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SHARNETTE HYTER – TEXASIANAN SOUL

  “I’m a bowl of gumbo, a flat-footed country girl.  I love that I’m a peculiar person.”

  “I was born in Dallas, Texas, and my roots are from Texas and Louisiana, so I consider myself a Texasianan – half-Texas, half-Louisiana.  I reside in southern Dallas at the moment, and I’m Texan at heart.”

  Ms. Sharnette Hyter may not be a household name yet, but - considering her talent in music, theatre, literature and business in general – it won’t be long before she’s more widely recognized.  She’s not lacking experience either, as her first records were released almost a quarter of a century ago.

  “I am the first generation of music artists in our family.  I have no relatives on either side that are in the music industry.  I never thought I would be a singer.  I thought I was going to be in theatre or in the medical field, but I never dreamed that I would be singing.” 

  “I come from a very large family and we always had music playing, so I had the pleasure of basically imitating.  I would imitate from gospel artists to soul artists, from Mahalia Jackson to Tina Turner to Dorothy Love Coates to Etta James, Nancy Wilson, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield...  Marvin Gaye was the first artist that touched my spirit.  I remember like yesterday, when Marvin died.  My favourite aunt Joyce came home and was crying so hard saying ‘Marvin, Marvin, they killed Marvin.’  I was crying, because she was so sad.  Still today she has all that Marvin Gaye vinyl collection.  That day I saw the impact of music and how it touched the hearts for people.  Still then I didn’t know I would become a singer.  There was always music being played from albums, and I loved to listen to it and dance.”

  Sharnette went first to Robert L. Thornton Elementary in Dallas, then Boude Storey Middle School and finally Skyline High School.  “My cluster at Skyline was horticulture.  My grandparents were farmers and ranchers.  Every summer, when I visited my grandparents, I would learn about farm life – agriculture, animals like horses, cows, pigs and chicken, flowers... I was always attracted to nature.  I was excited to go back to the city after the summer and tell my friends and classmates about my adventures – from watching my grandma kill a snake, even my uncle harvest honey cone, fresh honey.”  Besides horticulture, sport was another field Sharnette was good at.  “I ran track in high school - 200 and 400 meters, relay and hurdles, also shot put and discus throwing.”      

  “After high school I went to Cedar Valley College and then to Larry’s Barber College and I became a hair stylist.  I’m a licensed barber instructor and I’ve had a hair salon since 1990.  I also attended Renee’s Cosmetology Center and I have mastered theological studies in Grace Seminary College.”

  Sharnette is locally known also as a radio and TV personality.  “My first job was at KAZI in Austin, Texas.  Steve Savage, who was the program director there and now the general manager, gave me my first job in radio.  That was in 1991-92.”  On local TV Sharnette hosted Lady Sports Talk and Jussharshow, but that was already in the 2000s.  Her mentor in TV was Ester Davis.  Today she still co-hosts with China Doll an Internet show called Real.

  Sharnette is known also as an author.  Spiritual Love Poems: All about God’s Love and Real Talk came out in 2009, whereas Heartfelt Poetry was published three years later.  “I actually have two other books that I’m working on right now, and a play.  They’re not finished.  One of them is a book for teens and the other one is another poetry book.  I love writing.  Writing is my first passion.  I wrote my first song actually in elementary school and it’s called I’m a Teapot.  In elementary school I was writing poems and jingles – one is for soda and one for a chicken restaurant.  I was a writer first and then blessed to be a singer second.”

  Not only voice and pen, but good looks as well.  We still add to Sharnette’s Curriculum Vitae movies and theatre.  “I did take theatre and acting in high school.  I did an adaptation of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, and I was part of that play in one of the theatres here in Dallas (in 2010).  It really faces a lot of the oppression that is going on worldwide with women.  When I got involved in that, it triggered me into recording a song called Woman Is the Nigger of the World (2013).  That particular song that was written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono back in 1972 was during the civil rights and women rights movement and it talks about actual abuse of women.  Women, no matter what their colour or their age, are slaves of the slaves.  That particular song resonated with me, because – no matter what their culture is –, woman is still always the second.  The video of the song got some backlash, but a lot of applauds.  In 2017 we’re still experiencing the same issues that they were singing about in 1972.”

  Besides a sitcom called Changing Mannequins in 2012, Sharnette has acted in two movies, a thriller called Jacob’s Eye in 2012 and Clayton & Claudia two years ago.  “Jacob’s Eye was an independent film that was written by a film-maker by the name of GuGu Michaels.  It did very well independently.  The last one I did and in fact co-wrote was with a young film-maker by the name of Bobby Shue, and it’s called Clayton & Claudia.  It’s a very touching film about the struggles of transgender people today.  I did the music score for the film.  I have also been blessed with being a part of MoJo Theater since 2014.  CEO and veteran actor and producer Kenneth Earl “Kene” Holliday and Apostle Dr. Linda Holliday have taken me under their wings and sharpened my theatre and acting skills.”

