'I can lose myself in music and find myself in it. Gospel music especially has helped me through my trials and my tribulations. It lets me know that when you fall down, and no matter what life brings you, you can always get back up. There's a word to help you in every situation and that's God's word.'

Living ‘The Promise’
Sunday Best Champ Y’Anna Crawley Works Hard With Faith
By Bob Marovich
The Black Gospel Blog

BET's Sunday Best second season winner Y'Anna (pron. EE-AH-NAH) Crawley spoke to The Black Gospel Blog just days after her first solo CD, The Promise, was released on Max Siegel's new Imago Dei Music Group on August 24.

Has her life already changed?

"I can't go to the store without somebody noticing me," she laughed. "I have to tell myself, Y'Anna, you have been on TV. Millions of people watched you and know your face!"

Sunday Best wasn't the first time Y'Anna aspired to sing on television. "I auditioned for American Idol when they were [in Washington]," she said. "They told me, 'You are a beautiful girl and you have a beautiful voice, but you are not what we are looking for.' After that, I was done with auditions. I was tired of competition."

Y'Anna continued singing in a Washington DC area band and tried her hand at cosmetology and make-up artistry. "I had a couple of things going to help me and my children financially," she said.

She received several emails that Sunday Best was coming to the DC area for auditions. "At first I didn't want to do it," Y'Anna said, "but my friends encouraged me. They said they thought this was what God wanted me to do. So I accepted. I had a week before the auditions to think about it.

"But that Monday morning, the spirit spoke to me. God said to let some old things go and He will bring in the new for me. By Saturday morning, I went through the three, four auditions, went on the show and here I am!"

Y'Anna Crawley taking apart the Sunday Best judges with her performance of 'Grandma's Hands,' written by Bill Withers

A highlight of Y'Anna's appearances on Sunday Best was her version of "Grandma's Hands" by Bill Withers.

"When I got that song," Y'Anna exclaimed, "I thought they were trying to set me up because this was a gospel show, what were they doing? But I understand now what they were trying to do: to show some variety, you know, your grandmother teaching you about love and kindness, because that's what God talks about. I knew I had to put my heart and soul into the song, so I thought about my grandma and I sang it, and it was the hit on the show."

"Grandma's Hands" is one of ten songs on The Promise. The first single from the album is the title track. An impressive list of producers participate on the project, including PAJAM, "Big Jim" Wright and Lou "Buster" Brown. "I'm so excited that out of the gate, I have some top-notch people on the CD."

Y'Anna's musical influences include the Clark Sisters, Donnie McClurkin and Kim Burrell, "and some secular artists, too, because I take a little bit from everybody and make it my own, like Kelly Price, Faith Evans, Brandy, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye."

But none of these singers are bigger influences than three singers to whom Y'Anna is related.

Her great-uncle was the legendary quartet lead Julius Cheeks, who sang with the Sensational Nightingales and briefly with the Soul Stirrers. Her aunt, Genobia Jeter-Jones, is also a well-known gospel singer. Genobia's husband is Glenn Jones, a member of the gospel group the Modulations who later became a popular R&B artist. Y'Anna credits Julius, Genobia and Glenn as important influences on her singing.

"Uncle Julius passed away when I was a young child," Y'Anna explained. "But just by being around music and being touched by it and filled with the spirit when my family sang, I always knew I was going to be a singer. I never thought I'd be a gospel singer. But let me say this, I knew that I was going to sing music to help heal and to encourage."

For Y'Anna, all kinds of music has healing properties. "I can lose myself in music and find myself in it. Gospel music especially has helped me through my trials and my tribulations. It lets me know that when you fall down, and no matter what life brings you, you can always get back up. There's a word to help you in every situation and that's God's word."

Amidst the newfound fame and whirlwind touring schedule, "God continues to open doors for me. What touches my heart the most is when people come up to me with tears in their eyes and say, 'You really helped me through the day. I go on YouTube and I look at your BET Sunday Best performances, and I know that there is hope.' Or when young girls come up to me and say, 'You had a baby when you were 17 and you had another when you were 30. You're not married yet, but you are still pushing and still striving.' That lets me know God has created me for a purpose. I am here to sing, and to give people hope and encouragement."

Speaking of young fans, what would Y'Anna say to singers who are where she was a year ago, still awaiting their break, their season?

"You always know what your passion is. You know what drives you. You know what pushes you. So if music is your thing, no matter how many times you get knocked down, no matter how many times the doors close in your face and you get a 'no,' always keep that 'yes' in your heart. Trust and believe that God will see you through. Perseverance, dedication, cultivating your craft, and working hard. Work hard with faith and He will see you through."

Y'Anna Crawley's The Promise is available at www.amazon.com

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