Braxton keeps things real on tour
Just a few years ago, Tamar Braxton was primarily famous for being "the big-mouth, unsolicited-advice sister" on "Braxton Family Values," a richly entertaining reality show chronicling life, love and music for five singing siblings.
What a difference a hit album makes.
Today, Braxton is a certified R&B force thanks to "Love & War," making her the family's second official star, alongside sister Toni Braxton. The album, released last year, puts the focus on Braxton's biggest asset - her voice. Her lush, honeyed tone snaps effortlessly from soulful to sassy, from deep wells of pain to ecstatic highs. The album's gorgeous title track was a radio hit, and she also snapped up several Grammy nominations. She's currently on her first headlining tour after opening dates for John Legend and R. Kelly.
"This has been the most amazing year possible," Braxton says. "It's a wonderful, wonderful achievement for me. I really don't need any other accolades to feel successful. I pushed myself, and I challenged myself to a goal. And I met my goal."
"Love & War," however, was a new beginning.
Braxton had previously recorded with her sisters and released a debut solo album in 2000. After the new album's success, she followed up with a Christmas album - while filming both "Braxton Family Values" and "Tamar & Vince," chronicling her tumultuous relationship with husband/manager Vincent Herbert. Both shows are compulsively watchable.
Son Logan turned a year old this month, and Braxton also is set to chat it up on "The Real," a fast-paced talk show starring comedian Loni Love, singer Adrienne Bailon, style expert Jeannie Mai and actress Tamera Mowry-Housley. It premieres in September after a successful trial run.
"Believe it or not, it's actually quite easy," Braxton says of finding balance. "I get to put Logan to bed every night. I wake up to him every morning. I feed him breakfast. That's what a regular, working mom would do. Then I go to work. Then I do it all over again. He definitely calms me down and gives a sense of normalcy to my life."
Braxton is currently on the road - yes, traveling by bus - and, as expected, had lots to say about everything.
Q: Has the tour lived up to your expectations? You're selling out in lots of cities.
A: It's a lot of work. It's a lot of sacrifice. But the payoff is so amazing. It's been my lifelong dream to be a real recording, touring artist. I cannot believe I get the chance to come out every single night, on my own, and do the show that I have dreamed of and put together.
Q: What's the most challenging part of doing this now?
A: The responsibility is all on me. I don't have an opening act. It's just me and my Tamartian Get Fresh Crew (hair, makeup, wardrobe). We come out every single night, and we give you the best possible show every single night.
Q: Does Tamar Braxton get nervous before slaying the stage?
A: Oh, yes. But as soon as I'm onstage, it goes away. I feel like I turn into somebody. I don't know who it is yet. It's like I'm there, but I'm not really there. Everyone who comes to the show, comes to see this Tamartian experience. This is the place where you can be yourself. Nobody's gonna judge you. Nobody's thinking about what you have on. We are all here for one purpose, and that's to have a great, great time.
Q: It's hard to imagine you trekking across the country on a tour bus. Do you enjoy it?
A: It's actually amazing. It's a good time to chill out. When you're flying, you gotta get yourself together and get all your bags. You just get on the bus and relax and watch some shows you taped and get your mind ready for the next day. I play with Logan a whole lot. It's so funny. He's a kid, but he doesn't like kiddie stuff, and it's all my fault. This morning we were watching "Judge Judy." I was like, "I cannot believe he is paying attention." I swear to God.
Q: Was it difficult to keep the focus on music between a pair of reality shows?
A: It was really easy to concentrate on the music. I'm not putting anything on. I really wanted to make sure this album defined who I was as a person and who I was as a musician. The whole reason behind "Love & War" was because of everything we went through on "Tamar & Vince." I did not expect to have all of these arguments, being public with the issues in our marriage. We were writing about things that were actually going on at the time.
Q: Did you ever worry about airing so much dirty laundry on TV?
A: When we first started ("Braxton Family Values"), that was a pact that we all made. There are a lot of reality shows out here, and there are a lot of people who are kind of masking what they really feel. We wanted to be honest. We wanted to be open. I wanted people to definitely see the struggles of one's real life and reaching a real goal. I don't have anything to hide. Everybody goes through the same damn thing at some point in their life.
Q: Are you a reality TV fan?
A: Oh, yes. That was the initial interest in creating reality shows. My No. 1 favorite reality show is "Big Brother." I live for it. I watch them all, actually.
Q: Why did you want to do "The Real" amid so many other commitments?
A: I've always wanted to have a talk show. Yes, gawd. I grew up watching Oprah and Donahue and Sally Jesse Raphael. I get to have, like, girlfriend hour. The responsibility is not all on me. I have four other women whose opinions are just as (strong as mine). They go real hardcore with how they feel about stuff, just like I do. It's not a lot of drama. We agree to disagree. We really, truly like each other. And it's really fun.
Q: You're in Houston soon. Any offstage plans?
A: The Galleria. What? A little shopping therapy never hurt anybody.