Deitrick and Damita Haddon are the hottest couple in the gospel game.
With a 'ride and die' commitment like Jay-Z and Beyonce, gospel's 'Bonnie and Clyde' have hip-hop's first family beat by a long shot, having been married more than 12 years.
Born and raised in Detroit, Mich., the two maintain the musical legacy of their hometown, where gospel heavyweights like The Clark Sisters, the Winans clan, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Vickie Winans and Fred Hammond were also reared.
The two thirty-something singers have rejected the ostentatious Sunday morning couture that's signature to most of Motown's gospel luminaries.
Instead, the Haddon's are known as some of gospel's more trendier talents; typically donning modern, fashion-forward, mainstream duds more akin to their contemporary counterparts like Mary Mary and Kirk Franklin.
Now residents of Atlanta, I spoke with both Mr. and Mrs. Haddon while both had a day off the road from promoting their respective recent releases.
It was pretty much just trying to find out what was good for me. Of course with everything going on in the industry, I was just scared of labels at that point. I had to figure out what would be the best deal for me, something that would benefit me as well as the label. I wanted to grow and have a lot of creative say so. It was just that hesitation and fear. Could I pull it off again? Lord, am I supposed to do this again? I kind of just made sure that this was something that I really wanted to do.
Now 'No Looking Back' is out on Tyscot Records. How do you feel?
I am hyped. People are feeling it, I'm feeling it and I love the record. It was something that is very personal to me because it was birthed out of me. The songs were written by me along with other writers, but it was a very emotional experience for me. It's doing great things and hopefully we can get some R&B and pop spins because I tried to push the envelope and make it as edgy and contemporary as possible so it could reach outside of the four walls in the church and minister the people who really need ministry.
How long was the process of doing 'No Looking Back?'
'No Looking Back' was probably a nine-month period. I started on it and around the sixth month period we started going into pre-production. Then, the last three months from October to January or February of this year we kind of closed everything out. I had songs that came with just lyrics first and the melody was there so all I had to do was get music. Then, there were songs that were motivated by Gladys Knight and the Motown era. The 'Pray' song was inspired by listening to Gladys Knight. Then some were done with tracks and we just thought about a theme and wrote what we thought the world needed to hear and we just wrote it.
You've been in the gospel business for a long time now. What changes have you noticed?
The industry is much more high fashion and glam. Even the traditional artists like Dottie [Peoples] and they dress in like high profile, Vegas kind of stuff. Now the young adults and teenagers are more urban and hip-hop with the swagger. I love it. I love being very fashionable and urban. I'm really starting to get comfortable performing and singing in places like that where I can be comfortable and being me, not having to dress up or put on a dress, a hat or anything. I'm just able to go out there and just sing and be comfortable. Especially being a role model for these young girls, I show them that we can be sexy, classy and yet still get the whole swag about you, but not being disrespectful and whorish, just keeping it tight.
How do you and Deitrick plan your personal time with your crazy industry schedules?
It's beginning to get a little hectic now because his record has just been released. We've never released a project simultaneously so now it's like when I'm gone, he's at home and when I'm at home, he's gone. It's getting harder now to schedule our time. Now we actually have to talk about where we're gonna be and who will fly where. It's getting to be real hard now this go round.
You toured with Aretha Franklin for a while. What was that like?
It was scary at first. I was intimidated because here is the "Queen of Soul" and you're scared that she isn't gonna like the way you sing or the way you sound. It was scary at first, but I appreciated the whole experience. It helped me to grow and to see how a real diva operates and find out the things that she likes and the things we should do as singers. It was phenomenal.
We tried to reunite. We all came together even with our new addition, Dodi [of Pam & Dodi]. We were doing some things, but in the middle of the whole process other things transpired and I just really blame it all on life and people's differences. People have grown so it's not like when we were kids and everybody wants to follow the leader. Everybody has their own opinions and sometimes it can get in the way. I thought that it would be best just to walk away and remain as close of friends as we are than to get together and then not be able to work together and not be friends.
You and your sister are twins. Will you ever do a duets record?
No. Not me and my sis. Deitrick maybe. I'm really trying to talk him into it. I'm like, 'dude, we need to do the Mr. and Mrs. Smith.' But I don't know.
So Damita said she wants to do a duets record with you. What are you waiting on?
