The Essence Music Festival is on in Durban and we caught up with Yolanda Adams, one of the biggest talents on the bill.

The US gospel star is looking forward to being in South Africa again.

“I’m looking forward to returning to Durban. It’s been a while and I adore the people. Inspiration, empowerment and excitement is what we intend to give to those attending the Essence Festival,” she said.

The songbird reflected on how she started out and how talent and hard work catapulted her to stardom.

“Music has always been an integral part of my life. I sang in our church choir as a child. When I became a teenager, I sang with a professional recording and travelling choir, The Southeast Inspirational Choir. I continued to sing with them during my college years. Upon graduating from university, I needed a job. So I taught second and third grades, while singing at the weekends. The solo career started while I was teaching. When I could no longer make my Monday morning classroom time, I had to make a serious choice. Faith is easy when you know God will not fail you. Thank God I chose the right thing or you and I would not be interviewing,” she said.

Bigger things were to come for Adams.

“My big break came in 1991 when I appeared for the first time on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It was the most amazing feeling; that a young artist from a small label could reach that platform was unbelievable. I am humbled that 28 years have passed since my debut album. I believe my longevity is due to the fact that I always sing and write from my heart. People can tell if you’re honest or not. I have never recorded anything I didn’t absolutely love,” she said.

Adams does not only have an amazing voice, she is also an incredible songwriter who has penned her material throughout her career. She does admit that in some cases she gets help from the industry’s finest.

“I write the majority of my songs. There are a few people who know me well enough to write for me. V. Michael McKay, Kevin Bond, Donald Lawrence, Kirk Franklin and Israel Houghton have written songs for me. Encouragement, victory and power are themes I love to write about. I think one of the biggest challenges for me was being taken seriously as a songwriter and producer when I first got into the solo side of music. The industry was so different then. Women weren’t given the budgets men got, nor the creative control. It feels really good to have it,” she explained.

Adams will be joined by Rev Al Sharpton, NE-YO, Estelle and others at the Essence Music Festival.