Take Five With Crystal Waters
When you hear the name Crystal Waters, you immediately think of a woman whose talent and brand has sustained her 20-year career, yet the breadth of her work continues to engage new fans and please her enormous base.
She is best known for her string of domestic and international number one dance hits in the 1990s, including her 1991 signature smash, "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)," which garnered her three American Music Award nominations and made her an international sensation. "Gypsy Woman" became a global, number one smash because of its socially- conscious lyrics and its positively infectious hook.
Crystal was firmly embraced by the dance community and in 1994, she again found mainstream success with "100% Pure Love," which became one of the longest charting songs on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the charts for a whopping 48 weeks. That accomplishment earned Crystal several more award nominations, including an MTV Video Music Award nod and four Billboard Music Awards, which she won for the Top-Selling Hot Dance Music Club Play Single.
She was born in Camden, New Jersey to a jazz family, right outside of Philadelphia. "My dad had a hit record in the early '60s and appeared on American Bandstand, performing under the name Junior Waters," she recalls. "My uncle Zack Zachery was the lead saxophonist in MSFB; Gamble and Huff were always around." Her entertainer lineage does not stop there. Crystal is the grand-niece of Ethel Waters, the legendary Academy Award nominee (Pinky, 1949) and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee.
Teachers and/or influences?
My style is greatly influenced by my father and Ella Fitzgerald.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
On a fluke I got hired to do some background vocals. Once I stepped in that studio I knew I never wanted to step out..
Your sound and approach to music:
I always loved the way Ella always sounded as if she was smiling; even on a heartbreak song like "One for the Road" it adds such a humanity to the song. I try to do that
Your teaching approach:
I don't teach but If I did would emphasize always putting your personality, your own touch, in the song; enjoy it. I see so many trained artist seem cold, you can almost see them counting the beats..
Your dream band:
I would like my band to be a trio, simple and true: drums, bass and piano..
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
One of the best experiences was when I came back to New York after a long European tour. I was very tired. My manager said I had one more show to do at a little park, just a couple of songs.
I was so upset, I didn't pay any attention to where I was. I got out of the car went to the stage and found myself in a sea of people at Grand Central Park, and had the best time of my life.
Worst Story? Let's just say never go to Istanbul when hired by a Turkish mafia. Can you say American Embassy?
I love Moscow, at all the venues I perform there I am treated very well. I go often the stagehands are very professional and the sound is always amazing.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
In my jazz discography The Great City is my favorite. it's one of the first jazz recordings I ever made and I can remember the joy I felt in knowing this was what I wanted to do.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
I don't remember the title but it was definitely an Ella album.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I think just being myself in the music, bringing something different to the table.
Did you know...
Well I'm a dance artist; I think it's not known that I sing jazz.
CDs you are listening to now:
Betty Carter, Inside Betty Carter;
Ester Phillips, Confessing the Blues;
Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song.
Desert Island picks:
Same as above.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
I'm not sure, I just would like to hear more.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
I think it would be great to implement some different styles of music into it. Just like when I write to pop music I use a lot of jazz vocals, melodies. It would be nice to see it go the other way.
What is in the near future?
I plan to finish up the jazz album I've started. I also plan to do an album covering some of my aunt's (Ethel Waters) greatest songs.
What's your greatest fear when you perform?
Not connecting with the audience.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
Whatever I'm writing at the time.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Dance artist (LOL).