A Conversation with Reta Watkins Dec08

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A Conversation with Reta Watkins

Worship leader, vocalist and recording artist Reta Watkins was just six years old when she recorded her first single. Growing up the youngest of five children in a family of musical missionaries, Reta remembers life was an adventure.

“We lived by faith,” she muses. “We slept in a camper or in people’s homes. We received love offerings and sold records and tapes to support the ministry. Everyone in the family played an instrument. I gravitated toward percussion, but mostly, I was a singer. I wouldn’t take any of it back.”

Reta has honed her skills as a vocal stylist for more than 30 years. It doesn’t take more than a cursory listen to realize that her debut solo album, the holiday themed project, That Christmas Feeling, was well worth the wait.

Reta took time from her busy holiday schedule to chat with BuddyHollywood.com’s Mike Parker about about her music and her innovative new album.

Mike Parker: Tell me a little about your new album, That Christmas Feeling.

Reta Watkins: It has been inspired by and dedicated to my late father. He was a beautiful tenor with perfect pitch. We grew up in a musicianary family, traveling and recording in all kinds of venues, and my dad had always wanted to do a Christmas album. We wanted to do one together, but we never had a chance to do it while he was alive. It just felt like the one time of album I was most passionate about doing, because of how special Christmastime is. With an album like this, big band, jazz, you had to go big or go home. We decided to go big.

Parker: Why this album; why now?

Reta: Even though I’ve been recording for my whole life, I’m essentially a new artist. We wanted to effectively communicate with our audience. It’s an incredibly important part of what I do as an artist. And there hasn’t been a big band/jazz holiday album in the market in a while. When I heard the newer songs that were so touching, I knew we needed to have them on the album. Christmas in Heaven is probably the song I’ve gotten the most feedback on.

I really wanted to connect with people beyond the Christian market and into the general market. Christmas is the one time when you can touch people with the gospel without them even knowing it. And the jazz market, just stylistically, you are reaching a whole new genre of listeners.

And it’s just fun! The warm feelings of the holiday season evoke so much emotion. It’s a special time of year. We knew if we did and excellent project, it could become a perennial project that people would listen to year after year.

Parker: I understand this is your first solo project, although you’ve been in music your whole life. Can you talk about the journey from concept to completion?

Reta: This was a posterity project for me. I wanted something that my kids could listen to and enjoy. I wanted it to be excellent. I wanted it to be something that I could be proud of, and that those who worked on the project could be proud of. We have fantastic arrangements, and masterful musicians, incredibly creative people involved. I was able to work with the best of the best, the most stellar session players in Nashville. Everyone was on their A game. It is an amazing feeling. To take this very personal record and be able to share it with the world has been an extraordinary experience. It really has been a journey.

Parker: What do you hope people take away from this album?

Reta: I hope that people the message of Christmas. Really. The fullness of what Christmas is. There is also this familiarity that the music inspires. People automatically associate this kind of music with the Christmas season. I hope that people just listen to it and say, ‘wow, she did it justice!’ I hope I was able to deliver the beauty, and the excitement, and the joy, and the fun of these songs.

Parker: So, now that you have your first solo album under your belt, are you planning on doing more?

Reta: When I started this project, I was in the busiest season of my life. But there is never a good time to start something. If you have a personal goal to fulfill, you just have to do it. You have to make time for it. My husband and family supported me in it, so that restlessness I’ve felt for years finally took over. When you put something like this out there, there is a sense that you have to continue to maintain the momentum.

We’re planning a tour next year, a vinyl release, singles and videos. And were looking at a new, non-holiday jazz album. So, this is not a one and done at all. We’ll see what doors open.

Parker: Last words?

Reta: I’m grateful for the connections God has given me during this project. I feel like I couldn’t have worked with better people on this project. It has been a seamless fit. It has been just a joy to have people that I trust and who bring out the best in me. I hope to get to do a lot more projects with these folks.