Sometimes what scares us prepares us. Just ask singer Bobbi Storm.The Detroit bred singer ("Detroit raised me, New York made me"), recently stopped by the BET offices in Times Square, and gave a special performance inside The Imagine Room. While there, the singer, best known for her songs, "OOO" and "Lazy Love," was sure to open up to listeners about the inspiration behind the tracks, as well as reveal some fun facts about herself.
Off the mic, the singer, who is also known for breaking out in song in any given public space (including planes, subways and the middle of the street), sat down with BET Digital to dive deeper into her life behind the music. Storm opened up about her ongoing journey to career success, her battle with Multiple Sclerosis and ultimately getting out of her own way to combat her fears of singing in public.
Check out the full interview below.
BET: I read that you are the only musically-inclined person in your family. Tell me more about your musical inspirations. I know one of them is singer P!nk. I feel we don't cite P!nk enough when talking about musical inspirations, and she was such a mood!
Storm: I love her so much, especially her first album. I grew up singing her songs at the top of my lungs and getting on my mother's last nerves. When she was R&B, that was everything. I even like her recent stuff like, "Raise Your Glass," and "Blow Me One Last Kiss." I love Pink, period. I even aspire to have my shows be like hers. It seems like a whole production, with the acrobatics and all. I would love for my shows to be a full experience like that.
BET: I could definitely see that, especially considering what you did in the Imagine Room. For such an intimate setting, you made sure to still set the vibes. I could only imagine what you would do for a much bigger production.
Storm: Oh yeah, I go in! I've been performing for a long time. For a living, I sing for cooperate events, weddings, birthday parties, all of that. When it comes to performing, that's when I feel at home. I feed off the energy of the crowd. I just love singing and I love connecting with people. I'm very much so a people person.
BET: So how did you first get into singing, and discovering you love for it?
Storm: So this is how I learned how to sing. This tattoo right here [points to flute tattoo on her arm]. My babysitter used to play the flute. She used to walk me home all the time and wait on her father to come pick her up from my grandfather's house and she would practice, and every once in a while I'd stick my head in and tried to mimic what she did, and she took me down to my family and said, "I think you guys have something here."
So my grandfather would be the one who, anywhere, would and push me out to sing. I mean like, everywhere. He didn't care who was around. Family reunions, church, whatever, he would just push me.
BET: You perform everywhere. That's actually what I wanted to ask you. Is that how you got the nerves to perform publicly at random, like on planes and what not?
Storm: I mean, the first time that I sang on the plane, I really felt like I was going to like, use the bathroom on myself. [laughs]I was so nervous. I was shaking and everything. That's why over time I kind of lost a love for singing on in random places, and now I just do it every once in a while, because people look to you and think it's easy. They look to me and think it's easy because I've done it. But every single time I've done it, it's been hard. I've been shaking.
People to know that I'm human too. I have nerves. It's very hard because you're not just thinking about singing in public; I've done that plenty of times. It's more about not getting kicked off a flight. It's about someone not speaking in the middle of your performance. It's about them not clapping, or somebody shutting you down. It's so many things.
BET: So how do you muster up the strength to push through the nerves, and gather the courage to perform in those settings?
Storm: I think it was my grandfather. Especially the first time I performed on the plane. The first flight I performed on was delayed three hours, so there were already people not trying to deal with nobody. The flight was delayed three hours from New York to LA, and we already had to de-board and all.
So, sometimes I can jump the gun, and do some things on social media, and I posted on social media page, "What if I sang on this plane?" and a lot of people saw it, and they voted that I should do it.
So I'm that type of person, I like to really go through with whatever I start. So I was just like, "I gotta do it." So I went on [Instagram] live and did it. It felt like my grandfather told me to get up out of my seat and go do it, because in the end, what is the worse that could happen?
BET: Wow! That's dope. How do you even start off something like that?
Storm: Depending on which atmosphere I'm in, like if I'm on a plane, I start off by saying, "Everybody, excuse me!" And they look up like, "What the?" Then I go, "I don't mean to alarm you guys, but I'm an upcoming artist, and I've been going against my fears and just going out and sharing what I love to do, which is sing with the world. So if you guys would be so kind, I would love to share a song with you guys, just the beginning of it. So take your phones out, tag me, because my goal is to share my gift with as many people as possible." And I just do it!
