The Ballad of Tori Alamaze: A return to music, the birth of ‘Magick, Blessings & Bullsh*t, Vol. 1’ + more
When it comes to telling the story of Tori Alamaze, folks seem to have a one-track mind.
Just examine the coverage that the Atlanta-based vocalist/multiplatform personality has received over the years, and it becomes pretty clear that music journalists and other miscellaneous media makers appear to only be interested in her life and work in relation to the whole “Don’t Cha” debacle.
For the purposes of this article, we won’t be doing a deep dive into this period, but here’s an abbreviated version: Originally a make-up artist and a background singer, Alamaze recorded the original (and some would say, the superior) version of the song “Don’t Cha,” which was written by CeeLo Green and received a fair amount of radio play in 2005 — until the tune was, unbeknownst to her, shadily re-recorded by The Pussycat Dolls and went on to be a pop hit. Ultimately, the ordeal threw Alamaze’s musical career into disarray … and that’s where most tales about her end.
Fast-forward to today, however, and you’ll find a woman who has embraced motherhood, a writing career with a pair of celebrated books under her belt, and a thriving life in the self-care/healing space. And — come October 22, 2021 — she begins a whole new chapter as a recording artist with a brand-new EP: “Magick, Blessings & Bullsh*t, Vol. 1.”
While she was putting the finishing touches on the album (which includes the pop/hip-hop/soul-flavored single “So Dope” and four other tracks), we checked in and had a wide-ranging conversation with Alamaze about the making of the new project, her return to the music industry and more.
On how she defines herself and her purpose:
I am a mother. I am an artist. I am an author. And I am an activist. I have learned to use the pain that I’ve experienced, and make it make sense—not just for me but for others. I’ve learned, with the proper tools, not to let disappointment or hurt or pain or whatever it is have a space in my body. And I think our responsibility is, when we do have things happen to us that we didn’t anticipate or we did not expect — such as in my case with being signed and touring and the level of disappointment I felt, the level of betrayal I felt at the time, even suicidal — I had to learn how to channel that and to use that, to not only get myself together but to help and to serve others. And I believe that’s what pain is supposed to be: Like, “OK, let me make it easier for someone else. Let me be an example.” … an example of what God’s grace looks like.
On what led her back to the music industry:
In 2020, I was really angry about some posts [on social media] I saw in June, which is considered Black Music Month, from Black male record executives who were [advocating for] fairness, equality, and justice to Black artists. I personally knew these people didn’t really give a shit. Then at the same time, I was constantly in people’s blogs. My name, [my song] “Don’t Cha.” Nobody ever asked me anything. People just came up with their own stories, and whatever it is. And then somebody posted “Don’t Cha” online; when I heard it I thought: “Wow, this shit sounds really good.”
But on June 30, for whatever reason … I had gone to the gym. I worked out, came back in the car. I lived about five minutes from the gym, and literally as loud and crisp as ever, I heard something say, “Call [famed music industry executive, chairman and CEO of Epic Records] Sylvia Rhone.” But I came home, of course took a shower, and in the shower, loud as ever, again: “Call Sylvia Rhone.” So loud, when I got out the shower I just put a towel on. I didn’t do anything else but call Sylvia Rhone in that moment. I felt, if I did not do it then, I was going to miss out on something. I called her, and when the phone was ringing I got scared. But she picked up. “Hey Tori.” “Hey Sylvia. Is this a good time?” She’s like, “Sure. I’m in my car.” And we talked. And she gave me a directive, and I followed it. … Now, some people will say, “Well, you had her phone number. How many people have Sylvia Rhone’s phone number?” Because I’ve heard that before. And well … shit: I’m motherfucking Tori Alamaze! I mean, I don’t know what else to tell you. Goddamn right I got her phone number. I got a lot of people’s phone numbers!
And it’s not that I had been, this whole time, pining to record or to do music. I have been very satisfied with my role as a mother. … Everything has a season, and I had a season where I was to be still and to bring forth life. I had a season where I had loss. I lost three babies. Birthed three of them and lost all three of them. I had a season to heal my heart, heal myself, and even my relationship because both [me and my husband] were heartbroken. I had a season to write books. … I have other skillsets, other disciplines, other talents, in addition to doing music, in addition to being a songwriter. And so I just wanted to dig deep and pull those things out. And people are like, “You haven’t done music in so long.” OK, so what? There’s a season for everything. And so when it hit me June 30 to call Sylvia, I was just being obedient — and the obedience led to a six-figure offer.
On how she came up with the title for the new project:
The new project is called “Magick, Blessings & Bullsh*t.” Interestingly enough … I also serve as an accountability coach to moms. And so in an email sent [to moms I coach], I kept saying, “magick, blessings and bullshit”—it was just something that occurred to me because we’re all dealing with all of those things simultaneously. It’s like, “How do you navigate, how do you process this?” And that’s magick with a “ck,” which is a different from the regular version of magic, with the “c.” So that’s when things are really clicking. Things are just really coming together. That’s when you have done the work. For me, the work looks like meditation. For me, the work looks like unlearning some of the things that don’t serve me. So … that led me to titling my album “Magick, Blessings & Bullsh*t”—because we’re all going through a lot of amazing things, and it’s a blessing just to wake up and have breath and movement and ideas and people you love around you. And then you have the B.S. The B.S. comes. And you have to navigate all of that at the same time, and you have to figure out how not to let the B.S. take you under, or make you regular and normal and basic.
On getting back in “recording artist” mode:
Well, first I had to do a really swift pivot. I mean, [I went from] not recording anything … to: “OK, you have a budget. You have an opportunity. And all of the things you asked for to document your story properly … .” So I had to pivot. Like, I’ve been in mommy mode; I’ve been in that space and my books. And so I had to get everything — my heart, my mind, my body, everything — switched to: “… Now you’re going to be this recording artist.” … So I had to pivot. I just had to pivot. [I had to ask myself]: “What do I want to say? What do I want to talk about? And how do I do it in a way that’s cool, that’s dope?” It was that, a lot of writing and journaling, and I even hired some coaches to help me process some dormant things for me. So, yeah, it was: “Who am I? And how do I want to contribute now?”
On performing live again:
We’re working on a small listening party … but it’s going to be an experience, because I’m more than music. … I love to inspire and encourage people to start something that’s on their hearts. A lot of us are walking around with some type of trauma, some type of fury, some type of pain, or some type of belief that makes us stay small — and unfortunately, sometimes to make other people, including close family members, feel comfortable. And I like to disrupt those things. We’re … putting together ideas to see what we can make happen.
On how she thinks audiences will receive her new material:
Well, fortunately I’m not trying to attract everybody. I’m not throwing the net out there wide. Some fish can fall out them holes—so you ain’t going to catch everybody. I’m OK with attracting my tribe. And if you don’t like it, oh my God that is fine, too. It’s fine. I mean, I’m an artist: Whenever you put your heart out there, you’re vulnerable. You have to be able to accept the people who love it and the people who don’t love it, equally. But I hope, of course, that people will enjoy what I have created, because what I’ve created is super intentional.
For more info on Tori or “Magick, Blessings & Bullsh*t” visit: www.torialamaze.co.
— Carlton Hargro