Home Interviews Exclusive Interview With Songstress: Rena Scott
Exclusive Interview With Songstress: Rena Scott PDF Print E-mail
Written by Patricia Turnier   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 15:15


Mrs,  Scott is a Detroit native. She started singing at age 12 for her local Baptist congregation. She won her first talent contest when she was 13 via a performance with The Temptations. Soon after, she had two to three gigs per night on weekends at local R&B clubs. She opened for well-known performers such as The Temptations (aforementioned), The Four Tops, The Originals and many others. She recorded her first song, “I Just Can’t Forget That Boy”, while she was in high school. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin (also a Detroit native), made sure that giving her amazing voice Rena Scott would become her third backup singer for a few gigs. This experience allowed Rena Scott at 18 to perform for audiences at Carnegie Hall, etc. The young chanteuse loved the experience especially performing with an orchestra backing up one of her childhood idol. This opportunity fueled her musically and spiritually. People started to call her “Little Aretha”. She also did backup on Franklin’s albums.  Throughout the years, Rena Scott developed her own style, performing for crowds of over 50,000 people. The language barrier never mattered since music is a universal expression. Her public doesn’t need to understand English to be touched by her powerful soulful voice. In fact, music creates feelings and emotions that need no translation. She has appeared at top R&B and Jazz festivals in the U.S. and Europe, including the famous Montreux Jazz festival and Montrose musical events. She also performed with George Benson, Natalie Cole, Ashford & Simpson, etc.

In 1979, Mrs. Scott did a duet with Michael Henderson, “Take Me I’m Yours”, from his hit album The Nighttime. More than one million singles were sold. After touring with Henderson on the strength of their hit single in 1980, his record company, Buddha Records (which had other artists such as Gladys Knight), signed her to a record deal. She recorded her first album, the half disco (with spicy sounds with a great bass), half R&B ballad, Come On Inside. The album was produced by the R&B team James Mtume and Reggie Lucas, former jazz musicians who scored pop hits for Stephanie Mills, Roberta Flack & Donnie Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman and Lou Rawls. 

After the bankruptcy of Buddha Records, Scott left Detroit and made a pit stop in Las Vegas -- where she did shows at Caesar's Palace and the Landmark Hotel -- before settling in L.A. to seek new recording opportunities. Before hooking up with The Crusaders, she began writing songs with veteran Producer and songwriter Skip Scarborough, who penned singles for LTD, Anita Baker, Earth, Wind & Fire and many other artists. In 1989, Scott re-emerged on Sedona Records with Love Zone, whose first single, "Do That To Me One More Time", hit the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. The follow-up, "I Could Use A Kiss", also got extensive airplay and became her first video.

Later, Scott once again fell victim to label traumas three failed deals in all-before starting a fruitful long-term business relationship with songwriter/producer Lloyd Tolbert. Afterward, she emerged with her own independent label, Amor Records. Her label debut, “Let Me Love You”, is distributed by KES Distribution since 2007. Its title cut was featured in two key scenes of the HBO Cinemax film Love and Action in Chicago, starring Courtney Vance, Regina King, Kathleen Turner and Ed Asner.  The songs on the Let Me Love You CD (released in 2005) reflect the growth of the songstress through her experiences, and those of people she knows. "All of these songs, ˜A Love Thang,' ˜Good To Me,' ˜Plaything,' ˜I'll Keep Coming Back,' tell the story of life and love with its joys and vicissitudes. The classic ballad “Remember” from the CD was number 6 on the R&B chart singles’ sales. “A Love Thang” was number 1 for two weeks. Both songs stayed among the top 25 for 18 weeks.

