09/10/13 By Gigi Brooks
Philip Michael Thomas & Kathy Yolanda Rice
Gigi Brooks interviews the duo about their collaboration
We all know him as detective Rico Tubbs from the iconic 80's hit television series, Miami Vice; which is still in syndication on cable. Philip Michael Thomas possesses one of the most memorable television and movie careers in the world, which propelled him into the status of “Icon.”
Over the last few years it has been my privilege to know him as my mentor, confidant and closest friend.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with him and the extremely talented gospel jazz singer, Kathy Yolanda Rice about their new single, written by Philip Michael Thomas, “Flesh of My Flesh.” The duet between Philip Michael Thomas and Kathy Yolanda Rice is breathtaking to say the least. We talk in depth about their successful careers and how they came to perform this work of art together.
I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!
Gigi: Philip and Kathy you have just completed your collaboration on the new gospel jazz single release, “Flesh of My Flesh”, which was written by you, Philip some years ago. What inspired you to write such beautiful lyrics? Where were you in that time in your life when you wrote that song?
Philip: This was the wedding song between Mary and Joseph....Mary the mother of Jesus Christ and Joseph. I had an opportunity many, many years ago to write a gospel musical called “Emmanuel,” with a very dear friend, Bishop Williams. He's the Bishop of the Ethiopian Coptic Church in New York. We met back in 1980 when he was a priest and we always talked about the Lord; he's one of the few men in my life that was a confidant and a friend to me. In fact, when I turned 40 we went on a forty day fast together. This song has reaching value in terms of my spiritual roots and how God has moved with me to send this love message to the world. If God chose Mary to be the chosen woman to bring forth the Son of God...then whew!
Anyway...back to the story...and so as I was praying and working on this, God gave me this beautiful song “Flesh of My Flesh” and the words are biblical.
Gigi: It is important to point out that this is not the first song you have ever written, you've written many songs and your music career goes back way before your television career.
Philip: Oh, yes! I was blessed to write my first song at age eleven. It was called “Trouble Child.” The first song I recorded in 1968 was called “All My Love”, which was on my album Living the Book of My Life, which was released in 1986. I have written several musicals or co-written and I have a treasure chest full of wonderful spiritual music...I know you've heard some of it.
Gigi: Yes, I have.
Philip: That's one of some of the things that brought Kathy and I together; we met on MySpace about five years ago and we began to share music and that's what brought us to this point to finally record this sacred duet.
Gigi: Kathy, you have a pretty extensive career and you have been playing piano and singing since you were very young; you are a musician in your own right. What was it about this song that made you want to join forces with Philip and actually record it with him? What was it about the song that made you want to put your voice on top of it?
Kathy: The song just resonated really, really deeply with me, because every time I would hear it...the very beginning of the song when Philip would sing... “I do love you”; I felt a spirituality in those words that I just kinda' locked onto and it was more than just romantic; I felt like the song gave me hope to someday have a loving relationship that would be ordained by God. And so it took on a much deeper meaning and purpose in my life. It was not just an ordinary love song; this is the voice of someone who is pledging their love and commitment to you for life. That's what really brought me in...the words and of course the melody was beautiful and the bridge in the song had a change you wouldn't expect and I liked that. The song was structured somewhat differently than what you would normally expect..the mood slightly changes and then it goes back and I just loved it. And I said that's one I would love to do. Ironically at that time that Philip and I were communicating and sharing the music, I was going through a tough time in my personal life and over the years I have come to have the Lord bless me with a good husband where I can actually live this “flesh of my flesh” type of relationship in real life. I think if I had not had the spiritual guidance from Philip, my heart may not have been ready for a godly, loving relationship and so I have to thank him for that...keep your heart open.
Gigi: That is wonderful advice Kathy! Philip, I'd like to go back to what you were saying about your meeting Kathy and that you've known her for years. You mentioned before that you both have never met and I think it's incredible that you have collaborated on a song together and recorded it. What was it about her voice that you knew was right for this particular song?
Philip: Well, from the first day I heard Kathy's voice I felt a kinship with her tone...there was something in the tone of her voice that just magnetized me to listen over and over again. I was drawn to it and I knew as time went by and years went by... that we would finally do some magnificent work together. I knew that we wouldn't just go into the studio and record some songs on an album...we would do classics! I feel that God has given her a voice that she may not even understand or over-understand what God is about to do with her voice. As a composer I have been fortunate to take years sometimes in developing a composition and I've had conversations with great artists that I've communicated with like Miles Davis and a few others that have done similar things you know...you get an idea and you put it up in your treasure chest and you go back to it, because everything's in its own time. This song “Flesh of My Flesh” was an idea whose time had come and Kathy's voice and my voice and our creative relationship just bonded. My feeling is about what this song is...it's the cornerstone in the development of the true, true soul musical vibration that we've been gifted with and I'm so happy to be a part of it.
