Terry Dexter was born and raised in Detroit and started her career as a record artist early at age 9 years old. Her introduction to acting was also early when her father brought her at age 11 years old to an open call for a musical stage play at the Detroit Music Hall Theatre. She won the casting even though the role was originally written for a 16-year old. Two years later she signed her first major record deal and she has not looked back since. Terry has released two successful solo albums and has collaborated with some of the most talented names in the music industry. Her acting career has also blossomed and she has played leading roles in movies including the romantic comedy “Dating While Black”, the movie “ A Silent Cry Aloud”, and the music dramedy “The Choir Director”. Terry can be seen currently as “Eileen” in Season 1, 2 and coming soon in Season 3 on the MC/Amazon drama series, “A House Divided”.
In our interview Terry tells us what she has been up to, her plans for the future, as well as how she has managed the work and life challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
MODE: Our readers are often amazed and interested at the number and variety of collaborations and projects you have worked on. How did you get to co-write Patti Labelle’s single “Anything” featuring Kanye West and Mary Mary?
Terry: This wonderful opportunity came about through my dear friend, co-writer and mentor Sami McKinney who co-produced and wrote much of the album “The Gospel According to Patti Labelle” that the single “Anything” was featured on. One afternoon Sami and I were riding in his truck and he played the track produced by “Nisan Stewart” and we literally wrote most of “Anything” during that truck ride to and from our destination. It was totally meant to be and flowed out of us so easily. Shortly after that I found out that Patti loved it and wanted to record it for her album. The rest is history. It was a true blessing to be a part of a record that featured four amazing artists.
MODE: It’s obvious that Patti Labelle saw you as being very talented despite your very young age when you first met her. How did it feel when she would call you on stage during her performances to do your thing? How would you say that experience affected your development as an artist in the music industry?
Terry: Patti has definitely taught me so much over the years. I met her through Sami in my early teens. Whenever we were in the same city and she was doing a show, Sami would take me and then a few times when she was in Detroit I’d go with my parents. She would always call or bring me onstage with her during her shows even if I tried to hide lol, and I wouldn’t know when she would do it so it was usually spontaneous. She’d first introduce me to the audience and then hand me the mic and tell me to “siiiiiing”, and I would just go with it. Patti Labelle is one of greatest singers and performers of all time and her fans and audience are always very open and loving, but if Patti hands you the mic then you BETTA SANG and so that full throttle commitment and trusting my gift was what I learned most from these experiences with Patti. Never EVER get on ANY stage to share your gifts half ass, ALWAYS perform and give it 100% period.
MODE: Do you remember what it was like when your father took you to that first open call for a musical stage play at 11 years old in which you won the lead role?
Terry: Oh yes very vividly. My dad has always been a huge support. He is actually a “secret” singer and musician himself according to “family legend”. He never admitted it or really showcased any of his musician abilities, but I totally believe he is musically gifted. One Sat morning my Dad woke me up and told me to get dressed because we were going to an open call for a musical stage play that his co-worker called him about earlier that same morning. I was only 11 years old and the other girls there were much older, but I just knew I was going to be able to sing so I wasn’t nervous, only excited, and my Dad was with me cheering me on the whole way. When it got down to the final cuts they talked about the fact that I may be too young and inexperienced (the role was to play 16) but my Dad came right back every time that was brought up with statements like “but she’s a GREAT talent, and that’s what matters,” etc. I also had to act although I had no experience in doing that at the time and my dad even helped me on the spot with my reads that day. Hmmm, maybe he is a “secret” actor as well. Gotta say that me AND my Dad won the role.
MODE: Which would you say you enjoy the most, performing yourself as a musician or writing and creating music for other artists to perform?
Terry: Hmm, the word “enjoy”, I don’t feel is enough to express or measure what both of these actions as a singer/songwriter mean to me. Doing both fills my heart and soul with honor and grace every time. There is a sense of joy in both processes sure, but a much bigger, more powerful magical responsibility flows through me when I sing and write my own material, as well as writing and creating music for other artists. It is all beyond a love and honor to be able to do.
MODE: How did it come about that you did vocals on Eminem’s #1 single “Don’t Be Afraid”?
Terry: A long-time friend and awesome songwriter/producer “Sauce” called me one evening and told me to come to the studio in a few hours but didn’t tell me for what or why. I remember I had another important engagement that night and he told me to cancel it and come and to just trust him. I kept saying “I have to go to this other thing” and he kept saying “nope, you gotta come, trust me” so I finally gave in and a few hours later I was in the studio with him, Eminem, Dr. Dre, and a couple other great singer friends of mine having the BEST time ever recording the vocals on “Not Afraid”. I’m SO glad I listened and trusted “Sauce” and forever grateful to him.
MODE: Your music has ranged from R&B to Jazz and many styles in between. What can we expect will be the style of your new solo project Volume 2 of the “Listen” series?