The album, Take Me Away, was released at the end of 2010. It contains singles that Mrs. Scott co-wrote and co-produced with Lloyd Tolbert. It also includes covers of some of her all-time favorites like “Joy and Pain” and “Don’t Ask My Neighbors”. This CD has good instrumental arrangements with smooth jazz layers.  Mrs. Scott’s music embodies the soul sound classiness of the seventies, eighties and beyond. Scott is gifted with talent, drive, and passion to continue rising to the top. Throughout her career, She has done commercials for companies like Levi’s 501 Jeans and Sunny Delight. She did background vocals for Diana Ross (Various Hits), Sarah Vaughn, and so on. She was an International Spokesperson for Harvey’s Bristol Cream. Mega Diversities had the pleasure to speak to Mrs. Scott. Here, the songstress talks about the rerelease of her 1979 album "Come On Inside" and about her musical journey.


P.T. When did you discover you had talent for singing? 

R.S. I was 12-years-old. However, I started singing when I was 5 or 6. My parents were going through domestic violence at the time and it had a profound effect on me. Singing was like therapy for me. I used to sing in front of the mirror and I was crying at the same time. I sang also at church while expressing myself to God. At 12, I went to a Baptist church in Detroit where I am from. My cousin sang at the choir which I joined and I sung. We used to do this all day long. One day, the director was singing at the piano and I accompanied him. One of the lead singers of the choir who was fantastic sang and I started to do the same. Everybody stopped singing and listened to me. They were impressed. This was really the defining moment when I realised that I had talent. They said, wow you can sing. I responded, I can? [laughs]. Later that day, they put me up there for the evening service where I had to sing the song. I had a great reaction from the audience. There are a lot of emotions in a Baptist church and they were happy to hear me sing. So, this is really how I discovered that singing was my thing.

At 13, I entered a big talent contest called Every Year organized by the radio station WCHB. It was a big annual event held at the Fox Theater from Detroit where Motown artists used to perform. I was picked over 500 people. In addition, I was the second youngest. My mother started managing me at 14. I built my first fan base in Detroit and recorded my first album at 15 with the label Uptight Productions. They signed me for three singles and Epics took them over afterward. My career took off from that time.

P.T. When you were a child who inspired you musically and why?

R.S. I would definitely say Aretha Franklin. I used to sing all her songs. She came out of the church like me. I love her talent. People called me little Aretha [laughs] when I started my career but with time, I had to find my own distinctive style by pushing forward. Every artist is unique. To find my own style, I started to listen to The Staples Singers, Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, Barbara Streisand. When I was older, I listened to jazz artists such as Nancy Wilson and Billie Holiday. I wanted to be versatile. It was important for me to be able to sing anything. This is how I developed my own style. Nevertheless, Aretha Franklin was the number one mentor for me. I have a very close connection with her. When I started to work with her, it was amazing. To summarize, I was influenced by soul and R&B artists.

P.T. You often shared with the media your love for the Detroit sound. You describe this city as a long time enclave of talent endowed with pride and determination. You are a Detroit-born songstress and you opened for many Motown stars, such as The Temptations. Tell our worldwide readers what the Motown sound means to you.

R.S. Detroit to me was considered the original. Historically, we had people who decided to migrate from the South to Detroit for work in the car industry and be part of the music scene. My grandparents moved to this city. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is a nickname for Detroit and this is how the trademark of Berry Gordy’s company was created. The Motown sound is la crème de la crème. It was very soulfoul with The Supremes, The Temptation and so on. My heart belongs to those golden days of R&B and is the foundation of my identity as an artist. To me, the Motown sound came originally from gospel music and became the basis of the Northern Soul music. The Motown Sound is defined by its distinctive characteristics which comprise the use of tambourine with drums, bass and guitar instrumentation, a specific melodic and chord structure. When you say that you are from Detroit during this era, people knew you sang well and had a great artistic foundation.

P.T. Why was it important for you to release anew your 1979 album Come On Inside and how has it been received by the public so far?

R.S. It was a wonderful surprise for me. It wasn’t planned to be rereleased the album. In 1979, CDs didn’t exist. So, it is great that it has been digitally remastered for the CD. They brought the best musicians in the world to work on the CD. I love the beats, the horns. Funkytowngrooves Records reissue everybody in the industry. I was honored that they wanted to reissue my first album. I am really grateful. About the fans, even before it was on the market they pre-ordered it. I got great feedback from them. Many fans posted my songs on YouTube.  I receive a lot of love from other countries. For instance, a foreign female told me that the song “Remember” from the Let Me Love You’s album was played on her mother’s grave because she wanted her to hear these words from heaven: “Remember, I love you and I thank you for being there for me”. 

