Singer/Songwriter Sparkle makes her return to music after a 10 year hiatus. Today she bumps her gums with us here at Gumbumper on her relationship with Platinum Singer/Producer, R. Kelly, the trial, being close with The Braxtons and why her song “So Bad” makes her feel so good…
Interviewed by: La Tasha K. Mason aka @Tash1216
Peep the interview….
You came out the gate as a solo artist achieving Platinum status with your debut album, “Sparkle,” in 1998 so it’s hard not to revisit that success. How much of that achievement is responsible for who you are today personally and professionally? If you could go back in time and relive that experience, would you and is there any advice that Sparkle today would give Sparkle of 1998?
My professional achievement(s) isn’t responsible for who I am personally; okay maybe a bit..in the form of being a hard worker, but my character and just who I am, comes from family upbringing. Professionally it has everything to do with who I am. If I could go back in time and relive…hmm, now why why would I wanna do that? Hahaa..
How did you get the name Sparkle and do your circle of friends call you Sparkle or Stephanie?
The name Sparkle* came from Robert (R. Kelly). He thought the name was fitting for me and started calling me Sparkle.. saying, I always had it in my eyes… I know right! Some of my friends call me ‘Spark’, others [people] call me Steph, and that special someone calls me Ms. Jenkins! .. Hahaa.. don’t ask!!
R Kelly and his Rockland label were integral in the success of your “Sparkle” album, however, you made the decision to forego that recipe for success on your second album, “Told You So,” due to creative differences. Can you elaborate on that?
No question! Robert [Rockland] was indeed a key to success on the ‘Sparkle’ album, however me working with other producers on my next project was discussed with him and approved early on, then once it became time to start my 2nd project, other producers were an absolute no can do! Leaving Rockland wasn’t an easy decision, but giving some other decisions Robert had vetoed of mine that had not much to do with music concerning me, I knew his grip was getting tighter and things would only get worse (if you can imagine that), so I asked to be released! Asking for the release was in effort to save our personal relationship, because no matter whom or where I was, I had intended on working with him again.
Given that you ultimately ended up having to testify against R Kelly in the child pornography case in 2008 identifying that the minor in the video with him was your niece (age 14 when the video was made), did ending that relationship when you did make it any less difficult to testify against him or do you feel whether or not you were still working with him deciding to testify wouldn’t have been a struggle because that was your niece/minor in the video?
No, it was extremely difficult, but it had nothing to do with where I was professionally at all! First off, people need to realize, I considered Robert family, weather I was with Rockland, without Rockland, or whatever! My [initial] reaction, I didn’t consider anyone, but the ‘alleged’ child!
Do you feel the drama surrounding that trial overshadowed the successes you achieved? I’m sure it must get draining always being asked about that time in your life; how do you deal with it and did you find closure from it?
No, I don’t feel the drama overshadowed my successes. The trial itself was huge because who was on trial…R. Kelly/music royalty. These celebrity criminal trials were the prequal to reality TV. Its shown how invested in celebrity life we’d become… First it was O.J., then M.J., now R. Kelly. These trials were reality TV at it’s best. As far as being constantly asked, I deal with it because, me returning to music, it helps explain my extended removal time. Only for a limited time, then I’ll be done discussing it! Coming back to music, I sort of expect it to be a topic of discussion.
You have worked with many big name artists throughout the years before and after your solo debut including: Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, Tank and more recently Toni Braxton. Walk me through the evolution of starting as a member in your father’s gospel group to background singer to solo artist and then background again to now working on a new solo project. What was going on in your mind? Were you always working towards the next step or was it all perfect timing?
I love what I’ve done, I am doing, and what I’m going to do! Growing up in the church and singing in my family group as one of lead singers is where it all began for me! The ‘big names’, is all in how you look at it… I think Sparkle is a big name and they’ve worked with me, or we’ve worked with each other! As for Toni [Braxton], that’s family for real, for real! She gave me sanity during that dark time in my life… if she calls, I’m coming… no question! It’s always about the next step in this business.
You’re close friends with Tamar Braxton. I’ve seen you on her family’s show “Braxton Family Values.” Tamar has made it no secret that she does not think background singing is “hot.” LOL…Do you share her sentiments? Or do you feel like Toni who thinks it’s disrespectful to background singers to make that statement? Do you feel you would be where you are today without your start as a background singer? Will you make any appearances on the new season of “Braxton Family Values”?
