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Mariah Hester: "The Purpose Behind The Pause"

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Mariah Hester, also known as "The Southern Song Bird," is becoming a reckoning force within the R&B sector. As a rising artist, she brings a new spin to R&B with her gospel background, making her a powerhouse of soul. We honor this Geaux Queen by diving into Hester's humble beginnings, singing in her mother's church, and finding her balance as a NICU Nurse and rising artist in this Editorial Exclusive Q&A.

How has your love for music impacted your life and pushed you to take singing to another level?

My mother, Sonja Hester, is a Minister of Music for Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. However, she was always engrossed in the Gospel sector, so I was born and raised in the church. I remember her bringing choir members to her house to learn their parts. My love for music grew from the age of three or four, and I remember telling my grandmother that I wanted to be a singing pediatrician. God was incredibly intertwining and prophesying that I would care for premature babies as a NICU Nurse in Shreveport, Louisiana while pursuing my music dream. Although heavily involved in gospel music, I could fly my wings to the R&B sector with my mother's blessing.

Was it challenging to decide you wanted to switch from singing Gospel to R&B music?

It was simple because I wanted to reach diverse audiences—specifically, those trying to find answers within music. I try to write from shared or lived experiences that God has helped me go through positively and hope someone will find answers in my music. Today, people do not want to listen to Gospel music. Although I have a strong love for it, God allowed me his infinite wisdom by bringing me to the R&B sector to become more than the world sees and break through the darkness. More importantly, I am blessed and grateful to be part of the journey.

How has your role in transitioning from habitual to professional singing been?

Despite the frustrating points, the journey has been beautiful, but you must wait for things to happen. My mother always said that there is a purpose behind the pause because you never know what God is doing in that pause. It is a period that cultivates you to become wiser in what you want to do as you reach the next level. My mother's reliance on God to straighten my path has been a fantastic experience. I have learned to keep a fine-tuned ear to what the Lord wants me to do because many opportunities and doors present themselves. However, it's about finding the right door that coincides with your timing and purpose. Ultimately, the journey has been a dream, and I look forward to what God has in store for me, but I am learning to do it in his time.

How do you stay motivated during the "pause period"?

I prepare for what is next by praying, fasting, and seeking the junction of the Holy Spirit to lead me to my next mission. I never sit and wait for something to happen because the pause period is preparation for the doors I ask God to open. So, when the gates open, I am prepared to take on the mantle. Many people want to be a part of the glitz and glamour, but big business is behind the scenes. So, I read and studied my craft and those who came before me in music and business, preparing myself for my new journey or mission.

How would you describe your musical style compared to what is popular and trending?

I got into acoustic storytelling music and have evolved in terms of sound. When I first started, I was like any other artist and wanted to know what I felt in my heart or called to do. However, I learned myself, and my style has changed as I become the woman I am now. At first, I would produce a Barry Powerhouse of Gospel type of ballad. However, I evolved into a soft acoustic tone to let the listener understand what I was saying. That is the type of vibe I am into, and I love and enjoy it.

How important is your career as a NICU Nurse, and how do you balance that while also pursuing music?

Although there are many sleepless nights, I am as passionate about nursing as I am about music. I have developed many relationships with families, and many forget that I care for the baby and the family. It is holistic medicine and care when I teach parents about the baby's milestones and celebrate small victories. They may feel that they have failed their pregnancy and had everything envisioned for their baby, and it may not happen. I have been blessed to stand beside them and see their baby smile and breathe for the first time. So, even when they think the world is falling around them, I can show them that there are little rays of sunshine. It is something I will always hold near and dear to my heart. I claim several God children from being a NICU Nurse, and I still babysit them, go to birthday parties, and get them whatever they need. My work goes beyond the bedside, and I have grown close to many people. I feel blessed to be part of their lives uniquely and see how these beautiful babies grow and take the world by storm.

How important is it to have a message in the music you create?

Music is medicine and can be healing, so you have to watch what you say. You can either pour the medicine or poison into your spirit based on what you are listening to at the time. Your thought process and how you perceive things can change. I strive to be the light in the darkness for someone going through a situation or feeling at a crossroads. I want my music to be a place of healing for them to listen and find the answers they seek. I strive to tell a story because coming from a place of shared and lived experiences helps establish a connection. We may not know each other and be miles apart, but we found a powerful connection through music. I want to be someone who may not know you, but I want to help you, which is what I want my music to exude and display.

Have you faced any pressures or challenges with your faith and mission of healing others by not following current radio trends?

