Celebrated songstress Regina Belle is back with a new album, “The Day Life Began” (Shanachie Entertainment).
After a 15-year hiatus from recording R&B music, the Grammy-winning vocalist felt inspired to make an album that expanded on her core sound with a hybrid of other genres.
“This project is special because it combines four genres of music that I’ve either loved forever or have just really discovered and have come to love. There’s Gospel, R&B, Jazz and Country. The entire journey of music compiled within this presentation is spiritually-based because whatever I do, who I am in Christ will always shine through,” Belle told AlwaysAList.com.
Having released two success Gospel albums in recent years—2012’s “Higher” (Pendulum) and 2008’s “Love Forever Shines” (Pendulum)—fans wondered if Belle would ever return to mainstream music. But the 52-year-old veteran told us that she felt now was the right time.
“I did it because it’s not just another R&B project! I was worried if God would be pleased with my work or not. So when I listened to all of the music on this project I heard inspiration and positive messages throughout everything that I’d recorded and thought to myself, I think ‘He’s Alright,'” she explained, before adding: “I know, a shameful plug!”
In 2004, Belle released her first Jazz album, the critically acclaimed “Lazy Afternoon” (Peak Records). The collection was produced by the late jazz great, George Duke.
“I have 1,000 memories of recording ‘Lazy Afternoon’ with George, but my greatest memory is when it was just George and myself in the studio and we were recording ‘If I Should Lose You.’ George was suffering from either a sprain or carpel tunnel, I’m not sure which one, but he had a soft cast on his hand. In the middle of us recording the song he gets really upset with the cast impeding his dexterity while he’s playing—I thought he was great. So he rips off the cast and throws it on the floor and we start over and what you hear is ‘resplendent artistry.’ I knew he was in pain and seeing him sacrifice to sound great on my project is something that I’d like to believe that I alone have experienced. The fact that he went through so much to record with me in such a giving way, showed me his heart was even bigger than his gift,” she recalled.
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Belle admitted she has thought about recording a second jazz album, but she’s leery about doing one without Duke, who died August 5, 2013 in Los Angeles from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
“I’d love to record another Jazz album, however George really set the standard so high,” she pondered. “I just don’t know.”
But now, Belle is focused on “The Day Life Began,” her tenth studio album and sixth R&B offering. The CD was led by the first single, “Be Careful Out There,” a song produced by the production duo The Heavyweights, made up of Jack Kugell and All-4-One singer Jamie Jones.
Belle said she chose the song “The Day Life Began” as the title track for her album because it “breeds sunshine.”
“I love this song even though you have to wait for it,” she explained. “I say wait for it because once the beat kicks in, the sunshine comes and it’s kind of smooth sailing from there. I love that feeling so much I thought why not name the album after this song. The message was great and the feeling is what I pray that my music always conveys and that is hope for a better way if we can just hold on a little longer.”
The New Jersey-bred entertainer joins “The Chew” co-host Carla Hall as a celebrity opting to embrace her gray hair. Belle showcases her silver-streaked stresses on her new album cover and in recent promotional shots.
“I stopped coloring the gray because I got tired of the color fading before I left the salon,” she laughed. “I may change back but I don’t think so. I enjoy being different! Some embrace it and others, well it drives them crazy! They say things like, ‘Regina who’s your colorist? She forgot your grays.’ I respond, ‘She’s fired!'”
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Ask her what’s on her iPod playlist and the answer may shock you. “I am so loving Country music here lately,” she confessed. “I have always appreciated the music because the stories they tell are very relative to the Blues and I love the Blues.”
Belle is particularly fond of the Country duo Sugarland. “There is one song and video that has me in stitches and that’s Sugarland’s ‘Stuck Like Glue,” she admitted.
She’s also a fan of Janelle Monáe’s artist Jidenna. “I love that young man. He is definitely a ‘Classic Man!’ I love his whole package. He incorporates old school Motown and afrocentristic—so not a word but it fits—illustrations via his videos as well as the music. He’s a wonderful surprise,” she beamed.
Belle is also a fan of burgeoning Gospel artist Anthony Brown. “When I think about artists today that take me all the way in, I love Anthony Brown’s ‘Worth.’ I love what he does with that song. I can’t drive and listen to that song! I recently met him at the BMI Trailblazer Awards and he was so cool,” she shared.
Best known for songs like ‘Make It Like It Was,’ ‘A Whole New World’ and ‘If I Could,’ Belle is the mother of five and is married to former NBA star John Battle. The singer’s husband pastors an Atlanta-based church, New Shield of Faith Ministries, where Belle was licensed as a minister several years ago.
Belle’s latest CD, “The Day Life Began” is in stores and available on all digital retail platforms now.[box_light]READ ALSO: Jennifer Holliday: Talks Health Challenges, Dream Duets & Broadway Revivals