The Lord works in mysterious ways. Don’t think so? Just ask the latest underground Gospel sensation, Schantel Thomas. This tremendously talented vocalist uses unconventional methods to convey a conventional message; God is great. She combines elements of Neo-Soul and R&B to round out her musical portfolio and grants the listener a look into her delivered soul. We got a chance to sit down with Ms. Thomas, and here’s what she had to say…
AS: You’re an Oklahoma native, right? Can you please share with us your experiences growing up in the Midwest?
ST: Yes, I am from a small military city called Fort Sill/Lawton, Oklahoma. It was very humbling to have grown up in a small place. I was not exposed to a congested metropolis city. Everything was at a much slower pace for me.
AS: Schantel, you are an R&B/Neo Soul singer, but I’ve noticed, after doing some research, that you have a higher regard to Gospel. Has your passion for music always been associated with the church?
ST: I am a gospel artist with a Neo Soul, R&B vibe. My background is gospel but different genres of music have captured me.
AS: In the music business personal and moral sacrifices are common with a lot of artist to remain successful. Are you willing to sacrifice your personal and moral beliefs to remain relevant?
ST: No, I am very comfortable in whom I am as an artist, and I will never conform or sacrifice what I believe in just to be successful in my career.
AS: The words Feminine and sex appeal go hand and hand in the music industry. In some cases, the industry will focus more on a female’s sex appeal before their talents. Do, you agree with this statement, and what advice can you give to the younger talented females out there who are caught in the “Sex Sells” Industry Web? Also, as we both know, the music industry is a male driven entity that sometimes exploits women to maximize sales. Have you ever been in a situation where someone wanted you to compromise your musical directions to maximize sales?
ST: I feel that just because someone is feminine; it’s not to excite you; it’s apart of a woman’s makeup. It is true that the industry focus on a female’s sex appeal before their talent. It has been [like that] since the beginning of time with artist. My advice is to know your self-worth, love who you are and stand firm in what you believe in. I am so fortunate to not have gone through any compromising situation. I am very direct and sure of whom I am and what I stand for as a gospel artist and before I decide to do business with anyone, I make sure they know this beforehand.
AS: Giving back and never forgetting where you came from shows the true character of a person. How do you give back to your community?
ST: I am very active within my community. I love to speak at shelters for battered women, and being a positive voice in the community.
AS: Now, I’ve watched and listened to Gospel acts such as Mary Mary for years. I’ve noticed that the positive message still exist, but the conservative image of Gospel music has changed. For instance, when Mary Mary performed at a 2009 awards show, their clothing wasn’t as conservative as it has been in their past performances. Since the music business is centered on sex appeal, do you feel the industry is slowly trying to push Gospel through the same channel?
ST: Yes I do, but in all fairness if we were to look at major labels verses independent labels, major labels are not as liberal and most of the time are under contractual obligations, if not foresaid you may have to conform, as a gospel artist whereas independent labels are more versatile and have a lot more freedom.
AS: We all have trails and tribulations, and we handle those situations in many different ways. You have used music as your outlet to express your story. Would you mind sharing with us what you have been through?
ST: I am a survivor of domestic abuse. Over fifteen years ago I was in a relationship with a guy who I thought was the one for me. I thought that we would get married and though the red flags were present, I ignored them, with delusions of maybe helping him change, or that I would be strong enough to help him get better. He was controlling and very possessive. He would beat me, for reasons so minuscule, and sometimes even found reasons to hurt me. I had guns put to my head, threats that he would kill me if I ever left him. I remember being beat with a thick leather belt without any clothing on. I was isolated from my friends and family. I remember that I had paid all my bills and no more money to my name. I was walking home with tears in my eyes. I started to pray and I asked the Lord if He was still there for me and had not left me, to show me a sign. I looked down and found a dollar I looked up and smiled at the Lord. I had met a friend who provided a place for me to go and hide. My friend became my husband. Fifteen years later though I had no more contact with the guy who abused me, I was still captive; the scars where still visible, the scars of depression, low self esteem, fear and the uncertainties of who I was as a woman. When I begin to speak to other women and children my healing took place.
AS: As of late, music has been tied to a lot of controversial issues. Issues, such as drug abuse, drug addiction, artist depression, and domestic violence. What steps are you taking to keep your self from falling into the same traps many artists have found themselves in?
ST: I have been down the road of abuse and depression. I refuse to allow myself to get into any situations as I have done before. I have never been fascinated with drugs. I have loved ones who were hooked on drugs and some died as a result so I’ve learned to be sensitive to warning signs. Warning comes before destruction.
AS: Your first project “Schantel Thomas” was released in 2008. Take us back to when you were first creating the project. Please explain the vision behind the project, and the message you wanted to convey to the listener.
ST: Wow! Honestly I wrote the song not knowing what to make of it. At the time of recording “Yes” it was for demo purposes only. The vision was very clear, I was always telling the Lord yes whether I was at the store, driving, cleaning, spending quality time as a mom and wife. Yes was like my anthem song. I wanted so desperately to convey that if God is the one who saved me, kept me, delivered me, I owe Him a devoted ‘yes”; yes to His will and yes to His way. The time in the studio was so surreal to me like this magical moment for me. I am sure it was because I was finally going to hear my lyrics with production and see it completed. I had written music and poetry for years and never figured in my wildest dreams it would come to pass as a completed project.
AS: You are currently working on your 2nd project “Higher.” How will this album differ from the first one?
ST: I am more transparent with my latest project “Higher”. I am open in sharing the essence of true love, because God’s love is so unconditional. I have a lot of elements within “Higher’ which makes this project so unique.
AS: What artist and producers did you work with to put this project together?
ST: I have had the most amazing experience working with some very talented and humbled producers. Ty Allen Macklin, who is responsible for Erykah Badu’s “Drama” and India Arie and many more artist. I have worked with LaNesha R. Creeks, Denny Woolen, Aisha Marshall, and Leonard Hayward
AS: What would you say is your favorite track(s) on the album and why?
ST: Track 1, Track 5, and Track 7. Track 1 talks about being in a quiet place at any giving moment, when you just want to sit and talk or just be in God’s presence with no worries. Track 5 talks about how God’s love never changes, and track 7 talks about being hurt by someone you really loved, the experience of depression and anxiety, then being rescued form God and smiling again.
AS: If you had a chance to do a song with someone, R&B, Gospel, or Neo soul. Who would it be, and why?
ST: Jill Scott because she sings about love, and Dominique Howard, she is very blunt in her deliverance.
AS: What are some of the misconceptions associated with you?
ST: A couple of my peers felt that my style of music and the way I came with this project should have been more around the perimeters of traditional gospel and in a box so to speak.
AS: For those who haven’t had a chance to listen to your material, where can they go to sample some of your work?
ST: Go to the following sites to either purchase a prerelease copy of sample my Debut Album ‘Higher” (The release date is February 16, 2010):
AS: Is there anything else you want to talk about that hasn’t been said in this interview?
ST: No, but I do want to thank you for the opportunity it has been a pleasure.