With a hit single now nearing the top of Billboard's Gospel Songs chart and a new album, "Best Days," due Aug. 14, actress Tamela Mann is watching her singing career shift onto higher ground.
"It is my passion to put out music that gives people hope and encouragement, even in their darkest hour," Mann says, adding that her gospel song "Take Me to the King" "speaks to those struggling and empowers them to stay faithful." Created with the blessings of contemporary Christian superstar Kirk Franklin, who wrote and produced the track, Mann's single is No. 2 on Gospel Songs.
Mann is best-known for her role on TBS' "Meet the Browns," and also has a lengthy resume onstage and in films, including the new remake of the 1976 movie "Sparkle," in which she portrays the best friend of the picture's late star, Whitney Houston. Though Mann excels in acting, the Texas native has enjoyed a simultaneous love affair with music. She began singing in church as a child, and, once she got out of high school, was soon recruited by Franklin to join his pioneering gospel group, the Family.
"Kirk really knows how to pull the honesty, sensitivity and musicality out of a song in the studio, so it was very easy for us to collaborate," Mann says. At the same time her singing career was on the ascent, her acting career took off, with numerous appearances in all forms of media. Perhaps most notable has been the recurring role of Cora Simmons in Tyler Perry's films and plays, including "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," "Madea Goes to Jail" and last year's "Madea's Big Happy Family."
"My acting and music careers have benefited from each other," says Mann, whose previous album, The Master Plan, won the 2011 Dove Award for traditional gospel album of the year, as well as an NAACP Image Award. "I've been doing both for so many years-shifting back and forth between music and acting is very natural to me, and it has been very fulfilling."
Best Days will be released through TillyMann Music Group and distributed by Central South Distribution. Mann will support the album with in-store appearances during street week in New York, Dallas, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va. She's also booked to appear on several TV and radio programs, including BET's "Lift Every Voice," "Bobby Jones Gospel," "Gospel Today" and various radio shows on SiriusXM.
The album includes the stirring worship anthem "All to Thee" as well as the nostalgic "Back in the Day Praise," a remembrance of tent revivals that Mann enjoyed attending as the youngest of 14 children. However, the track driving interest in the album is "Take Me to the King."
"The song resonates with where people are at today," says Mann's husband, David Mann, an actor and comic who also heads TillyMann Music Group. "It's a great track, the lyrics really connect with folks, and radio has been extremely supportive. Tamela has been on the road for months promoting the CD, and will continue to do so throughout the year."
He also points to the importance of brick-and-mortar religious retailers, which continue to promote physical CDs aggressively while much of the overall music business has moved to digital. (The Family Christian chain, for example, has nearly 300 U.S. stores carrying an array of gospel music along with religious pop, rock and rap albums.)
"We have great partners at retail," David Mann says, "and 'Best Days' will be well-positioned throughout the year in stores."