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Karyn White :: The "Superwoman" re-seizes the day

by BeBe Sweetbriar
Friday Mar 2, 2012
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"Carpe Diem" is not only an aphorism meaning seize the day, it is R&B songstress’ Karyn White’s ("Superwoman," "Romantic") first studio release in 18 years. That’s right, 18 years. Karyn has spent that time raising her daughter, now a freshman at Howard University, and developing her entrepreneurial skills in real estate and interior design.

But during all that time, music was still apart of who White is and is represented in her comeback collection of new songs due out in the Spring of 2012, including the lead single "Sista Sista" which is sure to be her modern day anthem for the women as her international hit "Superwoman" was in the late 1980s.

Karyn White was the first female artist to have her first three solo releases it #1 on the R&B Billboard charts ("The Way You Love Me," Secret Rendezvous," and "Superwoman"). Her single "Romantic" from the 1991 "Ritual of Life" album (produced by Grammy winning producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, noted for their success with Janet Jackson), was her first single to go #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. I had an opportunity to visit with the R&B/Pop diva and talk about her comeback, the maturity in her music, seizing her moment, and the power of social networking.


Gone 18 years

BeBe: It is sometimes hard to believe how long someone has been actively absent from the music industry because the wealth of the material had produced earlier had such an impact that we continued to hear their presence. That enabled you to maintain a freshness after all this time. With "Make Him Do Right" in 1984 being your last studio album, does it feel like you have been gone 18 years?

Karyn: It really doesn’t. It’s crazy because I was speaking with my manager (Jay King of R&B-pop band Club Nouveau fame with hits "Rumors" and "Lean On Me") and wondered if there is any data out there that tells the longest an artist has been away (from the music industry). 18 years is a long time, and time just flew by.

When I stopped singing, I never said okay I’m going to comeback after any length of time away. I felt very happy with what I had done in the music industry, and everything, the music and the business was changing. My thing is just living in the moment for what God has for me. Having my daughter, I wasn’t doing such a great job raising her being in the entertainment industry, and then having a husband like Terry Lewis (whom she has since divorced), we were extremely busy. Me growing up with the kind of foundation that I had with my mom and dad, it just made me feel like I was a loser at life. I never thought I was going to stop singing. I just turned into something else.

BeBe: That’s real interesting commentary because we see a lot people in the entertainment industry with a family where they do try and make do juggling family and career. But you stepped back and took a different approach to the family atmosphere that you had.

Karyn: Yes, and we are talking to labels right now and my absence from the music industry is a concern of theirs. In this industry you have to be a little crazy because when you look at the odds. The odds are so much against you. It’s like going to Las Vegas and trying to hit a million dollar jackpot. But there was a purpose for me and I lived that life. And now coming back I feel actually younger than before.


Time’s been kind

BeBe: Girl, I was looking at your last album cover head shot on "Make Him Do Right" of 1984 and comparing to your new head shots and you are still looking good. Time has been kind to you.

Karyn: I think I look better! Because as women, you know when you understand yourself, your value and God. This industry can really trip your head up when you are young. I was singing professionally at 16 years old and on the road at 17 with O’Bryan and Cameo, so it was kind of a jaded upbringing. I feel know like I was kind of a late bloomer. I look at some of the old pictures and think why did they have me so made-up.

BeBe: It’s funny you say that because you really stepped away from the music industry to get in tune with your womanhood. We all remember your international breakthrough with "Superwoman" in 1989. It is still an anthem for women around the world of varying generations. And the first single intending to be your first release off the upcoming album "Carpe Diem," "Sista, Sista," follows with that same type of woman’s anthem, but with a different type of maturity. You can hear in the lyrics and the delivery of the song those 18 years.

Karyn: Oh, yeah. You are exactly right! I was such a young lady when I sang "Superwoman". I didn’t know about love. I didn’t know what I was singing about. I thought about my mother when I sang that song. She was just every bit of what a superwoman was. Now,I just feel so rejuvenated. With "Sista, Sista" I am such a woman.

Today’s woman is different from what my mother was. Now everything is so sexual, giving and getting. It’s not what my mother was....taking care of our families and homes and making sacrifices. I felt there was a need to put that out there. Even though I’ve been away, I don’t feel dated. I have friends that are Hip Hop rappers, and I am constantly around the Hip Hop community. And you have all these women getting out of their limos showing their va jay jays thinking that that is hot because they’re the sexy girls, something is wrong with that.


"Carpe diem"

BeBe: I hear ya! And then you know see, especially in the last year, the music industry maybe starting to change with artist like Adele (winner of six Grammys in February 2012) who gets up there and sings those type of songs about female empowerment and relationships from the heart, and she’s making a killing with the public doing so. She definitely doesn’t come across as one of those women you just spoke about.. I think the time is really right for "Sista, Sista". But let’s talk about "Carpe Diem" in general. Is there a lot of acoustic, lesser produced vibe to this album?

Karyn: No. Not at all. First of all, I am "carpe diem," which is the movement of seizing the day. After being gone, I want to be the poster child of women and men and make them feel they can still dream, and still go out and start that business, and stop letting things like age and circumstances stop you from really going after your dreams and goals.

