10 Questions with ... Martha Wash
July 1, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
1) Can you offer a brief journey of your musical career and tell us what inspired you to pursue a career as a singer?
I've been singing since I was three years old. I sang all through school and I always music and singing around me. Knew always I would be a singer, I just didn't know what genre I would be singing?
My mother wanted me to be Gospel singer. But I wanted to sing other genres of music. That's when I joined Sylvester and my career took off from there, singing and performing as Two Tons O' Fun with Izora Rhodes. That evolved into The Weather Girls and we had a #1 hit with the 1982 release of "It's Raining Men" which was written by songwriter Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer.
Since then I have pursued a solo career and I have sung on several studio projects including Black Box, and the #1 hit "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" by C+C Music Factory.
2) Who was it that gave you an early break into the music business and how did you end up becoming a back-up singer for Sylvester in the 1970's.
Actually Sylvester James gave me my first break when I auditioned for him. I had seen him perform two years before meeting him when he was the opening act for Billy Preston.
I had never heard anyone sing like that in such a high falsetto voice! I loved the show! And two-years later I auditioned with him and he asked me to find another "large" woman singer to join me. That's how I found Izora Rhodes.
3) Your song "It's Raining Men" became a worldwide hit in the early 80's. How does it feel to be part of one of the biggest Dance songs in history, and please tell how it felt to have your song break through to #1 in so many countries?
It was very surprising to me and Izora because we did not think the song would work for us. Paul Jabara finally persuaded us to record it. We went into the studio and recorded it in 90 minutes. We said, "See you later" and we just forgot about it. But then Paul Jabara went around to the clubs asking DJ's to play the song. So it was a hit in the clubs long before mainstream radio picked up on it.
Eventually "It's Raining Men" became a major hit in all these countries and we were amazed! I guess Paul was right!
4) The first single entitled "I've Got You" from your new album "Something Good" is very uplifting and inspirational. Please tell us about your new release?
Other people have mentioned that "I've Got You" is very uplifting and inspiring. When we recorded the album, we wanted to let people have their own interpretation of the songs. "I've Got You" is about someone having your back and always being there for you, like my fans. Overall the album is about empowerment, inspiration, and hope.
With the new single "It's My Time," I just liked the lyrics to this song because it makes you feel like you can do anything! Whatever you want to do in your life you make a commitment to do it, and you tell yourself, "It's My Time" regardless of the challenges you face. Put the negativity aside and just do what you've got to do to empower and inspire yourself. Click here to listen.
We also did a cover of Aerosmith's song "Dream On." My manager James Washington wanted me to do a cover and we went through a big list of songs. I kept turning down every song he suggested until he got to "Dream On." Then I stopped, and thought, "Yes... that's the one!" I'm very happy with the way it turned out! I hope Steven Tyler feels the same. Click here to listen.
5) How does it feel to have your song "Raining Men" used as the backing track for just about every male dancer routine and bachelorette party ever?
It's funny because just about every wedding reception, or bah mitzvah has to play that song once or twice. I'm happy because that song is 30 years old so it has really lasted the test of time. And what I have realized is that it is a generational song. It catches on with young people, parents and even grandparents. It's a great thing to see! It's become a cult classic.
6) You formed the Weather Girls with Izora Rhodes in the early 80's. What motivated you to step out and pursue a career of your own?
Let's backtrack. Before The Weather Girls, when we sang for Sylvester, we were known as Two Tons O' Fun. Our producer Harvey Fuqua (who was very well known for his work with Motown artists) suggested that Izora and I record an album. So we recorded two albums and we had a couple of hits, "Just Us," and "Earth Can Be Just Like Heaven."
Then we met Paul Jabara and recorded "ItÂ´s Raining Men." Once that song became a hit we decided to change our name to The Weather Girls because many people thought it was a brand new group.
But Two Tons O' Fun fans said "No..." that's not a new group? So we decided to do three things: A) We moved from the West coast to the East coast. B) We changed our name to the Weather Girls, and C) We signed with Columbia Records.
In a way, we started all over again under a new name. We had new fans of the Weather Girls, but Two Tons O' Fun fans felt it was a continuation of that group.
7) Tell us about your experience as the singer on the #1 hit C+C Music Factory "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)."