Terry: The style for Volume 2 is a hybrid of R&B and Pop with a more “Experimental” sound edge. I wanted to push boundaries with the second offering as the need to move, affect, inspire and heal as many listeners and hearts as I can continues to grow and expand in me.
MODE: In the comedy feature film “Dating While Black” you played a leading role as a character negotiating the trials and tribulations of the dating game. How relevant do you think the issues addressed in the movie are in 2020?
Terry: I believe that in 2020 women are more open and independent than ever when it comes to dating and relationships, and with social media and online dating being so popular today the game has evolved greatly. One of the key issues addressed in the movie that is still relevant now is women still cherish and appreciate the act of old fashion chivalry, once in a while at the least. Another key issue that is still relevant today is both women and men allowing themselves to be more open and stepping outside of their comfort zones when it comes to meeting new people, dating and finding love.
MODE: The Covid-19 pandemic has put a pause on many business and artistic projects around the world, particularly because of the distancing and travel restrictions that many countries and states have had to impose for public safety. How has this affected your plans for upcoming music or movie projects?
Terry: It has paused quite a few in the works projects for me and having to sadly turn down and or postpone a few recent music opportunities due to not feeling comfortable yet performing and or recording in large scale settings. A couple of summer creative trips had to be postponed as well. Luckily I have a recording set up at home and have been able to start recording a few new projects during quarantine. I was also able to shoot a great acting role for a project recently as well so there is some movement with creative opportunities but a lot has had to be adjusted in both the music and film/TV arenas due to the pandemic.
MODE: Apart from your business projects, what are the major adjustments you’ve had to make in your personal life during this covid-19 pandemic?
Terry: I’m a big social person and love spending time with and around friends and loved ones and meeting new people especially during the summer in LA. Unfortunately, the pandemic has paused any real in person social time. Zoom and FaceTime have become my go to ways to connect with everyone during the pandemic. Zoom life has been a lifesaver. Also, actually speaking on the phone again with friends and family instead of texting so much has actually been a good adjustment. I’m hoping, along with all of us, that we can hug and have fun in person again soon, when it’s of course safe to do so.
MODE: America has been rocked during 2020 by the combination of covid-19 and the racial issues that have led to the Black Lives Matter movement. As the world watches to see how the US manages the complexities of this double challenge, what are your thoughts on how the country might change for the better hopefully in the next year or so when those in power finally get a handle on things and respond in an adequate manner to the needs, awakening, and demands of an overwhelming majority of the public?
Terry: Covid-19 has caused this country to finally sit completely still and self-reflect, whether a person wants to or not. It caused and inspired, and has in a sense forced all of us to look at ourselves and allow the truths to come out and to navigate the reality of those truths in the most open, emotional, and even spiritual ways. Covid-19 has been heartbreaking and taken so many lives including the lives of a few of my friends and loved ones. It has caused each and every one of us to also look at our own mortality and life purpose as a whole and with that all aspects of ourselves are revealed including the spirit that lives within each of us.
I had an amazing conversation with my awesome auntie Judy while the powerful BLM protests and marches were happening all over our nation and the world. She is African American, from the Midwest and 76 years old and we spoke about everything that was happening in our country. One of the many things she said to me that moved my soul was “I grew up seeing so much racism and hatred throughout my life, terrible things I can’t even begin talk about in detail, and for the first time in my 76 years of life I feel a shift in this country and this time it’s different. It feels different, that an awakening is “truly happening” and I believe it WILL continue.” And then she said, “Change has finally come!” I believe this as well and to hear her say it with so much emotion in her voice and then my parents and also other elder family members who believe and have said something similar to my aunt gives me GREAT hope for the future. I believe the country is changing for the better now, minds are waking and or woke, blinders are being taken off, the window to reality and truth is finally getting cleaned off so we all can see more clearly, conversations and realizations that HAD to happen and are long overdue are happening and expanding, and ACTION which is most important is finally getting done at all levels. I believe with great leadership in this country, we will see even more needed action to get this country to a place of true equality and defeating hatred once and for all. So on that note I’m praying that everyone gets out and… VOTES!
MODE: At MODE the editors agree unanimously that we want to see more of you in acting roles as we’re sure do many of your fans. So are we likely to see you in an acting role in the near future?
Terry: Ahhh, now you made me blush. Thank you so much and Yes, I just wrapped Season 3 of the drama series “A House Divided” for UMC a few weeks ago. I play the role of “Eileen”, a layered woman dealing with the trials and tribulations of love, marriage and family. It’s a wonderful blessing as an actor and storyteller to be a part of telling this story. You can currently check out Season 1 and 2 of “A House Divided” on UMC. Season 3 is coming soon……
Thank you so much for having me. It means the world. Big hugs and make sure ya get out and VOTE. XOXO