Madame Noire caught up with Tanya Blount to talk about Blount 2 Blount, the new duo that features the gospel star and her brother Willie. Their upcoming Christian album, “Worth It All,” marks Tanya’s first collaborative effort with her brother since her solo debut in the early ’90s. It offers a striking new twist of contemporary-gospel music for the ages, and particularly younger fans. She has turned up the volume on her Christian act and successful ventures since gaining prominence as an actress in the 1993 film, “Sister Act 2.” There, she and R&B/Hip-hop musician Lauryn Hill captivated audiences with a memorable performance of “His Eyes on the Sparrow” which was included on the movie’s soundtrack. Now, the D.C native and her brother emerge to give listeners a fresh, hipper style that hopes to bring gospel to another level.
Here’s a look:
MN: Can you tell us about the new album, “Worth It All,” and what we should expect from this effort?
TB: It’s a 10-song CD which was started by me and my brother Willie and it’s a compilation of different styles of songs with Michael Trotter Jr. We have everything from gospel/rock to contemporary/gospel to traditional gospel music. We did a project like this because there wasn’t anything out there like that, except Bebe and Cece Winans music. But we thought it was an effort we always dreamt about singing together. Fans should expect something different, fresh, and young. So we’re really excited about it.
MN: How have you changed as an artist since your solo efforts when you first started out in the ’90s.
TB: Well, I’m a grown up now even though Im different from the 21 year old who did, “Natural Thing” in 1993. I’ve had a lot of life’s experiences you hear about on the record. There’s one called “Top Model” that deals with self-esteem issues that a lot of young women and business women deal with. We tell them that you are special because of who you are and that’s the message I delivered from an individual perspective. But from the whole album, everything you go through in life is like a puzzle where everything has its place. And at the end of the road, its really worth it all in your golden years.
MN: Whose decision was it to team up as Blount 2 Blount?
TB: Well, it was initially my decision and Willie thought it was a great idea. I’m so glad he did it because most artists don’t want to be in a group (laughs). It’s not something they strive to do, but I think it makes sense for all of us to do the group effort.
MN: Christian music has always been the central piece in your family life and career, so what’s the experience been like for Blount 2 Blount on this album?
TB: It’s been great! He comes from a ministry where he’s always done gospel music and I’ve always entertained. But as I grew up into a person who uses God, it came out in the ministry with him and likewise for him. So us working together really irons out those areas in a group setting.
MN: What has Willie helped to redefine in you in the group?
TB: Not much difference. I’ve always been a workaholic and its great to really work with family. What most people don’t know about me is that I’m extremely family-oriented and I really love them. That’s the good part.
MN: Can you tell us about the experience working with Lauryn Hill on “His Eyes on the Sparrow” and how has the duet with her helped to influence you musically?
TB: Lauryn Hill is phenomenal! I went on tour with her during “The Dedication Tour” and really trust her opinions as a businessperson. I learned to be true to who you are as an artist and think she’s a great example. I call her the Lauryn Hill Movement (laughs). She’s not just an artist, but a movement. It’s amazing how one artist can change the spectrum of music and what people look and dress like. To watch her grow and change has been amazing!
MN: Speaking of Lauryn Hill’s movement, what has been Blount 2 Blount’s movement as you progress in ministry and music alone?
TB: I think the movement for me is to really help people, not just young people. I’d say there’s an age group for women. I’m 37, so anything from 23-37, women are going through self-esteem issues. A lot of us are dealing with families, managers, bad relationships and just trying to overcome the struggle of growing into adulthood. My movement is pushing women to be who they really are in God, and knowing that its okay to have failures in life. At the end, its really worth it all. You have to go through these things in order to be perfected. Its been true to who I am and our stories.
MN: What is the next single going to be on the album?
TB: There’s one called, “Im Not Ashamed” and it talks about not being ashamed of God and representing him in your own way. There’s another called, “I Am Lord,” and it has a Mary Mary vibe to it. It talks about how we can’t do anything without God’s ear and how you’re his in every way.
MN: What has been your greatest gift and what do you envision for Blount 2 Blount in the 2011?
TB: Well, I think its wisdom. God has given me the vision for my new label – Code Red Musiq. He’s given us that vision for next year and we live heavily on it. I believe that God will ignite us with the vision. For 2011, I see doing something different and executing the vision. We have a 10-city concert series were doing – we’re coming to Baltimore, Atlanta, Ohio, Virginia and when we go, our fans will get to videotape every concert with their videophone. I don’t call my fans “fans,” but “Sparrows” because I believe that God has his eye on everybody who chooses to be Sparrows as wisdom for the following we have.