Her string of memorable hits have been embedded in R&B fans’ hearts for decades, and now, soul singer Stephanie Mills is setting out to rekindle this magic once more.
Mills first captured audiences’ attention when she was just a youth, appearing in many Broadway hits including the classic musical The Wiz in 1975. Shortly thereafter, the Brooklyn native exploded into the R&B scene and scored her first hit with “What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’?” in 1979. The single marked Mills’ coming of age and her collection of subsequent hits quickly ushered her into R&B hall of fame status.
After nearly three decades in the music industry, Mills slowed down in the early 2000s following the birth of her son. Now, the singer is celebrating her return and anticipating the release of her album Breathless. She’s currently touring across the country and will come to Rams Head in Annapolis, Md., on May 19. The AFRO spoke with Mills about her upcoming album, her tour and life as a performer and mother.
AFRO: You’ve been in the music industry for quite a long time. How does it feel to have had such a lengthy career?
Stephanie Mills: I feel blessed and I feel fortunate. Will Downing and I played in Las Vegas and we had great show. It was just wonderful to not have something new out, and to have people still come. The house was almost full. I just felt appreciated.
AFRO: So, what’s been your proudest moment?
SM: Having my son. He’s 10 years old now…that was my proudest moment.
AFRO: Your career must be pretty demanding. How do you manage it all and taking care of your son?
SM: Well, I took some time off to take care of him. I haven’t been working a lot. Now, I’m getting back into it because he’s 10. But I wanted to be home when he came home from school and those formative years.
AFRO: What can fans expect at your show at Ram’s Head?
SM: We just revamped the show that we performed in Vegas. It’s upbeat. I wanted to do a show that I enjoyed and knew that my audiences would enjoy. I’m going to sing all of my songs−Something in the Way, Feel the Fire, I Feel Good, Home, Never Knew Love…I’m singing a lot of the older songs.
AFRO: Let’s talk about ‘Breathless.’ Explain the creation of this album and what listeners can anticipate.
SM: Well, I wrote a song called “Breathless” and I just thought it was such a nice title that it the title of my album. I’m staying true to who I am, but just with an updated version of music. I’m staying very true to my R&B roots and what people are used to me sounding like−just with a 2011 sound. I have Josiah Martin producing tracks. Donald Lawrence is overseeing the project for me. He’s connecting me with some R&B that have wanted to work with him for a very long time. So, it’s coming together very nicely.
AFRO: When will it be released?
SM: We don’t have an exact date because we went back and redid some tracks. But there will be a single out probably by the end of June.
AFRO: You’ve already had an amazing career. But is there something that you’d like to do that you haven’t already?
SM: I want to release a children’s book. I also want to continue touring and do a lot of shows because I absolutely love that. I’d like to have a perfume line and a clothing line made for petite women. It seems like everything is made for tall women and I’m small−that’s something that I want to do.