Tamar Braxton Talks 'Bluebird Of Happiness' & Retirement (?)
It was 2015, and like some NASA-engineered showbiz rocket, Tamar Braxton was prepared for takeoff. Not only had she nabbed a hard-earned spot competing on the "Dancing With The Stars," she had also captured a GRAMMY nomination for her seductive single, "If I Don't Have You." Then, out of the blue, calamitous fate intervened. The R&B singer contracted lung clots, consigning her to months of rest and rehab.
Given the frustration inherent to that experience, one might expect Braxton to return with a collection of bitter, caustic songs cursing destiny. But it speaks volumes about her resilience that she has titled her fifth album Bluebird Of Happiness. Featuring the singles "My Man" and "Blind," the album is largely a life-affirming affair with romantic songs implicitly anticipating a bright future.
But music is only part of Braxton's relaunch plan. A bona fide multimedia celebrity, she is the star of two top-rated We TV shows, "Braxton Family Values" and "Tamar & Vince." In 2016, following her widely publicized exit from "The Real," she inked a deal with Steve Harvey for a new talk show. We recently caught up with GRAMMY winner Toni Braxton's younger sibling to talk about her new album and the surprising rumor that it will be her final recording.
Congratulations on Bluebird of Happiness. How would you describe the album?
It's really all about my emotions and everything that I felt the past few years when everything seemed so negative. I got sick with blood clots, I had to leave "Dancing With The Stars," and I couldn't tour and promote my  record Calling All Lovers. That was very devastating to me, because my music is everything. So these are the songs that really kind of brought me back to life.
How involved were you in the composing of the songs and lyrics?
I wrote every single song, except for one. I like to be involved in the writing process, because just as much as I'm a singer, I am a songwriter as well. Some of the songs are really heart-wrenching and sad, but it's the sad, heart-wrenching records that help us find our strength and get us through. Of course, there's also the upbeat songs that will keep you uplifted and happy. So it's a whole body of music that speaks to your soul.
On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being abject misery and 10 being unspeakable happiness, where are you now?
(Laughs) I'm 144,000! I've got everything to be happy about. To my ears, I've managed to make some of the most amazing music, by myself, for myself. I'm very proud of that.
You recently revealed that this will be your last record. What are your post-music goals?
I don't see my life "after music." I just think this is going to be my last record for a while. I'm going on tour with Xscape and Monica, and I'm really excited about that, and I definitely plan to continue writing with more people. Music is a big part of my life, I just don't know right now if that's where I am inside.
You’ve established your own record label, Logan Land. How do you like calling your own shots?
As an artist, it's liberating because all this time I've had to listen to other people. Now it's like, "This is what I'm thinking, and these are my ideas," and people don't seem to think my ideas are too shabby.
Logan Land is named after your 4-year-old son. Are you grooming him for the music biz?
(Laughs) I call it Logan Land because everything revolves around him. He's the real boss!
Now that you’ve added the "record mogul" to your résumé, name your three favorite R&B albums of all time.
Hmmm … definitely, the Anita Baker record Rapture. Every track leaves you with a feeling, and they're all very musical. Number two I would have to say Toni Braxton. I think LA Reid and Babyface did their best on that album. The way they introduced Toni's rendition of R&B at that time was different. Number three would be Don't Be Cruel by Bobby Brown. I like that it wasn't just love songs. It was the other side of R&B — an up-tempo R&B record.
What's your favorite song to perform live?
My favorite is "Love And War." That's the record that got everything started for me. I call it the Tamar National Anthem, because everybody knows and appreciates it. It's such a great R&B record, and I think young or old, a lot of people can identify with it.
"[Bluebird Of Happiness is] a whole body of music that speaks to your soul."
In a recent Billboard interview, you said it's important to look in the mirror and find three things you like about yourself. What are your three things?
I love the fact that I can smile through anything. I used to think my smile was crooked, but I've really started to love my smile. I like is my eyes and my skin. I have something called vitiligo [a condition that causes skin discoloration], and at first it made me so insecure. Then I just decided one day that I was not going to feel insecure about it anymore. Now I like my skin and the imperfections of it.
Is there ever a time when you're a diva?
No! I'm so low-key and so low-maintenance. I don't have an entourage; I don't have an assistant. When people meet me, they're like, "Oh, I expected you to be so bourgeois," and I'm like, "No, I'm just a regular ol' girl, honey!"
(Bruce Britt is an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, Detroit Free Press, San Francisco Chronicle, and other distinguished publications. He lives in Los Angeles.)