Interviews

Yahzarah: Eloquently Outspoken

Yahzarah Interview Whether you call her Dana Williams, Yahzarah, or Purple St. James, this Next Divas hopeful has the confidence, vision, and voice of any of the industry’s most decorated singers. Yahzarah’s unique name is a mix of her grandmothers, Yah, who lived to the age of 103 and her 85-year-old grandmother, Zarah. She says, “I figured if I could be as strong as either one of those ladies that I was moving in the right direction.” Her eloquence, poise, and outspoken nature makes Yahzarah a diva, but will her exclusive interview with Singersroom make her the Next Diva? Stay tuned to find out.

Original Never Duplicated… “I am a woman that pays attention to artistic and musical detail. On this earth right now I don’t believe there is a performer giving what I have been gifted to give on this stage. I am not only a singer, but I am a triple threat. No one will work as hard as I will work. When I record music, I try to sing about the things that I know and that build me. And I am a horrible liar, when people hear me their lives are changed just like mine is changed by singing the songs that I deliver.”

Power of a Name… “Purple Saint James is my inspiration. No different from when Prince decided to step behind the symbol because his experience with the music labels was so intense that he needed something else to be creative by – that’s pretty much my story in a nutshell. I put out a record in ’03 and it did well but I got lost in the shuffle artistically and emotionally in the process. I was to the point that I didn’t want to make music again. I invented Purple Saint James because I wanted to sing hooks for money to tell you the truth. I didn’t want Yahzarah’s brand associated with lyrics like “My crew got guns son” and “Let’s go half on a baby”. I created Purple Saint James as the catalyst for me to –
1. Be able to free myself creatively to even write things like that.-
2. Be able to use that name to brand things I was doing outside of Yahzarah’s name.

I really needed a break because Yahzarah had gotten this big old box around her due to my association. Everyone heard the name Yahzarah and thought I was going to light incenses and beat box on stage and be an Erykah clone which I’m not. If fire and ice are elements then she is the ice and I’m the fire. I got a lot of backlash when I tried to change up because they had their own idea of what Yahzarah should be doing. For some reason when I started singing under Purple Saint James, my creativity surged and my audience was able to better receive the changes. It was me all along.”

Aha moment… “All my life my family knew. I use to make my own outfits and dress like Tina Turner or Diana Ross for Halloween. Here’s this little kid whose five years old not saying she wants to be a princess but can I get a spiked wig and dress like Tina Turner [Laughs] so they had an idea. But some pivotal moments for me of course was when I saw Purple Rain and that definitely changed my life, I said that I want to do what he does. It started at church for me first though. At the age of seven I started to sing at church and I actually thought I was going to be a dancer. I knew I wanted to be an entertainer but I thought it would be through dancing. I started singing and discovered that God can use a human being to do things that are great to change a heart. I just wanted to be a part in making people feel better. Because when I sung I was seven-years-old but I had the voice of a very adult woman. I would see how it would influence and save and basically loose people and I felt so honored to be a part of that. So I hadn’t yet gotten to the point where I was popping my collar and saying oh I’m kind of good at this.”

European Influence… “Well, I lived in West Germany and we lived there between the ages of four and eight-years-old for me. I guess you can say those are very formative years to be living in a European country with their ideas and outlook toward music. I took ballet and studying gymnastics and piano but I did a lot of singing. I discovered that I like to sing and people liked to hear me sing. I don’t think I was in love but I know I was falling in love – I didn’t know what my commission was at the time. So the whole 80’s pop revolution was going on at that time, so was popping and locking and breaking. I learned the art of performance and at five I was going around to all the army bases winning as a break dancer [Laughs]. My parents would just look at me with this crazed look in their eyes like what are we going to do with this. So they decided to nurture it and my mom nurtured it there. My parents just gave me such a steady diet of music that I don’t think they knew I was ingesting and taking in in such a real way. Also it changed my life because I missed the whole crack era being abroad. I think my life would have been very different if I had been living in Washington D.C., where I’m from, in the ’80s. Any one of my parents could have been a casualty of that. My step-father did have some problems with substance abuse. I believe if we had been in the states for him to truly allow that thing to grow and bloom, that I would be a different Yahzarah. But he was focused, he was in the armed forces, he had a purpose, and he could focus on his family there and I believe it saved all of our lives.”

Confident But Not Cocky… “Well I’m a student of great artists. I use their legacy of excellence to spur me on. We all are recycled but we have to bring our original ideas to the table. I’m like a mad scientist so I’m always looking for the next best way to impress you and love you through my music. I believe in performance art. I believe in what I saw when my dad put in that first VHS tape of Earth, Wind, and Fire when I watched it. I want people to leave knowing they got the very best show possible out of me so that people want to keep seeing me. I would hope that when I say I’m coming to your town the question is not ‘how much?’ but ‘where can I sit?’ and ‘when do I get there?'”

Musical Role Models… “It’s really diverse ironically. Classical music of course since I studied it. I’m definitely committed to classical music – the music of the greats who made these beautiful songs about pain and passion like no other. I def think they are a major influence in who I am. After that’s been said, then you have the music of Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis. I was greatly inspired in my early songwriting by his horn and trying to mimic it not only with my voice but how I laid down vocals. For their fearlessness Grace Jones and Tina Turner. Diana Ross for her craft. Madonna for her fearlessness at pushing the envelope but also her versatility and Janet Jackson for the same reasons. The Beatles particularly for their ability and their wonder-lust meaning they were never afraid to experiment. You can even listen to their records and tell they were greatly influenced at some point by Stevie Wonder. Of course the music of Prince. I came of age in his heyday, I definitely do feel a kindred to him and how he takes all these great people like James Brown and Sly Stone and he becomes this gumbo that is himself with them on the back end of his influence. So I definitely feel a kindred to him.”

Qualities of a Diva… “A diva must be an innovator. She must have grace under pressure. And she must be always ready on arrival to be fresh, fabulous, and amazing!” —— By: Interview By Aleta Watson

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