Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Icon & Songstress Miki Howard

 Miki Howard

by Belinda Trotter James

There is nothing more gratifying than to be able to go back in time and recapture the essence of the music that was birthed out of the soul of Grammy nominated, multi-platinum songstress Miki Howard.  Her music has soothed our ears since the 80s.  She has given us some of the most beautiful music ever. Time has definitely changed the music industry over the years and Miki has seen it all. "It has really changed a lot", recalls Miki.  "From the recording process to selling millions of records or selling just two records there has been a lot of changes in the music industry."  The one thing that hasn't changed for an artist is to write their own music. Miki explains, "If you write your own music, you get all the money. It's better to be a writer. Personally I'll take a good song where ever I can find it. If I write it, great; if somebody else writes it; it really doesn't matter, but it is definitely more beneficial to write your own music."

Her new album "I Choose To Be Happy" is a phenomenal piece of work.  "Its mostly a live album with two studio songs along with some really fun guests like Too Short and David  Ruffin Junior", says Miki.  "Some of the live cuts are Come Share My Love, Baby Be Mine, Til You Come Back To Me and Panther is like a soul rap song. It's about just being a strong woman in the world and growing up and maturing. A lot of girls are cougars, but then you grow into being a panther. That means being strong and supportive to your loved ones."  I listened to the new single Panther with rapper Too Short on the cut and the single along with the music video puts you in a fun dancing mood. It was co-produced by Miki and Jon Nettlesbey.

Miki enjoys working with musicians from different genres. "It just makes the music more creative and fun", says Miki.  Even though Miki is a solo artist there are many collaborations fans would love to see.  "Wow, I would love to work with almost everyone", says Miki.  "It's just so amazing when you get different talents in the room and feel the inspiration that starts coming from that collaboration. I love everyone from Drake to India Arie."

If you didn't know, Miki's full name is Alicia Michelle Howard.  The shortened version of her name is not what you may expect.  "People just always shorten my name", remember Miki.  "My family calls me Michelle."  Miki goes on to tell me how no one knew how to pronounce her first name and she hated all the different variations kids would call her in school.  Soon everyone started calling her Michelle and from there it became Miki. "There was a woman at my church that was Asian/African-American", recalls Miki. "I wanted to grow up to be like her and her name was Miki.  It was the Japanese version of Michelle so I stuck with being called Miki."

As a child growing up in Chicago, her mom, Josephine Howard along with her father Clay Graham were gospel singers. Her mother sang with The Caravans and her father with the Pilgrim Jubilees.  They would have friends over like Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin and James Brown just to name a few. Miki told me everyone knew everyone. I pictured everyone coming over for dinner and singing songs in the living room afterwards. However, Miki had to bring me back to reality and tell me what really happened when famous friends would come over. "Everybody would sing on each other's records and after the recording sessions  they would finish work and come over", explains Miki.  "They weren't really coming over for dinner; they were mostly hanging out. Maybe they would cook some food or have some cocktails and of course it would be a lot of music.  It was wonderful.  I had a wonderful childhood."  At a young age Miki used to play the harmonica. I bet her fans would love to see that, however she laughed and commented..."Oh wow, I have not picked it up in a long time, but I still love it."

Miki's siblings are now prominent ministers and one is in medicine. Just like Miki two of her three children are following in her footsteps.  Brandon Howard and Kaitlyn Howard are both making music today and her son Nicholas is a head chef.

The music industry today is so different that of course I'm going to ask Miki for her advice for those following in her footsteps.  She shouts, "DON'T DO IT!!!" We both laughed because we know the challenges can be so overwhelming that you would question yourself on whether this is something that you really want to do. There are so many highs and so many lows that you mentally have to be strong and have strong, strong support group around you at all times. How did Miki get through the rough times mentally? "Prayer", states Miki.  "Prayer, a lot of prayer and I really believe in mental health. You should check your mental health just as you do your physical health. Everyone should also have a therapist to see now and then. A lot of the things we go through and a lot of the anguish that we suffer through we really don't have to go through it.   There are solutions."

I asked Miki to look back at her life and sum it up in a few words on how she feels at this moment in time.  She replied, "You know I was just in the studio and we were talking about some of the people that we really miss and have perished right before our eyes. That's so difficult to deal with because the business is so hard on you and I would just hate to miss my life. I'm glad I have this life. I enjoy my children and my grandchildren. It's hard work to stay in this business and to stay afloat and do what you love to do, but it's still good."

Now that the songstress has mastered the music industry she's spreading her wings as one of the producers of a project she's working on called Bloodlines.  "David Ruffin Jr., Lou Rawls Jr., Richard Pryor Jr. along with myself are producing sort of a reality documentary. She also wrote a book that she's is reluctant to release. "I'm not sure I want people to know that much about me," she says. Hmmm... With all the things that happen in her life this book may be something that was therapeutic for her own spirit. However when I interview people my spirit tends to butt in on the conversation. In this business there are people who get close to you for a season or a lifetime. Some may leave your life for whatever reason and when they do, they feel they can write a book about you. If this is your journey, how can they write a book without you being there to make sure the events are told correctly and truthfully. We are on earth to help each other understand and grow and be victorious in life. When you are in the public eye your life is not your own anymore. You voluntarily or involuntarily  become a teacher or role model.

In this age of technology you can find a lot of unnecessary personal stuff about  celebrities on the Internet and no one knows if what they are reading is true or not. Miki Howard's fans love her so much that they would want to hear her story from her own words.  Her children and her children's children need to hear it from her and no one else; no one else will do.  Her words, her truth will live on forever in her autobiography.

You can catch up with Miki and all the wonderful things she is doing on her website, and on Twitter  She also tells me she's coming out with a line of sugar scrubs for the body.  "I really believe in exfoliating, moisturizing and keeping your skin very clean and very moist", explains Miki.  After the interview she said she is going to start working on the line of scrubs.  This is exciting for me because I revealed my challenges with the dry skin. I am looking forward to it and we will definitely have an update on where fans can get Miki's products when it hits the shelves.

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