provocative lyrics submitted to her. I never wanted to compromise anything, now I want to make sure God is happy, Heather says. This album is for Him.
The concept for a gospel CD was born when Heather chose the spiritual I Know The Lord Will Make A Way to record for the EMI GospelVector compilation album, Oh Happy Day.. The label executives were so impressed with her breathtaking performance that they suggested that she record an entire album of songs of faith.
As a first time gospel artist I tried not to be concerned with what other artists were releasing, Heather states. I just wanted to make God happy. This project was more special because as a Christian, I understand and relate to the lyrics.
Heather set the stage for AUDIENCE OF ONE on her 2006 CD In My Mind with the inspirational track prophetically titled Change, co-written with the songs famed producer Warryn Campbell (and Eric Dawkins). God is such a big part of who I am, who I want to be, and whats in my mind, she said at the time and now she has taken the opportunity to dedicate an entire album to the Gospel.
Heather demonstrates her composing skills on AUDIENCE OF ONE on Zion, a song she co-wrote with producer Keith Thomas (whose credits include BeBe & CeCe Winans, Yolanda Adams, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston). She admits at first she was intimated by the title, but she says after being inspired by the music, we created a worshipful reverent hymn. Her angelic vocals perfectly complement the minimal musical track of strings and acoustic piano.
After beginning her musical journey growing up in Trinidad, Heathers family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana where she starred as the female lead in high school musicals. She majored in communications and musical theater at Northwestern University, and on the final day of her junior year, she left to understudy Audra McDonald on Broadway in Ragtime. One year later, in 1997, she won the role of Nala in the original premiere Broadway cast of the Elton John-Tim Rice musical The Lion King. Heathers portrayal was so extraordinary that she was asked to audition for the title role of the next Elton John-Tim Rice Broadway musical, Aida, which opened in March 2000. She won the prestigious Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, and the coveted Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. That year she was listed as one of People Magazines 50 Most Beautiful People and Essence Magazines 30 Women To Watch.
(Note: Heather is featured on The Lion King Original Broadway Cast album [Disney, 1997], in which her Shadowland is a show-stopping track. She is also featured on the Aida Original Broadway Cast album [Disney, 2000], in which she sings on more than half the programs 21 songs.)
Heather continued her Broadway success on the pop charts with her 2002 debut album on RCA entitled This Is Who I Am featuring production by several top flight producers including Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and Shep Crawford. Two songs, the single He Is and the album track I Wish I Wasnt, both emerged as Top 5 Dance chart hits.
Heather earned numerous accolades for This Is Who I Am including Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (for I Wish I Wasnt). At the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards she won dual honors: R&BSoul Album of the Year and Best R&BSoul or Rap New Artist. She also received nominations at the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding New Artist and Outstanding Female Artist, Billboard Music Awards for R&BHip-Hop New Artist of the Year, and BET Awards in the Cool Like That category.
In 2004 Heather received rave reviews for her rendition of Elton Johns classic Your Song that she performed for him at his Kennedy Center Honors salute in Washington, D.C. She also made her film debut with a performance cameo in Havana Nights; her song (Represent, Cuba) was the centerpiece of the soundtrack album.
Heather returned in January 2006 with In My Mind, her long-awaited second solo album, once again working with an A-list of producers, among them Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Shep Crawford, Warryn Campbell, and Lil Jon. The opening title tune single became Heathers first hit, topping the Dance charts. Later in the year, Heather honored playwright Neil Simon by singing the Hal David-Burt Bacharach song Ill Never Fall In Love Again from Simons Broadway show Promises, Promises on the PBS special The Kennedy Center Presents: The 2006 Mark Twain Prize.
In December 2007 she gave another memorable national television performance, delighting an audience including President Bush with Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas at the annual Christmas In Washington concert TV special.
Over the past year Heather has also displayed her versatility as one of classical star Andreas Bocellis favorite singing partners, being featured on his international tour, his Live In Tuscany PBS special, and his Under The Desert Sky live concert DVD.
As Heather begins 2009 with the release of AUDIENCE OF ONE, she looks forward to performing on a tour of churches, and she provided a preview of the album singing at the Harvard Bible Chapel she attends in Chicago. She is humbled by the passionate support shes received, beginning on Broadway, and continuing with CD sales and fans witnessing her magical performances live on tour. She enthusiastically gives back to society by participating in humanitarian causes including her March of Dimes educational campaign I Want My 9 Months.
As her career comes full circle, from singing gospel in a small church in Trinidad to recording for a worldwide audience, Heather feels extremely blessed. Twenty years ago I was on an island in the Caribbean. Since then Ive appeared on Broadway, won a Tony, and recorded three albums. All of this is amazing... its miraculous, she graciously says. I could not have charted it as well. The support Ive received, the great letters Ive received, Im humbled by all of it. Im grateful and thankful.
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