DeJaVu

GUILTY

  “I actually got into the music profession, when my brother at the time had a friend that was looking for a third person to sing in a group, and he said ‘sister, why don’t you audition?’.  So I went and met with the girl group and auditioned for a background singer.  The name of the group was DeJaVu.  It was a local group – Sharon Jones and Janice G. Rodgers.  That was the first girl group I was in, and I was the background singer.  That was the beginning of my serious music career, which I never thought it would happen, because I was a hair stylist at that time and a very young mother.  I was 23.”

  “We evolved into a 3-girl group, and after Sharon left we became a 2-girl group called Guilty (on the pic left).  Just Dance was the very first song we recorded.”  Just Dance was released in 1993 – backed with Why Are We So Broke? – on Forever Platinum Records out of DeSoto, Texas (EQ003), and it’s basically house music.  “In DeJaVu my first name was Viper, and then I changed to Sting, when we became Guilty.”  In Guilty, Janice was called Flex.

  “We had another underground r&b song that was produced here and came out in Texas, which was a kind of like summer song we had.  It really didn’t do a lot, but it was a very fun song.  It was produced by Norbeyaga Luna, and the name of the song was Jungle Booty.  It was a dance song.”  Jungle Booty was released on a Forever Platinum EP: You Make My Heartbeat (sic) / instr. / Part, Eat & Sleep // Jungle Booty / Bodda Boom / All We Need Is Love.  The last two tracks were produced by Ezra Jay and lyrics written by Sharnette and Janice Rodgers.  In 1994 they still released When He Comes My Way, Sounds If Sensuality and Shake and Wave.

  Guilty’s house hit, Hooked on Luv, was released in November 1996 on K4B Records, and it was produced by Kingsley Olufowodi, aka KyoKayo.  “Kingsley O. is from London, and the studio where we recorded those songs was in Connecticut, but most of the music was played overseas.  However, I did not do any shows in the U.K.  That is the first song that ever charted for me.  Kingsley O. was a wonderful producer.  K4B was basically house, electronic, Afrobeat music.  In fact, we’re going to be working on some new music this year.”

  Soon after Hooked on Luv, Guilty called it a day.  “Janice is still writing and is the mother of two sons.  Philippe and Bryson are teenage model/actors and rappers.  Janice is now managing her sons’ careers.”

JAYLA JEWEL

  From a 3-girl DeJaVu to 2-girl Guilty and finally solo... as Jayla Jewel.  “Jayla Jewel was the name I used for my debut as an r&b artist.  Jayla was my daughter’s name and she was a jewel.”  A mid-tempo hip-hop song titled I like What You Do to Me was released on Stryke Entertainment (STRY002) in 1997, located in Stratford, Connecticut, and it featured a rapper called Grand Puba.  Kingsley O. was in charge again.  “During that time, everything was like male/female duets.  You had males rapping and females singing, and Stryke Entertainment wanted to change me into that style.”

  “Then I stopped singing from 1998 up to 2009, and after that I took my real name, Sharnette Hyter.  During this period I managed the Diamonds club in Dallas.  It was like an r&b and blues club.  We were open from 1998 till 2004.”

  In 2009 Sharnette was first featured on Andy Ford’s fast and progressive house track called It’s Cool.  “It’s Cool was a remix that was done independently on my label.”  Next she came up with her debut mini-album called Jus’ Shar on her Serious Inc. Records.  “Serious is my label.  My office was in DeSoto, which is a suburb of Dallas, Texas.  Besides my own CDs, the only other album that I released was by my nephew, Justin White, which was a gospel CD.  It was called My Journey.” 

SOUTHERN SOUL PARTY EVERY NIGHT

  Jus’ Shar contained eight tracks but it was soon extended to a 12-track album and titled Southern Soul Party Every Night.  “I co-produced that album with my nephew and wrote all the songs, except Rock Steady and I Won’t Wait on LoveCarl Marshall and I co-wrote that, but he did the music on that song.  It was recorded in Houston.”  I Won’t Wait is a sensual ballad, and the two other significant southern soul slowies on the set are Love Glow and the single, Love Token

  Swang’ On, Southern Soul Every Night and Loving Love Again are steppers, whereas they actually teach line dance to Steppin’ out Tonight (see the video on YouTube).  Hit It! is an almost aggressive mating call, while Rock Steady is turned into a big-voiced house & funk scorcher.  “My nephew played on the CD, and on a lot of it I’m actually the background singer.  Justin’s mom Michelle and aunt Valerie sang background also.  Loving Love Again has live instrumentation on it, like a live saxophone and George Wooton on guitar.  Also on Hit It! there’s Billy Sanders playing the saxophone.  It wasn’t totally synchronized sound.  There were actually live instruments coming in – guitars and drums – on a couple of those tracks.”