There's nothing holding me back. Damita is funny acting because she is so competitive and she will sing you under a pew on your own records. She will outshine you so you have to be careful about doing a duet record with Damita. Even on the '7 Days' record, she pretty much upstaged me and she was just singing background. She sang all of the background harmonies and that's all that people can think about, 'oh that harmony, who did that?' That's all Damita! So you have to be careful about doing that. You have to make sure that it's the right moment and the right time to do a record like that. Eventually, we're definitely gonna do it.
I also asked Damita how you all balance these hectic schedules with your personal lives. How do you schedule down time?
With me and Damita, our life is full of fun and games. We're not so heavenly bound to where we're not earthly good. Everyday is fun for us. We don't really have to stop and say we need to have fun. Our whole life is full of fun. I think when we get serious about the ministry is when we actually leave to go minister. When we come home, we don't bring that back home. We go to the movies; we play pool and go shopping; that's our whole world. We believe that if it's not fun, it should not be done. We don't really bring that over into the household.
Is it a challenge being married in ministry?
It's like a flow with us and it's no big deal. We've always known that we would do what we do. When we were dating before we got married, it's no different than it is now. We've always had an understanding that we both would be singing and going across the country and the world doing what we love to do which is singing and getting on stage and blessing the people. It's really easy for us. It's all about scheduling and when it's time to go home, take your butt home. I can't stay over a couple of days and hang out like I would like to with my friends. After I do a concert, I have to go home and see my wife because it's all about timing and scheduling. If I wait a couple of days to get home, she'll be gone on the road doing her thing. It's all about doing what you say you're going to do. When it's time to go home, go home and when it's time to leave, leave. It's no strain, no stress and no pressure. We don't have any kids yet so it's really easy for us.
Your new CD 'Revealed' on Zomba Gospel is out and with every album to you reinvent yourself. Where does that come from?
I think that when it's time to put out a project, I'm in a different state so I do what's on my heart right then. I don't go into a record thinking too hard, contrived and forcing it. I just do me and I'm artist so I don't like my hair to look the same and I don't like for anything to be the same. I'm always creating so I can create something new and fresh. That's just my nature. I might want to cut my hair today and a couple of months later I want it to grow back out. I might want to rock a suit for a minute and then just wear a t-shirt and some jeans with boots. I go through phases and it's reflected on my projects. I'm just me.
And right now you are the "rock star." What birthed this rocker persona?
I'm a rock star, that's the way I am. I like things really big and I like things really hot, fly and everything done in excellence, like the music. I like my concerts to feel big like it's great. In that nature, I'm just a natural rock star when it comes to that. I'm a rock star without all the drinking and tearing up the hotel rooms and a bunch of women. I'm a clean rock star.
For years you were a choir director and fronted the Voices of Unity. Do you miss being in front of a choir?
When I sit and think about it, I do miss it sometimes because that's where I started and started directing my choir when I was 13-years-old in my dad's choir. That's second nature to me. That's where everything started for me. Now, when I'm sitting in church and I see the choir, I'll see where they could have done something better or did something to tear the church up and they didn't. I want to jump up there and direct the choir. I think I miss those days every now and then, but the hassle with the choir members, heck no. I like just going out with me, my band and my few little singers and we go out there and make it happen and then go somewhere and sit down.
You're also an ordained minister. Do you preach as often as you'd like to?
If I preached as often as people wanted me to, I'd never be doing concerts and I would never be home. I get more preaching engagements than anything because it's an easy way and a cheaper way out for folks. 'He's preaching so we can get Deitrick without his whole band. He can just come and maybe we can sneak a few songs in.' I get those all day, every day, but I'm very selective about that because I don't want people to just stick me in this category of a young preacher dude just running around here preaching. I speak as the Lord leads me or when I feel like God has really put something on my heart.
Man, I know you have some things outside of gospel music you want to do. Tell me about some of those endeavors.
Damita and I write films and we actually wrote four films and actually wrote a film to the record 'Revealed.' It's a slow process with that so we're looking at first quarter of the top of the year when we'll be able to put that out. I have another project so we should have about two independent films coming out next year. Our independent company is called Sunset Films and that's what I'm going to start focusing on because Damita and I can really act. We actually took courses in school and when we got out of high school, the first thing we did was to travel the country with a lot of the chitlin' circuit plays. We traveled for years and made good money right out of high school making $3,000 a week which was really great. We developed a real passion for acting and getting on the stage and wowing the crowd. That's kind of what we do when we're not on stage. If all goes well, these two films will be dropping in the spring and the late summer so I'm excited about that.
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