Gigi: I clearly get what you are talking about Philip, and I have heard the song and I must say it is a one-of-a-kind, very special song. Kathy, what do you want people to know about you and your music?
Kathy: That I'm honest. I won't do a lot of things musically just for show, you know? I generally perform the way that I feel...that would be the main thing to know. I want to interject something regarding Philip...Philip and I communicated for quite some time just through email and when we finally spoke on the phone I said wow I really need to know that I am talking to you! I remember rushing to my office and waiting for that call. It was so funny, when I heard his voice I felt like he was a relative, I didn't feel like he was a stranger at all; it was a type of kinship...it was remarkable! We are just very close in the way that we communicate and we're on the same page in our thinking about a lot of things as we navigate through our creative process.
Gigi: Do you believe that it comes out in your music?
Philip & Kathy: Absolutely!
Kathy: I think when we do meet it will be monumental!
Philip: It's very interesting...because of the way modern technology is today, we can do things now that I could have never done 30 years ago when I first built my Spaceship recording studio in Miami. I spent a tremendous amount of money in developing and things like that...but the things you can do now with a little investment is incredible! The most important foundation of any success as far as a song is concerned is the song! It takes a good singer to make a song great, but a great singer can't make a bad song good.
Gigi: That's right!
Philip: So, it's the foundation...that's one of the things Kathy and I do agree on; that we're using material, this being the first one that we've been blessed to do that we're praying and asking for guidance, because people might not understand this today in 2013, but surely years from now when God brings the things down from heaven all of the blessing and dreams that I've been visualizing about, they'll say 'Oh, my God!'
Gigi: Yes! Do you see in the near future a tour promoting the song?
Philip: Absolutely! We've been discussing orchestras...[laughs] and some wonderful things! I don't think it's going to be limited to “Flesh of My Flesh”. As a performance, it's nice to have one song that is great, but when you go to really perform you have to have a concert and Kathy has wonderful music and I have wonderful music, but it will be interesting to see how we continue to put the building blocks together so that we have a performance that is says...' this is what we do'. Even though I've been extremely successful on every level entertainment wise that you can think of, I never take it for granted when I'm working that I can stand on that as a measuring stick for anything...I forget about all of that and I take this moment in time and say 'God, what are You going to teach me about this?' I'm very humble in that way. I feel that there's an education taking place between Kathy and I as musicians right now and it's going to overflow into the world and they're going to be touched just a little bit different than the “norm”.
Gigi: I think so too. Kathy, you have worked with so many people in your career. Let's talk about the producer of this record, Kelvin Wooten, from the '90's R&B group, Tony! Toni! Tone! what did he bring to the table to make this such a wonderful experience for you? What did you learn from him?
Kathy: Well, Kelvin was responsible for the musical production and he has done all of the musical production of all of the songs that I have recorded; he did the music for my debut album as well as the other projects. He is a very gifted instrumentalist and he has been working with major artists you hear on the radio, especially in the R&B, neo-soul genre. As a matter of fact, he worked on quite a few hits with singer, Anthony Hamilton and Jill Scott. In fact, he was one of the co-writers on the duet that Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton did that went to number one on Billboard and I think it stayed there for quite a few weeks...so he's got quite a reputation. Kelvin and I work very well in the studio together and I listen to his instructions as well as he'll listen to some things that I've asked for on the production; so I would say that I've executive produced “Flesh of My Flesh.” Philip and David Michael of KDS Studios in Orlando, Florida, did the final mixing and mastering; it was quite a process.
Gigi: When will it be available for purchase?
Kathy: It's available right now at Amazon.com, CD Baby, as well as iTunes and you can listen to the full streaming of the song on Sound Cloud and my official website, KathyYolandaRice.com.
Gigi: I am so thrilled and I wish the best for you both on the success of this single and for future projects. Philip, some people have no idea what a music career you have had and this will bring everything to light. Many are so accustomed to seeing you on television and movies. They will be in for a shock to find out what a beautiful voice you have and also how great a musician you are. I want to thank you both for sharing this beautiful collaboration.
Philip: Thank you, it's such a pleasure!