Official Biography (courtesy of Elisabeth Withers)
"Nobody can dream your dreams for you. Nobody can say it won't come true. Even if it seems impossible, with every breath you take you'll feel that, this is what you were born to do. Laughable. Unthinkable. Even if no one believes in you, pull through. Cause nobody can dream your dreams for you," are the lyrics that open up the song, "Dream," from Elisabeth Withers' new album, No Regrets which was released September 14, 2010 through a joint agreement between Purpose Music Group and E1 Music.
Known for her vibrant and electrifying portrayal as Shug Avery in the original Broadway cast of Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Color Purple, the heart-felt lyrics are a testimony for the Tony nominated actress, vocalist, and songwriter who has taken her own dreams from their humble beginnings in the Midwest all the way to the Broadway stage, airwaves, and Billboard charts.
While Withers thrilled audiences with her Tony nominated Broadway performance, and strummed listeners' heart-chords with her soul-tingling Blue Note Debut, It Can Happen To Anyone, it's her off-stage role as mother, wife, mentor, daughter, friend, and humanitarian that takes center stage on her sophomore release No Regrets. "This is a very personal album for me," explains Withers introspectively. "My life had been moving at such a fast pace since The Color Purple and the hectic promotional tour for my first album, demands of nightly Broadway performances, the speaking circuit, and long studio sessions left little time for me to be with my family, so at the end of 2007, I decided to take the time to breathe, live, give-back, and be a mommy."
In what seemed like her quiet time came songs like, "Dream," an inspirational song encouraging us to pursue our dreams, even when they appear to be impossible, laughable, or unthinkable. "In the three years away from the industry, I was still creating, writing, and living my purpose. One of which is working with inner-city youth, some who aren't encouraged to reach for their dreams as I was. I created a non-profit organization, Too Beautiful Program, which helps young girls discover their unique purpose in life. Fortunately I had mentors, like my 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, my family, Ashford & Simpson and so many other people who have inspired me to reach beyond the horizon of possibility. I believe that if God has blessed you with celebrity and notoriety, you have to take time to give back."And giving back is what this New York University alum has been doing. Kids are simply drawn to her when she speaks or performs and for Withers, the experience working with kids is very rewarding.
An experience with her daughter, Chelsea, inspired the title track, "No Regrets," co-written with Barry Eastmond and Gordon Chambers. "One evening I came home after two years of balancing Broadway performances in The Color Purple with promoting my first album, It Can Happen To Anyone and I reached for my little girl. She took off running toward the nanny crying "Mommy," and it was then that I knew I had to make some different decisions. It was my ‘Aha Moment.' I decided to take the time to reconnect with my daughter and that time gave me more experiences to write about," expresses Withers. "Because I Love You," co-written with Barry Eastman, Jean Baylor, and Gordon Chambers is a song most working parents can relate to. "When I was on the road, I missed feeling my little girl rub my hair to wake me up in the morning and hearing stories about her day in school. I wanted her to know through this song that the sacrifices I was making were so that she could have everything I didn't have growing up and more.
On "I Remember," Withers takes us on a journey back to backyard barbecues, roller-skates, sneaking in after curfew, and double-dutch. She pays homage to her parents on the "Rock & Rain." "On those two songs, I wanted to give people real and distinct images of where I'm from," explains Elisabeth. "My father is a musician who loves big band and theatrical scores while my mother loves blues, gospel, and silence. Believe it or not, she says she hears music through silence; which is interesting to me. All these musical inspirations have been sort of a melting pot for my eclectic taste in music."
Withers took those music influences with her to Boston's renowned Berklee College of Music where she studied voice and piano and earned a Bachelor's Degree in music composition, contemporary songwriting, production, and film scoring. Afterwards, she moved to New York, earned a Masters in Fine Arts at New York University, and began working as a background singer for artists like Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige, Luther Vandross, Erykah Badu, and R. Kelly. Withers also performed alongside Lisa Fischer and Paulette McWilliams as a "Vowell" on PBS Special, Between The Lion, which encourages literacy for children's.
While in New York working with various wedding bands and singing in smoky clubs to pay the rent, Elisabeth befriended Ashford & Simpson and credits the songwriters for encouraging her to audition for the role of Shug Avery in The Color Purple. "Shug Avery in The Color Purple movie was ageless, feisty, yet malleable and my mother and the ladies in my family are like that. They're fun-loving, yet know when to get down to business, so I brought those women to life in my audition and a year later, I was Tony nominated for the Broadway role."
By 2007, Withers was signed to The Legendary Blue Note Records and released her debut album, It Can Happen To Anyone (Blue Note Records). The video for the album's single, "Be With You" (co-written with Grammy Award Winning Producer, Toby Gad) garnered the VH1 Best New Video Release and the 2007 BET Award Nomination for "BET J Cool Like That". Largely self-penned by Withers, the skillfully crafted songs from her debut were quickly licensed by blue-chip companies like Corona, United Airlines, Carol's Daughter, and San Andreas for the Grand Theft Auto video game. The duel triumphs of being an acclaimed Broadway actress and major label artist opened doors for Withers to become a darling of the speaking circuit, making featured appearances at Dr. OZ/HEALTHCORPS, VERIZON, The Uniworld Group, National Black Caucus, Odyssey Network Group, The LINKS, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, ASCAP, and the Grammy Board for Grammy's In Schools. Later Withers' alma mater, Berklee School of Music, honored her with their Distinguished Alumna Award in recognition of her achievements in the arts.
With her partner and musical director, Damon Mendes, new daughter, a Broadway vehicle in the pipeline, and a bevy of new material, Withers returns to the main stage rising to even higher heights. Recently signed through a landmark joint agreement between E1 Music and Purpose Music Group, songs from new 2010 release, No Regrets, are rising up the Top 20 charts. On No Regrets, Withers shares songwriting and production credits with award-winning hitmakers: Toby Gad (Alicia Keys, Kelly Rowland), Barry Eastmond (Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, Yolanda Adams), Gordon Chambers (Tamia, Deborah Cox), Carvin Haggins & Ivan Barias (Faith Evans, Jazmine Sullivan), Jean Baylor (one half of R&B duo Zhané) and more.
Throughout No Regrets, Elisabeth gives her heart through song sharing the warm words that can only be expressed by someone who's been through things in life and finds themselves at the cross-roads. For any woman who's ever sat waiting for her lover in a candlelit room with dinner on the table, and two glasses, one almost empty stood up yet again, there's "Say It Now." For lovers trying to keep the flame burning, there's "I Believe," and "Take Me Back." No matter what you're going through, your sister-friend, Elisabeth reminds you that if you can just hold on, everything's going to be "Alright." On "Why," she wails "if we can build a spaceship and fly it to the moon, then why can't I love you." Each lyric sung by Withers' on No Regrets send us on a journey towards hope and ultimately with good living.