Los Angeles singer-songwriter Eartha stunned the music world in 2003 when she earned not one, but two Grammy nominations, and took home the Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. The multitalented artist, who writes, produces, and arranges her own music on the independent AFRT Music label, also plays saxophone, keyboards, drums, and guitars on her albums.
Eartha debuted her first album, This I Know, in 2001, and it received critical and popular acclaim. A single from the album, "Love Jones," landed on the Billboard Hot Dance Singles chart in the number two position. The album features Eartha playing all of the instruments, and it covers a wide range of styles, from gospel to R&B and hip-hop.
Eartha's second album, Sidebars, seemed initially not to do as well when it was released in 2003. Although it sold briskly in nontraditional outlets, it received little airplay and moved slowly in traditional music outlets. According to SoundScan, which tracks album sales, the album had sold only 52 copies through traditional outlets at the time of its Grammy nomination. AFRT reported selling 10,000 copies at Eartha's concerts, parties, clubs, and special events, but even this figure was insignificant compared to the millions of copies sold by Eartha's fellow nominees. Nevertheless, the album garnered not just one, but two Grammy nominations.
Many people wondered how a relatively unknown musician could win a Grammy Award. Some credited Eartha's record label, AFRT, which in the weeks and months before the Grammys had launched an all-out publicity campaign, conducting massive CD, T-shirt, and cap giveaways. (The company handed out 50,000 copies of Sidebars.) In addition, AFRT copresident Glaurys Ariass told USA Today's Steve Jones, "We hit different key people , sent product to retailers, specific editors, producers and musicians just to try to get in front of them."
The hard work paid off. Eartha earned a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Female Performance for the song "I'm Still Standing," sharing the field with Mary J. Blige, Ashanti, Aaliyah, and Jill Scott. It was, however, her nomination for the Sidebars album for which Eartha won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album.
This double nomination in two distinct categories—R&B and gospel—reflects Eartha's unique approach to music, which combines gospel lyrics with infectious dance tracks and other popular music forms. Eartha credits AFRT with fostering this unique approach—an approach that might not have been possible at a larger, more conservative label. She speaks in glowing terms of the label's willingness to let her produce her own work and follow her own path, without regard to what might or might not match the tastes of the label's executives or accountants. "I didn't really initiate the choice to select them, " she told Marie Cruz for Inside Connection, of the beginning of her relationship with the label. "They kind of selected me."
The singer/songwriter was understandably delighted at her Grammy win. As she told Cruz for Inside Connection, when she heard the announcement that she had won the award, "I could have just fallen to my knees. It was so exciting … I'm still kind of speechless." Eartha also expressed hope that her success would inspire other musicians working outside of the musical main-stream to pursue their dreams and to keep the faith.
That's not a word Eartha uses lightly: her Christian faith is the foundation of her work and her life. As she told E. Christian Moore in Dysonna, "I understand where my help comes from and without God I couldn't do any of this." She also described her music as her ministry, and her disarmingly fun approach to music gets her in the door at many clubs and other venues that would not ordinarily showcase gospel music.
In addition to music and her faith, Eartha has a strong interest in fashion. "I love fashion," she told Moore. "I love style. I have a sense of individuality about my style and the way I dress…. It's funny because sometimes people will look at me and assume that I'm doing something else other than gospel because of appearance or because of clothes. Well, I'm gospel. Maybe you can't tell but that's good." Eartha also writes an advice column each month in the teen magazine Fresh.
For the Record …
Born Eartha Moore in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Zinna (a musician) and Philip Moore. Education: Attended El Camino College and Los Angeles Trade Technical College.
Released debut album This I Know on the AFRT label, 2001; released Sidebars, also on AFRT, 2003.
Grammy Award, Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for Sidebars, 2003.
Record company—AFRT Music, P.O. Box 6590, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, phone: (310) 277-4601,
Management—Ariass Management Group (AMG), P.O. Box 6590, Beverley Hills, CA 90212.
As for the future, Eartha says that she plans to keep performing music that makes people want to dance, that brings them closer to God, and that, as she told Contemporary Musicians, helps to "encourage and … strengthen other people."
Additional information was obtained from AFRT publicity materials and telephone interviews with Eartha in June of 2003.
—Michael Belfiore ©2008 eNotes.com
Exerpts from "Eartha." Contemporary Musicians. Ed. Leigh Ann DeRemer. Vol. 44. Gale Group, Inc., 2004. eNotes.com. 2006. 2 Jan, 2008
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