When Fantasia won American Idol back in 2004, she captured our —and America’s— hearts with her amazing vocals. Over a decade later, Fantasia has continued to prove her undeniable singing talent with several chart-topping albums and numerous awards including a Grammy.
After years of singing about heartbreak, Fantasia found true love and married her husband Kendall Taylor in 2015. While Fantasia continues to reach new heights in her singing career, she just released her sixth album, Christmas After Midnight, which also happens to be the singer’s first-ever holiday album.
In an exclusive interview with ESSENCE, we spoke with Fantasia about her inspiration for the holiday album, being married to a “king” and what she’s working on next.
You just released your first-ever holiday album, Christmas After Midnight. What inspired you to record a holiday album?
I always wanted to do a Christmas album and I would bring it up at the time I was on RCA because my [late] grandmother’s birthday was on Christmas and it was just a very special holiday for us. She’d put up a thousand Christmas trees and lights, we’d go and feed the homeless and that was a time of year where there was a lot of love to be given. Every time I’d bring it up to the record label at the time, it was overlooked.
So I think that the most special thing to me is that this is the first Christmas album, it’s on Rock Soul which is my label and I got to partner up with Concord Records. And the fact that I didn’t have to go in with this album with so many restraints! Maybe this was the right time for me to do it where nobody could stand in the way and where I could do it with all live instruments. I did this album in L.A. at Capitol Records and it was all live. The musicians were in the room and I was in the room with the microphone. It’s very uncut and raw.
We basically just kept it raw and I felt like that’s how I started singing when I was five years old. Even when I went on Idol, people really loved that rawness and me being able to stand flat-footed and just truly sing beautifully different types of songs and different genres, and that’s what we brought to this album, Christmas After Midnight.
You’re also doing a holiday tour for the album. Are you planning to bring your over-the-top performance style to the stage? Is there anything else we expect from the tour?
I do not. When I say this album is jazz, it’s truly jazz and I want to keep it as that. I’ve always hit that stage and brought the fire with me. But I like the fact that I can try different things and sit in it and not feel uncomfortable. I like the fact that I can take people on different journeys. People root for me in such a way that when they come to a show, the experience of not knowing what’s about to happen is a great thing. And with this tour, I want to keep it jazz. I want to keep it elegant. I want to keep it classy. I want to take people on a different journey.
You and your husband recently celebrated your two-year wedding anniversary! How has married life changed you for the better? And are there any major lessons you’ve learned since being married?
What I’m in right now is what I feel like marriage and true partnership is supposed to be. What God has sent me is a true leader, and I feel like when a true leader comes into your life, you’re supposed to change for the better. He’s supposed to teach you certain things and you’re supposed to be able to sit back and be a woman and not have to be the man, not have to try to take care of everything and do everything.
So when Kendall came into my life, my whole life did change and I was able to see things so much clearer. And he taught me a lot as well as I taught him some things too. And I think that that’s what it’s supposed to be. A lot of times, we get into relationships and we go in and we take our old ways. If we take that old baggage into something new, it will never work. So I had to clean my slate first, and then I met my king.
When I met my king, everything changed for me and my children because there was love there, there was leadership there and there was a covering. What I mean by covering is somebody that will come over and cover you, pray for you, lift you up, motivate you when you can’t find motivation from anywhere. That’s what a relationship is supposed to be. When [Kendall] and I linked up, our story was so much alike. We had been through some of the same things but we’re two Black entrepreneurs that want to build, grow and teach people from our past and the things we’ve been through so life for me is totally different. I don’t walk the same. I don’t speak the same. I’m not the same Fantasia and I love the queen that I’m becoming.
You are also the mom of two kids! How do you juggle being a mom, wife and your singing career?
It’s easy for me now. It’s been 14 years so I got into a rhythm. My main thing is family first. This industry can get you so caught up that you’re so busy chasing, wanting to be number one and wanting to be the richest that you lose sight of what life really is about. I’m a true country Southern girl that has always been built around family, cookouts and gatherings and being together on the holidays, singing together and laughing together. So whenever God opened doors for me to be able to travel the world and sing and do all the great things that I’ve done, I didn’t want to lose that part so family first for me.
What’s next for you? Are you working on other projects or anything else that you can share?
I’m working on a lot of things. My husband and I have partnered with Primary Wave [entertainment agency] whom I love. They’re such a great team and it took me so long to find them but everything happens for a reason in God’s own timing. I feel like it’s time for another book. I feel like me and my husband will do one and I would like to go on a tour with the book and actually sit down and talk with people. That’s something that I really want to do.
It’s album time but I’m going to take my time with this next album after my Christmas album because I want it to be right. Now that I don’t have anybody holding me back and I don’t have anybody telling me what I can and cannot do, I just want to sit back and create a lane for Rock Soul and actually build it and get it flowing the way it’s supposed to flow.
There is something I’m about to do that I can’t talk about it right now but that’ll be coming out soon. So there’s a lot of things that Fantasia will be doing. I’m only 33 and I want to do it with the mindset of I’m not doing this because I want to be number one. I’m only doing it because it’s true to my heart and I want to bless people along the way.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.