David Cole, Musical Director of the Weather Girls and producer/writer Robert Clivilles were doing their own side projects. I would sometimes do demo vocals for them. With the demo, "Gonna Make You Sweat," somehow they released it as the actual recording. They then created and released a video for the song with another singer lip-synching to my vocals, but it did not work because the people who knew my voice said "ThatÂ´s Martha Wash!" I ended up taking legal action against them which led to a legislative change making it mandatory that all featured artist be credited for their vocals.
After we put that behind us, I went on to record another album with them, and all was good.
8) What was it like working with Paul Shaffer and appearing on David Letterman to receive an award for selling over 500,000 copies of "It's Raining Men" (currently over 6 million albums sold).
It was nuts! When I look back at that show now it seemed like it was a cast of thousands because there was so much going on! To honor Paul as a co-writer on the song, David went all out with the production of that show. There were singers, and dancers, and people hanging from the ceiling! it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. It was also really nice to receive that award. It was long overdue. It was a great experience. Click below to watch.
9) On your new album "Something Good," you contributed as a co-writer to the song "Destiny" along with Producer Zach Adams and Executive Producer James Washington. What is your approach to songwriting? How do you capture the inspiration when it comes, and how do you tailor your music to fit in with contemporary artists?
Well, I am just in the beginning stages of songwriting. I'd have to say, I believe that I need to rely on a songwriting partner. I'm not so much a songwriter, but more of a co-writer. By no means, am I really out there as far as songwriting is concerned, so I've always liked to have someone to work with to map out what the song is.
10) What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry as we migrate from CDs to digital online sales, online radio (Pandora, iTunes radio) and streaming "access models" such as Spotify, Rhapsody, Deezer, MOG, etc?
This has been an eye opening experience and it has been confusing. It is something that I'm personally trying to deal with. Growing up we went from vinyl to 8-Track, to cassette, to CD and DAT. It's just mind boggling now with computer technology you don't have to go to the brick and mortar store to get the product.
But personally, I always loved the experience of going to the record store. For everyone else it's just a couple of clicks and you can order your music. We live in such an immediate society and we want everything now, so the technology has made it easier to get it now.
With the advent of all the internet radio stations, that has made it easier for people to listen to all types of music instead of having to search the record store for it. There are pros and cons to new technology. It's tough to keep up with it. But it does allow the consumer to have it now.
I don't agree with the free downloading and piracy of music as that makes it hard for the musicians to make a living. So that is the down side. The laws have not caught up with the technology.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Growing up as a little girl I liked Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward. As a teenager, I enjoyed listening to Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and all the Motown groups. I also liked many of the Rock groups that were out during that time including The Beatles, (Paul was my favorite), Credence Clearwater Revival, and the Doobie Brothers.
*How have social networks and sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter affected the way you promote your music and interact with your fans?
I did not want to get on Twitter for the longest time. I finally decided to get on it and I found that it is a really good way to promote yourself and keep up with your fans.
Please tell us about some of the challenges of running your own independent label versus being on a major label?
First of all, you're "independent," so that should tell you something right there! You're on your own little island. The down side is that you don't have the major backing. All the work that the labels should be doing for you, you're doing those things yourself. You're out there promoting yourself and that takes your own time and resources.
But the advantage is, you don't have to answer to anyone except yourself and your staff. Whereas (depending on the label) your product may be sitting on the shelf for years, so it's up to you to get your product out to the fans.
In my opinion, one of the major challenges for indies is getting your music heard. Although there are many options today for airplay you still have to get your song on the radio, and it doesn't stop there. You want to chart, so you have to keep pushing for rotation and while you are trying to get rotation and so are the majors. Who do you think is going to chart first? But you got to stick with it. A great song can not be denied.
What was the most memorable charity event that you ever participated in?
I've done so many over the years! But the one particular charity that I've worked was for HIV and AIDS back in the mid to late 80's. When we were first starting out, we would get calls to raise funds for local hospices. Grassroots organizations were just getting started to help their family members. Over the years IÂ´ve lost a lot of friends, business and personal.
I have also worked with American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR) which is one of the larger organizations for the cause. I've been working with them going on 30 years now. I've done a lot of that work throughout the country.
I also began working with QSAC (Quality Services for the Autism Community) about three years ago. This organization helps individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder realize opportunities for independence, self-reliance and successful community.
I had noticed that most autism Public Service Announcements only focused on children. So I partnered with QSAC located in New York City which works with both children and adults.
What is the one truth that has always remained constant throughout your career?
As a performer, I believe it is important to stay relevant. But for me personally, it would be my faith. Keep the faith, keep believing, and whatever happens will be for my own good, weather I like it or not.