Demetria McKinney: It’s Not As “Easy” As You Think

Demetria McKinney has become one of the most recognizable faces between the small screen and her first passion—music. Her range of television credits are active from her role on Syfy’s “Superstition” with Mario Van Peebles; the drama series “Saints and Sinners;” BET’s popular “The Quad” and Tyler Perry’s sitcom “House of Payne” returning for another season in 2018.

But, if you didn’t have a chance to catch her on all of the above television shows airing on several different networks—just turn on the radio because her hit song “Easy” is a major hit.

While she was traveling on the Fantasia Christmas After Midnight Tour, The Defender sat down to discuss how McKinney balances her successful career.

You have a great deal of projects happening? How do you balance it all?

It’s funny, it’s just a testament to what’s for you in God’s time. It’s also about not being upset or stressed out about stuff—it’s human. But you got to kind of let things go.

Congratulations on the success of “Easy.” How did you come up with the concept and who wrote it?

It’s an amazing love song. What I love about “Easy” is that they’re gravitating to the message. It’s great to see that in the midst of reality television where everybody is like ‘Yes, I’ll do this for that or I’ll do this for a shirt or for a car,’ people are saying ‘I’m worth love, I’m worth substance, I’m worth the mindset that agrees with mine.’

Who wrote the song?

Courtlin Jabrae, Devin Horton and myself. It was a collaborative effort.

My album is comprised of a couple of different writers—some of them are known and some of them are not, but they all speak my language. I really wanted to tell stories from my point of view. This “Easy” moment came from being tired of being approached at the bar and they think they can come at me with that same line that same thing and the minute I say ‘no’— ‘she stuck up and she got an attitude’.  I have high expectations—damn right! I deserve because I give. And sometimes as women, I feel we kind of diminish everything that we give, and we take the scraps because it’s what is available. No, you wait for the right thing and make them give it to you.

Since you have so many irons in the fire, have you had time to enjoy your personal time for yourself?

I would really love to take this wig off and sit it on the headrest as if it were my bestie. [she laughs]

But those moments where I used to be able to of walk out looking any kind of way, being any kind of way and acting silly in public, I have to be aware of this.  To understand there’s consequences, and everything that comes with fame comes with a consequence. There is no way around it. Michael Jackson led a very private life for a reason. Beyoncé is private about her life for a reason because you still want to shield those things that are super important to you.

As an independent artist, we’ve seen a great deal of changes in the music business. Does it help to still have a major label in your corner?

Having a partner in radio and in finance is great, but I still had to make sure that everybody understood I am a partner. I struggled with that within my own team for a while until I had to weed out some folks who couldn’t let me be at the helm of my boat. With EOne, they ask me what would I like to do; they offer their opinions about things, but ultimately, they’re very gracious in letting me take the lead on my project.

SUPERSTITION — Pictured: (l-r) Demetria McKinney as May Westbrook, Mario Van Peebles as Isaac Hastings — (Photo by: Mitchell Galin/Xlrator Media/Syfy)

I had to build from scratch and I was building for 10 years before “Easy” really hit. I was doing A&R while I was on the road with R. Kelly and while I was out with Charlie Wilson. On tour with Fantasia right now, I’m still learning, I’m still growing because these are people who came up. They are willing to lend advice to me. I think that the biggest difference as an independent artist signed to a small label is that I get the best of both worlds.

As a Black artist, do you feel there is a dominance of White artists taking over R&B music without due respect to our culture and significant contribution?

I feel we’re in a good place and I’m going to say why. When you have an artist like an Adele who can sell the kind of records that she’s sold—who can sell out arenas and who can utilize what she’s seen of our culture—I have no problem with that. As long as you own it– if we can say I listened to James Brown. I listened to Etta James. I listen to this person and those are my influences. Ultimately in the body of work that you are doing, you are celebrating our culture and the people who started it. Now, the problem I have is when we can’t get a look because they’re doing it and they’re claiming it like it’s their own.

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