It’s not easy being the best-selling gospel artist of all time, and Yolanda Adams takes this as a huge responsibility. ESSENCE.com recently spoke with Adams, who is releasing a new album next year, about what it takes to succeed in the music industry and her excitement to honor gospel icons Tramaine Hawkins and Donnie McClurkin at this year’s ESSENCE Festival.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve performed at the ESSENCE Festival in the past. What do you love about the event?
Yolanda Adams: The ESSENCE Festival is the best place to be over the weekend or week of July 4. It's a family atmosphere, because all the artists get to see one another. There is also so much information with the Empowerment Experience seminars. You can’t help but to leave the ESSENCE Festival better than you came.
ESSENCE.com: What should fans take away from your show?
Adams: All of the things that go along with a Yolanda Adams show: the dancing, crying, smiling, laughing and clapping. I want people to be inspired, uplifted and to really think that the best part of their life is ahead of them.
ESSENCE.com: How do you feel about the opportunity to sing as part of a tribute to gospel icons, Tramaine Hawkins and Donnie McClurkin?
Adams: Tramaine Hawkins has been a mentor, a confidante and an example of greatness. She has been through a lot in her life and her career has spanned over 50 years. To me, that’s what you call a legend. Donnie McClurkin is my brother. He is the best in the world and has a heart of gold. He has a career spanning 35 years of excellence. It’s just the best to applaud them for their hard work and dedication.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve hosted your radio program, “The Yolanda Adams Morning Show,” for eight years now. How do you decide which projects you’re going to align yourself with?
Adams: With any project, it has to be something I absolutely love and know about. It has to be a part of who I am. The show, which is now in more than 60 markets, is a joy and an answer to a prayer. My degree is in radio and television journalism, so it fits right into my life. I am also passionate about health and wellness. I have a body line, Simply Yolanda, and a clothing line, The Yolanda Adams Fashion Collection.
ESSENCE.com: In your view, what does it take to make it in the entertainment industry today?
Adams: You need tenacity and you can’t be lazy. Hone in on your craft. Those are the things that make artistry really blossom and turn into something. You don’t just become number one because you sing like everybody else. There is something different you bring to the table. Make sure you are constantly getting into the newest technologies. Learn the history of what you do and always respect the ones who came before you. There are a lot of people who sing gospel music and R&B who don’t know their history.
ESSENCE.com: Are there any business lessons you’ve learned over the years that you wish you knew early on in your career?
Adams: I was so blessed. I started out in a professional choir at 13 years old. We traveled to different places, and I had a close relationship with the leaders of our choir. We were recording when I was 15, so it wasn’t like I had to wait until 25 to find out certain things. I had Tramaine Hawkins, Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker and all of these other people giving me great advice along the way. There wasn’t much I didn’t know about the business. Thomas Whitfield also taught me why writing is so important, and that’s why I write on every album. I am blessed to have known great people who made sure I knew what the business entails.
See Yolanda Adams and more of your favorite gospel artists in our special Get Lifted All Star Gospel Tribute on Sunday, July 7. And for fun entertainment facts about the ESSENCE Festival, visit our "Get into the Groove" guide.