Talk about a big day for the family: On September 7, the same day Grammy nominated singer Tamia released her seventh studio album Passion Like Fire, her husband Grant Hill was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Canadian-born songstress and her famous hoops husband were already a prominent power couple but that one day was an extreme example.
“It was a big day in our household and our entire family was excited,” she says. “What an honor for him. That is the epitome of a great career for him and he was so excited.”
With the induction complete, the focus is on the R&B artist’s latest work, a collection of classic yet fresh feeling songs co-written by Tamia. She kicked off a new tour last month as well and stops at the House of Blues Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay on Oct. 20, and took the time recently to speak to me about her 20-plus years in entertainment.
Congrats on the new record and your husband’s great honor. You are such a visible couple and a lot of your fans and his fans look up to you as a sort of marriage role model. What’s that like?
Thank you. I think we are just living our lives, although we do some interviews as a couple here and there. What we try to do is encourage everyone to keep your eye on your marriage and your relationship, because what works in one may not work in the next. It’s important to stay focused on that. I don’t mind that role and I know people are watching but we’re not living our lives like that. We’re just taking it day by day like anyone.
Was creating Passion Like Fire a different musical experience for you?
There’s nothing different in terms of how I put together the album; I don’t record until I feel ready to do so. It always starts with the songs. But I wrote the most on this album, more than any other, and that’s become more important over the years as far as having my own perspective and putting my own voice out there. It begins with what I want to talk about—simple conversations turn into great songs.
The first single “Leave It Smokin’” has that great retro R&B sound, reminiscent of the early 1990s, that seems to be surging today.
It was a lot of fun. (Producer) Salaam Remi put that beat together and we wrote the song. He has this process of taking a song and sitting with it as long as he needs to in order to make it feel right. It sounded good when I left it but when I picked it up, it was great. It definitely has a feel, that good retro but still current vibe. I was in love with the end result.
Do you have other favorites from the album?
Yes, for different reasons. I would never put a song on a project I didn’t love so choosing singles is a difficult thing for me. “You Are Loved” came to me in a dream. I was singing it in a dream and I woke up and recorded exactly what I was singing. I had some things going on earlier that day, seeing people deal with loneliness and depression and I was just stuck on the idea that telling someone you love them, such a simple thing, does so much for people. When I woke up I sang the melody into my phone and sent it to my producer.
After seven albums and more than 20 years in music you have an expansive body of work. Does that make it easy or difficult to put together your live show when so many songs have so many different meanings?
When we were working on the song “Deeper,” someone asked what is the difference between Tamia now and Tamia then, and that (informed) the writing of that song. It’s just experience. You get older and see life is precious and friendships are precious and anything can happen, and you want to connect on a deeper level. The great thing about having a new album is choosing new songs I absolutely love and seeing how they come to life on the tour during the performances. It’s always great to be in this time when the album is new and you get to bring that new music out to see how it connects.
You’ve recorded some of the greatest wedding ballads ever, like “Spend My Life With You” and “Today I Do.” Do you write songs with that intention?
First of all, a love song never goes out of style. Sometimes I am literally thinking about someone walking down the aisle and expressing that moment of two becoming one. But I have been really fortunate with those songs and even “So Into You,” which has been used a lot for that. It’s a beautiful thing.