Crystal Waters is looking forward to returning to Australia in October / November this year as part of a hit heavy dance act line-up that will roll through Thebarton Theatre on November 11 (which should be an easy ‘day to remember’ dance music lovers!)
The tour has already created a huge buzz of excitement, with the show already moved from its original venue to Thebby after demand for tickets outstripping the capacity of The Gov soon after they went on sale.
“I love Adelaide”, she exclaims down the line at the outset of our chat, “I’m a wine lover so…”
…we know what Ms. Waters will be doing in her downtime whilst she’s here?
“Most probably!” she concurs with a laugh. “But that wasn’t my main priority. Australia is one of those places that, when people say ‘Will you come?’, you just jump up and go. It’s not every day you get asked to go to Australia. So I am excited. And to be with some people I haven’t worked with in awhile, people like Whigfield and the Vengaboys…yeah. I’m excited! Someone just told me it’s selling out, it’s doing really well, so that’s even better news.”
She’s right. People have snapped up tickets for the November gig which should prove to be a riot of fun, featuring as it does a pretty diverse cosmopolitan line-up. Performing along with Crystal will be a well-known list of acts headlined by Dutch Eurodance drawcard, The Vengaboys, and also including Spanish 90’s hit-maker, DJ Sammy; Danish dance diva Whigfield; British r n’ b artist, and former S’Express vocalist, Sonique; UK singer Tina Cousins, and Aussie dance pop artist, Joanne.
November seems a strange time for a Washington DC resident to be travelling away from the States. It will mean she misses the biggest show on Earth – the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
“I’m so happy about that! I don’t want to be here. I’m gonna vote early and I’m gonna be out! All I can do is cross my fingers and wish for the best.”
Let’s hope it’s a celebration and not a wake, I muse.
“Hey, I may not come back, and stay in Australia!”
Now Aussie dance music aficionados will recall that Crystal is best known for her infectious dance hit, “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)”, a song that has refused to fade away over the years and has been sampled by so many people – Alicia Keys, Mary Mary & hiphop artist T.I., just to name three – as time has gone by.
“She has been really good to me. I say she has a life of her own, and I just kind of check in on her. It gets remixed or redone at least three or four times a year, and sampled and everything. They call it an ‘evergreen’, and I’ve been blessed with that.”
I wondered aloud, whether when she first wrote the song that it resonated with her so strongly that she knew it was going to make such a strong impact.
“Not at all. I had no clue. It was like, the first song I ever wrote. I wrote that and “Makin’ Happy”. I took it to the Basement Boys and they said they loved it. I thought it would only be a big hit here in the Washington DC area.
It didn’t hit me until I was on ‘Top Of The Pops’ in London that maybe I should quit my job. It took me two years before I did quit it, because I just didn’t realize quite what was going on!”
The job she left was with the local Parole Board and I couldn’t help but wonder whether that experience contributed to the socially aware lyrical content in many of her songs, particularly those in “Gypsy Woman”.
“Yeah, this was back in the nineties, and you’ve got to remember that this was when AIDS was at its highest outbreak and homelessness was rife. This was just before Clinton came in, and it was really desperate times here.
And I remember this woman who actually stood in front of the Mayflower Hotel where my sister worked, and I used to see her and she was dressed completely in black, full face of make-up, and she looked beautiful, you know? And I asked her, ‘Why are you asking for money? Go get a job.”
And then I read an article in the local paper, about her, and how she had just lost her job in retail at the cosmetics counter. She felt that if she was gonna ask you for money she should at least keep herself looking well and keep her self-respect. And it just kinda changed my whole outlook about homelessness and how quick it can happen. She’s just like you and me. She had a job yesterday and now she can’t afford…you know, she gets evicted and all that kind of stuff. So that is really what the song is about – it’s about her begging for money.”
I have to ask whether there is any frustration for her in knowing that most casual listeners who remember the song only really hear its infuriatingly catchy refrain of “la de dee, la de dah” and do not pay enough attention to the perceptive social commentary in the rest of the lyric.
“I remember, at first, I was really upset. Because everybody was calling it, like um, what do you call those songs? Like ‘bubblegum’ tunes, or something like that? I was like: ‘What are you talking about?? This is a serious song!” You know, my emotions are really caught up in that song.
So it was frustrating in the beginning, but as the years have gone on, you know, people have thanked me and say they have these great memories of when they heard the song, and what they were doing, so in hindsight, right now – thank God I wrote that song.”
Rumour has it that Crystal only became a singer after a clairvoyant told her she should take up performing. I asked whether that was true.
“Ah that story! Well, she said…I was on my way, it was five in the morning when I got there, and I had lost my voice…and she said “Well there is something you’re not doing with your voice.”
And I thought, “Yeah right – that’s pretty obvious!”
I thought she meant public speaking or something, so I went back to work and my friend said, “Well you love music, why don’t you sing?” And you know my father is a singer. I said, “Well I don’t know.”
My friend said she had a cousin with a studio and that he was looking for background singers. She said, “If you go, I’ll go.”
So we went to the studio, I got the job – and that was when the light bulb went off.”
Crystal’s father, Junior Waters, had achieved some success with his recordings in the early 1960’s, and is credited on her first album with paying for her first demos, so I had to ask whether having kin in the business had been an advantage when she finally decided to make the career change and move into the entertainment industry.
“Yeah, well on the business side – having gained a degree (in Business & Computer Science) from Howard University really helped me, still now, with the business side of things. The family side of things…well, I remember my father in rehearsals, and my brother, and my uncle played, and the integrity they had when they were doing the work, you know, I remember all that. I was told to own my own publishing, own my masters and things like that. So I think that kind of stuff has stuck with me now.”
Have her own kids followed their mother into the business?
“One of them. She’s saying that she wants to be a singer. The other one is more of a management type”, she laughs.
I realised I have focused pretty much on only her first songs, so I ask her about her second album, “Storyteller’, which contained another massively successful hit – “100% Pure Love”, as well as having other genre classics such as “Ghetto Day” and “Is It For Me” amongst its twelve tracks. It also has my favourite, “Listen For My Beep” – I wonder if she will be performing that one in Adelaide.
“Oh!” she laughs again, “Look at you! I used to love that song! But no, they only want me to do the hits. Aww.”
That’s not really bad news though, because she has had a number of hits since her heyday working with a number of key artists in the dance music universe, so her set should still be a crowd-pleaser.
I am curious, however, as to why she has only ever released three albums under her own name.
“Well, after I made those [first] three, the whole record business kinda crashed.
I am working on an album now, but lately I’ve been doing just singles, because it’s a singles market.
The way things change so fast. DJs are rolling, so its easy for me to attach to a DJ and let them run with it. But I am working.
I have 14 songs, and I have four more I want to do, then I’m gonna get it all together and pick out, maybe, ten. I have two singles coming out this summer and then I plan, in the fall, to be working on the album.”
That’s all great news for Crystal Waters fans, and I assure her, before we end our conversation, that those fans will be out in droves when she gets to Australia. I get the feeling that, whilst she is only one of a strong line-up of acts, that her set will be a standout for nostalgia addicts and new converts alike. Get your tickets now, and get there early on the night so you can be sure you don’t miss her.
Crystal Waters plays with The Vengaboys and others at Thebarton Theatre, on November 11. Grab your tickets HERE.
Interviewed by Ken Grady