Talkaboutpopmusic.com has an exclusive chat with legendary singer Judy Cheeks!
Judy Cheeks made a triumphant return to music last month with her sensational new album “Danger Zone”. And it seems by your reaction to it, it’s been more than welcomed with open arms! So we took five and sat down with Judy to ask her about the album, her love of music and what happens next!
TAPM: So firstly many congratulations on “Danger Zone” – it’s a terrific album! Has it turned out just as you wanted it to?
JC: Thank you! I’m so glad you like “Danger Zone”! I can honestly say it has surpassed all my expectations and has given me much joy to see so many positive reactions to it. It’s great when people ‘get’ what you’re saying and like it. We had total freedom putting this project together, without the pressure or restraints major labels impose on most artist. The emphasis is usually on commercial success rather than the purity of the message. “Danger Zone” is a collection of life stories. A universal journey none of us can avoid. Our hearts seek love and all of its mysterious danger and there is no way of stopping that. So, I’ve put life to melody.
TAPM: It’s been five years since “True Love Is Free”, was there any timescale for making this album and how easy/difficult has it been to make this album happen?
JC: I have always had large gaps in my releases…not by design but more by circumstance… I didn’t know I would release another album after “True Love Is Free”. I certainly had no plans to. “True Love Is Free”, was really done to accompany the book I wrote about my father, ‘Love and Honour, the Life of Rev. Julius Cheeks’.
I wanted to return to my Gospel roots by honouring the heroes who have greatly influenced every genre of modern day music without receiving the credit or recognition they so rightly deserved. Everything about my singing and songwriting comes from the amazingly rich environment I was exposed to as a kid. My father was lead singer of The Sensational Nightingales and was known as one of the most powerful Gospel singers of his era. The Staple Singers, Sam Cooke, The Soul Stirrers, The Dixie Hummingbirds and many other Gospel legends were regular visitors at our home. I sat at the feet of greatness most of my childhood and absorbed every one of their gift like a sponge. I learned from them that the “gift” is to be revered and respected….it has power to love and heal…
A friend of mine was desperately ill. I sat at the piano and wrote him a song. He was so touched by it, it brought him to tears. Because he was so moved, I sent him copies of other songs I had written. He was so thrilled with everything he heard he kept asking for more. It was his idea to release “Danger Zone”. He felt the world needed to hear these songs. It seems that he was right! Music is meant to love and heal my friend says this project is giving him life. I am humbled to be entrusted with such a gift. My joy is in knowing I have made a difference.
TAPM: Is there a track on the album that has a particular meaning to you or one that you are most proud of?
JC: All the songs on Danger Zone have a special meaning and some address some pretty serious issues. “Tell Me Why” deals with abuse, not only physical but also mental and forces both sides to consider their actions. “Safe” deals with the anxiety many of us are feeling right now with the instability of the world and all the negativity. It’s also fun and uplifting in parts such as “Cherish” and “Never Wanna Be Without Your Love” I had a bit of fun with “Hard Woman” and “If You Want To”. Many like the subtle funk and groove of “Danger Zone” as well of the message. It’s really fun to see how many people attach themselves to different songs.” Love Will” seems to be a favourite for many older women and “Break Me Baby” is really a surprise favourite for many in general. Shaun and I had fun with the video. We thought it would be great to honour some of our favourite Divas in it. It’s a fun little video.
I think this album is the best I’ve ever made and I’m so glad Shaun O’Shea convinced me to do it. He has worked so hard and has put so much love into it. I don’t think I could ever of done it on my own. I really can’t thank him enough. He says I’ve blessed his life but I feel he has blessed mine greater.
TAPM: You began your career as a soul/blues/R&B singer, musically is this your first love?
JC: My first love is Gospel Music, not Contemporary Gospel so much but more Quartet Gospel. I personally think Quartet Gospel is the cradle of all modern day music. Its influences ring out of most artist today without them being fully aware of it. They have listened to Prince, James Brown and many others and not realized who these artists have studied and followed so the gift keeps on giving and souls are touched because the real heroes stood the test and made the sacrifices many of today’s artist know nothing about.
TAPM: Many people will remember you from the 90’s with hits like “So In Love (The Real Deal)” and “Reach”, do you still have fond memories of these times?
JC: I have very fond memories of my dance music days. Those early promotional tours with Dave Lambert were amazing! He got a thrill out of hearing some of my tapes I’d play him on our long drives. He’s one of the few people to hear tapes of Stevie Wonder and I playing around with some musical ideas…I also played him some of the old Gospel tapes I had. I kept telling him dance was really not far from Gospel in its feel.
I was so happy to know that he had an interest in all of that. He was actually my favourite of the POSITIVA guys. He had such love and passion for what he was doing. Infact I think it was Dave who suggested I record “Reach”. “Reach” is still considered a classic Club Anthem and all the various mixes and remixes I find very exciting. It gives me great joy to know that I’m part of such a magical era. Dance Music back then had the energy and excitement I’ve always felt singing Gospel. Infact I got quite lost in that energy whenever I performed it. That electrifying force between me and the crowds really blew me away. And of course there is no greater feeling as an artist than having the audience sing word for word every lyric to your songs with you!
Those were indeed very special days. Even now when I listen to “Respect”, “So In Love”, “As Long As You’re Good To Me” and all of those songs, it’s hard to sit still.
TAPM: Do you have any plans to tour or play some live gigs in the near future in support of “Danger Zone” anywhere?
JC: I would love to tour again soon! It’s looking very likely that I will.
And I know I can’t wait for that! We will be following Judy closely and will bring you more exciting news as and when it happens. And if you haven’t yet heard the album we’ve included the Spotify below! Enter the danger zone!