P.T. Wow, this is thorough!

R.S. These stories touch my heart. I can’t forget these comments. I am moved to see how fans feel about my songs. It is important for me as an artist to give substance to the public through my work.

P.T. What message do you want the listeners to take away from Come On Inside?

R.S. That quality music never dies. As I said, we offered to the public the sound of great musicians on the album. We hear keyboards, guitars, bass, percussion, string, synthesizer and so on. The team did a fantastic top notch job with the remastering. I am very proud of that.

P.T. On your album “Take Me Away”, you sing a song entitled I Thank God For You with your daughter. The lyrics that you co-wrote with Lloyd Tolbert are beautiful. Talk to us about the message of this song. In addition, share with us the experience of doing a duet with your daughter.

R.S. Tolbert did all the music arrangement on the album. He is amazing and has a lot of experience. He worked with great artists as a producer, such as Lionel Richie (for the Renaissance album). Lloyd Tolbert sent me the track I Thank God For You. After listening to it, I decided to pen lyrics about my relationship with my daughter. Her name is Nina and I am proud of her. She is working in a studio on her first CD and continues her studies full-time. The experience with her was fantastic for the song. The members of my family cried when they heard it for the first time, likewise for our closest friends.

P.T. This song is really special. I think that it has the most beautiful lyrics that I ever heard regarding a mother-daughter relationship.

R.S. Oh, thank you! The lyrics are real, genuine and introspective. My daughter is grown and she is spreading her wings. I realise that. However, I will always be her mom and I always will be there for her. This will never change no matter how old she gets. This is the message that I wanted to deliver in our song. We recorded a sincere single about our lifelong relationship. It captures the emotions that we have for each other. I call it my official Mother’s Day song [laughs]. I believe also that other people can relate to the song.

P.T. On the same album, talk to us about the single “Dr. Feelgood” which was written by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and T. White.

R.S. This goes back to the time when I was doing clubs. The crowd used to go crazy when I sang it. I really wanted it on my CD. I love the blues roots in it. My family loves the blues and I used to sing a lot of it when I was younger. I really enjoy this style. It is a spot-on homage to Aretha Franklin.

P.T. Would you be interested in doing a gospel album in the future?

R.S. Absolutely! I would love to do that in the next two years. I always have been part of some church. It fuels me musically and spiritually to sing gospel. It is in my soul and I have to do it.

P.T. Is there an artist you would be interested to collaborate with in the future?

R.S. I have people in mind for my gospel album and people for other projects. I would like to record duets with Aretha Franklin, Robin Thicke and Brian McKnight and Charlie Wilson. I would also love to have Robin Thicke and Brian McKnight produce an album on me one day in the near future. In addition, I would enjoy to record a gospel album with J. Moss, Mary Mary, Tye Tribbett and Kirk Franklin. To finish, I am interested in performing with a Big Band and a full orchestra.

P.T. In the music business, there is a dearth of females who own a record label. What made you decide to create yours? What advice do you have for women interested to found their own label, and what are the pitfalls they need to avoid?

R.S. My first record deal was with Buddha Records which went bankrupt afterward. When I got my record deal with Sedona, I did an album called Love Zone. I did my first video “I could use a Kiss”. This song was on the charts. Unfortunately, the label went bankrupt also.  It was difficult afterward to get another record deal. In fact, three failed deals occurred before I started a fruitful long-term business relationship with songwriter/producer Lloyd Tolbert. I emerged later with my own independent label, Amor Records in 2004.  We reissued the CDs and we were the first indie who released a CD with a DVD on the other side. It was not easy, but I wanted to be in control of my destiny. The situation can be hard for female artists. You are only 18 once and the industry wants people from that age range. So, we face ageism.  When you are an indie you have the freedom for the creativity and so on. I enjoy writing my own material. I refuse to compromise on values which do not represent my own, especially if they are not Christian oriented. It is noteworthy that my husband, Curtis, is my number one supporter. He was there for my triumphs and tribulations throughout the years. He said that we should do it ourselves. He believed in me and this experience allows us to have complete control of what we put out there. When I decided to invest in myself, it was one of my best career decisions and I am grateful that my spouse supported me.

