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AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Overcomer: An Interview with Tamela Mann
The gospel artist talks about her new album, clothing line, family, as well as taking risks
 


AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, Overcomer: An Interview with Tamela Mann
Posted: August 26, 2021 | By: DwayneLacy_NRT
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Gospel artist Tamela Mann is a multidimensional woman. Gospel fans knew her as a band member of the Kirk Franklin and the Family, as well as the wife of gospel great David Mann.
 
Watching her over the years, many will know how she has constantly stepped out of her comfort zone by acting in Tyler Perry’s plays, movies, and TV shows. She and David starred in Mann and Wife. They also starred in It's a Mann's World, a reality show that included their children. Now, the couple star on the YouTube-based program Mann Tv, a show where the family has very real and honest discussions while having dinner.
 
Tamela was able to lose weight, survive double knee replacement surgery, and have a clothing line for plus-sized women. Even with that, she still sticks to her love which is to minister in song with her powerful voice. Now, she's back with her new release, Overcomer.
 
Overcomer is a further evolution of Tamela Mann as an artist and how she is willing to take more risks musically. This is her most complete album to date (and, yes, her powerhouse vocals are still intact). Tamela took a moment to share the inspiration behind each song on her latest album.


To me, Overcomer is the most complete album out of your previous efforts. What was your process of picking the songs for the album? 
 
You sound like us when we were picking the songs for the album (we actually started at the end of 2019). We began with the song, “Touch From You.” At the top of 2020, we had about five songs that we were looking to release. However, when COVID-19 hit, everything changed. 
 
The list of songs we had just kept growing and growing; the message that God was giving me was very personal. I don’t know if it was because we had so much time on our hands, but it was incredible writing the music. I would get caught up in the music and start crying on some of the songs.
 
Many of us have struggles in our lives that we need to overcome. The album title came from the last few years of my life: going through double knee surgery and menopause. It was a challenge. In our community, we’ve talked about the change, menopause, but we didn’t know what the change was. It’s an everyday walk.
 
I've also changed my eating habits, dealing with health and wellness. It’s not over and I’m working through it. That’s why I’m proclaiming it and putting it out there that I’m an overcomer. This is something that I will finish and complete.
 
You went through double knee surgery and weight loss, which is a lot to deal with and push through. How did your faith and family help you through this process?
 
My faith was everything. Anesthesia is no joke; doctors tell you that anesthetics work for you. However, it's not guaranteed that everyone will wake up. Of course, you will
wheweven with physical therapy (I was crying on the video that we showed). However, I'm glad I went through with the surgery. We obviously had no idea that COVID-19 would happen, but it gave me time to recoup. My knees are 100 percent and my family was there to help me through it all. 
 
People will hear some of the musical risks that you took on the album. The title track, “Overcomer,” is a great example.
 
When I’m saying that I’m an overcomer, I’m hitting it hard and meaning it. I’m believing it and walking in it. With how much this belief has impacted me, I pray that the track encourages other people to overcome. 
 
I want this message to encourage even our young people because the world is presenting a nice package. I want us, as Christians, to come with a good word, a good message, and a good sound. You know for us black people you have to come with a strong message or a strong beat for us to get with you.
 
When I did the song “One Way,” from my 2016 album with the same name, I received so much kickback from the media. I explained to the program directors that I cannot release all ballads. I cannot do a concert consisting of just ballads because people will either be crying or fast asleep. I wanted something fun.

I think my latest album, Overcomer, is my best work, but I'm willing to still grow and learn. Even at 55 years of age, I feel like someone young can still teach me something. I’m willing to do what I need to do to get better. 
 
You and fellow gospel artist Kirk Franklin have always hooked up for ballads. This time, you two did a faster-paced tune, 
“Hello God,” which has an Afrobeat and Caribbean mid-tempo vibe. You also included mainstream artist Wyclef Jean. How was that experience?
 
Recording with Kirk and Wyclef was a great experience. Because of COVID-19, we recorded our vocals separately, but we talked on the phone. I was like a kid in a candy store when Wyclef and my husband, David, were working out the details. I told him it was nice to meet him, but I whispered to David, “That’s Wyclef.” He and Kirk wrote the song together.
 
I heard the song once Kirk produced and put everything together. I thought it turned out really well. I was listening to the demo while I was walking and it made me pick up my step. So, hopefully, it will be a good song for people to work out to, to ride to, and to just say, “Hello God” to. You wake up in the morning and you say hello to your spouse and your kids. Do we wake up and say, “Hello God, thank you for another day.” To me, that just brings life. It’s just to give Him some glory for another day.

Tell us about your clothing line and why it's important to have this for other women.
 
When it comes to clothing, I’m all about the quality of the material. When we buy clothes, sometimes they're not put together well. I tell the young lady who helps with distribution to look through the fabric to see if she can see through it. I don’t want anyone to see my “bun buns.” For so long, I would see fabrics that I despised as a big lady. We want to look cute, too. We don’t want to look like a big table cloth of fabrics. We want to look jazzy. So that’s really my reasoning behind starting the clothing line.
 
Ladies are always asking me about gear. It’s actually a girdle, but I always call it gear. So, I'm working on a gear line because people ask me what I'm wearing under my clothes. They’re pushing me. I just want to give good quality clothing for us to look good in. It’s in sizes 12 to 32. I had some younger ladies ask why I didn't make clothes for their size. It’s easy for smaller ladies to find nice clothing, but it’s harder for us larger women to find really cute stuff.
 
Clothing lines are starting to do better, but I wanted to do something for us and by us. It’s to help us thick ladies look cute. The ladies have been supportive
even in the pandemic. I just thank God for how people have supported us in this endeavor—and in supporting other small black companies as well (I’ve also been supporting little boutiques). 
 
I thought it was so clean the way you interpolated, "Kirk Franklin and the Family’s Conquerors” with your song, “Conquerors.”
 
I let Kirk hear it and asked him if it was okay and he was like, “Yeah.” To me, it’s slammin’. Conquering is a day-by-day step. We can overcome through Christ, and every day, we should tell ourselves that we can conquer. My thing was to stay focused and finish. I start off with the word, completion.
 
When I looked it up, I saw that ‘finished’ is part of completion. So the new album starts with the opening track, “Finished Work” and ends with the closing song, “Finished.” I co-wrote “Finished Work” with gospel artist Todd Dulaney. And, I sat and talked to gospel songwriter Travis Greene about what I wanted with the finished” theme. When I tell you he came back with my words written into that song, I said, “Bro, you did that.”
 
I love watching your Mann Family Dinner on YouTube. Sometimes, the conversations between family members can get a little heated. Case in point, in the latest episode, your daughters had a disagreement. They’re never out of control; they’re just real, having a conversation. 
 
We, David and I, realized that they, our kids, have an opinion of their own (they’re adults). I do call them my kids and try to keep them corralled as much as I can. I tell them to remember my audience. It’s okay to express your feelings, but we still have to be respectful of each other.

We taped several episodes so that we would have time to work on the record, but we really enjoy doing the show. That’s how our meals go. Usually, when we have dinner, we circle around the table (we have to get another table for the younger kids).

Family is everything. That’s what I’ve taught them from day one. We have to talk about it because we are a blended family. "If something was to ever happen to me and your daddy, I want everyone to stand together."

Dwayne Lacy is a veteran U.S. history teacher who has wide range of musical tastes.

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