National singing competition show The Four premiered only this past January, to millions of viewers looking for their next big super star. It was a show unlike many competitions for aspiring artists such as American Idol or The Voice, because it allowed millennials to truly own their own style and artistry right before our eyes. Season one of The Four is where America met Memphis, Tennessee native Evvie McKinney. As a contestant she stole hearts belting renditions of popular soul hits by Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner. After taking home the title as the show’s first winner, Evvie set out on her own career towards stardom. She released her debut single How Do You Feel soon after, and is on the brink of releasing her first project.
However there’s much more to the young singer than what meets the eye. In a candid conversation, Evvie reveals that her love for music began at a young age. Her family’s involvement in the church, and her following dedication to Christianity, forged a strong love for singing and music. She fearlessly shared her story, revealing a purely sweet personality with a very powerful message in her words.
Kaya: You started singing at age 5, did you know then that you wanted to be a professional singer?
Evvie: Yes I knew it. Singing was something I just loved to do, I felt like it was dream I could not run away from.
Kaya: So What was your journey from your childhood to before The Four? How did you get there?
Evvie: Imma sum it all up in one word—well one name—Jesus. Jesus he… He just…. He blows my mind. I grew up in a household where God was very present. God did a lot for us, specifically my mom and my father. [My parents] met in church, which is still the church now, and they fell in love but they too knew God. When you know God you have a lot of kids, and you produce kids that know God.
But for some reason even as a little girl I’ve always known that I wanted to be a superstar. I’ve always known that God had something far beyond my imagination that I would do. People look at me and they say ‘oh you should do Gospel’ but in reality with me knowing who I am and who Christ is, it’s almost like the Gospel will never not be in my music.
Evvie shares that her strong bond with God began with the help of her father who was a musician. She notes that through him, her family and the help of a beloved high school teacher, she learned the importance of her faith.
E: I believe the reason my relationship with Jesus is where it’s at is because of my physical father. It really did just hit me. Growing older now I talk to [Jesus] more. I take big dreams to him. Even through out middle school and high school.
I went back to Memphis this past week, I talked to the kids, I saw my old teacher—my old mentors. One mentor specifically her name is Chrysti Chandler. It was like God put that lady in my life to prepare me for The Four.
Little do fans know The Four was not Evvie’s first attempt at launching her singing career. Actually the singer had auditioned for several shows on numerous occasions just to be told ‘no.’ But the young star held tight to her faith that God had bigger plans for her.
E: I’ve auditioned for American Idol, The Voice, X Factor, I’ve auditioned for all of these shows for years. An estimate guess? About nine times combined. And I’ve always gotten a no. Singing the same thing I sang on The Four. I got to a point in my life where I was like ‘Okay Lord, maybe this dream is too big.’ But every time I would get to that point God always made a way for me.
K: So when you got to The Four what would you say was the biggest lesson you learned while being an contestant?
E: To be honest the biggest takeaway for me is that with Jesus Christ everything is possible. I will never forget the time when I got my first seat [on The Four] and I was just thanking God. When I was up there battling Zhavia and Candice I was grateful. When I found myself winning I just threw my hands up. Whenever you don’t give up and have faith—when you hold on to that—God opens doors.
K: Looking at the current trends in R&B, what are some of the biggest challenges you face being an artist with a soul vocalist background?
E: To be honest I feel like the new kid. Today’s R&B is completely different. I think what will really set me apart is my ability to reflect my music on what really goes down. Music is a universal language it goes in people’s mind, so for me I want people to look at my music and feel. Whenever I get to the point where I feel like I’m just making noise, I have to step back and say ‘Lord, just put me through something to give me something to talk about.’
K: You have a debut single “How Do You Feel” can we expect the same tone to follow into your debut project?
E: How Do You Feel I recorded the song when I was 20 years old. Everything that is in that song I went through not even a year before I was on The Four. People call it turning lemons into lemonade but I just say ‘But God.’ He turned anything around for the good.
To be honest, I think all expectations for Evvie need to go out the window. I have a song for every genre on this album. And I’m so blessed to be working with Diddy and Meghan Trainor and so many mixers around the world. How Do You Feel wasn’t even an appetizer. My album? Put your dancing shoes on and be ready to be educated.
K: When things get the most hectic for you, what are some ways you like to center yourself and refocus? What is your self care plan?
E: One thing that I do—and I’ve been doing this since middle school—I write my prayers down. There’s prayers all over the walls in my house. In my room I write my prayers down and I put them on really cute sticky notes and I post them. Sometimes I post scriptures, sometimes I may do self reflections. God has me on this journey and one day I want to put it all in one book and have people look at it. But my prayer wall is also motivation for me to put up more prayers.
And I read devotionals every morning. Right now I’m reading Hope For Everyday. I used to read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. But to really keep me sane I just talk to God.
K: Any last words of advice to women of color who may want to follow your footsteps in a musical career?
E: I would tell them first of all God loves you and he gave you that gift for a reason. Once you start to get comfortable you start to put yourself in a box, you start to limit your ability and your connection with God. Stay comfortable in God and who he has ordained you to be. Never give up. There’s gonna be people that’s gonna pull and tug on you. There’s gonna be nights where you’re crying over a guy, over a job, over bills, over family, whatever, but you have to know God is bringing you through this because he is about to bring you out.
2018 will see a full length debut from the very talented and wise star Evvie, who’s relentless faith is sure to take her far. Listen to her single How Do You Feel now, and make sure you keep your eyes on this shining star as she continues to blaze down her destined path.