Friday, March 09, 2012

Andrea Helms: Moving Forward One Step at a Time

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

For Andrea Helms, “Moving Forward” and “Changed,” two songs she's recorded, could well be autobiographical.

The music minister from Texas was catapulted into the national spotlight last year when she was named runner-up on Season Four of BET's Sunday Best program.

Then, on March 6, Music World Gospel released her debut CD, Moving Forward.  She describes her album as a “dream come true.”

Andrea (pronounced Ahn-drea) told TBGB she has been singing “since I was little bitty. My father was a musician, so I grew up with music and singing in the house. I would sing harmony with my mom and dad from the time I was three.”

Her family attended Friendship Church, a non-denominational church in Denton, Texas, where her father was pastor. In addition to leading the flock, Helms' father was also a concert pianist, “but he could roll an organ, too, don't get him wrong!” she laughed.

Outside of her father, Helms credits the late Whitney Houston as an inspiration. “I remember getting her tape when I was eleven years old, and thinking, ‘I want to be her.’ Her voice spoke to me. I tried to sing like her. She’ll never know the impact she had on my career, but I’m so grateful to her.”

During her high school years, Andrea received vocal training and sang classical music with the Texas All State Choir. She won the Young Artist Competition as a high school senior, giving her a chance to sing solo with the Richardson Symphony Orchestra. This past December, Helms joined fellow Sunday Best alumna Le’Andria Johnson in T.J. Hemphill’s Perilous Times II, where the Texan showcased her classical side on one of the show’s original numbers.

But prior to Sunday Best, Helms sang on a CD for a group of friends; unfortunately, the album never amounted to much.  Meanwhile, her husband had been encouraging her to audition for Sunday Best, “but we would always miss the tryouts.” Then last year, a close friend heard on the radio that auditions were coming to Dallas and told her she needed to go. “But I almost didn’t go," she said, "because I didn’t know if it was for me. A couple of days before the audition, I decided to just go and see what happened. And here I am: runner-up. I had no clue!”

Asked what it was like to be in the Sunday Best finals, Helms responded, “I never thought that I would be in the finals. It could have been anybody’s game. Everyone was so talented and you never know what the judges are going to come back with, no matter how good or bad you thought you did. When Michael Pugh went home, I was very shocked, because I thought I would be the one who would go home.”

After being named runner-up, Helms figured her life would return to normal. “I think I was a little na├»ve when the show was over,” she said, “because I thought I would just go back to life like it was. I had no idea of the impact the show would have. I began to travel, which I had never done. I had to leave my home church, so that was an adjustment, but it’s all really good. I know that if God is opening doors for me, He will equip me for what’s next.”

Music World Gospel signed Helms and Season Four champion Amber Bullock to recording contracts (the two singers have become friends). Helms’ seven-track CD, Moving Forward, is a compilation of the songs she sang on Sunday Best. “It’s how my audience knows me, that’s what they’ve asked for, so that’s what we put out first.”

Her favorite on the album is Walter Hawkins' “Changed” because it serves as her personal testimony. “I want people to know that I am a real person, and what God has done for me He can do for anyone. You don’t have to be perfect for God to use you. Come as you are and let Him use you, and you’ll be amazed at what He does.”

Helms is also preferential to the Munizzi's “Because of Who You Are.” “Doobie Powell (the CD's producer) put his stamp on it and let me tell you, it is fantastic!”

Moving Forward also includes Richard Smallwood’s “I Love the Lord,” a song recorded by Helms’ singing inspiration, Whitney Houston. “At the time, we didn’t know [Houston’s death] was going to happen,” Helms said. “I’m really humbled and honored to have that song on my CD and I hope I did it justice. I hope that she would have been proud.”

After a brief tour, the play in December, and being invited by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s family to sing at an MLK birthday celebration in Atlanta, what’s next for Andrea Helms?

“We’re just taking things one step at a time. But be on the lookout for huge things from me!”

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