My label’s name, Amor, means love in Spanish. This is what I want to be all about. I hired a PR from California, a distribution and promotion team from Chicago and a video promoter from NY. I also deal with a couple of agents. But, I manage everything else.

The message that I have for females who want to embrace this path is they need to be disciplined, organised and resourceful. Furthermore, it is important to have a great lawyer. Mine is Martin Cohen who took me under his wings years ago. He’s like my godfather and I am still in touch with him for advice.  I went through trials and tribulations in the music business, but I always knew I would come back strong. So females need to be resilient. Talent and tenacity are important also. They have to remember that it is a man’s world [laughs]. Women still have to do their 150%.

I believe the pitfalls are the fact that mainstream radio is very political. It is difficult to compete with the major labels, but it is not impossible. RCA and Arista are gone, so there is more space for indies. Sony bought many labels. To make it I think it is a question of working hard and being surrounded by the right people who have expertise in important realms such as marketing in the traditional way and new technologies, etc. Having an excellent team is a must because this venture can be a financial risk, so you definitely need to have the right people around you.

P.T. You considered yourself an advocate against domestic violence. How are you involved pragmatically in this cause?

R.S. I talk against domestic violence in my interviews. It had a profound effect on my life. It was painful as a child to see my father beating my mother. There were times when furniture (lamps, tables…) was thrown and it happened that my mom ended up with a broken nose for instance. I almost had a nervous breakdown when I was 10 years- old. I had nightmares, etc. My mother took me to the physician who recommended she makes important decisions quickly to prevent worse consequences. This is how they decided to get a divorce. No children should have to see these scenes. So, domestic violence is a very important issue. There are women and children who need protection. There are some men also who go through domestic violence, even if it is much less prevalent than for women. 85% of domestic violence victims are women.

Domestic violence can affect an individual until adulthood; this issue is very dear to me. One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States alone. Worldwide, one woman out of three is or has been a victim of violence. According to Amnesty International, between 2006 and 2009, governmental allowances destined to associations (which give support to victims) decreased by 18.8%. It is a complex issue. Domestic violence does not end immediately with separation. Over 70% of the women injured in domestic violence cases are injured after separation. It wasn’t my case, but 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.

During my childhood, my mother had no place to go. There were no shelters. If she called the police, my father was back in an hour. It was not against the law to beat your wife at the time. He took care of me materialistically but I was hurt deeply when I saw him beat my mother. I needed to speak out and singing was my outlet. I will send a dollar for every physical CD sold to women’s shelters via the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This is how I am now an advocate against domestic violence. Throughout my interviews, I speak about the deep effect it had on my life in hopes that it will help someone else. Personally, to go through this ordeal I had to place my trust and faith in the hands of God’s grace to direct my path rightfully.

P.T. You said to the media that you would be interested to pen a book. What would it be about?

R.S. I believe that I am a resilient person who overcame many hurdles so, if my experience can inspire people, I would be happy about that. I will talk about my childhood and what I just shared in your last question. It will be an autobiography. Maybe my book will turn into a movie in the future. Time will tell.
I went through a lot of trials and tribulations with several Pandora boxes. I know it has been the same for other people. I found out during my adulthood that I am biracial. I was teased at school by kids for being mixed. I didn’t understand that because I always believed that I was Black before I found out my real heritage later in life. Hopefully, these things will change in the future because people are people. More and more people are mixed. Anyway, it is a question of the heart and character more than anything else.

P.T. Do you have other project(s) that you can share with the public?