  “I was able to open up for a lot of great people off from Southern Soul Party Every NightLove Token on that CD happens to be the most popular song off the album.  It opened the doors for me, and I was able to open up for Bobby Bland, Mel Waiters, Bobby Rush...”

KEEP THE FAITH

  “Gospel is my roots.  I grew up listening to gospel music, and I just wanted to do something that was rooted in who I am as a person.”  Keep the Faith was released in July 2010 on Sharnette’s Serious Inc. label.  “The songs that I selected on the gospel album were songs that I was listening to as a child that were played on Sundays.  A lot of the selections on that CD come from the great Mahalia Jackson and also from Shirley Ceasar and Dorothy Love Coates.”

  Produced by Sharnette and Justin D. White, such traditional songs as Amazing Grace and Precious Lord have interesting, original arrangements, whereas most of the songs belong to the “ecstatic camp meeting” category.  “The last four – He’s Mine, When I’ve done Wrong, Every Day, Keep the Faith - were originals that I wrote, except that my nephew wrote When I’ve Done Wrong.  Some of the new ones are more in a jazzy gospel feel” – witness He’s mine.  “That album was basically done live.  It’s mostly me and my nephew playing organ and keyboards.  He followed right behind me.  That was the only way I knew how to sing gospel.  I’ve never sung in church choirs.  All the imperfections that someone might hear, I wanted them to be kept.”

SHAR JAZZ

  Only after two months Sharnette released her next CD, this time called Shar Jazz.  “I wanted to do music that I loved.  Being independent and having control over whatever I wanted to do – a lot of people thought I was insane – but I wanted to do it and the way that I wanted to do.  Then I love jazz, it’s one of my favourite music genres.  I just really wanted to pay respect to the great – Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson... so many great jazz singers.  I recorded songs that I love and I truly enjoyed it.”

  On the set there are eleven well-known standards interpreted mostly in an intimate and smooth setting – Summertime, The Man I Love, Misty... – but there are also tracks with a richer instrumentation, such as This Bitter Earth, What a Difference a Day Makes and Wind Beneath My Wings.  “All of that is just me and my nephew.  I did most of it in my studio.”

  During the next five years Sharnette released as many as eight singles and EPs on her label, and one of the was Woman Is the Nigger of the World in 2013, which was discussed above.  She also hopped from one genre to another seemingly very easy – from zydeco to reggae, soul, house etc.

  If You Want It in 2010 is Zydeco.  “Zydeco is Louisiana, and it’s like Indian, French and African blend of music.  If You Want It I co-wrote with a man by the name of Lil Jimmie, and he’s from LouisianaThat’s the first zydeco song I did.” 

  Produced by Reggie Love and written by Sharnette, Bring It to Me (in 2011) is a laid-back reggae song.  “I love reggae music, and I have a lot of Jamaican friends.”  Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing was a hit for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1968, and on this remake Patrick Green (http://www.soulexpress.net/patrickgreen.htm) is Sharnette’s partner.  “With Patrick we had done a couple of shows together and we had talked about doing a duet together.  I was always fascinated with Ashford & Simpson as duet writers, and I’ve always wanted to redo that song.  I called Carl Marshall about it, so we recorded that in Houston in Carl Marshall’s studio.”

  Under the Spotlight (2013) is a fast house track, and on one of the remixes rapper Freedom Williams from C+C Music Factory is featured.  On one of the four mixes Randy Small is the producer.   I Can Do Bad by Myself (2013) is a mid-tempo mover, but for the soul music lovers a poignant ballad named I’m Gettin’ up Outta Here (2013) is the song to come back to.  “That’s actually a song that I covered for a wonderful writer out of California by the name of Tony Ray Haynes.  He’s a very good friend of mine.  Together with DaMone Arnold, a producer out of California, they were looking for someone to cover some songs that they were submitting to Concord Records and some other labels.  Tony asked me to come and record this particular song that he was shopping for a particular famous artist.  After the song got finished I said ‘oh my God, if you guys don’t submit this song, please let me keep the song and release it.’  That particular song didn’t get submitted at that particular time, so they said ‘go ahead, you can release the song.’  That song went over very well, and I’m looking forward to putting a video to it, because it is about domestic violence and having courage to get up and leave that situation.  So many women have said how that song has helped them.”

