Essence: Congrats on your new album, Between Friends. We’ve read it was released independently because ‘you felt lost in the major label shuffle.’ What have you learned from doing this album on your own?
TAMIA: My deal was up with Elektra and I was at a crossroads: ‘Do I do another deal?’ I put my decision on hold, went into the studio, and started working with (songwriter) Shep Crawford. I just wanted to be creative. In the middle of this, myself, Shep and my band went to South Africa and performed five shows. We sang some of the new material and the response was really (good). We knew we had to come back into the studio and rework it. By the time we finished, we really had an album. I got with everyone and said we could do this on our own. Ownership is very important. With the digital age, it’s very attainable for artists to venture out on their own. Independent no longer means low quality…It’s a lot more work than just being the singer on the album. You’re making all of the decisions and you have to know when to turn that businesswoman off and go out and perform. It’s a lot of work, but way more gratifying at the end of the day.
ESSENCE: What brought you to South Africa?
TAMIA: They had been asking us to perform for the last couple of years, but I was either pregnant or it was right after September 11. They called again and we were in the studio working and thought it’d be great to go there and perform the new music. We had a blast. It was amazing seeing people who aren’t on your radar and they love everything you’ve done. In the states you mostly perform your singles. There, they know everything. I had to go to a store, in the airport, to get my first album so I could learn songs I have never performed live since I recorded them. The fans were like, ‘You have to sing that one sista!’ It was an amazing experience.
ESSENCE: On your new album, there’s a little girl’s voice in the background on one of your songs. Is that your daughter?
TAMIA: Yes, that’s Myla. I’ve taken her on tour with me. She doesn’t think anything is weird about getting up and performing in front of people — unless I ask her to, then she’s like ‘nope.’
ESSENCE: Having gone through MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and (husband) Grant’s (Hill) injuries, what’s kept you going as a family? Was it him, was it you…
TAMIA: It was us. What we’ve been through to most people is just two sentences: Grant went through six surgeries; I was diagnosed with MS. But in between that is years of highs and lows. That’s the part of being married; you lean on each other when you need to. For both of us, we’ve concentrated on the positives that have happened in the last four years, such as having a daughter. We are blessed, we have great doctors, and we’ve been fortunate enough to do what we want: he’s still playing and I’m still performing. You play the hand you’re dealt. They say, without a test, you won’t have a testimony. We’re just there for each other.
ESSENCE: With Thanksgiving around the corner, what are your plans with your family?
Tamia: I am Canadian so we celebrate our Thanksgiving in October. (Typically), either Grant has a game or we go to a friend’s house for dinner.
ESSENCE: So no plans to make a big turkey dinner and all the trimmings?
TAMIA: (Laughs) I usually just bring the salad.
Tamia’s latest album, Between Friends (Plus 1 Music/Image Entertainment), is available now online.