Maryland Native Wins 'Idol' Of Gospel Music

Gospel Star Rises To Fame — America's newest gospel music star was crowned over the weekend. Y'Anna Crawley beat out other singers to take the top prize in BET's American Idol-like gospel music competition, Sunday Best. Crawley talks about her win, her debut CD, and life in the gospel spotlight.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

We're going to take a break now from our look at international news to spend some time with rising stars in the world of American gospel music. America's newest gospel-music queen was crowned over the weekend. Y'Anna Crawley beat out thousands of other singers to take the top prize in BET's popular talent competition, "Sunday Best," and she's already in the studio working on her debut CD.

Y'Anna Crawley joins us now from our studios at NPR West. Welcome, congratulations.

Ms. Y'ANNA CRAWLEY (Singer): Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Now, of course, we need to hear you sing. So we're going to play a short clip of you singing "The Promise" on the show's finale. Here it is.

(Soundbite of television program, "Sunday Best")

(Soundbite of song, "Speak Over Yourself")

Ms. CRAWLEY: (Singing) Life can hurt you so where you feel there's nothing left. No matter how you feel, speak the word, and you will be healed. Remember that story about the little engine that could…

MARTIN: So I understand - well, thank you for that. How's it sound to you, good? Sounds good?

Ms. CRAWLEY: Yeah, it sounds good. I was a little hoarse right there. That wasn't "The Promise," though.

MARTIN: Oh, what was it?

Ms. CRAWLEY: That was "Speak Over Yourself," by Donald Lawrence.

MARTIN: Well, thank you. Thank you for correcting that. Now as I understand it, the show was prerecorded. The outcome of the final votes were added the fact. So you actually found that you had won - is that right - along with the rest of America? Where were you, and how did you feel when you heard?

Ms. CRAWLEY: I had a viewing party back at home, Washington, D.C. So we were all there, friends and family, and I'm sitting in my chair. So Kirk Franklin was about to announce the winner, and I had my back turned, because I was just, like, I can't watch it. And then I heard my name, and the chair got from under me, and I fell out the chair.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CRAWLEY: So I didn't hurt myself. It was good. It was just - all just exciting. I mean, I can't explain it. Words can't even - I can't even put it into words, how I feel.

MARTIN: How did you get the idea to sign up to be a contestant? Was this - the program's been on the air for two years. Now this is the second year, already very popular. So was this something you'd set your sights on, or was it a whim. Or how did you come to sign up?

Ms. CRAWLEY: Actually, no. It was - there was an email circling around, and I had a lot of friends and family, and it was like, you know, you should do this. You should do that. And I was like, well, I tried out for those things before -not "Sunday Best" first thing, but tried out for "American Idol." I was just like I don't know if I want to do it.

So when the time came, my friend came to pick me up. I overslept. He was, like, ringing my phone, ringing my phone. Come on. You've got to go. So I got up, and I went, and here I am.

MARTIN: You had tried out for "American Idol," or what? What happened with that?

Ms. CRAWLEY: Yes. Yes, I did. I tried out. It was in Washington, D.C., also. I stood out there for long hours. Actually, it was a two-day process. I got up to sing with the judges, and they said Y'Anna, you have a beautiful voice, but you're not what we're looking for this year. So I said okay, all right. I'll just keep trying.

MARTIN: Well, what do you think this will mean to you and your family? As I understand it, you have two young sons.

Ms. CRAWLEY: I have two boys, 14 and one. It means a lot to me because they know my struggle. They know where I've been at. They know how long I've been doing this. I've been doing this since I was 12, professionally singing. I've been all over Africa and back, singing with a lot of national artists. And they just know that I really wanted a platform, so whereas I can display my talent, and not only that, but just to send out a message, the gospel, to the world.

So they know how long I've been doing this. So we're all just excited, and I'm just grateful that, you know, I'm here and that I'm able to show the world what it is that God has placed in me.

MARTIN: No rest for the weary. I understand you're already working on your new CD. Can you give us a hint? Is it secret?

Ms. CRAWLEY: Yes, I'm actually working with Buster Brown and Shavoni, and we're working on the song "The Promise." The song really just speaks volumes, the promises of what God has promised us. You know, we're going to go through trials and tribulations, but, you know, that word still stands that he promises great things. And that's where I am today. He is - I can't - it's just overwhelming, but in a good way.

MARTIN: All right. Well, congratulations again. Y'Anna Crawley is the winner of BET's gospel-singing competition "Sunday Best," and she was kind enough to join us from our NPR West studios, and she's out there working on her new CD. We are going to look forward to that. Y'Anna, congratulations again.

Ms. CRAWLEY: Thank you so much.

MARTIN: Just ahead, our performance chat with gospel star Smokie Norful. His work as an artist and a minister keep him busy, but he says his treasure is at home.

Mr. SMOKIE NORFUL (Gospel Artist, Minister): I did not want to be a recording artist who barely knew his family and whose family barely had, you know, access to him. So a priority for me first and foremost has always been my family.

MARTIN: Gospel star Smokie Norful. We'll hear from him just ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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