She’s recording a short video right before her upcoming tour in Japan.
The Grammy-winning singer teases listeners with a few bars from two of her hits, “Make It Like It Was” and “A Whole New World,” her duet with Peabo Bryson from the “Aladdin” soundtrack that also earned an Academy Award.
The tour will support her new project, “The Day Life Began,” her first R&B-inspired CD in 15 years.
The CD is a musical gumbo of mostly R&B, with a roux of gospel, jazz and country.
Her rich voice is timeless on such tracks as the title track and “Be Careful Out There.”
She makes it clear she never really “left” R&B, having still incorporated standards like “Baby, Come to Me” and “This Is Love” in her live shows.
“I took a little bit of a hiatus in terms of recording” R&B, she said of the two gospel CDs. “It was transition time. The twist was I just wanted folk to know that in the midst of whatever you are going through, there is a very real Presence of help in your time of trouble. The Gospel always comes in because the Gospel is the good news … I kind of incorporated it all. I just hadn’t recorded any R&B.”
The CD was recorded in California on a restored microphone used by Jimi Hendrix. She worked with the Heavyweights, Jamie Jones of the group All-4-One and Jack Kugell, whom she calls her “brothers from different mothers.” They recorded 10 songs in five days.
“Now you know that was super crazy awesome,” she said, “especially when you have artists who go in the studio today and take a month to record a verse.”
It was important to her that every song have a message.
“You don’t work this many years in music without taking on the responsibility and accountability to let people know there’s another way out,” she said. “Even with singing R&B, it’s important to have a message.”
“A Night of Love,” for instance, is a tribute to her husband of 25 years, John Sidney Battle III, a former NBA player with whom she co-pastors two churches in metro Atlanta.
“Open Our Eyes” talks about what is happening in the world today. “Hey, it’s getting crazy out there,” she said. “It’s time to really start paying attention.”
And you can’t leave out the gospel on “He’s Alright,” and “God is definitely all right with me,” she said. “He’s been with me every step of the way through these 30 years of my career and these 52 years of my life.”
That was certainly clear in 2009 when Belle had surgery for a life-threatening brain tumor. The surgery left her clinically deaf in her left ear. She went though months of therapy, not being able to feed herself or walk without assistance.
She selected the title for the CD because it applies to all of life’s experiences whether it’s the first child, finding God, falling in love or discovering your passion.
For her, it’s faith and her music.
Will that resonate with younger listeners, though?
“I have to be who I am,” she said. “I can’t compromise my music to become something else. I may try new things and experiment, sure, but I still have to be the quintessential Regina. I don’t think even younger audiences will be able to identify with me if I change who I am.”
What she really wants people to know, she said, “is that we’re making records again and I still have a song.”
4 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT REGINA BELLE
1. Her prized possession is a photograph of her great-great-great-grandfather, Grandpa Boobie.
2. She has skills. In addition to blowing it out at the mic, Belle is a good cook. Her specialties are 7-Up Pound Cake, rib roast and mac and cheese.
3. In 2015, she completed a degree in Africana studies with a minor in music from Rutgers University after 30 years away. She marched with other students to receive her degree.
4. She is an ordained minister.