For Gospel legend Yolanda Adams, her stirring Elektra debut Mountain High…. Valley Low was an opportunity to bring both her inspirational vision and her wide range of influences to an audience hungry for spiritual fruit. Since her 1988 debut, the acclaimed and uplifting Just As I Am , Yolanda has been wowing gospel audiences all over the world. In 1999, four studio albums and one live album later (the Grammy nominated Yolanda…. Live In Washington ), the Houston , Texas native is ready to extend her magnificent reach without watering down the message. "I'm not one of those singers who wants to expand my audience at the expense of the people who already know my music," she says determinedly. "And I've grown both vocally and spiritually since my first album, through each phase of my career. So choosing Elektra was just another step of growth. Gospel music had stepped up and gathered a myriad of influences-jazz, hip-hop, R&B. I need to be in a place where my message can be heard by everyone. I understand my purpose. I understand what I was put here for. I take that on every day of my life."
It's precisely that kind of conviction that has caused critics to refer to Yolanda as one of gospel's "seminal" voices. It has also empowered her to venture out of gospel's more sanctimonious confinements, and hook up with some of pop's most formidable producers, such as Keith Thomas, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Yolanda stresses, however, that it was the process of "sharing" talents that made the unique collaborations such a great success. Thomas produced and wrote "The Things We Do."
"I had a chance to work with him," she says, "he's worked with so many great people, like Vanessa Williams and Wynonna Judd. It was awesome. He's the kind of producer who pulls stuff out of you that you didn't know you were capable of." Yolanda also had high praise for the duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who helm the ethereal "Open My Heart," "Wherever You Are," and the disc's feel-good closer, "Already Alright," all which they co-wrote with Yolanda. "Coming from the gospel world and being able to work with them was a dream come true," she says. "They provided leadership and gave me the leeway necessary to develop the songs. They wanted me to bring material to them so that I wouldn't lose connection, for non inspiration. Their input and approval really encouraged me as a writer."
Religious audiences have been validating Yolanda for well over a decade. She was employed as an elementary teacher in Houston when she first began to garner recognition for her stunning performances. "I taught second and third grades. I would go on the road during the weekends to sing. Pretty soon the demand started growing. I realized I might be able to make it my career."
The eldest of six siblings, her pioneering spirit and boundless optimism soon became her trademark. Her solid church background and love of all kinds of music, which she says: "was inspired by family- everything from Stevie Wonder to Beethoven," left her with a respect for traditional musical hues, as well as a desire for more contemporary interpretation. "Too many times we're put in a box by musical labels," she says.