Toni Braxton's return after a five-year hiatus includes Durham show

CorrespondentAugust 15, 2013 

Toni Braxton will play the DPAC August 18th.

COURTESY OF TONI BRAXTON

  • Details

    Who: Toni Braxton

    When: 7 p.m. Sunday

    Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham

    Cost: $50-$100

    Info: 919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com

When you spend an hour listening to an artist field questions on a telephone conference call, you begin to respect the artist a bit more for what she has to deal with when she talks to the press.

Take R&B songstress Toni Braxton, who spent a recent Thursday afternoon hollering at different newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets in one 56-minute swoop. It was quite crafty on her part to take them all at once so she won’t have to answer the same silly questions over and over.

It was a strange, revealing hour. While some of the interviewers talked to her like they were auditioning to be her best girlfriend, just dishing a little girl talk over the phone, others were asking her what places she’s going to frequent when she makes a stop in their town. (For the record: Braxton, who performs in Durham Sunday, said when she gets to Baltimore in her home state of Maryland, she’s definitely going to find a spot that serves crab cakes.)

Occasionally, somebody would ask her about more pressing matters, like the fact that she’s going back on tour after a five-year hiatus. In 2010, the Grammy-winning diva with the sultry contralto voice announced she was diagnosed with lupus, putting a definite crimp in her performing abilities.

“The doctor said, ‘You’ll never be able to perform again,’ ” remembers Braxton, now 45.

“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?”

She’s found ways to be out there in the spotlight during her hiatus, appearing as a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2008 and, most recently, starring along with her family on the WEtv reality series, “Braxton Family Values.”

“I’ve done one-off shows once or twice a month, but never consistently,” she says. “So, I feel good about it, but I’m getting myself ready to get out there and be Toni Braxton and Babyface.”

Oh yeah, we should talk about Babyface now. Braxton has had a continuously successful working relationship with the R&B/pop hit-maker (aka Kenneth Edmonds) since he produced her solo, self-titled, multiplatinum-selling debut in 1993. He’s been involved with all of her albums except her last one, 2010’s “Pulse.”

According to Braxton, it was her old pal Babyface who urged her to get back in the game.

“(He said) ‘Hey, you got a lot more singing to do, sista girl!’ ” she says. “The first thing Babyface said to me is, ‘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.’ ”

With this second wind flowing in her system, Braxton went back to the studio with Babyface to record an album of duets, slated for release this fall.

“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. Everything I’ve been through in my life, I kind of really know it now.”

Considering that she basically came out the gate dropping top-10 singles left and right, it seems quite logical that the older, wiser Braxton can now make music without feeling she has to prove anything.

“I think when I first came in the business, I was so excited to be in it,” she says.

“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.

“Now, I’m gonna be honest – I’m still nervous,” she divulges. “I’m still a little bit unsure, still cautious… So wish me luck, guys.”

Good luck, Toni – and don’t forget to have some barbecue when you’re down here!

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