R&B singer and songwriter Karyn White calls singing the heartbeat of her life. She also acknowledges loving the attention singing has brought to her, especially now returning to her craft after a self-imposed hiatus.
Best remembered for her Grammy-award nominated 1988 hit, “Superwoman,” White says her fans often forget that she has several other chart-topping songs. They include “The Way You Love Me” (1988), “Love Saw It” (1988), “Secret Rendezvous” (1988), “Romantic” (1991), and “The Way I Feel About You” (1991).
Early in White’s entertainment career, she sang with a band called Legacy. The Los Angeles native also participated in beauty pageants, like Hal Jackson’s “Miss Talented Teen,” which she won.
Additionally, White was a student at the Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles, the non-profit organization provided a program for underprivileged children. She studied acting, singing, dancing, and modeling.
When White was just 18 years old, she co-wrote with Robert Brookins, “Automatic Passion,” for Stephanie Mills’ 1985 self-titled LP. She then began working sessions as a background singer with Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “L.A.” Reid for several popular performers, including Johnny Gill, Pebbles, and Sheena Easton.
Although White would later have much success with L.A. and Babyface, she credits keyboardist Jeff Lorber as her first big break in music. In 1986, she was featured on Lorber’s fourth album “Private Passion,” with Tower of Power member Michael Jeffries.
“Private Passion” was released by Warner Bros. Records, and White remembers the executives telling her it would be a testing ground for her own album.
“Karyn White,” the debut album by White, was released on September 6, 1988, and produced by L.A. Reid and Babyface. Other producers included Jeff Lorber, Ian Prince, Steve Harvey, and White herself.
“They [L.A. and Babyface] were doing very well with The Whispers hitting ‘Rock Steady.’ They were working with Bobby Brown, had his ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ out, and then they [L.A. and Babyface] thought there would be a great chemistry between us,” said White.
According to White, L.A. and Babyface were slated to produce just two songs for the album, but they ended up producing six.
“It was the greatest time ever,” reminisced White. “We were in L.A., young. We were trying to compete with [Jimmy] Jam and [Terry] Lewis, in the sense to be their ‘Janet Jackson.’”
In 1992, White married music producer Terry Lewis. The two have a daughter together, Ashley, and an adopted son, Brandon. In the beginning, White says the relationship was amazing because they were both very driven when it came to their careers.
“It worked for us, until I guess it didn’t,” reflected White. “I didn’t realize it would have that kind of effect on my life, personally. But normally, it was very positive being with an artist, too…. It worked for a while.”
White and Lewis divorced in 1999.
White thinks back to that period of being internationally accepted as an artist. She was only 22 when she recorded, “Superwoman,” and says she felt too young to understand that experience. However, after her relationship with Lewis and another failed marriage, the song came full circle for her, and then she understood.
“It’s crazy how your songs will, I guess, be a magnet — laws of attraction — it comes back to you,” said White.
White says she later went through a low period, in which her heart began to fall apart emotionally. She says she felt like she had everything, but had nothing. She says she had her beautiful home, her beautiful daughter, and her amazing husband, but she was still empty inside.
“Something wasn’t connecting for me, emotionally,” said White. “I was in Minnesota, I didn’t have any family around me, and L.A. and Babyface didn’t work on my second album because they had started their own label, LaFace Records.”
White also says the non-verbalized comparisons to Janet Jackson, when Jackson was at the height of her career, combined with being the wife of Lewis and still being an artist, was very frustrating. She had to learn how to navigate being a wife, a mother, and a recording star. She says it was hard being three things at once.
White declares prayer is where she found her balance. She also found success beyond her music career in real estate, buying and flipping homes.
Now, White is back on stage with “The Karyn White Experience,” with special guests Syleena Johnson and Ella Nicole at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, CA, on Thursday July 27th beginning at 5 p.m.
White says her triumphs in real estate afforded her the opportunity to spend more time with her family and feel more connected to people. After her daughter Ashley graduated from Howard University, she was inspired to get back on stage while listening to a blog talk radio show about the music industry.
“I grew up in South Central [Los Angeles] and then I moved to Inglewood [California]… I’m so excited to be coming back to my home. And when I say, ‘my home,’ I mean right down the street,” concluded White.
For more information on singer/songwriter Karyn White and “The Karyn White Experience” visit karynwhite.me
Keith L. Underwood is the host of the KBLA Talk 1580 entertainment radio show, “Black In The Green Room.” A former entertainment publicist, he currently develops platforms for performers, creatives, and Hollywood execs to shine and inspire. IG: @umaworldwide.