BET: So you did that, even though it also scared you?
Honestly I became addicted. I couldn't get on any flight, or be around any group of people, without singing. I'm talking about, physically, it would literally bother me. Even though it scared me and even though I knew what I was up against, it literally became an addiction.
BET: I saw that you were/are battling with the diagnosis MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
Storm: My mom does too, and her mother has it.
BET: So it's genetic?
Storm: I think so. They haven't claimed that yet, but I think so. But I also think it's reversible too, and I'm in that process of doing that.
BET: You shared a story once on your Instagram about asking a bathroom attendant to pray over you. So what are your beliefs in healers and holistic healing?
Storm: That was only the second time in my life ever asking anyone [to do that]. I had a residency out in L.A. I was getting ready to go on, and I felt like I wasn't going to be able to stand. My knees were just killing me. I had went to Runyon (Canyon) [the day before], and with MS, certain things that may be a regular sore to people, is way more intense and painful for us. So my knees just felt really bad, and I was really scared, and I didn't know whether or not I'd be able to perform that night.
So I was getting ready to go on stage and I said, "Let me go to the restroom." So I went and I walked over to this lady that was handing out paper towels and I said, "Do you believe that you can heal? Do you have the power of healing?" And the lady was like, "Huh?" And I was like, "Do you believe in God?"
I told her "I have nothing left. This is the last thing I can do. I need you to put your hands on my knees and I need you to pray over them." So she did, and I promise you [I was good]. You can ask the girls that were in the bathroom, I was in bad shape before that. I have clips of my performance afterwards, and it went better than I could've ever imagined.
When we're younger, we mock certain things. But this was real. God is real...
I'm not perfect. I've dranked, smoked, I've done things that people will shun or are shunned for. Things people say are sins. So, for Him (God) to have felt like I was open enough to receive that message, and for Him to give it to me, it shows that no matter how messed up you think you are, or in a dark place you are in your life, He'll still find light, if you're willing to listen. There is good in everybody.
BET: Being that you believe in doing things in purpose, and on purpose, and being intentional with your every move, what do you feel you want people to get from your music? Do you want them to heal? Do you want them to feel like you relate to them? What is the end goal when you put pen to paper?
Storm: I want people to be healed, I want people to be happy, I want people to be fearless. All of that, all of above, when it comes to my music.
I want people to understand that, just because I may be feeling this way this week, and I may have released this song talking about this, doesn't mean that next week I'll be feeling like that. We all go through different things.
Like Lizzo, I've been getting into her lately, and she's got a lot of uplifting songs. She's an uplifter- period. With some of her records, they are happy records and they make me cry. Because they made me feel like, "Oh my God, this girl is talking to me." So it was a happy cry. So that's what I want everybody to feel.
Also, after Nipsey passed, -Rest in peace- I realized it was very important that once I do have a family later in life, or for those I leave behind, it's important to also leave behind a legacy. So for those people who don't know me, once they come to find out about me, they'll see that I've got some really good music. That's really what I intend for my music to do for the world.
BET: Have you always been this spiritually inclined?
Storm: It is with time and growth. I was raised Catholic, and then I went to Michigan State and I was able to be my own person. That was when I looked into baptism and stuff. So I'm just based off of energy, but I do believe in God, and I think everybody should have something to believe in, because when something happens, who you gonna ask to get you out of it? So it's good to have something to believe in, even if everybody is not on the same page, and I choose to believe in God.
All God wants us to do is be happy. It's not hard. And people make it so complicated. It's not hard. People make everything so complex.
BET: Tell me about freedom and what it means to you.
Storm: Somebody asked me yesterday, "Are you free?" And I was like, "Yeah, for the most part. As free as a I can be in this country." The reason why I am free is because I do what I love. Both my career and my job is singing, and that's what I love to do. I feel bad for people who don't love what they do, because that's what makes me really feel like I'm free. That's why I am who I am, because I'm able to do what I love.
Check out Bobbi Storm performing inside BET's Imagine Room, in the premiere episode, below!
(Photo: Evans Alexandre)