Tamia Hill was well-known even before her marriage to NBA star Grant Hill. The Canadian-born songstress was discovered by Quincy Jones and had some memorable hits with “You Put a Move On My Heart,” “Stranger In My House,” “So Into You,” which rapper Fabulous gave new life to and her duet with Eric Benet “Spend My Life With You.” Her latest CD available now, “Beautiful Surprise” is her second as an independent artist and the single of the same name is already making noise. It’s a surprise in another respect – it’s the first time Tamia has ever made a video with her husband as her love interest. After 13 years of marriage, it’s about time. Tamia will appear at the Tom Joyner Family Reunion in Orlando, Florida and will sing her duet with Eric Benet during the vow renewal ceremony. Read on for more about her life, love and career.
BAW: With all the pop and hip-hop acts, R&B has been struggling for attention lately. How does it feel to put out a record in this musical climate?
Tamia: I feel blessed to be able to be in the business over 15 years. It's a fickle business – always has been and always will be. I've seen a lot of artists come and go. So I feel very blessed to be here, and to be making music and having my fans support me.
The business has changed dramatically since you started. What's the biggest adjustment you've seen or change that you've had to make to compete now?
I think the biggest change is social media and how people even buy music at this point. As far as artists, you can have direct access to fans and vice versa. Social media changed the face of the music business. Mainstream R&B has definitely taken a hit and is on life support a little bit. If you look at these categories at these award shows, the R&B categories are all over the board. It's definitely taken a hit, but I think true music always prevails.
Years ago, you had a label that provided artist development, publicity and promotion. Now with the internet, the artists have to work harder on their own promotion while still making music. Does that make things much harder?
I do that now because I'm independent, so I'm kind of used to it. This will be my second independent project. For me personally, I like to know the ins and outs of the business and where the money is being spent and to have a decision in that, rather than just getting a bill that says now you owe us…everything. I prefer ownership.
Did you consider doing a record with Chris Brown or Pitbull or any of the popular folks out here now or did you pretty much just want to make the record you wanted to make?
That's pretty much where I stood. I wanted to make the record I wanted to make. Am I opposed to any of those things – depending on the song, depending on the record, maybe a remix or something like that, but it wasn't just right for me for this project.
Do you think people would accept that from you or were you like let me go ahead and stick with the audience that has gotten me to this point?
I think it would depend on what it was. Perfect example – "So Into You." That was a record I did years before Fab redid it. And people accepted that just fine. I think it would have to be the record and the context in which it was done. I'm not going to go out there and just put a rapper on the record. It would have to make complete sense. I've been pretty consistent with catering to my audience and I know who my audience is.
In terms of making music, does it give you a greater sense of creative freedom because you have a husband who makes good money and making a profit is not as much of a priority for you?
I think that people work for other things other than just a check. I definitely like to be paid for my work and I do well on my own. But yes, my husband makes money. I would consider myself to be a smart businesswoman, so I'm not trying to go out there and spend money and have it not make any sense. Everything that I've tried to do music wise and even the things that I do in my career, I try to be very conscious of the money aspect of it. But I do have a certain amount of creative freedom because no, I don't need it to keep the lights on.
A lot of artists have done reality TV to create more exposure for themselves and their careers so it's now seen as a promotional angle. Is that something that you would ever consider?
I've been asked by myself, Grant and I have been asked together – it's just not something that we want to do.
You've been asked about "Basketball Wives" and have said you don't consider it to be realistic to the women married to players that you know. What's your take on it?
I don't think it's far to put anyone in a box. It puts basketball wives in a box and I don't want to be in a box as an artist, I don't want to be in a box as a woman and I certainly don't want to be in a box as a black woman.
Given that, what do you think people would be most surprised to know about your life?
I think just how much hustle is involved in everything that we do with my husband playing and with myself running the label and being the artist and then juggling our children and dealing with both of our health issues to a certain extent. I don't know if people have a perception that it's all perfect, but if you look at just the last couple years in both of our lives, we've had a lot of [challenges] health wise and those are things that take a lot of strength to get through. Because we aren't as public, people don't necessarily know those things. I think they would be surprised at how much juggling is going on.
You mentioned health challenges. You went public with the fact that you have MS some years back. How is your health and how are you able to manage it in such a stressful business along with being a wife, mother and businesswoman.
I really have to listen to my body. I have to make sure that I take care of myself. This business can be stressful and thank God I have a lot of great people that I work with who help navigate it all. As far as my health, I'm doing very well but I work at taking care of myself. It takes work to stay healthy.
You and your husband have been married 13 years. You and Eric Benet are singing at the vow renewal ceremony. Since you've been married all those years, what do you think has most contributed to the longevity of your relationship?
You definitely have to have communication. That is the key, especially when you have two people that are both working and when you have children. It's great to know that somebody has your back. Life is mountains and valleys and sometimes I needed to be pushed up the mountain and my husband was right there, pushing me up there. That's an amazing feeling when you have a connection with someone at such a deep level. But to me communication is the key. I don't expect him to read my mind.