When the New York Times hails your debut gospel album as one of the year’s best — from any genre– you know you’ve got talent.

Anita Wilson took the gospel industry by storm with her freshman release Worship Soul. Now she’s back with her newest project, Vintage Worship. We chatted with Wilson about the sophmore jinx rumors and her upcoming ESSENCE Festival performance.

ESSENCE: Your first album, Worship Soul, got rave reviews. The New York Times called it one of the top 10 albums of the year. That’s a big deal.

Anita Wilson:  Absolutely. I was floored.  That was across all genres — the other nine were Latin, jazz and rock albums. I was like ‘What?!’ It was pretty cool to be included.

ESSENCE: Are you nervous about following that up with Vintage Worship?

AW: No. And I’ll tell you why. People talk about the sophomore jinx. We know people who have done amazing debut albums and the follow ups aren’t as great. But I kind of put that in that back of my mind. I do get that question a lot but and I don’t think about that. [My albums] are like my babies. I don’t have any children from my womb, but I don’t think mothers try and birth a better son than the daughter they just had a couple of years ago. I just try and keep my mind in the space of producing and creating great music. I love the fact that [the New York Times] recognized Worship Soul as a whole album, and I’m very humbled that it was nominated for a Grammy for best gospel album. My commitment is to try and deliver a collection of great music, so I hope that’s what Vintage Worship offers.
ESSENCE: This year you’re going to be apart of the Empowerment Experience. What does empowerment mean for you?

AW: Empowerment for me means, first of all, really knowing and having a relationship with God as well as knowing and loving yourself and having a positive relationship with yourself. I think that’s where true empowerment comes from. So many times we try and handle life on our own, but we can’t handle things without acknowledging a greater power. I’m a Baptist preacher’s daughter, but I know that God comes in different avenues for different people that doesn’t always mean in church every Sunday. I just love and acknowledge when everyone connects with God and lives their best life the way that they can.

So if you have that relationship [with God] and you do your best everyday, and you love yourself and you look in the mirror and try to live your best life, I think that’s true empowerment. I really do. And when you project that love on other and self-acceptance on others that even furthers that empowerment.

ESSENCE:  Last question, and you can’t say Prince! But, if you could have lunch with any artist performing at the festival, anybody from any stage, and you can only pick one, who would it be?

AW: Well, the Queen of Soul performed one year I was there and Miss Aretha Franklin and her journey are been amazing. I think we would have a lot to talk about because she is also a pastor’s daughter singing Gospel as well as good soul music. She’s still killing ‘em at her age after all these years. She’s still the diva and she’s still the queen.