When you think of certain music, you may be quickly transported to certain cities and their origins. Country music takes you south, but you are definitely landing in Nashville. Gospel has heavy roots in the south, but Chicago often gets birthright for the sounds of traditional gospel. DC put go-go on the map but the sound has traveled the globe and the charts. And when you talk about club and house music, you will hear Baltimore and New York screamed loudly but those with a heart for house music will give kudos and loud accolades to New Jersey, especially Newark. Jersey’s reputation in music and the arts is legendary. Whitney Houston and Savoy Records were born in Jersey. Dionne Warwick and Cicely Tyson, these titans of music and movies, founded schools in the region surrounding Newark, East Orange and Essex County and here is where the magic of Michelle Ayers’ voice was born.
Michelle grew up in the Pentecostal church (her father and an uncle were both pastors), but she had a boyfriend who was in a singing group and he introduced her, and her soaring, soulful, gospel-trained voice to Meekaeel Muhammad’s recording studio and Kevin Hedge was his engineer. Hedge had her record a “reference track,” which is a vocal recording so that the “actual” artist who will ultimately record/release it would understand the movement and melodies of the song. Hedge loved Michelle so much that he promised the 17-year singer that he would surely record with her one day. That day didn’t happen for another 4 years. But when Ayers walked into a Jersey diner in East Orange, where she was living at the time, to find Hedge, along with Josh Milan and Chris Herbert, who were now the successful R&B group BLAZE, she screamed with excitement. She almost fanned out, excited to see the successful trio breaking bread in her hometown. But Hedge quickly asked her point blank “ARE YOU READY?” She was dumbfounded that he remembered his promise. “We were in the studio recording 2 weeks later.” That kept promise gave birth to a #1 smash hit on the dance charts, the powerful “ANOTHER LOVER,” written by the members of Blaze. Ayers would go on to record such anthems as “RESPECT,” which sizzled into the Top 5 and was remixed by the music maestro David Morales, as deejays around the globe took to spinning Michelle’s powerhouse vocals over tracks from Europe and throughout Asia and “SHARE MY LOVE” soon followed and Michelle Ayers and her rousing vocals could be heard at clubs around the globe. But Michelle would realize the greatest levels of success when she came home to tens of thousands of people at renown music festivals, including Newark’s Unity Festival in Weequahic Park, where she shared the stage with such giants as R&B supergroup GUY, soul icons The Manhattans, R&B/dance superstar Evelyn “Champagne” King and the re-emerging rock-and-roller who would soon become The Queen of Rock & Roll Tina Turner. “I remember meeting Teena Marie, on stage at the Unity Festival. We became such great friends and were in each other’s lives until she left this earth. She was just amazing. She and Jocelyn Brown (who stepped in to cover me when I had a family emergency and couldn’t record a track) hold a very special place in my heart.” Ayers lists Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Kim Burrell as influences as well and her dynamic voice is indeed in great company.
Michelle was excited to have an amazing career, as hits like “THAT’S LIFE” and “JOY” (a track she did with BIG MOSES with her as a featured vocalist) all kept her busy. As Michelle was expanding her repertoire to include more R&B stylings and doing intimate shows, she was offered a solo deal with Mercury Records, but didn’t take it because she was preparing for the birth of her third child and shifting her priorities. “I had moved away from the city and moved to the Poconos, only to have to travel from NYC all the way back up into the mountains. It was going too fast. It was moving too fast and I loved it too much. I felt like I was simply pulled away. I lost the passion but I really think it was about God keeping me separated. I heard the Lord say about a year or so ago that ‘if you had stayed, you wouldn’t be here today.’” Maturity and a true love of the music spoke to Michelle’s heart and then “FAST STEPPIN” came to her, but it wasn’t instant. When she first heard an initial track, it didn’t hit. “I told Ace Mungin that he needed to send me something else. And when he sent this track, I just wanted to step. I wanted to dance. The uptempo soon-to-be-classic has formidable credits, with producers Derrick Ricky Nelson and Ace Mungin of Acebeat Music. The Original Mix and Master is by Shawn "Morpheus" Waters. The Wood Floor Underground/House Mix was by Derrick Ricky Nelson and Ace Mungin. Shawn "Morpheus" Waters, former member of the Legendary Force MD’s, did the original mix of the song and helped to master it and even supported Michelle by helping with vocal arrangements for the track. The planets are clearly aligning for “FAST STEPPIN’.”
“I wanted to just have some fun. After all we’ve been through, we need to dance. I was thinking about roller skating and it just made me happy. I am going to be doing some ballads and some other things, but I want to do some happy music so that the music can do for the world what it has done for me! I want the world to get up and move.” Ayers is also hosting her own iHeart Radio show on POWER ME UP TALK RADIO. “New Artists Meet The Pros” is a format where young artists get to sit at the feet of producers, recording artists and other industry professionals to ensure that they understand the working of the music business. Living in Grovetown, GA, some 2 hours outside of Atlanta, Ayers now has access to the industry when she wants to work with producers while having peace and the peace of mind that she worked so hard to gain from stepping away. Now she’s fast stepping and ready to raise her voice. Michelle Ayers wants to bring all the joy and light that she feels in her heart like she felt when Dionne Warwick first visited her 2nd grade school in East Orange, which now bears her name, and made her feel like she could do anything. “I am coming back to the music because the music came back up in me. ‘FAST STEPPIN’’ is just the beginning. This next go ‘round, we’re gonna dance the night away and then let the music play!”
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