Friday, February 24, 2012

Black Ink MMG Welcomes Renn Woods

As the newest addition to Black Ink MMG, Renn Woods is a legendary icon in stage, TV and film, an amazing vocalist and talented emerging playwright. It’s difficult to say what she is most known for, but some of her most memorable roles include: Fanta in the Emmy Award winning TV mini-series Roots (1977), her unforgettable interpretation of “Aquarius” in Milos Foreman’s movie musical Hair (1979), and Dorothy in the first national Broadway tour of The Wiz (1975), a performance that was hailed by the critics as a new musical theatre standard for the young performer. Not to mention by age ten, she and two girlfriends had taken the show business world by storm, as their group, Sunday’s Child, was adored by such celebrities as Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Johnny Carson. Below, Renn takes some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her play, the new album, and what the future may have in store.

What’s your average day like?

Girl, where do you wanna start? When I’m behaving myself my day starts with yoga around 6 a.m. I find that it really calms me down and helps dump my stress because let’s face it; I can’t get to the gym! I just can’t block that time. So I have a little DVD that I break out with the computer, you know what I mean? I’m Ghondi in here, haha! So I try to start my day that way no matter what. Then I have a few minutes of prayer and silence, and then it’s off to the races. A lot of it has been working on the record which I’m really excited about.

Tell me about this album, what is the time table for it?

I’m hoping it’ll be out by June. I’m kind of working with some of the writers conceptually. You know how you see Frank Sinatra do duets with everybody that’s only the best in the field? That’s what I’m doing except with songwriters, haha. So I’m talking to the most famous songwriters I know like Diane Warren, Ally Wilson, just people I’ve known for years that will collaborate with me. Mostly they’re composers that are looking for poetry, so that’s kind of the concept of the record. It’s called “Starlight”, which is my favorite song on the record so far. I wanted to encourage people in this chaotic and angry world. The music will be romantic, encouraging and enlightening, and will make people want to be happy.

So would you say that’s kind of the driving force behind your project?

It is for me. But that’s been my driving force as an artist since I was born: to empower.

What was it like being a young actress?

I had no real interest in acting except that I was really cute, and I was a teen ager! I didn’t really study acting until my late teens. Most child actors start at 6, 7, 8 years old and I didn’t start until later because music has always been, as Phoebe says, “my life”. It’s just really what I love.

What started you singing then?

Here’s the story, now I’m too young to remember, but this is the story my mother would tell. When I was three or four we were moving from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest. We got on the train, which was segregated at the time, in the Negro section and a white, angry, drunk bum walks on the train and starts cussing us out. My mother says I jumped out, 4 years old, and started singing! And the man was mesmerized, that old evil white son of a bitch was mesmerized! And then he just left the train.

Well that’s inspiration for you, haha.

Yeah! And I think my four year old mind perceived that to be a healing, transformative experience. So, I have always been singing as far back as I can remember.

Where would you like to see this new project go? What makes it special for you?

Well the songs will be unique and all originals that will inspire women, men and children. Being really young and surrounded by extremely famous and rich people taught me that they don’t need nothing you can afford to buy them, but everybody needs to be inspired; everybody needs encouragement. We can’t face our day without it.

Who are you inspired by?

Well, as I call her, Michelle O, haha. If it was someone dead or alive, I would say Shirley Chisholm and Aretha Franklin. Don’t you know women are amazing creatures; it’s amazing what we overcome and what we’re expected to do! The bar is high! I’m trying to think of a male because my friends call me “Macha”, haha. Oh, Jamie king! I think he’s a genius.

What’s next as far as acting?

Well I have an offer to do an independent film. The director, Foster Quarter, is someone I’ve known for years and I really like. And we’ll see, a lot of the elements have to fall together. But it’s in LA and so we’ll see if I can work out the details.

How was it working with Whoopi in Jumpin’ Jack Flash?

I’ll tell one of our funny moments. You know how white people think she was the only person with dreadlocks? Well I was dread for 15 years, and I had already booked Beauty and the Beast with dreadlocks so I was like, “I’m not straightening my hair, deal with it.” I remember I got called into the room with Joel Silver and the Jumpin’ Jack Flash director, Penny Marshall, and they basically said, “Well, Whoopi is the only one who has that hair”. Then Whoopi comes sneakin’ in there and insisted I kept my dreadlocks. And I said, “They think your hair is some kind of special and unique thing. They think you woke up and your hair was dreaded like that!” Haha. So I told ‘em I wouldn’t straighten it but I did braid it.

How about Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters in The Jerk?

That was nothing but fun darling! It was nothing but a great time every day, it was a party! I mean Steve Martin just makes you laugh. And you know those two were in love at that time. They were together for a few years, which is a long time in Hollywood. Bernadette was just the sweetest, hardworking girl. We had a great time.

What made you choose Black Ink MMG for your album?

My friend Ken, who I met 10-12 years ago. I was in Santa Monica working with a little dance company to help get kids scholarships when I met him. I would just talk to him as a writer and we became friends. We’ve known each other all these years and he’s always known my work. He called me up one Saturday in October and says “Renn, don’t fight me on this, you gotta do it”. And that’s how it went. We’re gonna do some incredible things!

Where would you like to see your singing career in a year? Five years?

The rest of the year we goin’ number one! I don’t care how many TV shows I gotta get on, we’re gonna be the top of the chart. And five years… still number one!! My goals are high. My momma says, “You gotta be greater than, always, in every field”.

Stay tuned for more info on Renn’s next album release!

Black Ink MMG
Renn Woods Official Website

Alexis Canary

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