07 Feb 2013
- Written by Tony Jones
For Tamela Mann and her legion of Christian-market fans, a truly historic weekend kicks off with a live performance at the University of Memphis' Rose Theatre on Friday evening.
A gospel-industry showstopper for two-plus decades, Mann will be bringing new fire for her repertoire. The fuel is the news that she's been nominated for her first Grammy Award for the No. 1 gospel single "Take Me To The King" from her aptly titled 2012 CD, "Best Day."
Sounding wonderfully enthusiastic and down to earth, Mann shared the Grammy news and more with The New Tri-State Defender during a telephone interview from her home in Dallas on Wednesday.
"I am excited to be in the number, oh yes," said Mann, referring to the Grammy nomination. (The Grammy Awards show airs Sunday (Feb. 10) at 7 p.m. on CBS.)
"I try not to get too involved with the numbers side of the business and that kind of stuff too much. My husband keeps up with that side of things. I like to just focus on people and spreading the word to people that they can take all their problems to the King, but I have to admit I am very excited."
Solidly at the top of the traditional and contemporary gospel charts since it release this fall, "Take Me To The King" was a reunion project for Mann and gospel superstar Kirk Franklin, with whom she began her career in career 1991.
"We reached out to him when we were planning the project," Mann explained. "He said he really didn't have anything for us but that he was going out of the country to do some writing. So when he got back he came over and sang it to us, and that's how the song came to life."
Of course, the husband she refers to is David Mann. His lovably buffoonish role as comic foil to Tyler Perry's Madea was a key to Perry's stage success, as was Mann's recurring solo turn as the moral center of Perry's plays. She would bring down the house, spreading the play's emotional glue in song.
Perry's successes propelled the Manns into their own hit television spinoff, "The Browns," in which Tamela Mann plays the beleaguered, common-sense foil to her husband's over the top screen foolishness.
Off air, Mann says she and her husband have led a committed Christian life since being wed 25 years ago. They're anticipating a big celebration for their anniversary this April, perhaps even a Grammy-shaped cake – among the many things she says they couldn't afford when first married.
When they were recording "Take Me To The King," neither Mann nor her team had any inclination that the song would make her queen of the gospel charts this year.
"You have that hope that people are going to like it, and I'm grateful that it has taken off like it has," she said.
More than a vocalist, Mann is part of the hands-on team for her recordings.
"I see it like a gumbo, or a roller coaster," she said of recording. "Best Day" has something for everyone, from traditional to contemporary lovers. I even get deep into the R&B side for the young people on 'Back In The Day Praise' that lets them ride and bop their heads a little bit."
The CD also includes the old landmark "I Need Thee Every Hour," which Mann reaches for whenever she needs a little encouragement, and "The Blood Song," which connects listeners to her bringing. (I got of taste of her singing this one during the interview.)
At the Grammys on Sunday, Mann will be wearing a gown crafted by Atlanta-based designer, Maria Harper. And then back to work. She and her husband have completed 10 episodes of a new lifestyle and cooking show that they are shopping. One the episodes was filmed at Texas Motor Speedway.
She laughs at the image of "Mr. Brown" careening at 200 miles an hour in a racecar, but corrects us that it will be the everyday Mr. Mann featured in the show. But as her career has shown, anything could happen.
"I've been singing since I was eight, but never envisioned all that God has given us," said Mann.
"When I get up on stage, I sing like He's sitting in the first row. I don't care where I am, if I feel the need to praise, I share my feelings with the audience."