R.S. I am starting to write the songs for my next CD. I will go in a new direction with it. I will start to work with younger hot producers that I can’t name for now. Neo soul, jazz, hip hop genres with strong ballads will be included.  The songs on Let Me Love You reflect my growth as an artist and what I went through. Several singles in this CD talk about the good and bad times in life. I am passionate about these themes and I intend to pursue exploring these subjects in the future. I believe that life is a onetime journey that should be filled with lots of love. In addition, I will start to pen my book. I will continue to promote my current CD, Take Me Away. I will commence tours in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

P.T. To finish, what advice do you have for young people interested in becoming involved in songwriting and performing?

R.S. You have to do your homework and learn as much as you can about the music business. There is so much accessibility now on the Internet. Listen to many genres to discover what is your own. This is how you can develop as an artist. Start to write and see with whom in the business you can collaborate. If you are able to participate in major talent shows on TV, such as American Idol, it is definitely something to consider because this great platform gives excellent international exposure. For me, the church was the best learning background that I could have. It helped me a lot to be comfortable to sing in front of people. Be the best you can be. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you, who will tell you the truth (the good and the bad) to help you grow as an artist. When you are only among yes women/men, you won’t go anywhere. You have to challenge yourself and be open to constructive criticism.

P.T. Thank you, Mrs. Scott for this great interview. I wish more success to you and your daughter!

R.S. How do you say thank you in French?

P.T. Merci.

R.S. Oh, it is true. So, Merci beaucoup [laughs]. Thank you so much, it was a real pleasure to speak to you.

[2016 update:  On August 21st, Rena Scott was inducted into the R&B Hall of Fame along with other legends such as Smokey Robinson and Dionne Warwick.  Rena Scott said this event was one of the highlights of her life.  For the Holidays, her new single "Christmas Time is Here" (her first Christmas CD) is available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/rena-scott/id74530581.

2018 update:  On May 28th, Mrs.  Scott released a great remake of Aretha Franklin's song "Until You Come Back to Me" via her independent label Amor Records. The song can be purchased on these links:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/until-you-come-back-to-me-single/1390958518, https://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=until+you+come+back+to+me+rena+scott and https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/renascott6].

Rena Scott’s Links:

To listen to her work go to: http://www.reverbnation.com/renascott


You got a friend in me, a friend indeed. Someone you can lean on. You’ve been my little girl since you came in this world. 

Now you’ve grown into a real lady. I know it’s time for you to spread your wings but if you ever need anything reach out to me.

I thank God for you. (everyday) I know that He will guide your way. I thank God for you. (I thank God) As long as we live this pledge of love we give.

You make me proud of you in so many ways. You were there beside every step of the way.

 We can truly say that no matter come what may, nothing can separate us from the love we share.

Selected Recordings (Albums and Singles):

“Take Me Away”, Amor Records,2010
“Come On Inside” Arista Records, 1979 and rereleased in 2011
“Let Me Love You” Amor Records, 2007
“I Just Can’t Forget That Boy”, Top R&B Cash Box Epic Label (Scott’s first recording at 15-years-old)
Cool Million “Back For More” CD, Compilation – Sedsoul Records
“Love Zone” Sedona Records
“Astral22 Presents Imperial Soul Collection CD Compilation – Trans Phatt Records
“Take Me I’m Yours”, Rena Scott and Michael Henderson Arista Records
“Independent Soul Divas” II Tokoyo Rush CD Compilation Lola Waxx
“She Can’t Love You” and “One & One are Two” Wildly Available Soundtrack (1999)
“Wolf Rock TV” Soundtrack for Cartoon
“Let Me Love You” and Love and Action in Chicago soundtrack (1999)
“Hold Up” Hold Up Soundtrack

Movie Soundtracks:

“Love and Action In Chicago” – Feature Film HBO/Cinemax Starz/ABC and Bet Movie Channel. From the CD “Let Me Love You”

“Wildly Available” (She Can’t Love You”) and One & One are Two

“Hold Up”, Theme song for French movie and video

The CDs are available on www.amazon.com, iTunes, www.CDBaby.com and www.soulbrother.com