Ruthie Foster Aims for 'Phenomenal'-ness

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Singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster's latest album is The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster. hide caption

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Ruthie Foster

Singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster's latest album is The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster.

Singer and songwriter Ruthie Foster has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin.

Foster, who grew up in Gause, Texas, served a stint in the U.S. Navy — singing in its funk band — before launching full-time into her music career.

Foster's new album, The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster, is the fifth since her 1997 debut, Full Circle.

In an interview with NPR, Foster described the moment she realized she could sing.

Foster participated in her church music group during childhood, always being careful not to sing above others, she said. But one day, at age 14, she had a solo of "Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior." Her grandmother, "Big Mama," was in the audience.

"I sang. I didn't know I had a voice that day," Foster told Melissa Block. "And Big Mama always told me to aim for the double doors, baby. ...I aimed for doors and that driveway going in the church, I had cousins turning around, looking at me sideways (thinking) 'Where did that come from?' "

As her career progressed, Foster grew to love this kind of performance. She said she enjoys seeing people in the audience singing along with her.

"It sounds like prayer," Foster said. "Even people who don't even sing, they come up to me and grab my hands and say 'I'm not a singer. Really not. But I sung tonight and, girl, it felt good!' I love that. People discovering their own spirit."

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