Grammy and Tony Award winning singer and songwriter Heather Headley is known for her angelic voice. Headley’s songs, “In My Mind” and “I Wish I Wasn’t,” were well received, and the Trinidadian-American songstress earned a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album for Audience of One in 2010. But Headley’s talents aren’t limited to just wax. Outside of music, Headley is also a talented actress who has starred on the world’s largest stage in productions like The Lion King and Aida.
This month, Headley returned to the Broadway stage to play Shug Avery in the The Color Purple. Headley took over for Jennifer Hudson and is planning to bring her signature sound and expertise to the production. And judging from the reviews, it’s working.
Recently, Ebony.com caught up with the lovely songstress to talk about how she balances her Broadway run with being a wife, mother of two, and working on new music.
Ebony.com: What was it like returning to theater to star in the Broadway play, The Color Purple?
Heather Headley: I love it! It’s great, but the process is a little bit different as far as production is concerned. I had to get used to the theater atmosphere because I haven’t had a role on Broadway since Aida. It was a different process from day one because I was learning my parts by myself. The cast and directors were with me, but I was learning along the way.
As you’re learning your lines and the character you’re playing, you’re going to make mistakes but I learned more about Shug Avery. I learned my lines, but everything had to be done quickly. So, when I was offered this opportunity, I was grateful to God, first and foremost, and I just respect and appreciate the entire cast. I am just pleased and honored that I can bring my character to life.
Ebony.com: Are you working on any other Broadway plays outside of The Color Purple?
Headley: I am just focusing on The Color Purple for now; I am just having an amazing time. The Color Purple received four Tony nominations; the play is highly looked at and it’s a must see for everyone. I just want to carry on what Jennifer Hudson has done and help the team get to the finish line.
Ebony.com: How about another album?
Headley: After I had my youngest son–he’s 20 months now–I took time for him and just spent more time with my family. But, I know it’s time to get back to work. I am working on new music as we speak. I just want to create amazing music that speaks and defines who I am. I want it to be based on my life and/or what I am going through at that specific time.
I love music; I was never the type of singer to say, “This is my specific genre, or I only sing R&B music.” I feel like as a singer, you should be limitless and you shouldn’t be stuck in a box. Whitney Houston, one of my biggest inspirations, also had that same mindset because her songs vary from R&B, hip hop, pop, and gospel. I like to think about the quality, content, and concept for my music because I think these are the most important things and it just molds everything together.
Ebony.com: Is there a specific artist you would like to work with in the future?
Headley: There are so many great artists out there; it’s hard to choose one. But, I would love to work with Ledisi; she has a great voice. I also admire and respect John Legend. When he wrote “All of Me,” I fell in love with the melody and music. He is an artist that really loves music and just has a great way with words. So, yes, I would love to write a song with him. I am working on a list for collaborations and it’s just another way to share your artistic talent with other artist.
Ebony.com: Why do you think it's essential for artists to stay humble, especially in music and entertainment?
Headley: I am able to stay humble because I recognize that God has truly blessed me; I can’t say that enough. I also understand without Him, all of this wouldn’t be possible. I just have to give credit when it’s due because there are some things that took place in my life that I couldn’t explain at all. I grew up on the island, Trinidad to be exact, and I never thought it would be possible. These sort of things happen once in a lifetime. I just know God is bigger than me and everything I do is to serve and please Him. Also, my husband, children, and my family are my biggest supporters. I just pray to God to keep my family and I aligned at all times, and I just remember where it all got started before show business.
Ebony.com: How do you balance work, family, and children while you perform on Broadway?
Headley: I guess it’s just happening because I have a great support system and I know how to prioritize everything. I strive to keep God in every aspect of my life so that’s important, because some days, it requires you to have a great deal of strength. Then, my family is second and it’s in that specific order. I look around and I see how everything falls into place once you know which comes first.
My husband is very supportive and is there for the kids, especially when I’m in projects such as The Color Purple. My husband knows the meaning of sacrifice and support and he doesn’t have a problem reminding me when I fall short. He will explain to me how and why this would jeopardize or compromise our relationship. But, I also call my family and see what’s going on with them before I start my day with interviews, rehearsals, or anything else. I just want to do everything well and still be there for my husband and children. I am so grateful for my family because they are so understanding. I can’t take all of the credit; it’s a team effort.