After six Grammys, seven American Music Awards and more than 66 million record sales, R&B songstress Toni Braxton was ready to give up music last year. Battling the effects of Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disorder, left her depressed and questioning whether she still had it.
“I had my illness I was dealing with, I think I was a little depressed with everything — not being able to control my life like I once did and accepting that I’m older,” said Braxton, 45, during a conference call with reporters. “I’m in my 40s and the industry has changed — do people still like me?”
But it was another R&B superstar singer/songwriter, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who produced her self-titled, multiplatinum debut album, that convinced her otherwise.
“Hey, you got a lot more singing to do, sista girl!’ ” Braxton remembers Babyface saying to her. ‘It’s not time. I know where you are, because I’ve been there before. So many other artists have been there, but you can’t let that stop you.”
“He gives me confidence,” she added. “And helps me shine up my wings and reminds me I can fly again.
Now, the longtime friends have released a duets album titled, “Love, Marriage and Divorce,” and Braxton is headlining her first tour in five years.
The sultry singer will perform at 7:30 Wednesday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.
“I’m still nervous and I’m unsure and cautious, but I decided that I needed to go for it; it’s OK to be scared,” said Braxton, 45, during a conference call with reporters. “So this is my test: To get my body ready, to get my confidence up, to see how far I can push my body. Three, four shows a week. Can I do it?”
Braxton said Lupus changed her life, but she’s learned to deal with it day-by-day.
“When I found out, I realized my life would never be the same,” she added. “After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realized I could still enjoy my life, my quality might be challenged, but I don’t have to let it hinder me. You have good days and you have bad days, but I don’t want sympathy. I just want to enjoy my life and the quality of my life.”
Braxton has been in the news over the years for two bankruptcies, in 1998 and 2010. And she recently lost a bid to reclaim the rights to several of her songs, lost in bankruptcy proceedings.
But she bounced back, and is back to focusing on her music. To prepare for her tour and build endurance, she said she trained with professionals and did lots of running on the treadmill while singing her songs.
She said she’s excited about her new album, slated for release this fall. “Hurt You,” the first single from their new album, is on the radio and iTunes now.
“I feel great about the music, but this is the first time in my career that I’m not thinking about if this is gonna be a number-one song,” she says. “I’m not even thinking about that. And I have to be honest: It’s weird to think like this, because I know the business of the music business.
And her 20 years in the music business have left her older and much wiser.
“I think when I first came in the business, I was so excited to be in it,” said Braxton, who stars in We TV’s hit reality show with her singing sisters, “Braxton Family Values.”
“But now that I know about it, taking that business aspect away is refreshing. It can be about making music and enjoying yourself, and I haven’t enjoyed myself in so long. I need to enjoy my career. This tour is an awakening for me, as corny as it sounds.”