No, I feel that God prepared me to be able to stand on who I am and what he created me to be. I thank him for all the pauses he placed in my life because it taught me to keep on the whole armor of God continuously. I am learning my level of strength, who I am, who I represent, and what I bring to the table, which is fantastic. Ultimately, I have not had any issues with conformity because I know that God created me for more. He made me stand out so I would not dim my light trying to be like everyone else.

What advice would you have for young women in business who may struggle with conformity and diversity?

Be your sensation because many things on the
internet and social media are becoming popular. If you keep going from door to door, you will realize that what you possess is your money maker. It is easy to confirm because you see the immediate results of followers, likes, and comments. Unfortunately, many do not care about a person what they possess, represent, or bring to the table. Many of us focus on the numerology of followers and shares we can have from something. But I promise you if you keep knocking down that door and breaking those glass ceilings, everything God has put within you will prosper in his due time and season. Also, take your time with everything. I struggle with this because you want something instantaneously, but if we rush, things will fizzle as fast as they turn. So, let things progress, and when you make it there, always remember where you came from and who got you there.

What have been the biggest highlights of your latest single and music journey?

I sang a piece of "I'm Every Woman" for Zayden Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated for our national Founders Day celebration. It has always been a dream of mine to participate nationally with my sorority, especially when I got some love from Ms. Chaka Khan for my delivery of the piece. I was also allowed to be on the Billboard Hot 100 with my single "Material Girl." As a child, I would watch Billboard, MTV, and BET to see artists like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston perform. Now, being part of these platforms is something I will always hold near and dear to my heart, and I am grateful for the opportunity. So many people are striving for the same thing, and I am blessed that God gave me the ability to be part of different platforms. Then again, being able to connect with people is a gift that God has given to me. I love hearing their stories and feelings about music in the comments section because it heals them, which I strive to do. So, the worry and sleepless nights are not in vain, which is a blessing and a dream come true.

Do you have an artist collaboration wish list?

I have a long list, but my top three include Lalah Hathaway, Jasmine Sullivan, and PJ Morton. The pride and soulful spirit that Lalah Hathaway and her late father show is what attracted me. I am a huge fan of Jasmine Sullivan due to her rich voice and humble and down-to-earth personality. As for PJ Morton, not only is he a Louisiana native with a Gospel background, but I love the way she incorporates Gospel and Southern Soul. I can compare it to drinking a hot cup of soup on a cold day. I also love his storytelling skills with instrumentals.

What are some of your self-care practices?

I like to do massages and facials when you have a long day and beat down your face with makeup. I started to work out, not to lose weight but to keep up my stamina and holistic healing. I have also begun dibbling and dabbling in healthy snacks. My husband thinks it is the weirdest thing, but I like seaweed snacks, such as seaweed squares with sea salt. It has many healing properties, which made me gravitate towards it rather than chips or things with high fructose corn syrup. More importantly, I try to get more sleep because you must have fuel to continue, and if you keep pushing through without regenerating yourself, you will fall out. I do that as well as self-care. Spiritually, I still attend church and am active in my choirs and praise teams. The more I incorporate that with anything, the higher God takes me. I never want him to feel like I forgot him after he has taken me to such a place, so I always try to take care of my body and his house.

How vital has self-love been for you to reach for your present life and future?

Self-love is a journey. When I started in music, there was a lot of worry and self-doubt. I wondered if I did it and was doing what God had called me to do. Even with music and anything in life, I have struggled with being a biracial young lady. My mother is African American, and my father is Caucasian. While growing up, you do not know who you are and feel stuck in the middle. Sometimes, you are too dark or light to be with others and wonder what or who I am. But finding my love for God first has shown me so much of who I am. It is so amazing how once you pour your spirit and love into God, your perception of things changes. I was cultivating my relationship with God. He was developing my relationship with myself, and I have finally reached a point where I'm proud of myself. I'm proud of my origins and where I will go. Self-love is so important because if you don't love yourself. It's easy to conform to what others want you to be. If you don't love yourself, you won't be strong in who you are and where you want to go. You will be like the grass outside every time the wind blows. We must remember to work on ourselves because we are so busy working on relationships and other things that we don't take the time to learn who we are. So, finding who I am and my niches has been a journey and an evolution of who I am now. I've gotten to a place I don't want to let go of, and I will continue to love myself. I will work on something because we, as people, could be better. We will never be perfect. We strive for perfection but will only attain that with others. So, I'd like you to please find time to work on yourself every day. We need to remember to take care of ourselves and our temple. I've gotten to that place and will never let that go.

Geaux Connect & Support Queen Mariah!

Facebook: @mynameismariah

Twitter: @TheMariahHester

Instagram: @iammariah.offical

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