And that’s what I’m doing. I raised my daughter, and I don’t care that the record companies say I’ve been gone. So what! I’m doing the work. I’m putting this record out about seizing the day whether it’s love, having fun, and different situations. And the Lord has been so good that my voice has gotten richer and stronger. I’m not relying on the kind of production that I had before which was kind of a manufactured thing. I’m real excited because I feel like why not comeback and be better, especially when you are singing live. It’s all about Tina Turner, James Brown, Prince, Al Green, Gladys Knight and it’s just a performance. It’s being an entertainer period. Every time I get on stage I feel like a prophet because I can’t really stop what’s coming out.

BeBe: Now on "Carpe Diem" you have a remake of Cyndi Lauper’s classic hit "True Colors" which is an anthem for the gay community and has been for many, many years. In your rendition is there any difference in the message you are sending out? It obviously stuck a chord with you in some way.

Karyn: You know I didn’t realize it is an anthem for the gay community. I had no idea. I love it because it speaks about the truth of who we (people) are, and the fact that (with) all our goods and all our bads, you have to be able to accept them. You have to be true to who you are. I’m talking about from the spiritual perspective. Seeing the God in you, and seeing the God in me, and just being truthful. That’s where I’m coming from. I just love the song and do it in kind of my rock-edge. So, I’m real excited because live it is really fun to play with. Do my Tina Turner thang on it. (laughs).


Harder than she thought

BeBe: Well you are coming to San Francisco to perform at the Rrazz Room on March 1-3. See, I remember the days when you where in the Bay Area with Jeff Lorber. The beginnings, girl! I’ve been a fan of yours for years. I been witchu. And the Rrazz Room is an intimate venue that lends itself to some of things you were speaking to regarding live performance and vocals. The audience is looking right at your mouth while your up there on stage. It’s not one of those big auditoriums or stadiums that you have also performed in back in the day. Is this type of venue to perform in important to you as you make your comeback and to put your stamp on what you said.? Hey, I’m better than I was when I left, and I have grown and am stronger. You (the audience) will be able to see that when you see me on stage.

Karyn: (Responding with a little chuckle) It’s funny because the band had been rehearsing two weeks before I came in with them. And I was like, wow, this is harder than I thought. You know live you can’t manipulate it. Live you either got it or you don’t. In the studio they can put that reverb and auto-tune on it. So, I’m excited. It’s just second nature for me, as you said. It comes from my heart. My main thing is having a great show that is entertaining. My band is like, Karyn just remember to stay with the structure, but I’ll get in the moment, and make some changes. That’s just the kind of performer I am. I get the spirit and may call somebody up on stage and change it up.

BeBe: I know what you’re talking about, because it’s that spontaneity of the spirit that makes each one of your performances special . This same audience at the Rrazz Room can go see you somewhere else a week later and it may be a whole different show (we both laugh). Same songs, but a whole different show. You are going to be singing in that moment, that carpe diem, in that mood of the room. And that’s what it’s all about to me when you see a live performance.

Karyn: Mmm Hmm.Exactly.

BeBe: What I also find interesting about your comeback, Karyn, is that there has been many changes in the music industry with how music is marketed than in the time you were here before, and you have seemed to embrace those changes with how you plan to market this record. Can you speak on the multi-media marketing plan you are working on through Doublexxposure Media Relations?

Kayrn: That’s what kind of makes this whole thing exciting, because as you know, I’m a business woman. As I was away these 18 years, I was a builder, developer, and interior design, you know, I used my other talents in a creative way, but not through music. But, man, through social media, it has just been incredible. I’m excited because it is not driven by the record company. You really get to know, through social media, what your fans want. I’m building Karyn White’s Army. It’s the same kind of thing a big record company would do, but this is my fans and friends who are telling me what they think I should do. They are getting involved. It’s just amazing.

Karyn White will be appearing March 1-3 at the Rrazz Room inside the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco.

Follow Karyn and her reemergence on her multi-media website www.karynsworld.me. You can friend and tweet Karyn at www.facebook.com/KarynwhiteMusic and www.twitter.com/karyns_world


Based out of San Francisco, BEBE SWEETBRIAR is the Omni Present Drag Chanteuse. As an entertainer and hostess, BeBe can be scene every week hosting and performing at countless events and parties in the San Francisco. One of the few drag personalities to sing live while performing, BeBe has literally graced every notable stage in San Francisco, bridging many gay sub-community gaps. She has also been the opening act for Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland, "Ugly Betty’s" Alec Mapa and Dance Diva Kristine W. Adding recording artist to her list of performance accomplishments in 2008 with the release of her first single "Save Me", Ms. Sweetbriar will soon release her fifth dance single in 2012 called "Show It Off"..
As an actress, BeBe was introduced to film with a lead role in the independent film "Under One Sun" with her character dealing with religious, racial and gender issues. Additionally, she appeared in the campy musical "Devious, Inc" (Australian Film Festival, San Francisco Short Film Fest) also adding additional vocals to the musical soundtrack. Both of these performances led to her selection for a lead role in Aisha Media’s next short film series, "Con-tin.u.um" to be released in 2012.

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