From the time she was a little girl growing up in Gary, Indiana, singer-songwriter Rebecca Crews was destined to perform. Her late father was a musician, as is as her mother and stepfather, so it’s no wonder she wanted to follow in their footsteps.
“I was inundated with music in my home,” recalls Rebecca, “from Tom Jones and Steve Wonder, to Duke Ellington and all the jazz greats.”
While studying musical theatre in college, Rebecca was on her way to fulfilling her dream, until some big life changes put that dream on pause.
Toward the end of college, Rebecca gave birth to her daughter, and not long after met her husband, Terry. She admits, the day he walked into her church, life as she knew it changed forever.
Fast-forward 31 years, and Rebecca, now a mom of four, is pursuing the dream that had always been calling her. Along the road there have been bumps—in early 2020 she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer—but thankfully, today, she is cancer-free.
Rebecca sat down to talk to BELLA about her music, family, and how she got through one of the toughest experiences with the love and support of her husband and kids.
Music runs in your family, and early on you were exposed to some of the greats. Who are some of the musicians that inspired you?
Some of my favorites were and still are Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Carly Simon, Carole King, Natalie Cole, Tina Marie, and Sade, who is my goddess.
Carole King was one of my early influences. Being a little bi-racial girl in Gary, Indiana, I had this big shock of curly, ash-brown hair, and I would play the piano and sing at the top of my lungs. My mother, who is African-American, would call me her ‘Little Carole.’ She has been a beacon for me since I was a little girl.
You put your dream on hold to help Terry chase his and to raise your children. When did you decide it was time to relaunch your own career?
I woke up the day before my 40th birthday, and it was as if there was an egg timer in my heart, and it went ding! I just had my fourth baby, bought equipment to build my studio, and I started writing and producing. I began auditioning, attending events with my husband, and going on the [red] carpet with him. I was putting my life together, and then the show, “Family Crews” came along, and it opened other doors for me.
I was performing locally, but mostly I was pitching my songs as a writer. I became fed up with not getting placed and another artist, someone I respect and admire, encouraged me to sing my own songs. I didn’t regard myself as that much of a singer—I’d rather Mary J. Blige or Celine Dion sing the song—but they just said, ‘Rebecca, you need to go out there and do it,’ so I did.
With your music you go by the pseudonym, Regina Madre. What led to that decision?
I found out that being the wife of an entertainer who was already established, there was a perception that, ‘Oh, she’s just trying something,’ so I thought. ‘What if they don’t know it’s me?’ I got the inspiration from the musical artist H.E.R. She was a child star who found it hard to transition, so I put out two songs under the name Regina Madre, which means “Queen Mother.” We approached a radio promoter, did a deal, and I got radio play. I thought, ‘What do you know, they don’t want to just talk about Terry and the family, they want to talk about the music.’
As more press came in it became harder to pretend I wasn’t Rebecca. While I’m not completely anonymous, I’m going to use the stage name because it’s a separate side of myself, apart from the other brands. My new album, which is my first, will be under the stage name.
How would you describe your sound?
I call my music grown folks’ music, urban adult contemporary. I would compare it to artists like Alicia Keys—kind of R&B with a little singer-songwriter vibe. There’s a soulful element to it.
Where do you derive inspiration when writing music?
I have a lot of inspiration because I’ve been through a lot of shit. I’ve had some rough times in life, and so a lot of what you’re hearing is the pain and brutality of life, whether it’s mine or others.
My first song, “Destiny,” was about the summer I became pregnant with my daughter, and it completely changed my life. I felt like my past life was nothing compared to my present with my daughter. She awakened something in me I didn’t know was there, and I was phenomenally changed. My motherhood is the biggest thing I cherish, and I don’t know there is anything that can call me home and center me like one of my children calling me with a problem.
Early last year you were diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery before the country shut down.
My timing couldn’t have been more perfect—it was the start of the new year, which is the time I always go and do my physical. I was having this inner urgency, waking up in the morning, thinking, ‘Go check your parts.’ When I went for my mammogram, I was also supposed to have an ultrasound because I have a history, but for some reason they didn’t have me scheduled for it. I insisted, and sure enough, the mammogram didn’t pick up the growth but the ultrasound did.
The day after my son, Isaiah, found out he got the part on this Nickelodeon show, the doctor called with the diagnosis. I thought, ‘Thank God I have something positive to focus on.’
I harassed the doctors to schedule the surgery because my son was starting work the second week of March, and I had to be on set with him because he’s a minor. They booked me for March 3rd and after recuperating for six days, the following Monday I was taking my son to work.
Two weeks later the country shut down, and that’s when I did my recovery. All I could think of was, ‘Thank God I harassed those doctors instead of waiting.’ That little knocking at my heart that kept telling me to go and check yourself…if I hadn’t done that then, I could have been waiting months. I got in right under the wire, and I am sensitive to the fact that many people had to postpone major surgeries because of this. I was happy to be home and have my husband take care of me.
What advice do you have for other women when it comes to early detection?
I’m definitely an advocate for early detection. I encourage women to both check themselves regularly and to avail themselves of support groups around them and obtain the knowledge they need. Really do your research. It is helpful to be forward thinking, knowledgeable, and be your own best advocate. The ultrasound saved my life.
Are you involved with any particular organizations?
Stand Up to Cancer is a multi-faceted organization that funds research between groups that would normally compete against each other. They’re taking the competition out of the research so they can share information and find better treatments.
While 2020 was a difficult year, what are you most grateful for? And, as we begin 2021, what are you most looking forward to?
I’m most grateful for being alive. I’m profoundly thankful for my husband’s love—he is my rock, he is my joy, and as much as he gets on my nerves, I would not do life without him or with anybody but him.
I’m most looking forward to my son’s new show, “Side Hustle.” That’s a new era for us—watching him do this thing. And I’m ecstatic about my new album, and seeing what happens with the singles we promote and other projects I’m working on in regard to e-commerce.
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