After Shelving My Debut Album 20 Years Ago, I Released It On My 53rd Birthday

Daryl Tillman

Music and me go back like cornbread and collard greens. My earliest memories of it are of my mother blasting her favorite R&B artists in our home. Earth, Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly and Maze and Chaka Khan were just a few of the artists she would play regularly. I would go on to forge my own relationship with the sounds of Prince, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. But it wasn’t until middle school, when I taught myself to sing Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All,” that it became a passion of mine and I decided to become a singer.

My first opportunity to record a demo came while I was on scholarship at Spelman College in Atlanta, right as the world was getting to know a dynamic group of girls who went by TLC. I thought that I’d become the ATL’s newest discovery, but all I really discovered back then was that I needed to perfect singing on key.

After college, I dove head first into a career in modeling, which I found success doing. Still, music kept calling, and I couldn’t ignore it. I was in a short-lived singing group produced by Bernadette Cooper from the 80’s R&B group Klymaxx, and I teamed up with Mic Murphy from another popular 80’s group called The System to record songs. Even though I was growing as an artist, nothing ever materialized.

Everything changed when I met Daniel Alzamora Dicken one day on the subway. Dressed in all black in the summertime, Daniel, a music producer, was different, but so was I, so we hit it off nicely. Before long, we began recording music at his home studio in Newark. Spontaneous and uninhibited in his approach to music, Daniel jumped from instrument to instrument like a trapeze artist. It gave me permission to express myself in ways that I had never done before. I grunted, whispered, belted, and most of all, played. I left no crumbs on the table, and when it was done, we called our creation Sensual Journey. From there, I took the recordings to multi-platinum producer Rhano Burrell, aka, Ron, who I met while auditioning for a singing group he was putting together. Ron mixed the music and made sure that every sound was KFC, extra crispy. Sensual Journey was mastered and ready for the world to hear. Or so I thought.

Excitedly, I shared my music with one of my best friends, expecting that she would be excited and encouraging. To my surprise, she said that I didn’t sound like I was fully singing out.


Another friend bobbed his head in that obligatory way that people do when they don’t want to hurt your feelings.


And an industry associate who’d collaborated with Lauryn Hill told me to “keep working on it.”


Mom loved it though. Despite her positive feedback, as I found myself feeling dejected, judgment set in. I concluded that it wasn’t good enough. Heck, I didn’t even know what genre it belonged to. So I wrote it a Dear John letter – it’s not you, it’s me – and moved on, shelving the work I’d poured myself into.

Instead, I threw myself into writing, carving out a career as a contributor and editor for celebrated Black publications, including this one. I wrote for TV, helping to pen a drama on BET+ called A Luv Tale and created a web series called Rylie and Codie’s World. I became a mom to two beautiful daughters, focusing on parenthood first. But music was always there, like a hole waiting to be filled. I would see artists like Rihanna, Corinne Bailey Rae and Solange and I would envy how they embraced their own unique sound and found their way. I promised myself that if I ever got another chance to sing, I would be me.

That day came in December of 2023, while watching a documentary on singer Grace Jones. Seeing Grace Jones be Grace Jones ignited something within me. I was reminded of the music I’d recorded 20 years ago, and I longed to hear it again. Unfortunately, I had no copies. I reached out to Ron, who I hadn’t spoken to in years, via text message:

Me: Hey Ron, is this still your number?!? This may be a long shot, but do you have copies of the music we mixed back in the day…around 2003? I lost it along the way and would love to hear it. Sometimes we look back as a gateway to the future.

Ron: I don’t remember, but I’m willing to help you in whatever way I can. 

The only other person who could possibly have a copy was Daniel, who was now living in Spain, and probably still salty with me for never releasing the music. I couldn’t blame him.

To my surprise, not only was Daniel happy to hear from me, but he also sent me a copy of the album right away. From the time I played the first song, “YEA,” to the present, I have listened to Sensual Journey every single day. Each time, I discover something new. I don’t love it, I adore it! Reaching back into the past helped me realize that I had been searching for something that I possessed all along. It took me 20 years and a ton of life lessons to realize that I was always good enough. My music deserved a chance and it would find its audience.

So I took the leap. I released Sensual Journey on February 21, my 53rd birthday, and I haven’t looked back. It has taken on a life of its own. I self-recorded a music video for “YEA” that has been added to a network in 17 countries, including the UK, and local stations here in the U.S. I’ve been written about on music blogs from here to Portugal, and been added to Spotify’s “Female Voices” playlist. The music made two decades ago was being embraced.

I’m humbled by the positive messages I receive from people who have streamed or bought the album. The most fulfilling aspect of rediscovering my music twenty years after it was created, is the sheer joy I get from knowing that people are listening to it. What I once thought wasn’t good enough is showing me the importance of breathing life into our passions. It’s never too late to do so.

I often think of the painter that never paints, the bird that doesn’t fly, and the singer who never sings. To be alive is to create and share that gift with the world. I don’t know where music will take me next, but I no longer have a hole in my heart, and for that alone, I am eternally grateful.

Sensual Journey is available on all music platforms. Follow Erickka on Instagram.

Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Enable registration in settings - general
Shopping cart