Catching Up With Crystal Waters
Pop and dance divas seem to come and go so quickly these days that when an artist says they have been in the business five years, they’re eligible for a retirement watch.
So, when you come across a recording artist who has been in the game for over 20 years continuing to stay relevant with number one dance hits as recent as this year, you begin to realize how truly remarkable sustaining a career in the music business is, especially in dance music.
Such an artist is Crystal Waters, who continues keep us on the dance floor with her music while going into her 3 decade in the recording industry. "Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)" introduced the world to Waters in 1991, and her 1994 #1 follow-up 100% "Pure Love" solidified her place amongst the dance divas. With her current #1 chart topper "Oh, Mama, Hey," Waters keeps making a new generation of fans.
With an upcoming performance during the Pride month of June in Houston, Columbus, San Francisco and Seattle, I caught up with Crystal Waters to chat about her more than 20-year music career, and how she was supposed to be the next Sade.
BeBe Sweetbriar: It’s amazing the things I discover in preparation to interview a celebrity such as yourself. One historical thing that came to my attention is that you are the grand niece of the legendary actress/singer and Academy Award nominee (’Pinky,’ 1949) Ethel Waters, who was one of the first African-American actors to make it in mainstream film.
Crystal Waters: Yes, I be that one. In fact, I’m writing a book about my aunt. She had a lot of ’firsts’ behind her.
BeBe Sweetbriar: And then, I discovered historical fact two that at the age of 14 you were inducted into the American Poet Society becoming the youngest to do so.
Crystal Waters: That’s what they tell me. My Mom found my poems and entered me into this thing, and the next thing I know I’m in a book. I’m like, ’okay! I’ll take it.’
BeBe Sweetbriar: The songs you write are lyrically strong which I’m sure comes from your poetry interests. Did you ever think that writing poetry would lead you into the music industry?
Crystal Waters: No, not at all. When I was young, I was really shy, spent a lot of time alone in my room, and wrote poetry. And then, when I got to college (Howard University), I forgot all about it and stopped writing poems. But then I got into singing and doing some background vocal work. I knew then that’s what I wanted to do (sing). I figured though that I would have to write my own songs. I told myself that I was actually good at that. The first couple of songs I wrote were ’Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)’ and ’Happy.’ Then the light bulb went off. It was very satisfying.
On the map
BeBe Sweetbriar: ’Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)’ was definitely that song that put you on the map back in 1991 (#8 Billboard Hot 100, #1 Billboard Dance Single).
Crystal Waters: Yes, the rest is history as they say.
BeBe Sweetbriar: What’s interesting about ’Gypsy Woman’ is that you actually wrote the song, and it was intended to go to Ultra Nate for her album. How did it instead end up being recorded by you.
Crystal Waters: Yeah, you know, I wanted to be the next Sade. I was going more in the smooth R&B direction. So, while I was waiting to get signed for that kind of music, I was asked to write some dance tracks and that’s why I wrote ’Gypsy Woman’ and ’Happy.’ (My management) took those two songs and put them on my demo, and as soon as they did that, I was signed right away and recorded the songs.
BeBe Sweetbriar: Saying that you wanted to be the next Sade, and instead winding up a big House/Dance music diva, is ’Gypsy Woman’ a blessing or a curse since its breakout has kept you in the dance music genre?
Crystal Waters: Well, with ’Gypsy Woman,’ if you listen to the melody of the song, it is a jazz melody. Jazz is where I come from. I still sing jazz. When recording that song, (the producers) said to just do me on it. Luckily it meshed with the dance mix. But recently when a friend said they didn’t want to do something because ’it was not what they do,’ I thought, ’what if I had said that I don’t do dance music?’ It turns out that I am actually very good at it, and I’m thankful. It really worked out. Thank God, because I don’t know what I’d be doing (laughs).
BeBe Sweetbriar: Many artists and deejays have covered and remixed ’Gypsy Woman,’ including Alicia Keys use of the melody on her ’Brand New Me, Part 2’ this year. What has been your reaction to the samples, remixes and covers over the past 20 years?
Crystal Waters: ’Gypsy Woman’ has a life of her own at this point. I always check in to see how she’s doing. She’s always being remixed or a new take put on her by somebody. I get my royalty checks, and think "what song?" But Alicia’s take on it is actually the first person to capture the emotion of the song, and I like what she did. Everyone else kind of took it and made some money off of it because it is catchy you know? La da di, La da dah.
BeBe Sweetbriar: You followed ’Gypsy Woman’ with even a bigger hit with ’100% Pure Love’ in 1994, which stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 45 weeks (comparable to Katy Perry’s ’Fireworks’). But even with 100%’s long stay on the charts and in the clubs, when people hear your name they still immediately associate you with ’Gypsy Woman.’ Can you and do you want to get beyond that?
Crystal Waters: I say I’m like Tina Turner. She’ll keep singing ’Proud Mary,’ and I’ll keep singing ’Gypsy Woman.’
This year’s hit
BeBe Sweetbriar: After more than 20 years of making dance music, you are still putting out the hits with your current single ’Oh, Mama.’ Hey, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Dance Chart in March of this year. How does that feel?
Crystal Waters: I was so happy about that. It was so nice.
BeBe Sweetbriar: After performing at Pride events as you will be doing in Houston, Columbus, San Francisco and Seattle this June 29 is commonplace with you annually. What is it about the Pride festivals and accompanying gay club celebrations that you enjoy performing at so much?
Crystal Waters: What’s exciting about the crowds, even in the clubs, is that they come to play. They come to party. It’s a very positive feeling. During Pride and the Gay Days events, the joy you see on everyone’s face is amazing. We’ve come a long way since the 90s. It’s been a long building process to even get to point to be able to have a Gay Days at Disneyland. The new freedom gives me a great feeling. After 20 years, I have seen the growth and changes. Now when you say ’Pride,’ there’s a lot more to be proud of.
Crystal Waters will be appearing in the following cities during their Gay Pride celebrations in June: June 21, Houston, TX; June 22, Columbus, OH; June 29, San Francisco, CA; June 30, Seattle, WA.
Visit www.iamcrystalwaters.com to find out specific venues and/or stages for Crystal Waters’ performances during Pride month of June.
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.