  On Military Man (2014) machines dominate.  It’s a fast techno track produced by Eric Williams and Ray G. Bollin.  Sharnette’s latest outing this year is a mid-tempo smooth mover called Call out My Name by J. Red aka Jesse Redmond.  “That is doing very well.  I’m featured on that.  The song was written by J. Red.  I went to Atlanta to his studio and recorded it.  The chemistry in our voices was just wonderful.  People are loving the song.”

GROWN FOLKS TALKIN’

  It took six years for Sharnette to complete her next album after Shar Jazz in 2010.  “Being independent, it takes a lot to produce an album.  It’s a big financial step, and being a single mother I had other obligations.  It took a lot to put this album together.  I did most of the recording in Louisiana – Lafayette and Baton Rouge – a lot of commuting and a lot of time.”

  Grown Folks Talkin’ (in 2016) was released on Michael Lockett’s label (www.lockdownrecords.com), and among the producers – besides Michael – there were Beatflippa and Highway Heavy aka Charles Lewis out of Baton Rouge and still Ves Garret from Lafayette.  “I wanted to get to a higher standard of production, so that’s why I came upon working with producers from Louisiana.”

  Ves Garret wrote and produced a gentle mid-tempo opener called I’ve Got Love, whereas on a slow song titled Put It on Paper Patrick Henry is the duettist.  “I think one of the sleepers on there is the remake of Hold On by the great legendary soul singer Joe Tex.  We did that with Joe Tex II, the junior.  That song, alongside with the remake of one of my all-time favourite singers, Al GreenPut It on Paper – are doing really well.”  Al cut the song with Ann Nesby in 2002.

  “With the selection of the songs that I chose for this CD, I wanted to bring in some great hits, to share my vocal abilities and also the songs I grew up with and that I love.  The remake of Going in Circles by the Friends of Distinction (in 1969) is doing really well.  That’s a classic soul song that I really loved.”

  On a jolly dancer called Need A Mr. Do Right - best described as “zydeco goes juke joint” – the late Big Cynthia Walker is featured, and Jeter Jones is on a jarring slowie titled So Much Better.  The fast Stilettos & Jeans features a zydeco artist by the name of J.J. Callier, and Charles Lewis produced a mid-tempo beater named Hit My Spot Right.  The Grown Folks Talkin’ CD is a sleeper, and only gradually people are waking up to it.  Sharnette also wants to thank her entertainment attorney Kendal Minter and Harry Lyles Media Group out of Atlanta, Georgia, for helping her musical career grow worldwide; not forgetting her mom Charlotte for her support and her family and friends.  Auntie Joyce is her number one fan and supporter.

A NEW ALBUM

  “I will begin recording for my blues album in August.  I’m working with songwriters Gerald Robinson aka Larome Powers (http://www.soulexpress.net/deep6_2014.htm#laromepowers), Harvey Scales, LaNicko Hardin and Shelton Flyth, just to mention a few.  A lot of my new product that I’m working on is going to be all live.  It’s expensive, but I want that feel, that timeless music.”

  “Everything I do is passionate and it comes from my heart.  I’m an original singer and I have my own distinctive way of singing.  I’m not a traditional singer.  Me loving house music and ‘high nrgy’ music has given me a very strong vocal ability, and then the sombre and passionate side of me loving gospel and jazz.  I’m just blessed that people enjoy my songs, the Sharnette Hyter sound.” 

(www.sharnettehytermedia.com; interview conducted on June the 20th in 2017).

SHARNETTE HYTER ALBUM DISCOGRAPHY

SOUTHERN SOUL PARTY EVERY NIGHT (Serious Inc. Records) 2009

Intro / Rock Steady / Southern Soul Every Night / Hit It! / Counterfeit Love / Love Token / Swang’ On / Steppin’ Out Tonight / Loving Love Again / I Won’t Wait / Love Glow / Outro

KEEP THE FAITH (Serious Inc. Records) 2010

Amazing Grace / In The Upper Room / Get Away Jordan / Touch Me Lord Jesus / The Winner / I Know The Lord Will Make A Way / Precious Lord / How I Got Over / He’s Mine / When I’ve Done Wrong / Every Day / Keep The Faith

SHAR JAZZ (Serious Inc. Records) 2010

Summertime / This Bitter Earth / I Love You For Sentimental Reasons / ‘Deed I Do / Someone To Watch Over Me / The Man I Love / What A Difference A Day Makes / Somewhere Over The Rainbow / Wind Beneath My Wings / Love Glow / Misty

GROWN FOLKS TALKIN’ (Lockdowne Records) 2016

I’ve Got Love / I’m Not Her / Put It On Paper / Hold On / Need A Mr. Do Right / So Much Better / Stilettos & Jeans / I’m Classy / Got Me Going In Circles / Still Don’t Pay My Bills / Hit My Spot Right / You Ain’t Getting It

© Heikki Suosalo





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