Debelah Morgan Biography
Last updated: 11/03/2007 12:00:00 PM
Name: Debelah Morgan (pronounced Deb-a-lah)
Date Of Birth: 29 Sept 1977
Place Of Birth: Detroit, Michigan
Origin: Mother Indian, father Afro-American
Siblings: Brother Giloh (co-writer and co-producer of Debelah's albums)
Education: Studied at University of Arizona, majored in Vocal Performance
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, producer
Records: "Debelah" (1994), "It's Not Over" (1998), "Dance With Me"(2000)
Birth of the talent
"At the tender age of three, my impressionable mind was introduced to the world of music when I took my first piano lesson in Detroit..."
Debelah's adventure with music stared very early, when her mother signed her up to a kindergarten piano class. She started playing at Sunday school and at the age of eight decided she wanted to be a singer. That was after she heard a gospel recording of Shirley Caesar and Maria Summers. Debelah: "I remember listening to those singers and thinking 'I want to do that'".
So soon she started composing her own songs, arranging them and developing her vocal talent.
As a teenager Debelah and her family moved to Arizona. During high school she started a girls' church choir and performed with the school's jazz band, show choir and concert choir. Debelah majored in vocal performance. She took part in some beauty competitions and at the age of 15 won the Miss Teen Black Arizona and Miss Black Teenage World contests. After moving to Los Angeles, she obtained a Silver medal in the NAACP international music competition.
So there she was, a 15 year old gospel choir teacher at the University of Arizona who could sing in six languages including Latin, French, Portuguese, Italian, German and Hindi.
She signed to Atlantic records and her debut album, simply entitled "Debelah", was released in 1994, in the US and Japan. The first single was called "Take It Easy". The album was never released at a greater scale, as Debelah was dropped by her record company...
"I had another album and another record deal, and I was dropped. It's only through those experiences that you dig deep and get even better and climb even higher. Of course, it's not the best feeling in the world to be told you're dropped and you have people laughing at you and you have your moments of desperation and despair."
"But I just remember saying to myself, 'I'm not going to be a victim by this, I'm going to be a survivor, I will survive this somehow someway.' It helped me keep going. It also showed me you can never relax and feel like you've reached as high as you're going to get, because you never know what life is going throw you. You could get a curve ball and end up over here or over there. Then you get over there and something else happens. It's a part of life. Accepting it in stride and knowing that it's not personal, that it's how life is, you can focus on what positive things you have."
It's definitely Not Over
Four years after her debut release, Debelah's new album, "It's Not Over", came out. This time, released under Motown lable, the album was available in Europe and Asia. Here's what Debelah said about being one of the Motown artists:
"I'm honored to be an artist on a label that's had a history of such classic performers, people who are part of our musical history," she said. "I feel so lucky to have a wonderful job like this, and I just want to do my part and no matter what happens, I will be a survivor and continue to write, perform and sing. Whatever the impact is, we'll deal with that."
"I just want to join the ranks. There's room for everyone."
"I Love You" became a hit in Europe and Asia, announcing the arrival of the new talent on the music scene, while "Yesterday" managed to debut at No. 79 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart in late September 1998, gaining a well deserved recognition in underground R&B circles. The video for "Yesterday" [see the screenshots on the left], which was made by the director of Toni Braxton number one hit "Un-break My Heart", Bille Woodruff, is often shown on BET.
The second album includes work from Grammy-winning Vassal Benford, known for work with Toni Braxton or Deborah Cox, a duet with Brian McKnight called "Still In Love" and a great variety of contemporary music.
"We wanted to reach a wide variety of people, I really didn't want to be pigeonholed or stereotyped into one particular type of music. I really wanted to reach the world and for the focus to be the music and the melodies and the words, for people to focus on that instead of 'She's that kind of singer, so we won't listen to her.'"
"Myself, I love all types of different music, so I couldn't really only be strictly very urban or just a pop singer. I needed to really express myself in a lot of different ways."
Debelah's "Here Waiting" from "It's Not Over" has been included on the "Fame L.A." Soundtrack (1998), which also features Brian McKnight and 98 Degrees.
In 1999 another movie soundtrack features Debelah songs. It's "Our Friend, Martin", a film inspired by the life of Martin Luther King Jr. . Debelah is listed among all the soul music founders, like Marivn Gaye or Diana Ross. The song also features on the Stuart Little soundtrack. A slightly different to the album version, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (yes, the title is also different), and a beautiful ballad, "As Long As I Can Dream", written by Dianne Warren, make her the star of this Motown compilation.
Apart from wirittng seven songs on her second album, Debelah-penned "Forever Yours" appears on another Motown female singer's album - Laila.
The Cruel Industry
Debelah started to work on a new album, however things got complicated. Polygram, who owned her record company Motown, had merged with Universal, a powerful industry leader whose vision didn't match Debelah's expectations. With their minds trapped in stereotypes of a black artist, they wanted her to make another urban record, while Debelah wanted to make a pleasant and fun pop/R&B record that would appeal to people beyond race. So she left.
"They did not want to do a pop/R&B album. And I feel like an artist needs to be very strong when it comes to your music, because you have to be the one to go out there and represent it. I love hip-hop and urban music, and you can hear that influence in the singing and some of the tracks, but I didn't want a complete album of that. That's not where my heart was."
Holding Onto The Dreams
Along with her brother Giloh Morgan, Debelah decided to finally record an album she's always dreamed of. Without a record deal, with no pressure she spent a few months in her basement recording.
"This past summer, we recorded this album in our basement, I filed for bankruptcy, so that, in itself, could have been a time where I gave into some type of depression, but I thought, 'I have to keep recording. I have to just keep going and going.' The whole album was recorded prior to the deal with Atlantic."
"I was able to produce all the vocals," she says. "I didn't have anyone interfering, which is great because if this is my voice, my instrument, having somebody telling me what to sing would be like telling an artist what to paint."
Feel the tango, feel the soul
Having the album ready, Debelah with the support of brand new management (David Sonenberg and Scott McCrakin of DAS Communications) had a chance to present it to Atlantic, the same company that dropped her years ago. This time however, she didn't fall into the trap of dealing with middlemen and her message was heard by the real bosses. When they heard the album, they saw a potential star, without even realising she's already released a record on Atlantic.
"I feel really blessed that Atlantic, when they heard the album, they wanted to get behind it."
Debelah's comeback single, "Dance With Me" has been increasingly popular across the US, and it's reaching fans all over the world. Her new album, with the same title, has been receiving raving reviews from major music magazines, including Billboard, Vibe and the online Wall Of Sound.