All the Braxton’s are indeed my family. I understand what Tamar was saying, it may have come across harsh on reality TV, but once people hear her voice they’ll see why she think background is a disservice (for her). My belief is background is a great starting point. These days, everyone wants the spot light without proper training.. and singing background absolutely help with technique along with strengthening your voice. Everybody is different, they have to gage whats best for them!
There are many talented singers that are background singers now aspiring to get that shot as a solo artist; what advice would you give them on making that transition and maximizing their current role as a background vocalist?
Like I said it’s training and you get paid to do it! I’d say keep it up, and stay in the room until you know for sure, eventually you’ll be heard. If not, just being in the room will give the connections to make the transition to a soloist more smoothly!
R Kelly’s ex-wife, Andrea, is a cast member on VH1’s reality show, “Hollywood Ex-Wives.” She seems like she’s the coolest, sweetest person and HILARIOUS. Is that who she is off camera and were you two friends?
Like I said Robert and I were super close, so I knew about her, but she and I didn’t have a whole lot of interactions together. Whenever we see each other it’s all love! I’m happy she found her voice on Hollywood Ex’s. We weren’t like best friends nor enemies, we good though.
You just released a video for your new song, “So Bad,” with DNA Entertainment. LOVE the song and the video. Many people can relate to the emotion of the song, myself included. What was your inspiration for the song? Is it art imitating life?
Absolutely. “So Bad” is about relationships! How they make you feel when things go sour. I’m sure the song is imitating life for many, we all have had relationships that have gone bad.
Peep the video….
What can we, your fans, anticipate from your current project? Who are you working with (producers/collabs), who would you like to work with, etc.?
Expect the unexpected! This project will catch you up on my life since my untimely departure. Producers, I’ve worked with thus far is the Underdogs, Da Internz & Collab hopefulls are… Snoop [Dog or Lion], Drake, Dream, and Chris Brown.
As I would see and hear promotions for the movie, “Sparkle,” I always thought about you. Was it strategic to make a return now or is it coincidental that Sparkle is serving us that 2012 real R&B vibe at the same time the movie Sparkle hits theaters?
My return has been in the works for some time now, it’s my time and it was completely coincidental that the movie “Sparkle” came at this great time.
I see there is a reality show called “R&B Divas” that features Chicago’s own Syleena Johnson, Faith Evans, Monifa, Neicy Gilbert and Ke-Ke Wyatt…were you ever approached for this? We think you fit the criteria….
No, I wasn’t approached. I’ve done too good of a job removing myself. People in the industry always asks me when they see me, “what are you doing, where have you been, I was just thinking/talking about you, are you working?” So I know, I had/have some detection issues when it comes to finding me, so certain situations pass you when you’re removed like that, but I got a feeling you’ll be seeing more of me in the near future.
What do you do outside of music? Do you have children? Are you single? Business endeavors?
I love to read! I hang out with loved ones & now getting re-acquainted with family thats been removed for 10+ years.. that we’ve hadn’t spoken. No, I don’t have kids, but have a couple God-children. My business endeavors are concentrating on getting the new Sparkle project off the ground, I’m always giving back & will continue, my all girls revue ‘Under Construction’, and some other things that I’ll speak on at a later date.
Do you feel like R&B has lost its touch?
I don’t think its necessarily lost its touch, everybody just in “turn up” mode and it’s hard to merge the two. With Miguel, Luke James, and my return, the R&B lane is definitely being repaved, so we’ll be alright!
Would you crossover with any other genres (i.e., country, gospel, pop)?
Absolutely! I’m open to everything!! I have an incredible pop song on on my project, I cant wait for you all to hear it! I’d love to do a country song it’s the other R&B.
What is on your iPod playlist?
Jay-Z, Michael Jackson, Biggie, 2Pac, and Kim Burrell you know the greats! I have quite a bit of gospel though.
A lot of young girls are dealing with self-esteem issues. What advice would you give a girl who doesn’t think she’s good enough?
It’s really a parenting issue, but I’d tell them to keep GOD first and no matter how bad, it’s never as bad as it appears to be! Watch the people you allow “in”. If there’s something you want to do and believe in, by all means go for it!
What can we expect next from Sparkle?
Truth through music! #FACTS ONLY!
Gumbumpers, stay tuned for what’s to come with your girl Sparkle by following her on the internet!