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Audience of One’ Heralds Heather Headley’s First Gospel Album The Jan. 13 Release Features The Award-Winning Singer’s Hit Duet With Smokie Norful, ‘Jesus Is Love’

She’s a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical actress who successfully transitioned into a chart-topping R&B and pop/dance crossover artist. Now Heather Headley is back, having realized another lifelong dream.

Audience of One’ Heralds Heather Headley’s First Gospel Album The Jan. 13 Release Features The Award-Winning Singer’s Hit Duet With Smokie Norful, ‘Jesus Is Love’

Headley Also Among Initial Talent Lineup For Historic HBO Special “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial”

(New York, NY)-She’s a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical actress who successfully transitioned into a chart-topping R&B and pop/dance crossover artist. Now Heather Headley is back, having realized another lifelong dream.

Her first gospel album, “Audience of One,” arrives in the physical and digital marketplace Jan. 13 on EMI Gospel. The album, Heather’s third studio project, was recorded in Nashville. The singer collaborated with renowned producer Keith Thomas, whose credits include BeBe & CeCe Winans, Whitney Houston, Brian McKnight and Yolanda Adams.

“I grew up in church,” says Heather, the daughter of a pastor. “This album not only grants me a way to sing music I’ve always wanted to, it also gives me a chance to give God some overdue praise for everything He has done and continues to do for me.”

Offering a diverse mix of inspirational and traditional songs, “Audience of One” includes chart-climbing lead single, “Jesus Is Love.” Written by Lionel Richie, the song was originally recorded by the Commodores for the 1980 album “Heroes.” Heather’s spirited rendering features fellow EMI Gospel artist Smokie Norful.

The track is drawing critical praise from key gospel and urban AC program directors. “My colleagues and I agree,” says Alvin Stowe, Program Director of WQMZ-FM and WPZS-FM in Charlotte, NC; “this rendition of ‘Jesus Is Love’ is as good, if not better than the original.”

Coinciding with the new album’s release, Heather will be making various radio, retail and television appearances. Heather is set to share her experience of recording “Audience of One” during a one-on-one music experience interview with Dedry Jones (Feb. 10).

Heather is among the stellar lineup of performers initially confirmed for “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.” This Jan. 18 kickoff to the inaugural opening festivities boasts a performance roster that includes Beyoncé, Bono, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder. Free and open to the public, the historic celebration is being presented exclusively by HBO (7:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT). Rounding out Heather’s January itinerary thus far with appearances on the 24th Annual Stellar Gospel Awards and BET’s annual “Celebration of Gospel” (both airing Jan. 25) and a series of interviews on several popular syndicated radio programs including a chat with Donnie McClurkin (Jan. 28).

The Trinidad-born, Indiana-raised Heather credits her husband with helping her title the album “Audience of One.” He was the one who reminded her about the little church she lived above as a young girl.

“When I was about 10 years old, we moved into the manse directly above the church,” remembers Heather. “Some of my earliest memories are of singing in that little church. The joy that I found singing in that empty church to me, an ‘audience of one’ … that is what this album is. A girl singing to the only audience that really matters; the One Audience who is truly worthy.”

Mirroring the church-honed backgrounds of such passionate and powerful originals as Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, Heather grew up steeped in gospel music. Singing and playing piano at the age of four, the fledgling artist later attended Northwestern University.

She first gained national notoriety on the Broadway stage in 1997. She played the role of Nala in the original cast production of the Elton John-Tim Rice musical, “The Lion King.” That acclaim led to an invitation to audition for the title role of the next John and Rice Broadway musical, “Aida.” Opening in March 2000, the show garnered Heather the prestigious Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and the coveted Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical.

After appearing on the musicals’ original cast albums, Heather decided to pursue another dream. RCA released her debut album, “This Is Who I Am,” in 2002. Featuring the hit-making production talent of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Shep Crawford, D’Influence and Rob Mounsey, among others, the album spun off two R&B and pop/dance crossover hits: “He Is” and “I Wish I Wasn’t.”

“I Wish I Wasn’t” earned Heather a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in addition to another nod for Best New Artist. Her sophomore set, 2006’s “In My Mind,” boasted a second lineup of top-flight producers including Jam & Lewis, Crawford, Lil’ Jon and Warryn Campbell. Its title track gave Heather her first No. 1 dance chart hit.

But she hadn’t lost touch with her gospel roots. “In My Mind” also featured the roof-raising inspirational track “Change,” co-written with producer Campbell (whose credits include Mary Mary) and Eric Dawkins.

Having come full circle in her multi-faceted career, Heather declares she can’t help but be grateful. “Everything I learned in-and above-that sweet church shaped who I am today. I’ll take the voice He gave and thank Him with it.”

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